The only smart display maker in 2018 to understand these products are for the home was Lenovo
Smart displays are a fairly new product category and that means the selection on offer today is a little limited with only a handful of devices for consumers to currently choose from. What makes the matter of choosing the best even worse is they all pretty much offer the same user interface - well, the Google Assistant-enabled ones at least. This means you won’t find too much of a difference between the different Google-related smart displays in terms of features and how they operate in general. This also means much of the awarding in this category comes down to everything other than the actual user interface, including the design and the purpose behind the product - something Lenovo understood better than anyone else.
Winner: Lenovo Smart Display
Lenovo hardly put much thought into its “Lenovo Smart Display” name considering this is a smart display, from Lenovo. But the same cannot be said for the actual product design and development as in spite of being the first Google Assistant and Android Things-powered smart display to arrive to market, it is also the most interesting in terms of the design. And this is a large part as to why Lenovo’s solution is a worthy winner in this category.
To explain, with these being display-focused devices, Google, JBL, LG (and even Amazon and Facebook if you want to look at the wider market) have all focused on a design that revolves around the display. To the point where they are less-attractive and smaller versions of a tablet. Lenovo on the other hand understood that the display is just a display and instead opted to focus more on bringing a device to market that was built for the home. And that’s a huge difference in terms of design philosophy with Lenovo almost taking a feng shui or holistic approach where it wanted to create a smart display you would want to have in your living room or kitchen. Granted, it might not be exactly to everyone’s tastes, but that’s besides the point as it is the only smart display on the market that has looked beyond the display element and focused in on how this would actually fit into a user’s home. It is as much a home product, as it is a tech product and therefore would not be any less out of place in Bed, Bath & Beyond as it would be in Best Buy. Yes, the Home Hub comes in a number of different colors, but we are not simple talking whether your kitchen is more green than blue, but how the product fits in with all the other elements in the room - if it fits in, at all. This level of detail and thought behind the product development is not clearly evident with any of the other smart display as these seem to be put-together with the premise that it’s a tech product, a display with a speaker attached.
Adding to this, compared to the Google Home Hub, JBL’s Link View, and LG’s crazy-named XBOOM AI ThinQ Smart Display, Lenovo’s Smart Display is the only one to actually offer a true choice when it comes to different options. Again, you can pick up the Home Hub in a variety of colors, but it’s the same Home Hub. While the Link View and XBOOM only appear in one color and size type. In comparison, Lenovo offers different size models to account for the different needs of different users. If you want a larger display, you got it. A smaller one, you got that too. In fact, while the smaller one pretty much directly competes with the other options, the larger one not only provides more of a display than any of the others, but also a greater resolution. Making it an even richer display-focused product than the others. and an ideal solution for those wanting the best in class viewing experience - another element that highlights the thought the company has put into the design. Instead of just attaching a speaker to a display and ordering the factory to manufacture x number of colors, the Lenovo Smart Display is cut from a different cloth entirely.
Runner-up: JBL Link View
The JBL Link View is a very decent smart display and although it was felt the Lenovo option was a better product overall, make no mistake the Link View delivers, and in some respects, delivers better than the Lenovo Smart Display. When you consider these are all comparable products at the interface level, it then becomes even more important to identify what’s the main features you want from a device like this? If, for example, sound matters to you as much as the viewing experience, and you can envision yourself using this as a smart speaker as well as a smart display, then the Link View is by far and away the best option to go for. It’s louder than others, more powerful than others, and just comes with a nicer and richer sound overall which is probably not that surprisingly considering it’s been brought to market by an audio company. Arguably LG's late arrival does compete with JBL's on the power and loudness fronts, but it looks pretty rough and ready when it comes to the design - unlike JBL's solution that offers the power you need while maintaining a size that’s more compact for those that prefer a more discrete solution. If you do not like the look or design of the Lenovo Smart Display then the JBL Link View is the one to go for.