Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is a simpler smart speaker

Lenovo has a new smart clock, intended to be a more affordable way to get the Google Assistant on your nightstand. The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential joins, rather than replaces, the Lenovo Smart Clock, and shares its wedge-shaped, fabric covered style. The big difference is on the front.

Where the Smart Clock has a small but full-functioned LCD on its front, the Smart Clock Essential goes a little more old-school. It uses a traditional clock screens with big LED digits for the time. There are also simple graphics for the weather and temperature.

The idea is that it's a more familiar object for beside your bed – or even on your desk – and a potentially less distracting one. As well as the soft-touch fabric exterior, the display supports auto-dimming to adjust to the conditions in the room. There's also a built-in nightlight at the rear, casting a soft glow.

Inside, there's a 3W speaker and two passive radiators. There's also Bluetooth, so that you can pair up your phone and use the Smart Clock Essential as a speaker. A USB-A port, meanwhile, delivers power to charge up that phone.

The smarts, of course, come courtesy of the Google Assistant. That basically offers everything you'd expect from a Google Nest Mini, with voice access to music, answering questions, getting weather and traffic reports, and all of the third-party integrations we've seen Google expand into in recent years. You'll be able to control smart lights and appliances by voice, for example.

A physical switch on the back mutes the microphones, and there are more buttons on the top of the clock. You can use those to set an alarm manually, if you prefer not to ask the Google Assistant to do it for you. You can also control media playback and volume with them too.

Lenovo is launching the Smart Clock Essential at $49.99 this coming holiday season. That matches what you'll pay for a Nest Mini, though you do get more functionality out of Lenovo's smart speaker. What remains to be seen is just how low the price tag gets, assuming we see the same sort of promotions that have been applied to the Lenovo Smart Clock in recent months. That's staying on sale at $79, but we've already seen deals knocking that down to around the Smart Clock Essential's level.