Hands on: LG Watch W7 review

The hybrid smartwatch has mechanical dials over a digital display

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

A pricey but handsome, no-frills smartwatch with a unique analog spin.

For

  • Classic design with distinctive mechanical look
  • A good pick for those averse to all-digital watches
  • No bloatware

Against

  • Pricey without the toys – you're paying for style
  • No heartbeat sensor
  • LG apps are pretty basic

The Watch W7 is LG's newest smartwatch with a twist, and as rumored, it launched the same day as the company's LG V40 smartphone. It's a hybrid wearable with the mechanical hands of an analog watch laid over a Wear OS-powered digital display. 

What is a hybrid smartwatch? It means that you can shut off all the watch’s “smart” functionality on the display and it will still tell time for 100 days before its battery dies, or at least that's what LG claims. (We're testing it in our forthcoming full review.) 

That sort of sums up the watch, really: its blend of old-and-new design might look regressive to digital futurists, but LG is going for a crowd with more conservative and refined tastes. Ideally, wearers could pair this with a nice jacket or evening dress.

The feel of a hybrid smartwatch

The W7 measures 44.5 x 45.4 x 12.9mm and weighs 79.5g, with an attractive burnished steel case and dark metal radial on top: its "Cloud Silver" look, the only one available right now. Its 1.2-inch touchscreen display (360 x 360 / 300ppi) isn’t the biggest display on the smartwatch block, but it sits atop the watch hands, giving its interface a depth that other digital-only smartwatches don't have.

The W7 feels like a quality watch. We do miss the radial dial of the Samsung Galaxy Watch, which was a unique control mechanism that distinguished it from the competition. LG's new smartwatch, on the other hand, has dual screen keys on flanking a navigational nob in the middle – a traditional control scheme that gets you around the watch's interface just fine.

But we can't lie – digital smartwatches imitating real mechanical watch faces don't compare to the dimensionality of the W7's hands-and-display face. LG partnered with Swiss watchmakers Soprod SA to build out the mechanical look, and it fits any 22mm watch band.

What's inside a hybrid watch

The W7 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 with 4GB of eMMC and 68MB LPDDR3 memory.

The 240 mAh battery is suitably average: two days on a single charge, which is a little disappointing when Samsung Galaxy Watch raised the bar to a four-day battery minimum. But LG claims that once those two days are done, the W7 manages three to four days on analog-only mode, so you'll at least be able to use it like a "dumb" watch for a bit of time if you forget to charge it.

The W7 has IP68 protection against dust and water, matching most smartwatches. It also has the usual bag of sensor-powered features, including compass, stopwatch, timer, barometer and altimeter. 

Notably absent: a heart rate monitor. Sports performance enthusiasts will have to be satisfied with basic measurements.

Software and apps

The W7 is the first LG wearable to run Wear OS, which opens it up to third-party apps. This gives the watch an edge over the Galaxy Watch, which had to switch to Samsung’s internal Tizen OS to make its bezel dial actually function.

The W7's own internal suite of apps are largely functional, comprising outdoors-oriented sensor measurements like the aforementioned barometer, compass and so on. It's nice to see such a pared-down suite of apps focused on the essentials, and all their interfaces nicely match the watch's silver-and-black exterior.

The watch also tracks a couple sporty basics like distance traveled, though without a heart rate monitor, it's clear LG doesn't care to cater to hardcore health nuts. It's not trying to compete with the best Garmin watch

Early verdict

The W7 is going in a different direction than other smartwatches. While Apple is branching out with more health monitoring in its Apple Watch 4, the LG Watch W7 wants a spot in the nicer parts of your wardrobe. Or it might be a smartwatch for folks who prefer how timepieces used to look.

All this comes at a price that’s steeper than the competition. The LG Watch W7 retails for $449, which is above the $399 baseline price tag for the Apple Watch 4 and the $329 minimum price of the Samsung Galaxy Watch. The Apple Watch 3 is even cheaper at $279.

To be clear, the W7 only comes in a stainless steel case, while its competitors cut the price by offering cheaper aluminum cases and fabric wristbands to the base level. That means only more refined watch collectors need apply here.

What really sets apart the W7 are little touches with the mechanical hands. Hold down the top button and the display shifts up while the hands split to a horizontal line, showing what the watch hands and central gear may have covered. 

This extends to the W7-specific features, too: in compass mode, the watch hands align and continually point north. In barometer and altimeter modes, the hands align like an analog dial.

All in all, the W7 has a more streamlined purpose than many of the please-everyone smartwatches out there. It's a bit pricey, but it also forgoes cheaper bands or cases in favor of a sleek design for a particular demographic. This is for that 'top shelf' person in life who says 'top shelf' all the time. You probably won't be wearing this into the gym, but even if you do, it should survive the trip – and make you look sharp for your important meeting right after.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.