Having enjoyed using the Legion 5 Pro a couple of months ago, but ultimately deciding on returning it, I was especially interested in getting the Lenovo Legion 7. I figured it would improve on something I already liked, being that is Lenovo’s premium model. But the Legion 5 Pro was already great, so I could only wonder if there was much room for improvement.
It turns out that the Legion 7 lives up to expectations for the most part. The couple of minor complaints I had with the Legion 5 Pro are certainly resolved with this model. But there are a couple more quirks that come up, which I wasn’t expecting.
Still though, given the choice between the two, I’d say it’s definitely debatable, depending on your preferences and your budget. So let’s dive in and I’ll tell you how I felt after my first week testing this 2021 Lenovo Legion 7i.
Update: BTW, if interested, I’ve also documented my later experience with the AMD Ryzen version of the Legion 7 in this other review.
Update2: 2022 updates of the Lenovo Legion 7 series are available now, in both Intel and AMD variants. Our full review of the 2022 Legion 7i series is available here.
Specs sheet as reviewed– Lenovo Legion 7i 2021
||2021 Lenovo Legion 7i 16ITH6
||16 inch, 2560 x 1600 px, IPS equivalent, 165 Hz, matte, 3ms
||11th Gen Intel i9-11980HK, 8C 16T (2.6Ghz with 5.0Ghz boost), 24MB Cache
||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080with 16GB GDDR6 VRAM 115-165W
with Advanced Optimus with Gsync
||32 GB DDR4-3200 (2x16GB DIMMS)
||2x 1TB(2TB total) M.2 PCIe 4.0
||Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 with Bluetooth 5.2, Realtek Gigabit LAN
||2x USB-C Thunderbolt 4(left and rear), 1x USB-C 3.2(right), 3x USB-A 3.2, ethernet, HDMI 2.1
||80Whr, 300 W charger
||360 mm or 14.17” (w) x 260 mm or 10.23” (d) x 20.1-23.5 mm or .79-.92” (h)
||2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) + 1.14 kg (2.5 lbs) power brick and cables, US version
||Per key RGB keyboard, HD webcam with kill switch, stereo speakers, headphone/mic combo
My configuration is the newer Legion 7i version based on Intel Tiger Lake hardware. Lenovo offers the series in a multitude of variants, as well as an AMD Ryzen 5000 series with the Legion 7 16ACH6 sub-family. The Legion 7 and 7i are identical, except for the CPU configurations and the various differences in performance, power draw, and thermals that come as a result.
Update: You should check out this guide that compares how the Intel Core i9-11980HK and AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX platforms fare against each other.
Design and first look
If you’re familiar with the previous generation of the Legion 7, this one looks to be very similar. Since this is my first time using this model though, I’m going to go into depth with it.
Nearly the entire construction is made of metal, which differs from the Legion 5 Pro, where the palmrest area was made of plastic on that one. The only plastic portions of the laptop are on the exhaust vents and the bezel. But even those parts look very premium and have tight tolerances on the interfaces with the metal. This metal is an aluminum-magnesium alloy, by the way.
The overall feel of the laptop just oozes quality to me. I already liked the Legion 5 Pro for it’s solid build quality and this just feels even better. It’s a little heavier than I’m used to but still pretty easy to carry and the weight distribution is good.
This isn’t a typical thin laptop though. It is thinner than the Legion 5 Pro, being .92″. But the overall weight of the machine is about a pound higher than your typical thin and light gaming laptop of this size. So keep that in mind, if you are debating between this and other thinner models out there.
I paid particular attention to any creaks in the chassis and couldn’t detect any. Even with the laptop open and holding it by the corner palm rest, the unit felt rigid and there wasn’t any flex. I think my only criticism in the handling is some of the corners felt a little sharp, but this is a minor complaint. The underside, for example, has some sharp edges where the metal meets the LED strip. I only feel it when I rub my fingers there – it’s not an issue while holding and normal use.
The design and aesthetics are something I can really appreciate on this model. The all-metal design is really slick looking, but the color choice makes it even better. Grey is that underrated color that nobody seems to use that much and I don’t really understand why. It’s just dark enough to not be too flashy, and just light enough to not be a fingerprint magnet. Every laptop should have this as a color option, in my opinion. Any future laptop of mine will be this color if I can help it.
Let’s get into the details of the design now. The lid is just perfect to me. It’s smooth and plain with a nice-looking Legion logo in the corner. This could easily pass for professional use, provided you turn off the RGB.
