Updated: December 2020
Now, I don’t need to tell you just how fast #MicrosoftTeams is being adopted across organisations globally, but one thing we are seeing is the shire explosion of new form factor devices by leading (and new) manufacturers into the Teams Collaboration space. Some of these new devices fits into the new category of Microsoft Teams Displays.
Microsoft Teams Displays – are a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams devices featuring an ambient touchscreen, and a hands-free / touch-free experience “powered by Cortana” (though this is currently only available in the US only at this point).
One of these vendors is Lenovo, who are no means a “new kid on the block” when it comes to end user devices such as tablets, laptops, and desktops, but they are kind of new in the Teams Collaboration Device Space. Interestingly, Lenovo are now also supplying the “PC” component of, not only their new Teams Rooms Systems, but also that of Poly!
You may ask why, when employees have access to laptops, web browsers, smart phones and tablets, all more than capable of running Microsoft Teams, so we need a dedicated Teams Collaboration Display….
Introducing the Lenovo ThinkSmart View
The Lenovo ThinkSmart View is a dedicated personal business communications device for hosting and taking part in Microsoft Teams audio and video calls – the devices of which can be managed by the Lenovo ThinkSmart Manager software, a proprietary software application built for IT departments to easily manage their fleet of ThinkSmart devices.
Designed and certified exclusively for Microsoft Teams, Lenovo calls this a “…collaborative smart device that works from an individual’s workspace…” – it’s a collaboration device really designed for execs or those with a pop-up home office who want to be “free from their laptop or tablet” but still need a video rich and audio rich endpoint and a price point that really appeals.
Lenovo are attempting to “reimagine the personal workspace” with Microsoft Teams displays by integrating the Teams collaboration and communication experience into the home and workplace with high fidelity audio and video.
So, what can you use it for?
Meetings – and it’s really good at them too!
Most of what the device can do is set out by, and limited by what Microsoft allows the device to do since the collaboration device is powered by the Microsoft Teams Android client that runs on the device. Initially, and when first reviewed the device earlier this year, the device was really just for joining meetings and for Teams Phone features, however the update in September 2020 brought the FULL Teams Mobile features to the device including:
- Teams Call / Video Meetings with full phone UX for Calls, Meetings & Voicemail
- Common Area and Personal Phone Support
- Hot Desking Support
- Support Live Captions / Subtitles
- Full video calling, screen sharing / viewing
- Ambient display support – for notifications, and activity views
- Raise hand support
- Better Together for Calling & Meeting
- IM and Chat
- Full support for starting, participating, navigating and interacting with Chat
- Full access to your recent files and full access to your OneDrive
- Organisational View
- View your Team and company org chart
My other favourite is the ability for colleagues (or most likely, your kids to leave you a message, voice memo or video memo) on the device if you are away from your desk (more likely..in the loo or getting a coffee!)
What’s in the box?
This is really simple. The ThinkSmart View device and a UK plug.
What’s the Price?
The retail for these is £229 plus VAT – so I definitely put them into the affordable gadget category for most managers/exec that work at home or need a dedicated Teams Video endpoint in their office.
What’s the Spec?
As I said – think of this as a giant Teams Phone. Its runs the same native Teams Mobile app but is perfect as a Teams On-the-go collaboration device – as long as you have a power-plug to power it up as it doesn’t have a built in battery. With this device you get:
- 5MP wide angle (720p) with a physical camera shutter to cover it for privacy.
- Supports software background blur in Teams meetings
- Built in microphone with mute switch to temporarily cut the audio.
- 1.75″ 10W full-range speaker
- Bluetooth® 4.2 (LE) – pairing allows use with a headset and support auto device lock.
- 8″ HD (1200 x 800) IPS touchscreen with auto rotate for landscape / portrait mode
The ThinkSmart View is an interesting form factor device from Lenovo. It’s not immediately clear as to the audience it has been designed for. I think initially it’s designed for the exec or manager’s office – but with the 2020 being the year of “remote working”, this is ideally suited as a second / dedicated Teams end-point…
Audio is surprising good – rather than the often tinny sounds you get from laptop speakers, the 10-Watt full-range speaker in the ThinkSmart View has 2 passive tweeters allowing it to produce loud, crisp and clear audio, and testing on the receiving end (yes, I called my self), the audio picked up by the 360-degree microphone array was also “room system” quality in my opinion. Audio is important…. with virtual meetings, the spoken voice is the most important aspect of the call/meeting and while video is king, now more than ever, you can more easily forgive poor quality video as long as audio is sharp and clear.
For anyone working at home, this is much better than having a Teams Phone on your desk and it’s actually something that would be great in another room (or area) of your home/office, but of course it’s limited to use within #MicrosoftTeams which probably limits that – there’s certainly no danger in your kids or other family members using it for WhatsApp calls for example – though they might inadvertently video call your boss via Teams!
Within the “office environment”, the Lenovo ThinkSmart display can also fill the need for a “walk up and use” video collab device which can be placed in a small focus space or breakout area – especially as it supports “hot desk mode” – the lack of a handset makes it a bit in practical for a common area but you can pair it with a headset (again – great to dedicated use, no so much for common area use).
I think for anyone working at home, this is much better than having a Teams Phone on your desk and it’s actually something that would be great in another room (or area) of your home/office, but of course it’s limited to use within #MicrosoftTeams which probably limits that – there’s certainly no danger in your kids or other family members using it for WhatsApp calls for example – though they might inadvertently video call your boss via Teams!
This a new(ish) form factor, though not entirely unique to Lenovo. The other Teams Collaboration device manufacturer in this space today is Yealink – who’s device is due to launch early 2021 and is rumoured to have a battery as well as being mains powered which is the main thing missing from the Lenovo in my opinion.
As you’d expect from Lenovo, build quality is excellent. There is a premium feel to the device and its weighted on one-side, presumably to prevent accidental movement or repositioning. Its not heavy though – no heavier than a Bluetooth speaker the weight just helps with positioning and premium feel.
At just over £200 (RRP is £240 as of Dec 2020), it’s a great device to buy a handful of, to test out the use case within your organisation – a few of the clients I work with have done just this.