As I was talking to Alexa on the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential to set the alarm the other day, I realised something: I missed the good old days of alarm clocks that had a place in most bedrooms when I was a kid. No matter what stage of life you are in… somewhere your childhood still exists in your memory and it’s an important part of you, including things you grew up using every day. The Smart Clock Essential is a modern version of the forgotten alarm clock. While it is certainly a smart clock at heart, it also doubles as a voice-assisted speaker and connected weather station. I used the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential for a week, and here’s my experience with the bedside-table accessory.
Lenovo Smart Clock Essential with Alexa price in India: Rs 3742
The origin of alarm clocks
Alarm clocks first came up in the 1870s and started gaining popularity with the mechanical wind-up versions becoming a staple in people’s bedrooms. Over time, alarm clocks have changed in styles and gained features like a built-in FM radio, snooze buttons, cuckoos, etc. Modern alarm clocks, like the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential, come with voice assistants and can be controlled using smartphones. However, their basic use hasn’t changed. Whether you pick up a traditional alarm clock or a smart clock, they ensure you wake up on time.
Design and aesthetics
Lenovo’s Smart Clock Essential is a homage to old-school alarm clocks from the 80s. In terms of design, the Smart Clock Essential is pretty similar to the Smart Clock 2 I reviewed last year but there are a couple of differences. While the Smart Clock 2 is powered by Google Assistant and has a touchscreen, a new lightweight feature and wireless charging built-in, the Smart Clock Essential with Alexa is a simplified version.
Available in blue-ish grey and clay-red options, the device has a wedge shape design with a rectangular bottom. The device has an attractive fabric finish on the body and a 4-inch display (more on that later). There is no nightlight or wireless charging pad included in the Smart Clock Essential as seen on the Lenovo Smart Clock 2. However, the clock supports pogo pins on the bottom, meaning it supports Lenovo’s wireless charging pad which is available at an additional cost.
Around the back, there is a single DC-in port and mute switch. What you won’t find is a USB-A port on the back for charging accessories and smartphones, which should have been there if you ask me. On the top of the device, the Volume, Alarm and dedicated Alexa buttons complete the look.
Setup and app
Getting the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential with Alexa running was simple. After you plug the clock into the power plug, download the Alexa app on your smartphone and log into your Amazon account. Follow the instructions, get through the basic set-up of communicating with Alexa, and the device is ready to use. The Alexa app isn’t complicated as I had initially expected it to be. Most settings are available directly on the screen through a swipe down from the top. This includes a few things such as skills and placing a call using the Alexa app. Within the app, you also get the option to change the settings of the Smart Clock Essential. The app also lets me choose between Weather and Noise Meter as well as make changes to the temperature (Fahrenheit or Celsius).
Display and sound
The Smart Clock Essential has a simple, black-and-white monochrome LED non-touch display. I find the screen size right for an alarm clock – not too big and not too small. It is basic in nature and limited to the current time, weather conditions, day, and currently set alarms. The display will automatically adjust its brightness depending on the light levels of the room. But it’s not a touchscreen, doesn’t display photos or video, and can’t be used for showing camera feeds.
The Lenovo-made smart clock sounds pretty good for a small speaker, and is better than smartphone speakers. It is loud enough to hear the answers from across the room, and it’s perfectly fine for playing the music. But it doesn’t come any close to my HomePod mini.
What does it do?
At the core, the Smart Clock Essential is basically an Alexa-powered smart speaker that plays music, answers questions and shows the weather. The added display is an advantage, although limited in capabilities. The idea behind the Smart Clock Essential is to introduce the newer generation to a modern version of an alarm clock rather than being a device closer to the Amazon Echo Show.
Like any other Alexa-powered smart speaker, I can talk to Alexa, and ask questions. From flash briefings to music playback, the Smart Clock Essential does the job well.
When you press the Alexa button on the device itself, a cut face as if I am talking to a robot pops up and starts listening to my request. The most frustrating issue for me was that Apple Music does not work properly on Alexa and Lenovo Smart Clock Essential. It says not linked even though the app shows it is. If it is a bug, then Amazon should look into this and fix the issue asap.
As an alarm clock, the Smart Clock Essential doesn’t disappoint. I can set multiple alarms through voice commands or via the buttons on top. It can play a standard alarm beep, or just say “STOP” once the alarm is going to cancel it. You can also tap on top of the clock twice to snooze it.
Should you buy it?
Lenovo Smart Clock Essential, although bare bones, is a nice addition to the bedroom or any room in the house. Unfortunately, like any other smart speaker, it lacks a built-in battery backup. So if the power goes as we are used to in most parts of India, there won’t be an alarm in the morning. I wish whenever Lenovo makes a sequel to the Smart Clock Essential, the company should consider adding battery backup to the device. That way Lenovo can truly justify the need for a connected clock even if it lacks a full-blown smart display experience. But one thing I liked the most about the Smart Clock Essential is how it becomes a smart weather station. With Alexa and the built-in display on the device itself, you control what the Weather Station tells you and when. The device tracks the temperature, humidity and noise levels in real-time. With this information, stepping out of my home has become a little easy.