Amazon and Google may be the most well-known brands when it comes to smart displays that offer a visual interpretation of the information a voice assistant is serving up. However, Lenovo, along with Facebook which has the Portal range of devices, is hoping to take its rival's crown.
The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 is a new iteration of the brand’s smallest smart display. While Lenovo might be more well-known for offering some of the best laptops and tablets, it’s also making waves with this compact smart home device designed for your bedroom.
Just like the original version, the Lenovo Smart Clock 2 is a hybrid device, sitting between an alarm clock and smart speaker. If you currently use an Android phone to rouse you in the morning it feels like a natural upgrade, with full Google Assistant integration and music streaming.
The 4-inch screen lets you see as well as hear responses from Google Assistant to your queries, and in some cases there’s additional information, too. For example, asking for the day’s weather results in the day’s temperature being announced audibly, while on screen you’ll find an hour-by-hour breakdown. As you’d expect, a wide range of music services can be played through the Lenovo Smart Clock 2, including Spotify, Apple Music, and the free version of YouTube Music - although the 6W speakers don’t offer the best listening experience.
Unlike the previous version, the Lenovo Smart Clock 2 is also available with an additional wireless charging dock that lets you charge any Qi-compatible devices next to the smart display. As it draws power from the Smart Clock 2, it means there’s no need for a tangle of cables beside your bedside, and it also doubles as a night light
When it comes to its competitors, the Lenovo Smart Clock 2 is a paired down version of other smart displays. You can’t browse the web or use the smart display as a digital photo frame either.
The similarly-priced Google Nest Hub 2, for example, has plenty of features the Smart Clock 2 just doesn’t offer. It lets you make audio calls through Google Duo and also offers the ability to track your sleep, and stream content from services including Netflix and Disney+ (although on such a small screen it wouldn’t be an enjoyable experience on the Smart Clock 2 anyway).
Neither is there a built-in camera for video calls, which the Amazon Echo Show 5 offers. Lenovo says this is deliberate to ensure users feel more comfortable about having the display in their bedroom, but for some the Amazon smart display may offer better value for money, especially as it's often discounted too.
The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 serves its purpose well, but unless the charging dock is a game-changer for you, or you really need something particularly compact, it’s tough to recommend over its competitors.
Lenovo Smart Clock 2 price and availability
- List price: $69.99 / £59.99 / AU$129
The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 was released in September 2021, and costs $69.99 / £59.99 / AU$129 by itself, or $89.99/ £85.99 / AU$208.85 with the wireless charging base.
For comparison, the Google Nest Hub 2 costs $99 / £89 / AU$149, and although it lacks the charging capability, the device itself has a lot more functionality.
- 4-inch display with auto-brightness adjustment
- Compact design
- Optional wireless charging base
There’s no denying the Lenovo Smart Clock 2 is perfect for a bedside table, thanks to its extremely compact size. It measures 3.67 x 4.47 x 2.81 inches / 9.33 x 11.38 x 7.13 cm (h x w x d) alone, although when used with the optional wireless charging base, the footprint roughly doubles.
As we’ve already mentioned, the base will charge Qi-enabled devices wirelessly, however, a USB-A port on the back of the dock ensures you can charge items that don’t support Qi charging (like your Fitbit, for example), and is extremely handy if you don’t have multiple power outlets available for plugging in an array of different chargers.
There's a 11 lumen light in the base, which illuminates when you settle the clock on its connector or place a phone on the charging pad. This also serves as the clock's night light, which can be activated by pulling down on the clock's home screen and selecting the appropriate option.
Rather than the wedge-shaped design found on the previous iteration, the Smart Clock 2 forms more of a pyramid shape, and is slightly more compact than the original Smart Clock. The smart display is still wrapped in either Abyss Blue (reviewed here), Heather Gray, and Shadow Black) mesh fabric, and houses the speaker, which is slightly smaller at 1.5-inch, but still offers up to 6W of sound.
A chunky border surrounds the screen, curving off the edges, but taking up a fair amount of real estate on the device’s front face. The 4-inch screen has a resolution of 480 x 800 and is bright, but isn't the most responsive we’ve ever used. There’s also a handy automatic brightness feature that dims or brightens the screen based on the surroundings so it’s easy to see.
There are few physical controls: just a pair of volume buttons on the top, and a switch on the back that toggles the microphone on and off. This is essential since you can’t reactivate the microphone with a voice command, but also adds a welcome degree of privacy; with the switch toggled, you can be certain that the speaker isn’t listening in. As we’ve already mentioned there’s no camera for video calls.
