In case you missed it, Lenovo had some interesting news at CES 2017. Instead of simply jumping on the Amazon Echo bandwagon (like practically every other exhibitor at the show), the company introduced its own Echo clone, the Smart Assistant.
The use of the word 'clone' is no mistake. Lenovo's Smart Assistant is every bit an Amazon Echo where it counts – its AI. Lenovo has opted to use Amazon's Voice Services and the already well-established Alexa voice assistant to power its speaker.
Those who already own an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot will find the Lenovo Smart Assistant all too familiar. Alexa handles all of the device’s important functions, including playing music, answering questions, providing calendar updates, creating lists and even shopping on Amazon’s vast online store.
Alexa with Bigger Bass
Instead of developing its own AI in-house, Lenovo opted to use Alexa thanks to its widespread support. That way the company could concentrate on designing a speaker instead, according to Lenovo.
The speaker boasts eight 360-degree far-field microphones, one more than Echo’s seven. Those microphones are also capable of suppressing noise and cancelling echoes, while Lenovo says that the Smart Assistant speaker is capable of picking up voice commands from up to 16 feet away.
“Our goal has never been to simply build smart home devices for the sake of advancing technology alone,” says Johnson Jia, senior vice president of Lenovo’s PC & Smart Device Business Group. “In the same way a person’s IQ is measured by applied knowledge, we believe products are ‘smart’ to the degree they’re actually understood and applied to daily life by their users.”
In addition to more microphones, Lenovo also packed in a 5W treble speaker and 10W woofer – which should hopefully give it some bass, something the Amazon Echo is lacking.
Amazon has also partnered with Harman Kardon for a special edition version of the speaker. This means those who are avid fans of the Harman Kardon brand now have another option over Microsoft’s Cortana-equipped speaker.
The Harman-Kardon Edition is currently tipped to retail at $180, an extra $50 over the normal edition.
- Size: 1.5 L
- Weight: 1.59 lb / 0.72 kg
- Connectivity: WiFi 11n 1 x 1, Bluetooth® 4.0
- MIC Array: 6 + 2 MIC, FarField, >5M, 360°
- Speaker: Tweeter – 1 x 5W + Woofer: 1 x 10W
- Memory: 2 GB DRAM
- Colors: Light Gray, Green, Orange, or Matte Black (for the Harman Kardon® Edition)
- Storage: 8 GB
- Voice Service: Alexa Voice Service
- Button Array: 1 x Trigger Button, 1 x Volume Control
Is There Room in the Market?
Both versions of the Lenovo Smart Assistant are set to begin shipping in May. They are thinner, taller and promise better sound quality, and the standard edition is also $50 cheaper than the standard Amazon Echo, but is that a reason to buy?
Those who care about sound quality and price could stump for a $50 Amazon Echo Dot and then connect it to a high-quality sound system, which is bound to be better than both Amazon’s and Lenovo’s pricier offerings.
Both offer the same voice assistant, and Amazon is likely to offer more incentives and features to its own customers than those using its AI through a third-party.
Smart Storage Hard Drive
In addition to the Smart Assistant, Lenovo also announced a new connected hard drive at CES 2017 dubbed Smart Storage. It was designed so users can wirelessly back up their mobile content and access the data from wherever they are in the world.
When it launches in May, Lenovo will offer a 6TB unit costing around $130. This is just the beginning of the Chinese giant’s smart home plans, as the company noted in its press release.
“We’ll continue to work collaboratively with customers to imagine, design and build home products that they want, can afford, and will use — with the vision to fundamentally improve every aspect of their home life,” according to the release.