We’ve seen a lot of Google Assistant powered speakers hit the market in the past few months, and even more made their debut at CES 2018. However, a new Assistant form factor entirely also made its debut this week: smart displays.

This week at CES, Lenovo and JBL showed off new Assistant-powered smart displays built in collaboration with Google. We got the chance to sit down and check out Lenovo’s, and both the hardware and the software here are showing off what is going to be a big deal for Google going forward.

First, let’s get the hardware out of the way. Lenovo’s Smart Display (the actual product name) is a pretty basic product when it comes to the design, but I really love it. The 8-inch or 10-inch display is flanked by a speaker grill on the left side (or bottom if you place it in portrait), and the back is either faux Bamboo or a simple grey. It’s well built and little features like the physical privacy shutter are fantastic.

However, the real story here is the software. Google’s latest Android Things-based OS for these displays runs the Google Assistant with a new custom interface (which is gorgeous). These displays can do anything a standard Google Home or Assistant-enabled speaker can do, but with a few added benefits.

Those benefits include being able to see and not just hear your calendar events, being able to check the weather and latest news with a visual aspect, and even being able to get directions on Maps and see traffic information. One of the biggest highlights in my opinion, though, is the ability to make calls on Google Duo, something that’s just getting easier and easier.

Personally, I think these “smart displays” are the future of Google Assistant, and for me I don’t think it’s going to be worth buying anything else going forward. Speakers are great, but when you slap on this software and a display, it becomes something truly magical.

Lenovo’s Smart Display will be arriving later this year starting at $199, and others will be hitting the market in the coming months…

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Ben Schoon

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