Eyes On: LG's SmartThinQ Hub With Alexa

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BERLIN—It's starting to feel like just about everything is getting Alexa, Amazon's digital voice assistant that can report the traffic and weather, make shopping lists, and play your favorite music. At IFA this week, LG announced Alexa integration for its SmartThinQ Hub, which makes sense considering it looks and works an awful lot like the Amazon Echo. We got a chance to see it in action at the show.

Like the Echo, the SmartThinQ is essentially a cylindrical speaker with some buttons for control on the top. The biggest distinction between the two is the SmartThinQ's pill-shaped 3.5-inch LCD on the top edge; the Echo doesn't have a display. It can show information like the weather, and whether your doors and windows are locked. It's a useful addition, though it isn't terribly sharp. As you can see below, the edges of numbers and letters are little blurry.

When LG introduced the SmartThinQ Hub at CES earlier this year, the only options for control were the buttons on top of the speaker or through a companion app. Alexa integration adds voice control to the mix. Using voice commands, you can direct Alexa to add events to your calendar, control music playback, or check the traffic and weather. Unfortunately, you can't use Alexa to hook into your other smart home devices, like light bulbs or door locks, like you can when using an Amazon device.

Additionally, in order to activate Alexa, you need to press a button on the hub itself, like the Amazon Tap. That means you can't trigger it from across the room by voice, like you can with the original Echo.

LG doesn't yet have a price or release date for the SmartThinQ Hub, so there is plenty of time for the company to bake in its own smart home control functionality. And if it wants to compete with the Echo, it's going to have to.

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