Speakers could be better
Limited to Google Duo for video chats
With a wider variety of prices, sizes, and colors now on offer, smart displays such as the Lenovo Smart Display 7 are sure to be popular gifting items this holiday season. Whether or not this particular Lenovo product is on your shopping list, it’s a fine little in-home assistant that fits just about anywhere.
The Lenovo Smart Display 7 goes head-to-head with Google’s own Nest Hub, as well as Amazon’s line of Echo Show smart displays. Where does the Lenovo fit in and is it worth your money? We answer this and more in Android Authority‘s Lenovo Smart Display 7 review.
What is the Lenovo Smart Display 7?
Smart displays are a growing and evolving product category. The basic premise is to bring the power of Google’s Android Things platform to a stationary, screen-centric device that you drop in your kitchen or living room. These intelligent screens encompass all the abilities of Google Assistant-based smart speakers, such as the Google Nest Mini, with the added benefit of a screen for visual feedback.
The Lenovo Smart Display 7, with its 7-inch display, is the latest — and smallest — such product from Lenovo. Lenovo already has 8-inch and 10-inch smart displays available. The 7 packs all the same features into a dramatically smaller footprint that costs a fistful of fewer dollars.
As far as the hardware is concerned, the Smart Display 7 carries over its siblings’ Blizzard White plastic and gray fabric colorway. It’s modern minimalism. Other colors aren’t available.
The 7-inch screen offers 1,024 by 600 pixels, which is standard definition. I would have preferred to see 720p at a minimum. An RGB sensor paired with smart software adjusts the color of the display to match the ambient light. This is something I appreciate, as the temperature of the light in my kitchen changes dramatically throughout the day. The glass is reflective, but the display is bright enough that I was able to see the screen easily from all angles. The contrast looks good, as do colors. If you get up close you’ll see the pixels, but standing several feet away makes them disappear.
Lenovo’s 8- and 10-inch smart displays oddly positioned the speakers on the left side of the screen. For the 7-inch model, Lenovo moved the speakers under the display. The change ensures the 7-inch model produces better stereo sound and, more importantly, look less awkward. A wide base means the smart display sits firmly on your counter or end table.
Physical controls placed on the top edge let you adjust volume, turn the mic off, and, if you reach over the top, slide a switch to cover the camera. Yay, privacy!
Is the Smart Display 7 easy to use?
It took me less than five minutes to set up the Smart Display 7. Plug it in, wait for it to power up, and then use the Google Home app on your smartphone to finish the rest. You’ll need to connect it to your home Wi-Fi, of course, but that’s about it. Once it’s configured, the Smart Display itself will walk you through its basic features. These include several swiping gestures to access settings, Google Home controls, and customized content including news feeds and videos.
Lenovo included a dual-mic system on the front of the Smart Display to help it with voice recognition. I was impressed with its ability to hear me over music, conversations, and other household noises. Google Assistant responded quickly each time I asked for its attention. You can train the device to recognize up to six family members’ voices, which allows them to access personal information, such as their own calendar.
The LCD screen looks good enough, but its responsiveness to touch input is lacking.
The touchscreen could be a lot better. The IPS LCD looks good enough, but its responsiveness to touch input is lacking. This can likely be tied to the 1.5GHz MediaTek 8176S processor. Lenovo didn’t share how much RAM is inside. Most of the OS itself felt snappy.
Basically, open up your trap and yap.
See also: Best smart home gadgets you can buy
What can the Smart Display 7 do?
Android Things and Google Assistant are powerful, and yet still somewhat limited where smart displays are concerned.
Research suggests that listening to music is the number one activity when it comes to smart speakers. Naturally, this capability is carried over to smart displays. You can link the Smart Display 7 with the streaming music service of your choice (Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, etc.) and enjoy some tunes while you prepare dinner. Depending on the service, you’ll see album covers and other content on the screen itself along with playback controls. You can play/pause or fast-forward/rewind by asking or by tapping the screen. Music is simple to master, though I wish it sounded better.
