This story was originally published and last updated .
The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is not a massive leap in technology—it's a clock radio. A glorified clock radio. A more sensible, smart clock radio. But it's still a clock with a speaker. It tells the time and weather, and it's got Google Assistant. It's missing a few features, and the audio is about what you'd expect for $50, but I found it to be a great addition to my home. Whether or not you agree depends on what you want out of your Assistant devices, but there's a lot to like about the Smart Clock Essential.
It's only Wednesday, but don't tell retailers that: Black Friday has been all month long this year. Sonos's deals are live today, and there are some pretty solid options. Across many retailers, many of the company's most popular premium speakers are $100 to $200 off today through November 30.
Google released a new $99 smart speaker this year, and it's really pretty great. But Google's biggest speaker, the Home Max, is still its best. It's also its priciest, at an MSRP of $299. But for Black Friday, the Max's price tag has been slashed in half at multiple retailers: you can pick one up for just $149 starting today.
If you're looking for an inexpensive smart device, you should consider Lenovo's Smart Clock and Smart Clock Essential. Both offer a handful of convenient features, and are currently down to just $25 and $35, respectively, instead of launch prices as high as $50 and $80, making them very affordable.
Lenovo first got into the smart clock biz last year, with the creatively named Lenovo Smart Clock. That device was essentially a tiny Google Assistant-powered smart display positioned as a clock replacement. It was a neat idea, but an introductory MSRP of $80 made it a tough sell. Lenovo is trying again this year with the Smart Clock Essential, a smaller, simpler, less expensive take on the same idea.
In July, Google announced that smart home appliance makers would be able to publish Assistant routines featuring their own Actions and ones recommended from partner brands. Amazon seems to be raising that move with its own: user-shareable Alexa routines.
For those of you who use your Assistant-equipped Smart Displays and speakers to broadcast music around different rooms of the house at the same time, Google has made a small improvement. Devices and cast targets can now be added and removed on the fly without creating new groups, which should make things a little more convenient for some.