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Lenovo Legion 7 review: A premium gaming laptop that excels in all areas

25 Aug 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,999
inc VAT

The Lenovo Legion 5’s big brother is a truly outstanding gaming machine

Pros 
Superb display
Awesome sound system
Outstanding gaming performance
Cons 
Mediocre battery life
Not much else
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The entry-level model in Lenovo’s new Legion gaming lineup, the Legion 5, has already been given the once-over here at Expert Reviews and it shone brightly. In my review I called it a “masterclass in mid-price gaming” and I stand by that statement.

Just a few weeks later, and I now have the top of the Legion range on my desk, the Legion 7. On paper, this high-priced gaming laptop is the Khan to the Legion 5’s Kirk, in that it’s better at absolutely everything. Considering how well the Legion 5 performed, then, I suspect that the Legion 7 may just redefine what you can expect from a £2,000 gaming laptop.

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Lenovo Legion 7 review: What you need to know

The Legion 7 is pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to gaming laptops. It’s driven by the potent combination of the latest AMD Ryzen processor and an Nvidia GeForce RTX GPU. The display, meanwhile, is a 16in 2,560 x 1,600 (165Hz) number, with a slightly square aspect ratio of 16:10.

Aesthetically, Legion laptops hide their gaming light under a bushel. Turn the light show off and it could pass as just another powerful workstation laptop. It should appeal to those who want a notebook for serious work as well as serious play.

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Lenovo Legion 7 review: Price & competition

I was sent the entry-level model for review, which consists of a 1TB SSD, 16GB of RAM, an octa-core 3.2GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU. It’s yours for a mere £1,999.

More expensive versions are also available, with a Ryzen 9 5900H chip along with 2TB of storage and 32GB of RAM. As we’ll soon see, however, upgrading the Legion 7 post-purchase is actually pretty easy, so the cheapest model isn’t exactly limiting.

The obvious competition comes from the highly regarded Asus ROG Zephyrus M16. It also has a lovely 16:10 display and is a powerhouse system consisting of an Intel Core i9 chip and an Nvidia RTX 3080. On the downside, however, the keyboard lacks a numeric pad, the sound system is just good rather than great and it costs more than the Legion 7.

Also from Asus’ gaming stable comes the ROG Strix Scar 15. For £2,499, you get a Ryzen 9 5900HX processor, 32GB of RAM, an RTX 3080 GPU with 16GB of VRAM and a twin SSD array. With a great display and outstanding keyboard, its only weaknesses are the absence of a fingerprint scanner and webcam.

If you fancy something that leans more towards the workstation side of things, then the Gigabyte Aero 15 (£2,276) is worth a look. The Gigabyte’s party piece is the 15.6in Samsung-manufactured 60Hz OLED display, which has a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 and covers a claimed 100% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut. Available with a Core i9 CPU and Nvidia RTX graphics, the Aero 15 is self-recommending to creative types, though it lets itself down with a rather cramped keyboard.

Lastly, the Legion 7’s little brother deserves a mention. The Legion 5 might be out-performed by the Legion 7, but not by much, and it’s a whopping £700 cheaper. The 1,920 x 1,080 16:9 display lacks the pin-sharp clarity of the Legion 7’s panel, but in terms of brightness and colour accuracy it runs it close and it offers the same user-upgrade options as well.

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Lenovo Legion 7 review: Design and build quality

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Legion 7 looks like a slightly larger version of the Legion 5. It’s not a light laptop at 2.5kg, nor is it small at 356 x 261 x 23.5mm, but full-sized gaming notebooks are never particularly portable. The large 300W power brick alone weighs 600g, so you’re definitely going to notice it in your backpack.

According to Lenovo, the laptop’s body is made from aerospace-grade aluminium and is as solid as a brick outhouse, while the Storm Grey colour both looks and sounds the part for a serious gaming notebook. The Legion branding is embossed in the corner of the laptop’s lid, and the star in the middle of the letter ‘O’ glows in whatever colour the keyboard and surrounding lights are currently displaying.

The rear lip is present and accounted for, and as always houses an impressive array of ports. In this case, this consists of three Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 USB ports and a further Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 USB, which also supports DisplayPort 1.4 and Power Delivery. You’ll also find HDMI 2.1 and RJ45 connectors and the DC-in socket.

Add to that another identical Type-C port on the left side along with an audio jack and a Type-C 3.2 Gen 1 data port on the right and you have all the connections you could possibly want. There’s also an “E-Shutter” switch on the right, which isolates the webcam.

The keyboard is rock solid and faultlessly laid out, although it’s a bit of a shame that it doesn’t support biometric login – a fingerprint scanner isn’t a big ask for this sort of money. The good news, however, is that the numeric keypad and distinct cursor keys make this an ideal keyboard for work as well as play, and I can only describe the 120 x 75mm touchpad as perfect.

And then there’s the light show. Each key has its own RGB backlight and there are a string of RGB lights running around the base of the machine. Fire up the Corsair iCUE control panel and you can create light shows ranging from basic to downright trippy. If that’s too much trouble, you can simply cycle through a selection of presets using Fn+spacebar, which includes full-off for when it all gets a bit too weird.