Speaking of the RGB, there’s a small amount of it in the logo inside the O, but it’s actually well done in my opinion. I actually kind of like it, and this is coming from someone who usually criticizes any lighting on the lid. But in the office, you can easily just turn it off by pressing Fn-L and you’d never even know it was a light.
I’ll cover the keyboard RGB later, but there’s also a skirt RGB strip that wraps around the underside from vent to vent. And there are also even some more lights inside the side and back exhaust vents. I’m not as much a fan of the exhaust vents as I am the skirt strip in the front, but I really do like the RGB on this laptop a lot. It really looks slick seeing a faint lighting underneath.
The lid opens with a single finger and the lip is very pronounced, making it easy to find. On that lip is the tiniest Legion logo, which is a nice unnecessary touch. Also, this lid goes back nearly 180°, which is probably one of the key features that led me to choose this over the Legion 5 Pro.
The hinge is very sturdy and holds the screen in place very well, no matter what position. The lid itself has a good amount of thickness to it, so there’s not a lot of screen flex to worry about either.
The big improvement in this year’s model is the addition of the 16” 16:10 screen. So not only do you get some really tiny bezels on the top, left, and right, but you also get a short bottom bezel as well. It’s not as small as the others, but it’s less than half the size of your typical 15” laptop.
The bezel is plastic but small and well made, so it blends in nicely. There’s a tiny Legion logo centered below the screen, which blends in well. Above the screen is a small 720p webcam. This isn’t Windows Hello enabled, unfortunately.
Moving downward, there’s a full-size keyboard and a glass trackpad which I’ll get into more detail within a bit. Above the keyboard are a bunch of tiny air holes for ventilation and a small power button. This button has an always-on LED, which glows blue, white, or red depending on the power profile. I happen to really like this feature but some may argue that they would want a way to turn that LED off. It didn’t distract me at all. What’s kind of a bummer is this button doesn’t have a fingerprint reader like the Legion 7 Slim does.
There’s quite a bit of stickers and branding on this model. The Lenovo tag is on the lower right palm rest. There’s also an “audio by Harman” on the lower left of the keyboard. Finally, there are three stickers for the hotkeys, GPU and CPU, but at least these are removable.
There’s another removable Windows sticker on the bottom too. But the rest of the underside of the laptop is pretty nice. It’s the same metal finish as the rest of the laptop but there are thousands of tiny holes for the ventilation and speakers. The feet are pretty decent but I preferred the ones on the Legion 5 Pro which were a little grippier in my opinion.
I also would have preferred the speaker holes to be on the chamfer and not the bottom like they are. The way the holes are now, your legs are very likely to come into contact with them and muffle the sound. I’ve seen them use the chamfer on their other Legion models, so I’m not sure why this is different.
The IO selection is one of the highlights to Lenovo’s design in my opinion. On the left, you have a single USB-C which supports Thunderbolt 4 and DisplayPort. There’s also a headphone/microphone combo jack. To the rear of the machine is a large exhaust vent.
The right-hand side has another USB-C port, but this one is not Thunderbolt enabled. I actually would have preferred a type-A port here, but maybe that’s just me. Neither of these type-C ports on the side support charging, so I don’t see the reason to have one on both sides.
Next to that port is another large exhaust manifold and on the other side is a small switch. This is actually a kill switch for the webcam, which I think is an excellent idea. It’s much better than a privacy cover, is it completely removes power from the webcam.
The bulk of the IO is on the back of the laptop. Between some more large exhaust manifolds, you have Lenovo’s proprietary power port, which is reversible and pretty rugged. There’s also Ethernet, HDMI, another USB-C, and three USB-A ports. The USB-C supports Thunderbolt 4 and also PD 3.0 charging. One of the USB-A ports also supports charging (out) while the power is off, making it a good candidate for my USB cord when my mouse battery gets low.
The best part about these ports in the back is they are out of the way. But sometimes it’s a struggle to find where the right ports are without turning it completely around to take a peek. But with this model, that’s not the case at all.
The labels for the ports are actually lit up, making it super easy to know what is where. What a great feature to have – especially in a dark room! All I have to do is drop my lid a little and I can plug whatever I want in at a quick glance, without much effort. The only light that isn’t on is the power port, but only because it lights up after you plug it in. It also changes color if you’re charging. And of course, if you don’t like these lights, you can turn them off with Fn-U.
