Voice assistant speakers are becoming more and more common. Just relying on audio isn’t always enough, though, which is why “smart displays” are also picking up speed. These devices, starting with the Alexa-equipped Amazon Echo Show, are effectively voice assistant speakers with touch screens that can show visual information as well as provide audio responses. The Link View is JBL’s first attempt at the category, combining a Google Assistant-equipped display with a stereo JBL speaker system in a desk-friendly $249.95 package. Screen-free speakers still offer more audio power and clarity for the same price, but the Link View is the best-sounding smart display we’ve tested yet.
Smart Display Design
The JBL Link View looks like half of a large, black egg cut lengthwise, measuring 6.6 by 13.0 by 3.7 inches (HWD) and sitting with its flat side angled slightly back from a vertical position. The flat panel faces forward and holds the display’s eight-inch, 1,200-by-800
A webcam and two microphone pinholes sit directly above the screen; the webcam can be physically obscured with a built-in privacy cover that slides into place by pressing a switch on the top of the device.
Behind the privacy cover switch, on the curved back of the View, sits a volume rocker and a microphone mute switch. A passive bass radiator is also located on the back, complementing the two forward-facing two-inch drivers on the front. The power connector and a micro USB port for service are both found in a recess on the bottom of the back of the speaker.
Google Assistant Features
As a Google Assistant device, the View can be configured just like a Google Home or Chromecast. Once you plug it in, it will appear as a device ready to be set up in the Google Home app. Tapping the device in the app walks you through the process of entering your Wi-Fi network information, linking the device to your Google account, and optionally setting up streaming media services and voice control training. If you’ve already trained another Google Assistant device to better recognize your voice, the data will be automatically synced with the View.
The Link View works just like the Lenovo Smart Display. In other words, it’s a hands-free Google Assistant device with a dedicated screen for showing information. It lets you ask Google Assistant to play media, answer questions, control smart home devices, and perform other functions, all with the added benefit of an interactive display that can show visual elements of what you request.
You can ask the Link View for information, like weather reports, sports scores, unit conversions, and general trivia. The speaker will tell you the answer directly, and also show any supporting visual information on its screen; sports scores will show team logos and inning/quarter/period scores, weather reports will show temperatures and icons forecasting the next few hours, and trivia like capitals will show a picture of the city it identifies.
Google Assistant will also play music or stream videos for you. By default, you can access music over Google Play Music and watch YouTube videos with voice commands. You can also listen to and watch YouTube Music with Google Assistant, or link your Deezer, Pandora, or Spotify accounts to enable them on the View or any other device. Voice-controlled video playback is currently limited to YouTube, and you can’t stream video from your smartphone or Chrome tab to the View like you can with an Android TV device or Chromecast-equipped TV. It’s an unfortunate visual
Google Assistant also enables smart home control, letting you adjust compatible lights, locks, and thermostats with your voice.
The Link View isn’t the most powerful speaker for its size, but it makes a very strong showing among screen-equipped speakers like the Echo Show, Echo Spot, and Lenovo Smart Display. Its two 10-watt, 2-inch drivers and passive bass radiator enable a solid low-frequency response when playing our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout.” The kick drum hits flirt with slight crunchiness at the highest volume setting, but the speaker doesn’t distort and produces an appreciable amount of low-end and low-mid rumble. It certainly beats the Lenovo Smart Display and its single 10-watt speaker driver.
Yes’ “Roundabout” sounds clean and balanced on the Link View. The opening acoustic guitar notes get enough high-mid and
The View reproduces the heartbeat-like drum hits in Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” admirably, to a point. At approximately 75 percent volume and above, the bass response falters and the drums pull back, sounding more poppy rather than the warm, full thumps of the lower volume levels. This means the higher volume levels make the track sound unbalanced, giving the higher frequency parts of the mix like the vocals and the rain-like vinyl texture of the track much more presence than the drums. It sounds excellent, especially for this category, if you keep the volume below three-quarters, but higher volumes do strange things to the mix.
A Solid Speaker With a Screen
If you can wait, we’re curious to see how the JBL Link View compares with Google’s own $149 Home Hub, which comes out later this month. For now, though, the Link View is a very capable touch-screen-equipped voice assistant speaker that offers the best audio quality we’ve heard in the category. If you want a counter- or desk-friendly smart display that offers good audio and Google Assistant support, the Link View is currently the device to