- See and hear Google assistant’s information
- Sunrise alarm helps you wake more gently
- Screen not always responsive
The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 runs Android 10, and provided you have a Google account, setup is a straightforward process. It can connect to your home Wi-Fi network through your phone, so you don’t need to spend time tapping in your password, and all your data and Google services are imported automatically. Once that’s done, the Smart Clock 2 will take you through the process of configuring its faces, adding custom background images, and creating an alarm.
It has Google Assistant built-in, which can do everything it can on other Assistant-enabled devices - set timers and alarms for you, provide you with the latest news headlines, sports scores, and weather reports, as well as answering your burning questions and controlling your smart home devices. As you’d expect from a smart display, a visual interpretation of the answers that Google Assistant serves up can often (but not always) be seen on screen.
Sometimes this includes additional information - when asking for the weather, for example, Google provided the current temperature and the daily low and high audibly, while on-screen an hour-by-hour breakdown of the temperature and conditions was also presented.
With Lenovo positioning the smart display as a bedside companion, we were pleased to find a good choice of analog and digital faces - most of which are animated, so you can find something that fits your bedroom. Choosing one wasn’t always as simple as we’d have liked, though the touchscreen wasn’t always particularly responsive, occasionally taking a few attempts to register a finger-swipe.
There’s a handy Sunrise Alarm feature, which slowly raises the brightness of the screen over minutes before your alarm is scheduled to sound, to help you wake up more naturally. It’s certainly not bright enough to illuminate a whole room with a light that mimics the sun but it did make waking up slightly easier. We loved that we were able to end the alarm by saying “Stop” rather than having to add “Hey, Google” at the start, too.
When it comes to ending the day, we particularly liked the ability to fall asleep listening to nature noises (removing the need for a separate white noise machine to muffle distracting sounds). The night light function was also a welcome addition for reading before bed,
The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 can also be used to control any Google Assistant-enabled smart devices, including light bulbs and thermostats, and doing so is a breeze. The clock’s microphone is excellent, and once trained to recognize our voice, it never failed to register command in our tests.
Music and Video
The Smart Clock 2 has front-facing speakers, and can stream tunes from YouTube Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer (either for regular listening or as a wake-up alarm using a command like “Okay Google, set alarm for 7am and play No Time to Die” or “Set a music alarm”). We found the voice integration for all of these services was smoothly executed.
The sound quality is lacking, however. The 1.5-inch speakers were underwhelming in our tests - with the sound not particularly loud and weak bass to top it off. That said for a bedroom, shockingly loud sound isn’t a necessity and it will suffice as background music or when playing soothing sounds to help you drift off to sleep.
If you want more room-filling sound, you can link the clock to other smart speakers, and the volume controls atop the Smart Clock 2 are easy to hit for making quick adjustments.
The Smart Clock 2 doesn’t support video playback though (except for video from some Nest cameras). This is understandable, as watching on a relatively low-res 4i-inch screen wouldn’t be the best experience, but is a bit of a disappointment when the Google Nest Hub doesn’t just let you watch YouTube clips, but even stream movies and TV shows from the likes of Netflix and Disney Plus.
Should I buy the Lenovo Smart Clock 2?
Buy it if...
You're short of space
Particularly without its dock, the Lenovo Smart Clock 2 is super compact and will take up the bare minimum of room on a cluttered nightstand.
You hate tangled charging cables
The wireless charging base is a great addition, especially if you don't have multiple electrical sockets by your bed for juicing up your phone, watch, and other devices.
You use Google Home devices
The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 integrates seamlessly with your existing smart home, and you don't even need to get out of bed to control it all.
Don't buy it if...
You want to watch videos
Although it has a color display, the Lenovo Smart Clock 2 doesn't allow you to play TV shows and movies from your favorite streaming services.
You want a wake-up light
The Smart Clock 2's dock does have a light, but it'd purely for reading by; it doesn't brighten gradually to simulate a gentle sunrise and wake you naturally.
You want to make calls
There's no camera in the Lenovo Smart Clock 2 for video calls, which is useful from a privacy perspective in your bedroom, but you can't use it for voice calls either.
This article is part of TechRadar's Sleep Week 2021, our in-depth look at sleep and how to snooze better. We've teamed up with experts in their field to bring you proven sleep techniques and tips to help you drift off easier, and to stay asleep for longer, and have rounded-up the very best sleep kit to transform your bedroom into a den of zen. So from Sunday 31 October to Sunday 7 November we'll be sharing interviews, features and essential buying guides with the aim of helping you to sleep better than ever.
First reviewed: October 2021