Like every red-blooded American, I hate waking up to go to work. The sound of my smartphone's alarm is worse than a jackhammer operated by a crying baby. And if someone happens to use the sound of my alarm as their ringtone, I instinctively want to dive tackle them.
That's where Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) and Lenovo's new Smart Clock with Google Assistant comes in. Designed to make you hate your alarm a little less, the Smart Clock, available for $79, is a Google Assistant-powered, well, alarm clock for your bedroom.
I've been using the Smart Clock for a few weeks, and while I certainly enjoy using it, I still find myself using my smartphone to set my morning alarm more often than I do the Clock. Still, its ability to access Google Assistant to check things like my schedule and the weather has proven more than helpful.
To be sure, its alarm is still nearly as annoying as every other alarm on Earth. But its ability to slowly increase its screen brightness to simulate the Sun rising makes waking up a little less painful.
Smart Clock design
The Lenovo Smart Clock combines the look and feel of a classic alarm clock with the kind of tech you'd find in a modern smart speaker. The device has a 4-inch, touchscreen display, with a body that tapers off toward its rear. Its frame is covered in a soft fabric and features two, large volume buttons on its top.
Around back is the power cable, a physical button to mute the Clock's microphone, and a full-size USB port. That's an important feature, as plugging in the Clock means you might not have enough outlets on your side of the bed. The USB port, however, will let you charge your phone or smartwatch while keeping the Clock plugged in. It's a small but appreciated addition.
The Smart Clock's most satisfying feature, though, is its touch-sensitive top panel. Remember those old cartoons where the main character would use his fist to smash his alarm clock when it went off? Well, you can basically do the same thing with the Lenovo Smart Clock.
When your alarm goes off, you can tap, or slam, the top of the Smart Clock to silence it or turn the alarm off entirely. You can also use voice commands to turn off the alarm, but Morning Dan, my sleepier, groggier counterpart, can't be trusted to get up on time for work if his alarm can be switched off by simply saying "Stop." So I turned off the microphone when I went to sleep.
Lenovo wisely chose to omit a camera from the Smart Clock to ensure that users don't accidentally stream videos of themselves from the bedroom to their contacts. And I should know.
While reviewing Amazon's (AMZN) Echo Show, which has a built-in camera for video chatting with contacts, I accidentally streamed video of myself from my bedroom to a second Echo Show in my office. Thankfully, the stream happened during off-hours, so no one saw that I was watching "Bob's Burgers" and eating a bowl of week-old pasta on my bed.
Using the Smart Clock
The Lenovo Smart Clock comes equipped with Google Assistant, which means you can use your voice to do things like check your schedule and the weather, as well as control your smart home devices and get the traffic report for your commute to work.
Telling the Clock to set an alarm is straightforward, as is asking it to read out your schedule. You can also use Google Routines with the Smart Clock, so, for instance, you can set your "Good Morning" routine to raise the curtains in your home, turn off the alarm, fire up your connected coffee maker, and more — all with one quick phrase. If you use the special Sunrise Alarm, your Smart Clock will slowly increase its screen brightness before the alarm goes off, to mimic the Sun rising.
Similarly, you can set your "Goodnight" routine to lock your doors, turn off your lights and television, and play calming music on your Smart Clock. It's an incredibly easy process, if you have enough connected devices in your home, that is.
As for music playback, don't expect the Smart Clock to blast out deep, robust beats. You're not going to get any real bass out of the Clock, and audio in general will sound tinny. It's fine for listening to music when you’re folding your clothes or tidying up your bedroom, but you certainly won't want to rely on the Clock as your main smart speaker.
I was also thrown off by the big difference in sound when raising the volume on the Smart Clock. It seemed to jump a good amount when I turned up music from the 6 setting to 7. A smoother transition between the two would be nice.
Lenovo also disabled the ability to cast video to the Smart Clock. That makes sense, though, since you're not likely to want to use the device's 4-inch screen to watch the latest episodes of your favorite shows or movies.
Should you get it?
I use my phone way too much before I go to bed, so putting it down and using the Smart Clock to set my alarm and act as the last piece of tech I use before falling asleep is a fine proposition. And for a good number of people who aren't addicted to their smartphones, the Clock is sure to be a fine alternative to a traditional alarm clock.
It's worth noting, however, that the audio experience is lacking. So if you're looking for a true smart speaker to listen to music, you might want to look elsewhere. If you simply want a smarter alarm clock, though, the Lenovo Smart Clock is a solid bet.
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Email Daniel Howley at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.