JBL Link View review: The Google Assistant smart display with the best sound quality

Editor’s note, February 27, 2019: Google has implemented a new home control screen for the JBL Link View last year and the landscape is becoming more competitive with the Google Home Hub and the LG Xboom smart display hit shops. This review has been updated accordingly.

JBL Link View has the best sound quality of all current smart displays featuring Google Assistant. Smart displays they are a relatively new category of smart home technology with several good options and no clear precursors. They all combine the always-on help of a smart speaker with a simple touchscreen that shows cooking instructions, predictions, calendar, pictures, videos and more.

Figuring out the right smart display for you is a bit like solving a math problem. Sort the variables to find the ones that most align with what you want. If you want a display with Amazon’s assistant Alexa, it’s easy: go with the $ 230 Amazon Echo Show ($ 230 best buy). If you want one with the competitive Google Assistant, you have more choices to make.

The $ 150 Google Home Hub is the prettiest and most affordable; it’s the best entry point especially if you don’t want a device with a camera. The Lenovo Smart Display ($ 250 for a model with a 10-inch screen or $ 200 for an eight-inch version) has the best screen and looks the most stylish. The $ 250 JBL Link View is your best option if you don’t mind a more utilitarian look and want a smart display with great sound quality.

Read more: Amazon Echo Show 5 smart display coming in June for $ 90

A new category of technology

The JBL Link View has a touchscreen, but it’s not a tablet. It has speakers and a microphone, but it’s not just a smart speaker. Show visual information after asking a question, but your phone can do it with the same Google Assistant. Like the Lenovo Smart Display and the Amazon Echo Show before it, the JBL Link View has a lot to prove simply to justify its existence as another screen looking for a place in your home.

While it’s true that you can’t use JBL Link View to compose an email or download apps like you can with a phone or tablet, the Google Assistant experience sits front and center with a stylish effect. The display of the links is performed Android stuff, a stripped-down version of Google’s Android mobile operating system designed for simple smart home devices.

Unlike a phone or tablet, you will primarily use your voice to control the JBL Link View and will need to interact with the screen from a medium distance. Search for a restaurant and the display will show a couple of results along with pictures of each that you can see across the room. You can then scroll through your choices by voice or by touch.

Like the Lenovo Smart Display, the JBL Link View is cheaper than our favorite phones or tablets. It also has more finely tuned microphones to command it from afar and better speakers.

You have configured the JBL Link display using Google Home ($ 99 at Walmart) app. You can customize the ambient screen using the app – choose from personal photos, stock photos, and a clock. You can enable custom results, set up voice match and give the View Link your address via the app.

If you’re concerned about privacy, Link View has a switch to disable the microphone and a physical shutter that covers the camera. If not, just record what you say after saying the activation words “Hey Google” or “OK ​​Google”. Since it integrates with services like Google Calendar, you may see personalized information on your home screen, but you can turn this feature off in the app if it makes you uncomfortable.

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You can slide a physical shutter in front of the camera.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

You can order the JBL Link View now for $ 250 on the company’s website. JBL seems to be a bit behind on shipping. The website estimates a couple of weeks between placing the order and delivery of the device. It’s not available overseas yet, but the US price converts to around £ 200 and AU $ 350.

Find out what a smart display can do

Once you are up and running with JBL Link View, you no longer need your phone as an intermediary. You can speak directly to the screen and it will respond to commands via the Google Assistant. You can search the web, control your smart home, play music, add something to your shopping list, play games, and more.

You can also start with a tap on the ambient screen and Link View will show you a snapshot of your day and local weather. Scroll to find music and video recommendations and suggestions for other commands.

The screen shows YouTube videos in HD. You can also browse your personal photos and make a video call using Google Duo. I wish Google would allow you to use other video chat software, even those of the company Hangouts that would be nice, but this is a minor inconvenience.

The quality of video calls will obviously depend on the quality of the signal. Our test calls were smooth and clear if not perfectly sharp. If the recipient doesn’t have Google Duo, you can always make a regular voice call – the Google Assistant will recognize your voice and look for the phone number in the contact list. The recipient will also see that you are calling, even if you are on the speaker.

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Make a video call with JBL Link View and Google Duo.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

JBL Link View also works well as a smart home control center. You can use it to command any of the files 10,000 connected devices that now work with the Google Assistant. Give a voice command and you’ll see additional sliders and buttons on the screen for most devices, including thermostats, lights and smart switches. For example, turn on yours Philips Hue turns on with a voice command and you will see a control panel that will allow you to adjust the brightness with a touch or change the color. You can even call up your file feed Nest Cam.

Swipe down from the top of the screen and you’ll see a control panel with shortcuts for common tasks like turning off the lights or broadcasting a message to other Google Assistant speakers. You can also bring up a room-by-room list of all your devices through this screen and you can control them with a touch or with your voice.

The panel is well organized and a great reference point if you have a lot of devices and want an overview. If some members of your family don’t want to remember the names of your rooms and smart devices for voice commands, the control panel allows them to intuitively access and control them with a touch.

Right now, you can also watch videos from streaming services like YouTube TV, HBO Now, CBS All Access, Google Play Movies, and some news videos in Link view, but not Netflix yet. You can’t even stream Netflix to the display using your phone, but you can use it as a Bluetooth speaker.

Whether you’re watching videos or searching the web, you can always swipe up for quick settings like volume control and brightness, or swipe right on the screen to return to the previous page. In general, using JBL Link View is intuitive and the touchscreen is responsive.

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