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Circuit Breaker

Lenovo made a weird $70 Alexa speaker that only works with its Android tablets

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Sure, okay

Say hello — or rather, say “Alexa” — to the Lenovo “Home Assistant Pack.” It’s a $69.99 speaker with USB port on the side, which allows you to slot in one of Lenovo’s Android tablets to make a little multimedia station, wedged in between a couple of plastic fins.

It’s sort of a smart idea, or at least the beginnings of one. Alexa is going to slowly begin to include visual feedback now that the Echo Show is available, so having a screen to go with your smart speaker is a thing. Also having a loud speaker for a tablet so you can use it to watch TV in the kitchen is another thing that makes sense. So a lot of things that are awkward with just a tablet or just a smart speaker would be potentially less awkward with this set up.

Except that the whole thing feels a little more awkward than just have a standalone Alexa-enabled speaker. The Home Assistant doesn’t really do anything unless the tablet is attached, which seems sub-optimal. It also needs to be plugged-in to a wall to work.

Anyway, it’s a gadget and it has a few very gadgety features. There’s a three-watt speaker and two microphones that Lenovo says can hear you from up to three meters away. Three meters is not very far, though, when it comes to smart speakers. It has a little adapter you move around so it can work with the following Lenovo tablets: Tab 4 8, Tab 4 10, Tab 4 8 Plus, and Tab 4 10 Plus. Those are the real official titles for Lenovo’s Android tablets, but you can just call any of them “Tab 4” and get away with it, I reckon.

The Home Assistant Pack is the answer to two questions: “Golly what if this Echo had a screen I could detach and use as a tablet?” and “Gee what if this tablet had a really loud speaker I could plug it into?” I do not know if the Home Assistant Pack is a good answer to those questions, but boy howdy is it an answer. It will be available in October, sold separately from the Tab 4.