The basic idea behind the new Google-powered Smart Displays that are coming this summer is simple: take a Google Home smart speaker and put a screen on it, just like Amazon’s Echo Show. Really if that’s all you take away from this review, you’ve got the basics.
The Lenovo Smart Display is the first of these new devices on the market. LG, Sony, and JBL have also signed on to make them. Lenovo’s version goes on sale July 27th, priced at $199 for a model with an 8-inch screen and $249 for the model I tested, which has a 10-inch display.
There’s something more going on here than just a screen for the Google Assistant, though. These Smart Displays run Android Things, a newish operating system based on Android and designed for Internet of Things devices. That means Google has a new canvas for its virtual Assistant to work with, unencumbered with the need to support any of the cruft that would come along with running full Android or Chrome.
With that blank slate comes an opportunity for Google to make exactly the thing it wants to make. And the result is something I wasn’t really expecting: a Google appliance.