Lenovo's making a prettier Amazon Echo and a smarter home NAS

In addition to a slew of new PCs, Lenovo's bring a slew of new connected home accessories to CES 2017. Chief among them are a new smart home network drive, their take on an Amazon Echo-style device, and a handheld keyboard that includes the most sensitive of keys.

Lenovo Smart Assistant

What if you could make a fancier-looking Amazon Echo (opens in new tab)? That must be the question that Lenovo's engineers asked themselves when cooking up the "Lenovo Smart Assistant with Amazon Alexa". This cylindrical connected smart speaker is an Echo clone if we've ever seen one; it's the fruit of a Lenovo-Amazon partnership, and there's anything wrong with that. It even bakes in the same Amazon Alexa software, includes eight far-field noise-cancelling microphones, and a pair of speakers — a 5W tweeter and a 10W woofer.

Looks-wise, it's like a fancier Echo, with a fabric speaker grill below a solid upper half, plus a raised control surface on the top ringed by chrome. That fabric grill comes in multiple color options, though they aren't removable (a la Google Home). You'll have your choice of a white upper half with grills in light gray, green, or orange, or an all-black Harman Edition model that includes an additional 2-inch acoustic sound cavity for enhanced audio performance.

There's one big difference between an Amazon Echo and the Lenovo Smart Assistant: price. The standard Smart Assistant starts at $129.99, while the Harman Edition version will run $179.99 (the retail price of Amazon's Echo). Both versions are expect to be available in May 2017.

Lenovo Smart Storage

There are standard NAS devices, and then there's this. You could call the Lenovo Smart Storage device the next generation of the Network Attached Storage unit, and that's essentially what it is: a smart NAS. Packed inside the compact pinched white box you'll find 2TB or 6TB of hard drive storage, a dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac antenna, and a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Celeron processor.

More than just a mere hard drive with Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity, the Lenovo Smart Storage is packed with software to make it, well, smart. Auto Sync will help to automatically back up your files, it includes DLNA so you can stream movies on it to your TV, and even facial recognition software to scan and organize your photo library by people. There's also a USB port on the back — plug in your drive, press a button on the Smart Storage, and it'll back up everything on the drive.

If that piques your interest, you'll be able to grab one in May 2017, with the a starting price for the 2TB version of $139.99.

Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller

There's a user interface flaw in most smart TVs: if you want to search for anything, or log into any installed apps, you're either clicking around an on-screen keyboard with a remote control or dictating into a microphone and hoping it understood you correctly. While plenty of TVs offer Bluetooth support so you can connect a keyboard, who wants to keep a big slab of a keyboard in the living room, let alone try and balance it on their laps? Enter the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller, a compact keyboard that fits into your hands and has a trick up its sleeve.

At first glance it looks like a standard, but compact, albeit it with an advertised 66-foot range to the 2.4GHz USB receiver (twice the range of a typical Bluetooth device). It's designed to fit comfortably in both hands so you can type with your thumbs — it's roughly the size as the on-screen keyboard of a 7-to-8-inch tablet in portrait orientation. But there's more: the entire keyboard is also touch sensitive — swipe across them and they're a trackpad to move the cursor on the screen along with left/right mouse buttons below the keys. Pair it with a Windows 10 PC (perhaps a Stick PC plugged into your TV) and it even supports multi-finger gestures.

The Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller is expected to be available in March 2017 for a reasonable $54.99.

Derek Kessler

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

  • Lenovo sure was busy
  • Really looking forward to that multimedia controller. If it performs well for that price it is a serious candidate to substitute my Logitech K400. Hell I would even buy a pair more to gift to my relatives.
  • The middle one looks like a big cigarette
  • Exactly what I was thinking lol, time for a smoke break
  • I fear that if other OEMs are going to be making Alexa devices then any "Cortana Cube" devices (even by the same OEMs) are in trouble right out of the gate. Side by side, consumer decision will come down to "apps"/services that work with the device. Hopefully the Cortana sdk can get developers' support and fast!
  • But Cortana has a screen. Can I get echo with a screen?
  • Why would you want that? The idea is to talk to it while you do other things. You're not supposed to divert your attention from whatever you're doing to look at it. 
  • Yeah but I tried it, and it's useless with all other ambient sounds going on and friends and family playing, running around. Also its no good reminding me verbally with my daily appointments. I have to write them down and take them with me out the door. I'd rather have a screen I glance at after I talk to it. It can talk back to me, but I need to check it on a screen. The amount of times my kids talk to me when Alexa talks back is crazy. It just useless for families. Nice for a single person or couple. I'll stick to personal assistants on PC,s.
  • Yes you can, check the Alexa on Fire tablets. This doesn't mean Cortana has no chance though, it sure will do better than Google.
  • Can i get it on Surface Pro? I ain't wasting money on a tablet that just does a few ****** apps. Apps are yesterday. Windows 10 on Arm is the future.
  • Fire tablets are 20-30 bucks most of the time. I bet you spend more than that on your lunch some days lol. But well, you can try echo simulator (bing it) if you want to use Alexa on your PC, but it doesn't have visual responses it's just voice.
  • :(( Well I'm confused. I don't really understand the point of Alexa. I just don't get it. If she can't interact with all my PC devices. Seems like a gimmicky cash grab from Amazon.
  • Alexa is just a web service it works with HTTP requests and it's free. Echo is the speakers that come with alexa built-in. So you pay for the speaker or tablet and it comes with built-in Alexa functionality.
  • Love the keyboard. If they launch one without receiver, i.e., only Bluetooth, i would love to buy it for continuum on 950xl as i won't need a separate mouse. Smart! !
  • MS should make Cortana works without screen!
  • Cortana already works without a screen.  Only some responses don't work yet, but that can be easily changed.
  • There will be a Harmen Karden Speaker coming out should be announced at CES and its powered by Cortana.
  • Will it come with Bloatware?
  • If the keyboard supports touch it would be nice to support wordflow.