Lenovo Smart Clock 2 Review: Lovely design, Questionable utility

Lenovo Smart Clock 2 Review: Lovely design, Questionable utility

Two years ago, Lenovo and Google partnered to create a new product category for Google Assistant: a smart clock. It was somewhere between a smart speaker and a smart display in functionality, with a touchscreen and basic home controls, but nowhere near the functionality offered by Google’s Nest Hub. The initial price of $70 also didn’t make much sense, and the price was quickly dropped. Lenovo followed that up last year with the Smart Clock Essential, which went for a different (and arguably better) approach. The new clock was simply an Assistant smart speaker with an LED clock face, at a lower $50 price point. Lenovo still sells the Smart Clock Essential, but now it has a new second-generation Smart Clock it wants you to buy.

I briefly tried the original Lenovo Smart Clock after it was released in 2019, and I have largely the same feelings about this upgraded model. It’s a capable clock in the abstract, but given its limited feature set compared to full-blown smart displays (which can sometimes be found for less money), you’re best off waiting for a sale.

Lenovo Smart Clock 2: Specifications

SpecificationLenovo Smart Clock Gen 2
BuildPlastic & Fabric
Dimensions & Weight
  • 4.21 x 8.65 inches
  • 1.1 pounds
Display4.0″ LCD IPS Touchscreen
SoCMediaTek MT8167S Processor (1.50 GHz)
RAM & Storage
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB Flash Storage
Port(s)
  • USB Type-A
  • Power connector
  • Pogo pins (for dock attachment)
Audio1 x 1.5″ 3W Speaker
Connectivity
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac (1×1), 2.4/5GHz
SoftwareAndroid 10
Other Features
  • Customizable clock displays
  • Mute button
  • Physical volume buttons
  • Optional wireless charging dock attachment

About this review: Lenovo sent me the Smart Clock 2 about three weeks ago for review. Lenovo did not see this review before it went live, nor did the company have any editorial feedback.

Design and Hardware

The new Lenovo Smart Clock follows the same basic design as the first generation. It’s a small clock with a 4-inch LCD screen, wrapped in a fabric covering. Two colors are available, Grey and Blue, and Lenovo sent me the blue version. There are two buttons on the top for controlling the volume, which is definitely an improvement over the touch or voice-only volume controls on Google’s first-party smart speakers and displays. There’s also a sensor on the top that detects taps, so you can snooze alarms by hitting the top of the clock.

Front of Lenovo Smart Clock 2

Power input is handled through a barrel connector on the rear (no USB Type-C here), next to the microphone mute switch. The original Smart Clock had a USB Type-A port on the back for charging other devices at your bedside, but that is gone on this second-generation model. Instead, Lenovo made a Charging Station that attaches to the bottom of the clock, which provides both USB Type-A and Qi wireless charging.

Back of Lenovo Smart Clock 2

The Charging Station could wirelessly charge everything I own that supports normal Qi charging, like my OnePlus Buds Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21. Devices like the Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch with proprietary wireless charging will have to use their own charger plugged into the Type-A port. There’s a short glow effect that appears when charging starts, but there’s no indicator for a charge in progress. If you accidentally bump your phone off the charging pad, you might not notice, so be careful with that.

Lenovo Smart Clock on top of Charging Dock, with an earbuds case charging on the pad

Unfortunately, there’s a price premium if you want the Charging Dock. The clock by itself has an MSRP of $69.99, while the clock with the dock costs $89.99. Lenovo also doesn’t sell the dock by itself, so if you decide you want the dock after you purchase the Smart Clock, you won’t have many options.

Finally, the dual 3W speakers sound fine for audio content with vocals, such as podcasts and news shows, but there’s not much bass for music. Audio quality is comparable to a Google Home Mini or Nest Mini.

Software

The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 is equipped with MediaTek MT8167S chip running Android 10, but you wouldn’t really know that by using it. The touchscreen interface is a simplified version of what you get on Google Assistant smart displays, like the Google Nest Hub, and the setup process is similar to other Assistant devices. The Google Home app is used to connect it to your home network and Google account, and once that’s done, you can use the “Hey Google” or “Ok Google” phrases.

The main screen is the clock face, which has a few different styles you can choose from. There’s a mix of analog and digital clocks, plus one that displays albums from your Google Photos, and another one with the current weather. I would have liked to see at least one that displayed upcoming calendar entries, like how the Nest Hub does in the corner of the screen, but at least there are plenty of options for clock faces (some of which can be seen below).

Swiping down from the top of the screen gives you shortcuts for alarms and Assistant routines, and swiping from the bottom of the screen displays options for brightness, volume, and other functions. Swiping to the left of the clock face shows all your alarms, as well as touchscreen controls for setting new alarms, though you can also use voice commands like “Hey Google, set an alarm for every day at 8 a.m.” Another left swipe shows the current weather conditions, along with daily highs/lows. If you start playing music, a new page is added with playback controls and the current album/show art.

The Lenovo Smart Clock doesn't have much of a functional advantage over screen-less Google Assistant smart speakers.

Even though the Lenovo Smart Clock has a touchscreen, it doesn’t have much of a functional advantage over screen-less Google Assistant smart speakers. You can’t Cast video content, or stream from services like YouTube and Netflix, both of which are possible on Assistant smart displays. Calling people on Google Duo also isn’t supported, even audio-only calls — something you can do on all Assistant smart speakers and smart displays.

Just about everything else you can do with an Assistant smart speaker does work, though. You can stream music from services like Spotify and YouTube Music, control smart home devices, listen to news reports, and so on. The clock appears as a Cast target on your home network, so you can stream audio to it from some smartphone apps. You can also use the clock like a Bluetooth speaker, by pairing it to other devices through the Google Home app.

In summary, if you’ve used any smart speaker or smart display in the past few years, you’ll probably feel at home on the Lenovo Smart Clock 2 — though you might notice some missing features.

Conclusion

The Lenovo Smart Clock 2 combines (most of) the functionality of a Google Assistant smart speaker with a 4-inch LCD screen. I’m definitely a fan of the cloth-covered design, and the optional Charging Dock turns the clock into an elegant multi-device charging station. There are a few strange software limitations, like no Duo calling, but overall I don’t have much to complain about. The device makes sense for individuals who may not be entirely comfortable handling a display-less speaker, so the display adds a touch of familiarity and convenience.

Lenovo Smart Clock 2 on bedstand

However, there is one critical problem with the Lenovo Smart Clock 2, at least for the moment: pricing. The Smart Clock 2 costs $69.99 on its own, and adding the Charging Dock will push that to $89.99. That’s a lot of money for a device that ultimately isn’t much more useful than a Google Nest Mini smart speaker, which normally costs $49.99, but frequently goes on sale for $24.99. You might even be able to find a Nest Hub for less money than the Smart Clock 2, if you can catch a deal in time.

I have no doubts that Lenovo will slash the price of the Smart Clock 2 in the coming months, just as it did for the original model. In the meantime, I’d recommend getting a Google Nest Mini instead (plus a normal bedside clock, if you want), or the more budget-friendly Lenovo Smart Clock Essential.

    Lenovo Smart Clock 2
    Lenovo's latest Smart Clock has Google Assistant and a compact cloth-covered design.

About author

Corbin Davenport
Corbin Davenport

Corbin is a tech journalist and software developer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He's also the host of the Tech Tales podcast, which explores the history of the technology industry. Follow him on Twitter at @corbindavenport.