Lenovo Smart Display 7 review: A great desktop companion for $99
It’s not a stretch to say many people all around the world have smart displays in their homes. They come in a ton of different sizes, you can get either Google Assistant or Alexa flavors, and prices tend to be pretty flexible, especially around the holidays.
There’s basically a smart display for every use case. If you want a living room centerpiece, you get one with a 10-inch screen. If you want something for the kitchen that’ll fit on your island while you cook, an 8-inch will fit nicely. And if you want one for your home office, something like a 7-inch model should do the trick.
That’s the exact use case I’ve found for Lenovo’s range of smart displays. I have their 10-inch model at the entrance of my home, the 8-inch in my kitchen, and their newest 7-inch model at my desk. It fits perfectly and serves as a great companion.
This review is dedicated to the 7-inch model since I’ve already checked out the 10- and 8-inch units. The new 7-inch Smart Display comes with a couple of new features. But at its core, it’s simply a smaller version of Lenovo’s well-rounded formula that makes for a great experience interacting with the Google Assistant throughout the day.
Design and display
I’m not the first to say that when I was unboxing the Smart Display 7, I immediately thought how cute it looked. Compared to the 10-inch and 8-inch models, you almost don’t expect it to be as small as it is. The screen’s only an inch smaller than Lenovo’s middle-of-the-road option, but it still feels significantly smaller.
This is probably largely due to the speaker placement which is below the screen this time around instead of to the left. This creates less of a footprint with the Smart Display 7 on and gives you more versatility in terms of where you can place it.
Aesthetic-wise, the Smart Display 7 should blend with any interior look you’re sporting. It only comes in this light gray finish, but it’s eye-pleasing and doesn’t try to make itself known.
On the front, you’ll find the 7-inch display which this smart home speaker is named after. It’s a fine display. It has an LCD panel and decent color reproduction, so there’s not a ton to rave about. For the first time, Lenovo did include an ambient light sensor that matches the color temperature to the lighting in your room, which is nice. But other than that, it’s a standard display that does enough to look decent when interacting with it.
I do wish it were a bit sharper, though. Its resolution is 1024×600 which is borderline fine, but not pleasant to look at up close. I understand it’s just a screen on a smart speaker and it’s not supposed to look fancy, but I still feel like Lenovo could afford to throw proper 720p or even 1080p panels on these things. That’s just my opinion.
Functionality and performance
The Smart Display 7 runs the same OS as Lenovo’s other displays and Google’s own Nest Hubs. It utilizes cards to display information, give you quick access to certain functions, and help with the ease of use.
There’s no doubt the Smart Display 7 is easy to use, as it should be. You’ll be yelling at it much more often than you will be using it like a smartphone or tablet. Even if you choose to interact with its touchscreen, you won’t have any problem trying to find the information or controls you’re looking for.
In order to talk to the Google Assistant, Lenovo built a single microphone into the Smart Display 7. This has led to a few missed triggers from saying “Hey, Google” even while the volume of my music was low. It shouldn’t be a major issue for most people, though.
Speaking of playing music, the speaker with its dual 1.5-inch 5W output is good. Much like the display, it’s really nothing special. It’s enough to produce a decent sound, at best, but don’t expect to be blown away, especially at higher volumes.
Notably, the Smart Display 7 also includes Bluetooth 5.0 for stronger connection to your phone if you wanna stream music directly from it. Both the 8-inch and 10-inch Smart Displays are stuck with Bluetooth 4.2, so it’s nice to see the cheaper option get a one-up when it comes to connectivity.
On the flip side, the Smart Display 7 only ships with a single Wi-Fi antenna. This can lead to a disconnection from your home or office’s Wi-Fi signal more often than not. I’ve noticed it in my own office where my music will just suddenly stop and show a progress bar. I’m also not far from my router and I don’t work in between cement walls. I’m left with no other option than the fact the Wi-Fi radio must be pretty weak.
That being said, in a normal home, you probably won’t have that problem, especially if your router is in the same room as the Smart Display. Just be aware that, if you already have connectivity issues where you plan to place the display, you might run into the occasional mid-song drop.
Above the display, Lenovo included a 2MP webcam for using Google Duo. I have absolutely nothing good to say about this camera other than the fact it comes with a privacy shutter. It’s just that bad.
I can pretty much sum up what it’s like to use the Google Assitant on the Smart Display 7 in one paragraph. It’s just like any other smart home appliance that has the Google Assistant on it, only instead of just audible feedback, you get visual feedback as well. You can also watch YouTube videos, stream live TV, and more thanks to the screen, although it’s a bit small for those things. But overall, it’s an identical experience to what you get on any other Smart Display with information requests, smart home appliance controls, calendar entries, and more at the ready with a simple command.
Who should buy this?
The more that I think about the Smart Display 7, the more I’m convinced it’s meant for your desk. It makes for a perfect companion next to your computer screen and allows you to play music, ask questions, and see the time with ease. Plus, it doesn’t take up very much room at all which is even more appealing.
At just $99.99, the Smart Display 7 feels like a no-brainer if you want a smart speaker for your desk. Similarly, if you want something small and compact that fits anywhere, the Smart Display 7 is the way to go.
Obviously, the biggest exception to this would be if you already own a bunch of Alexa devices. In that case, go buy the Echo Show 5 or something. But if you use the Google Assistant and don’t want something as big as the 8-inch or 10-inch model, the Smart Display 7 is the way to do, despite its slight shortcomings in the specs department.
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