Vizio has dabbled in Android before, but the Android-based product that the company’s showing off at CES 2014 was certainly a bit of an oddity — the company’s new "Smart Audio" bluetooth speakers embed a full display that will run Android 4.4 Kit Kat when they launch. Vizio’s offering two options — there’s a smaller version with a 4.7-inch, 1280 x 720 screen and a larger model with a 7-inch, 1280 x 800 display.
It was hard to judge the performance, as these early demo models aren’t running finished software, but Vizio told us they would have hardware comparable to high-end smartphones. However, we did get to hear both speakers and they each offer a surprising amount of power for their relatively small size. The design is also typical of Vizio — the speakers are understated and classy but have some fun design notes — particularly the larger model, which includes a built-in handle for easy transport and comes in several different color schemes.
The inclusion of Android really opens up the utility of these speakers beyond most of the standard competitors like Jambox and Bose — beyond just streaming audio over Bluetooth, users will be able to pull audio in through any music app available in Google Play. Yes, these speakers will come with Google Play and the full Google suite of apps when they launch. You’ll be able to stream music through Google Play Music, Rdio, Spotify, and so on; you’ll also be able to store music on the built-in internal storage for when you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection.
The inclusion of a full display also opens up the opportunity for other unusual usage scenarios — it could make for an unconventional Netflix or Hulu Plus experience, and Vizio noted there’s a built-in mic for voice chat over Skype or Google Hangouts. Games are also on the table, though it’s definitely not the kind of ergonomic experience we’d recommend for an extended period of time. There’s little doubt that, despite these other usages, these speakers are largely meant to offer a different music-listening experience. With the myriad Android apps available, Vizio’s hoping that users come up with creative ways to get music to its new speakers when they launch in the second half of 2014.