Hands on: JBL's iPhone-connected Link View smart display

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The JBL Link View, shipping mid-September, will be just the second Google Smart Display on the market, enhancing Google Assistant with images, animations, and video.

In many respects the Link View is similar to its predecessor, the Lenovo Smart Display. Both behave largely like a Google Home, answering general knowledge questions, controlling smarthome accessories, and of course playing music from an assortment of streaming services like Spotify and TuneIn. Once again there's no Apple Music, unless you count streaming via Bluetooth.

To this mix JBL and Lenovo's products add things like visual feedback for commands, video-enhanced news briefings, extra detail for requests like directions and weather, and step-by-step guidance through recipes. Text buttons will occasionally pop up, which can be tapped for more information or used as a reference for follow-up voice commands, since context is one of Assistant's strengths.

JBL Link View

In some cases you'll see static information displayed, such as Google Calendar appointments and reminders, and scrollable cards suggesting things you might act on like favorite or time-appropriate Spotify playlists.

One of the biggest things however is support for YouTube (and live YouTube TV). You can ask to play a specific video, or browse through clips by using a broad request like "search YouTube for videos by Bob Ross." This is good for more than just entertainment — it can help you figure out how to get things done, and in select cases asking a general question will trigger a video response.

What makes the Link View distinct? Sound, as you might expect from JBL. Whereas Lenovo's product has a single 10-watt speaker, the Link View has two. On top of that JBL delivers much, much more powerful bass.

We'll have more to say in a full review, but in early testing, the Link View was powerful enough to start rattling loose objects even on medium volume settings. It's clear that JBL expects the speaker to be the centerpiece of a room's audio, rather than just a desktop companion.

The product's 8-inch touchscreen is sharp and vivid, though it should be noted that it's also very glossy — you'll want to face it away from any windows or bright lights if you want to keep it readable.

JBL Link View

For now the last thing we'll mention is that photos can be deceiving, because the speaker is actually quite large at over a foot long. It can be cumbersome to place for that reason, taking up far more room than something like a HomePod or Echo Show.

Keep following AppleInsider for our review, coming soon.


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