No matter what I did or how I tried, I couldn’t adjust the sound of the two 5W speakers to my liking. To my ears, the speakers produced a harsh sound with the mids and highs boosted too much by far. There’s no bottom end, so don’t expect to be thump thump thumping with the Smart Display 7. It’s fine for filling the void and casual listening, and can push out some serious volume if you want it too. Moreover, you can pair it with other Google-based smart speakers to create a group. This is all managed in the Google Home app and is a cinch to set up.
The display itself is the best photo frame you can buy. Paired with your favorite albums in Google Photos, the Smart Display 7 provides an unending slide show that drifts from picture to picture throughout the day. This might be its best feature.
Watching video is a mixed bag, unfortunately, and not as simple as it should be. I have to point out that the Lenovo Smart Display 7 has the exact same limitations as other Android Things smart displays, so these shortcomings aren’t unique.
In the mood for (just about anything on) YouTube? Simply say, “Hey Google, show me Android Authority videos on YouTube,” and it’ll take you to the channel where you can tap the screen to select something to watch. There is no YouTube or video app, but the Smart Display 7 can be a cast target. This means you can use your phone to push content from Google Play Movies, Disney Plus, and Hulu to the screen. The bummer here is that the phone is a necessary intermediary, as the platform doesn’t support commands such as, “Hey Google, play The Mandalorian on Disney Plus.”
And of course, the Smart Display 7 can help you control your smart home products, set timers, add calendar appointments, search for anything, and use all the Google Assistant powers we rely on.
What do I like about the Smart Display 7?
The compact size is great, which allows it to find a home anywhere within your home. While the 8- and 10-inch models were lovely, they were harder to fit in some spaces.
I am pleased Lenovo chose to balance the design by moving the speakers from the side to the bottom. Lenovo’s larger offerings looked a wee bit awkward.
Lenovo was smart to add physical privacy controls. Shuttering the camera and turning off the microphone allow owners to control what the display sees and hears.
The photo frame feature alone is worth the cost.
What do I not like about the Smart Display 7?
Google Duo is the only video calling platform that the display supports right now. Google Duo is a fine product, but people use many other video chatting services in their everyday lives. This is something for Google, not Lenovo, to work on.
The speakers are certainly loud, but the quality isn’t where I want it to be. I prefer more balanced sound, and felt the Smart Display 7’s output was not clean enough.
Lenovo opted for a proprietary charging pin rather than a standard port such as USB-C or microUSB. Google recently made the same choice for the Nest Mini. I prefer the flexibility afforded by standard connectors.
Also read: Lenovo Smart Clock vs Google Nest Hub
Should I buy the Lenovo Smart Display 7?
Smart displays in general, and the Lenovo Smart Display 7 in particular, are stupidly affordable right now. B&H Photo has an exclusive on the Lenovo Smart Display 7 and is selling the $129 product for $99.99. The 7-inch Google Nest Hub also has a $129 price tag, though it too is often discounted to $99 or less. The Amazon Echo Show 5 (with Alexa) is available for $79 – $99 depending on where you buy it.
Google’s Nest Hub is the Lenovo Smart Display 7’s truest competitor, and in my opinion they are neck-and-neck in terms of value and performance. The Nest Hub’s biggest flaw is that it doesn’t have a camera and doesn’t support video chats. If that’s important to you, go with the Lenovo. It music clarity is more your thing, the Hub has the Smart Display beat.
You can go bigger. Both Google and Lenovo make larger smart displays that include all the same features in bigger packages at prices over $200. Google released the Google Nest Hub Max over the summer, but Lenovo’s Smart Display 10 is from 2018.
Lenovo made a competitive offering in the Smart Display 7. It’s compact, looks good, and performs well. If you want an affordable Google Assistant-powered smart display, the video-chat-capable Smart Display 7 is probably the best option in the small category.