There’s very little not to like with what Lenovo is giving us with this Legion 7 model. It’s clearly their premium design and it feels like you’re really getting your money’s worth. Minus the speakers being downward-facing, I don’t think there’s much else I’d want to change. I would have liked an SD card reader though, which is something else the Legion 7 Slim has and this model doesn’t.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard on this model is very similar to those on the other Legion models I’ve reviewed recently. The layout is full with a Numpad on the right-hand side. But rather than squishing all the keys together, Lenovo opted to just make the Numpad keys smaller and leave the main keyboard alone. Good call.
The layout is pretty ideal too. All of the keys are in logical places and there’s a nice array of multimedia keys in the function row. The arrow keys are also well placed and separated from the bottom row, to not interfere with the layout.
Typing on this keyboard is a pretty good experience. I found the actuation force to be spot on what I would expect. The key travel is short so this is really important to the typing experience, in my opinion. It didn’t take me long at all to adjust typing on this. And while gaming, I was sure when I was depressing the keys – they didn’t feel mushy at all.
In fact, this pretty much addresses the minor complaints I had with the Legion 5 Pro. But I still preferred the concave keycaps that the 5 Pro offered over the flat top ones on this 7. The 5 Pro keyboard was also a lot quieter to type on.
Not that I would call this keyboard loud… but the spacebar key makes significantly more noise than the other keys, which kind of got on my nerves once I started to notice it. I can still live with it though.
There’s also no keyboard flex on this unit, which is attributed to the metal chassis. This is another thing I didn’t care for with the Legion 5 Pro, that is fixed in the Legion 7i.
The RGB on this keyboard is a huge improvement from all the base Legion models. For this model, you get per-key RGB, controllable through iCue. This is Corsair’s software and it’s built for desktops, but you can still use it to control all the key lighting effects the same way.
There’s a huge flaw in this software though, and that is with the battery drain it causes. As I said, the software was built for desktops, so the programmers probably didn’t have battery efficiency in mind. I’ll dig more into this in the Battery section below, but iCue added a 20-40 watt constant drain on my unit. Disabling the iCue service or uninstalling the software solves the problem.
But without the software, you’re stuck with the default profiles baked into the firmware. And those are only controllable by hitting Fn-Spacebar. The blue one is pretty slick looking, but I didn’t care for the other ones that much.
Update: Check out Elrondolio’s comment below on a way to have custom RGB(static colors only) and still opt out of having iCue drain the battery. I’ve been using his method for a few days with great success. In short, I keep the bat file on my desktop and run it as needed(usually every startup so I don’t forget).
There is a bit of light bleed when you look at the keyboard from some of the lower angles. Certain keys are better than others, so it’s a little uneven. You likely won’t notice this under normal usage though. I was able to take a picture at a particular angle, where you can see the uneven bleed I’m talking about.
One of the cool things about the backlighting is when you press the Fn key. All the hotkeys stay illuminated, so you know which ones actually do something. Good feature. If they added another hotkey to disable/enable the iCue service at will, it would probably make up for how annoying it is to have it off while on battery.
The trackpad is also pretty decent on this model. It’s glass, so it feels very good on the fingers. It tracks very well and all touch gestures were registered accurately. It has a slight texture to it though, so I still prefer the trackpad on the Razer Blade over this one.
My only legitimate gripe with this trackpad is it’s a little too wide for this full keyboard layout. It is slightly to the left, so my left palm tends to accidentally brush the corner of the pad, moving the mouse pointer sometimes.
I also had this issue with the Legion 5 Pro, which I was able to fix with a registry entry. To copy what I did, use Regedit and navigate to \HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\PrecisionTouchPad. Add a 32-bit DWORD called “SuperCurtainLeft” and set the decimal value to 1000. After a reboot, my issue vanished.
Other than that, the trackpad is fine. It’s among the better trackpads that I’ve seen on gaming laptops and many who plan on using this laptop for serious work will probably be pleased with it. Note that it has integrated buttons on the corners too, which also felt good to me.
The screen on this laptop is the exact same as the Legion 5 Pro, so my opinion on it hasn’t changed at all. To sum it up, it’s just great!
It’s a 16” 2560×1600 px resolution panel, with a unique 16:10 aspect ratio. What makes this really special is it replaces a 15.6” panel without increasing the overall size of the laptop – the bottom bezel just gets smaller.