It’s a shame, though, that you can’t assign lighting effects to individual keys, so if you like your WASD keys to stand out, you're out of luck. Talking of keyboard shortcuts, as with the Legion 5, using Fn+Q cycles through the Lenovo Vantage power modes from Quiet through Balanced to Performance.

Remove the back panel and the various protective cover plates within, and you can access two 2280 SSD docks, the WiFi module and two SODIMM RAM slots. Upgrading the basic 16GB and 1TB package to Lenovo’s stated maximum of 32GB and 2TB should be a very straightforward operation.

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Lenovo Legion 7 review: Display and audio

The 16in 2,560 x 1,660 IPS panel is a joy to look at. Bright and pin-sharp, it’s also impressively colour accurate and abundantly colourful. Brightness maxes out at a very respectable 490cd/m², while the contrast ratio is a solid 1,208:1.

Delta E colour accuracy impressed at 1.4 and the sRGB gamut coverage sits at a solid 97%, while the gamut volume covers 104%. For a gaming laptop, that’s an impressively solid set of metrics, and as you’d expect at this price, the display supports a high 165Hz refresh rate, which incorporates Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync display and GPU frame rate matching technology.

A less quantifiable quality of the screen is its shape. I didn’t expect the difference between 16:10 (the Legion 7) and 16:9 (the Legion 5) to be as obvious as it was. The extra vertical space lends games a greater sense of space and immersion, and I don’t really want to go back.

The sound system is every bit as good as the display, too. The two 2W Harman Kardon speakers pump out plenty of volume and loads of bass. If you like to fiddle about with your soundscape, the Nahimic Audio control panel lets you do it to your heart’s content, but what sets the speaker system aside isn’t so much the volume or bass as the detail.

I chanced upon a performance of Arvo Pärt’s Fratres for Cello and Piano recorded in a church while surfing YouTube on the Legion 7. The detail that could be heard in the music, and the sense of space surrounding it, was hugely impressive for a laptop sound system, and I’m yet to hear any better.

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Lenovo Legion 7 review: Performance and battery life

There’s also no denying the exceptional performance of the Legion 7. Running the very demanding Hitman 2 Mumbai benchmark, it scored 68fps at 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. That’s the highest score we've seen here at Expert Reviews on a laptop, and even at 2,560 x 1,660, it managed to reach 49fps.

Rise of the Tomb Raider, set to its most demanding settings with ray tracing enabled, scored 99fps at native resolution, while the lowest score I got from Wolfenstein: Youngblood was 105fps and that was with ray tracing on, DLSS off and running maximum detail levels at 2,560 x 1,660. Drop the resolution down to FHD and the frame rate jumps to 141fps.

This impressive gaming performance is partly down to Lenovo’s Legion AI Engine, which pairs with the Legion Coldfront 3.0 cooling system. This suite of tweaks constantly manages the Legion 7’s system settings in the search for ever-greater levels of optimisation and higher frame rates. Normally, I’m wary of such vague-sounding system optimisers, but here, as in the cheaper Legion 5, they seem to make a genuine difference and let the new Legion 7 achieve frame rates higher than other machines that (on paper, at least) should outperform it.

The Expert Reviews’ in-house processing benchmark scored 286, which again is up among the best. The Legion 7 being unable to match the likes of the Asus Zephyrus M16 – which scored 327 – is probably down to it only having 16GB of RAM to the Asus’ 32GB.

The GeekBench 5 CPU stress test tells a similar tale, with the Legion 7 scoring 1,436 single-core and 7,322 multicore to the Core i9-powered M16’s 1,618 and 9,025. The difference between those productivity benchmark scores is like the difference between a 175mph Ferrari and a 185mph Lamborghini: indistinguishable and irrelevant in real-world use.

Storage speed proved to be good rather than great, with the Samsung SSD returning sequential read and write speeds of 3,126MB/s and 2,648MB/s respectively. The Asus M16 has it well beaten, recording speeds of 5,536 and 4,325MB/s, though the Legion 7’s speeds are still in line with other high-spec machines we’ve reviewed recently.

My initial battery rundown test drained the Legion 7’s 78Wh cell in just 3hrs 25mins, which is absolutely dire. However, I then realised that the integrated AMD Vega GPU was turned off and with it Nvidia’s Optimus graphics switching system.

After I’d enabled the iGPU by putting the Legion 7 into hybrid mode using Lenovo’s Vantage control panel (a process that involves a reboot), I retested and got an altogether more sensible result of six hours. Admittedly, that's still not a great number, but a high-power system like this with a WQXGA display is always going to burn through a full charge in quick time. By comparison, the Asus M16 only managed eight minutes more.

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Lenovo Legion 7 review: Verdict

Power, looks, build quality, display, sound system and keyboard – the Legion 7 excels in all those areas, leaving me scratching around in the dirt like a bored chicken for faults.

The less than stellar battery life and lack of a fingerprint scanner certainly aren’t ideal, but to top it all at less than two grand, the Legion 7 is excellent value, giving gaming notebooks costing much more a proper run for their money. I’ve never wanted to return a review device less.

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