On the surface, the Lenovo Smart Display sort of seems like a no-brainer for cord-cutters. It's definitely not what we'd call inexpensive. But it's also a great mix of use cases. Streaming audio, streaming video, photos — pretty much everything you'd want from this sort of device, right?
But if you're going to attempt to use the Smart Display as a streaming video device, you need to understand how it works. It's powered by Android Things. You can think of that is more than a Chromecast, but definitely not a full build of Android TV. It lives somewhere in the middle, and it absolutely is dependent — at least in the early days — on Google's "Cast" protocol.
That is, it's a Chromecast target, letting you find video on a phone or tablet and project it onto the display. (That's oversimplified, but you get the idea.)
And that leads us to the following question: Which streaming video services work with the Lenovo Smart Display via Chromecast? We'll start with the list of services that perform without issue:
- YouTube (also available directly via voice search)
- YouTube TV
- Facebook video
- Google Play Movies & TV
- HBO Go/Now
- PlayStation Vue
- Spotify Connect
CBS and Starz are noted as accounts you also can link, but I haven't tried them. And some of what's listed above is already available via your voice. Others need Chromecast.
And there are some obvious missing entries in that list.
Netflix employees Chromecast — but it's also pretty choosy about what you can cast video to. And, alas, the Lenovo Smart Display isn't one of them. Netflix tells us it doesn't have anything to announce yet about adding support for smart displays.
DirecTV Now attempts to cast. In fact, video shoots over just fine — but there's no audio.
Sling TV tries to cast but ultimately fails.
Amazon Prime Video doesn't do Chromecast in any form. (Because Google and Amazon are still fighting, most likely.)
So, yes. The Lenovo Smart Display absolutely can be a decent secondary streaming device — if you're streaming with an app that supports it. We very much expect improvement on that front. The cool thing about smart display (the category, not the specific product) running Android Things is that it can and will be updated, and fixed.
The Lenovo Smart Display actually is a pair of products — one with an 8-inch display, and the other at 10 inches. They weigh in at $199 and $249, respectively. Basically, think Google Home, but with a touchscreen. That means easy access to all kinds of information via your voice, with results relayed via audio as well as on the screen.
Plus it's got excellent streaming music integration with multiple sources, you can watch YouTube videos all day long, and use Chromecast for a good number of other sources.
And because it's powered by Android Things, it'll continue to get better over time.
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