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October 5, 2018

LG Watch W7 hands-on review

by John_A

Research Center:

LG Watch W7

When LG announced a new smartwatch running Google’s Wear OS, the LG Watch W7, we were thrilled. It has been approximately 20 months since the LG Watch Sport’s release, which debuted alongside what was called Android Wear 2.0 at the time, and it was packed with all the bells and whistles. Our excitement quickly waned after we learned more about the new watch; it’s quite the opposite of the Watch Sport. The Watch W7 is light on features, but it carries a high $450 price tag. LG deserves some praise for thinking outside the box, but while it looks stylish and has a unique mix of analog and digital, this hybrid smartwatch may be one many will want to skip.

Mix of analog and digital

The spotlight feature of the Watch W7 is that it has mechanical watch hands powered by a quartz movement. It’s why LG is calling the Watch W7 a “hybrid smartwatch.” The silver mechanical watch hands sit above the Wear OS watch face, but the watch is still a touchscreen you can interact with. It’s a neat implementation of bridging the analog and digital watch world. LG said it worked with a Swiss watch company, Soprod SA, to get this quartz movement right in the watch.

You might be thinking, “Won’t the watch hands block the content on the digital screen?” You’re right. But LG thought ahead: The top button on the right side of the watch will level the watch hands to the 9 and 3 o’clock marks and will push content up so you can read it without any objects blocking it on the screen. This is a smart way to get around the problem, but constantly needing to press this button just to read your smartwatch would easily get annoying — that takes away the simplicity of just glancing at your watch.

The watch faces are unique to this watch, because unlike other Wear OS watches, the faces don’t need hour and minute hands since they’re physically part of the W7. The ones we saw at a hands-on briefing looked good, but there were only three available in the demo unit we used (there may be more hidden away). We’ll have to confirm this in the full review, but it’s likely you won’t have access to the hundreds of watch faces on the Google Play Store since they will all come with digital watch hands.

The W7 is not a watch for people with skinny wrists (unless you like big watches).

The 1.2-inch screen is big enough for viewing notifications, and it looks colorful and sharp, thanks to the 360 x 360 resolution. It’s an LCD screen, so you’re not going to get the deep black levels you get with OLED watches, like the Samsung Galaxy Watch and Fossil Q Venture HR. Don’t expect sapphire crystal protecting the watch face either, which is disappointing considering the price.

The Watch W7 looks more like an analog watch than a smart variant, especially when compared to LG’s Watch Sport last year. The black stainless steel case is wrapped by silver lugs that extend out quite a bit. It looks very sporty and masculine, with hour marks around the bezel, and another bezel with minute tick marks around the screen. The watch is quite lightweight and feels comfortable on the wrist.

LG Watch W7 Compared To

Fossil Q Venture HR

Apple Watch Series 4

Garmin Fenix 5X Plus

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30

Alpina AlpinerX

Fossil Q Venture

Garmin Vivoactive 3

Emporio Armani Connected touchscreen…

Apple Watch Series 3

Diesel On Full Guard Smartwatch

Huawei Fit

Garmin Vivoactive HR

Apple Watch Series 2

Asus ZenWatch 2

Garmin fenix 2

Unfortunately there’s only one size option: A 44.5mm case. That’s positively big, and this is not a watch for people with skinny wrists (unless you like big watches). We’d have liked to see a smaller size option as an alternative, and perhaps another color for variety.

The watch uses 22mm straps, and they’re interchangeable. The default one that’s included is silicone and it’s thick, but it feels high quality.

Light on features

The Watch W7 runs Google’s Wear OS, but it’s the new and improved version of the operating system. The update just started rolling out to other Wear OS watches, and it dramatically improves the usability and simplicity of the interface. Swipe to the left and you’ll get quick access to the new Google Fit health-tracking app; swipe to the right and you can interact with Google Assistant and see personal information like flight details, traffic delays, and more. You’ll be able to interact with notifications right from the watch too.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

But the W7 is powered by Qualcomm’s aging Wear 2100 processor with 768MB of RAM (and 4GB internal storage). This is a two-year-old processor, and while performance seemed satisfactory in our brief time with the watch, Qualcomm just announced the Wear 3100 processor that will deliver much improved battery life, better performance, and stronger fitness-tracking features. It’s a shame we’re not getting any of that with the W7.

There are two other buttons on the right edge of the watch. The middle crown can be used to go home or open the app drawer, but you can also rotate it to scroll throughout the interface. The bottom button launches LG’s “Master Tools,” which accesses the altimeter, barometer, stopwatch, timer, and compass directions. What’s neat is the mechanical watch hands move around when you try to use these features. For example, launch the compass and the mechanical hands will move to wherever points north.

While we do like the mechanical watch hands, we don’t think the design and basic fitness-tracking is worth the high price.

The only other software change from LG is to elongate the W7’s battery life. LG claims a standard battery life of up to two days, which we’re skeptical of, given the small 240mAh battery capacity. But LG said an “analog mode” lets the watch stay alive for three to four days, and then there’s a separate “mechanical watch-only mode” that turns off Wear OS and keeps the watch ticking for 100 days. That’s impressive if it all works, but we didn’t get to see it in action yet.

So, what doesn’t the watch have? There’s no heart rate monitor or built-in GPS, so you’re getting very basic fitness-tracking. There isn’t even NFC for contactless payments with Google Pay. As nice as the mechanical watch hands are, it’s a little ridiculous you’re not getting these standard features considering the price.

Price and availability

The LG Watch W7 costs $450, and pre-orders start October 7 through Best Buy. Official retail sales kick off October 14.

LG is propping the W7 as a watch first, but while we like the mechanical watch hands, we don’t think the design is worth the high price. That’s subjective, though, as watch design heavily revolves around personal preference. If you’re completely enamored by the W7’s design and are fine with the limited functions on it, then you should shortlist this watch. But it’s a shame the watch is so big with no other size options, because that eliminates a group of people that don’t want big watches.

We’ll be spending more time with the watch soon to find out what it’s really like to wear everyday, whether the limited features impact its usability, and if there’s anything we discover to justify the price.

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