At this past CES, Lenovo announced its $130 Smart Assistant speaker with Amazon’s Alexa inside. While that device is still listed as “coming soon” on Lenovo’s website, the company isn’t putting any of its smart home ambitions on hold. Lenovo’s new Home Assistant Pack appears to be a pared-down version of the Smart Assistant—one that’s built to connect to any Tab 4 tablet.
The Home Assistant also has the Alexa voice assistant inside, but it’s not as powerful of a speaker as the Smart Assistant. It has a three-watt speaker and two built-in mics with far-field detection designed to pick up your voice from three meters away. The Smart Assistant instead has a five-watt tweet, a 10-watt subwoofer, and eight built-in mics with far-field detection.
Weighing 300 grams, the Home Assistant is basically an accessory version of the Smart Speaker that you can tote from room to room. By itself, it’s akin to Amazon’s Echo Dot—but paired with a Tab 4 tablet, it becomes similar to an Echo Show. Sliding one of Lenovo’s tablets into the Home Assistant’s dock will automatically bring up the “Home Assistant interface,” in which you can ask Alexa to play music, check your calendar, give you weather updates, and more. The tablet will show “display cards” for visual information in addition to the Home Assistant providing voice answers via Alexa.
While you can use all of the tablet’s features while connected to the Home Assistant, Lenovo likens the pair more to an Amazon Echo with display cards rather than the Echo Show. Amazon’s $230 Echo Show is an Alexa-powered speaker with a touchscreen that gives you all the regular features of Alexa, along with video and voice calling capabilities, security camera feed viewing with compatible IoT devices, and more. It seems like an odd product to come out, considering the smart speaker space is so crowded and because it appears we’re still waiting for the Smart Assistant speaker to ship. However, it could be a good accessory for anyone who already has a Tab 4 tablet.
In addition to a smart home accessory, Lenovo is one of the many OEMs releasing a Windows Mixed Reality headset ahead of the annual IFA convention. Dubbed the Lenovo Explorer, this mixed-reality headset is much like those we’ve seen Dell and Asus debut recently: it consists of a flip-up visor on a headband that connects to a compatible PC with one Y-cable to the USB 2.0 port and HDMI output. There are no external sensors to hook up, and the device supports inside-out tracking along with optional motion controllers. These also look very similar to Microsoft’s own mixed-reality controllers, and it seems Dell, Lenovo, and other manufacturers have all taken the same design approach to these dual handheld devices. You don’t need the controllers to use the headset, and you can even use an Xbox controller if that feels more natural to you while playing VR games.
The mixed-reality space you’ll have to work with is actually slightly larger than that of Dell’s announced Visor headset. Lenovo’s Explorer will recognize a 3.5-by-3.5-meter area (or 11.5-by-11.5 feet). Its displays are similar to the Dell Visor: 1440 x 1440 panels for each eye. It’s compatible with Lenovo laptops and desktops, as well as any other PCs that have the specs required by Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform. Lenovo also has its “Entertainment Hub” where more than 100 other “upscaled” VR games will be available.
We enjoyed Lenovo’s high-end Yoga 910 convertible, and the company also announced the next device in this family: the Yoga 920. It’s the latest Surface competitor to come out, improving on the 910 in some ways while incorporating some internal upgrades. The 920’s design looks nearly identical to that of the 910, but it now measures 13.9mm thick and weighs 3.02 pounds. That makes it ever so slightly lighter and thinner than the 910, but otherwise it has a lot of the same external features: a 13.9-inch 4K IPS touchscreen that’s compatible with the optional Active Pen, that signature Lenovo watchband hinge that allows it to lie flat when opened at a 180-degree angle, and a Windows Hello-ready fingerprint sensor.
Two issues we had with the Yoga 910 was the lack of Thunderbolt 3 ports and the extra-large chin bezel under the display. Lenovo appears to have fixed one of those two problems: the 920 has two Thunderbolt 3 ports that support data transfer and charging, which is a great upgrade from the single USB Type-C port on the 910. The 920’s bottom bezel is still its largest, but its webcam has been moved to the tiny top bezel. We prefer this placement for video chatting since you won’t get those unattractive up-the-nose shots like you would with a bottom-placed webcam. The only time this placement won’t come in handy is when the display is turned upside-down while in tent mode.
In addition to being compatible with the Explorer headset, the Yoga 920 will have Intel’s 8th-generation quad-core CPUs, integrated Intel HD graphics, up to 16GB DDR4 RAM, up to 1TB PCIe SSD storage, a 70Whr battery that can last nearly 11 hours on the 4K model (or 15.5 hours on the FHD model), and far-field mics to improve speech recognition. Lenovo highlighted that Cortana on this Windows convertible will be able to detect commands from up to four meters away. Lenovo is really pushing the importance of voice as a control on any device—it has become an important AI feature on smartphones already, so it will likely become more important on PCs in the future.
According to Lenovo, the Yoga 920 will also use Cortana to offer contextual reminders as it learns your habits and where you are throughout the day. Presumably if you enable location services, Cortana will be able to remind you to pick up groceries if you’re working at a coffee shop near one of your frequently visited stores. While you may be less likely to use a voice assistant on a laptop, having that assistant offer suggestions based on the time of day, where you are, and other contextual clues may encourage you to use it more.
The new Yoga 920 is accompanied by a new Yoga 720: the new 12-inch convertible will have an FHD IPS touchscreen, 7th-generation Intel processors, Intel integrated graphics, up to 8GB DDR4 RAM, up to 512GB SATA SSD storage, a 36Whr battery that can last up to eight hours on a single charge, and a Windows Hello fingerprint reader.
Lenovo’s Miix detachable family has a new member as well: the Miix 520 detachable is a tablet/keyboard bundle with a slew of optional, functional features. You can opt to get the 520 with LTE service, with the Active Pen 2, and with Lenovo’s WorldView camera that can take photos and let you edit them in 3D with the Windows 10 Fall Creators update. Like the Yoga 920, the Miix 520 has the same mic system that’s built to hear Cortana commands from far away. It’ll also have an FHD IPS touchscreen, 8th-generation Intel CPUs, integrated HD graphics, 8GB of RAM, 256GB PCIe SSD storage, and a 39Whr battery for 7.5 hours of battery life.
The Miix 520 will start at $999. The Yoga 720 will start at $649, while the Yoga 920 will start at $1,329. Lenovo’s Home Assistant Pack costs $69, and the Explorer mixed-reality headset will cost $349 alone or $449 when bundled with two motion controllers. All of Lenovo’s new products will be available starting in October.