I took some measurements on my X-rite i1 Display Pro sensor and here’s what I got:
- Panel Hardware ID: BOE NE160QDM-NY1
- Coverage: 97% sRGB, 68.8% AdobeRGB, 70.8% DCI-P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 530cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1293:1
- Native white point: 7040K;
- Black on max brightness: .41cd/m2.
The display is IPS, so the viewing angles are great. The overall brightness and contrast ratio are above average too. I’m also happy to report that my unit has no backlight bleed.
The only thing missing really is maybe a wider color gamut. After seeing so many 100% DCI-P3 screens, I find that I really prefer them. This panel is only 100% sRGB though. Still, that’s not necessarily a bad thing unless you need to do some serious color-sensitive work.
Interestingly enough, the Asus Zephyrus M16 does have a 16” DCI-P3 panel, but that panel doesn’t have the 500+nits of brightness that this one does. Given the choice, I think I would still prefer this one.
The panel has a 165Hz refresh rate, which is plenty fast enough for every game I used. It also supports Gsync. For fast-paced games, you’ll also want to enable Overdrive in the Vantage software, which enables a 3ms response time.
For battery concerns, the laptop uses Advanced Optimus to switch back and forth between the iGPU and dGPU MUX switch without having to reboot. So when it’s using the discrete graphics, GSYNC is available and you aren’t paying a penalty by having the graphics routed through the iGPU.
Advanced Optimus worked fine for the most part. But my unit suffered some stuttering on some games, such as Battlefield V. Andrei also noticed this on the Asus S17 he recently reviewed. The fix was the same – switching to discrete graphics only resolves the issue. It’s easy enough to do, but it’s annoying to have this issue.
Hopefully, this is a temporary solution and someone gets their drivers worked out. It’s probably an issue with Intel and Nvidia since the Ryzen models don’t seem to struggle with Advanced Optimus as bad.
One thing I couldn’t get to work right was the Fn-R hotkey. Supposedly this switches your refresh rate, but for me it does nothing. Perhaps Advanced Optimus is the problem? Anyways, assuming it switches to 60Hz, this would be a nice feature to have in order to improve battery life.
Hardware and performance
I have the top-spec model of the Lenovo Legion 7i. This includes Intel’s best available CPU, the Core i9-11980HK, which is an octa-core processor capable of putting out up to 5.0Ghz per core. It’s extremely powerful, but also uses a ton of wattage.
Also included in this model is an Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU, with 16GB of VRAM. With the QHD+ screen, I’m glad they put in the extra VRAM. I actually had a couple of games go above the standard 8GB. What’s also nice about this GPU is they set the upper power limit to 165W with Dyn Boost – something few other laptops have.
Needless to say, the CPU/GPU pairing is beyond expectations. I was originally going for the RTX 3070 model, but it kept getting delayed (I think out to November!), so I chose this one on a whim. I’m not disappointed, as you’ll soon see.
Also included is 32GB of DDR4 3200Mhz RAM. These are two 16GB sticks and are user-upgradeable if you desired. They are 1Rx8 modules, meaning they are single ranked. And if you’ve been doing your homework, you might be aware of a RAM fiasco going on with manufacturers offering cheap RAM. I did some testing below to test the impact.
The last major hardware item to cover is the SSDs. There are two of them on this model, 1TB each. They are also in RAID 0 for a boost in performance. But is it worth it? I’m going to lean towards no…
Point is, these drives are already ridiculously fast. The Samsung PM9A1 is no slouch by itself, being PCIe 4.0, so putting it in RAID adds little performance benefit and doubles the risk of losing your data if one drive crashes. I took some CrystalDisk benchmarks, which are so similar to the single drive performance benchmarks I measured on the Razer Blade 15(it had the same SSD).
Lenovo Legion 7 – benchmarks and performance
Now let’s see some benchmarks.
The Legion 7i is preinstalled with Lenovo Vantage. The software is used for a number of different things, but one of the uses is to adjust the CPU/GPU settings.
The three available modes are Performance, Balanced and Quiet. You can also switch between these modes with Fn-Q. The power button even has a different color that tells you what mode you’re in. Here’s a table that shows what each mode does:
For starters, let’s look at how the CPU handles demanding sustained loads in the Cinebench R15 loop test. It actually delivers and stabilizes on those exact PL1 settings above on each of the profiles.
Plus, this being an Intel processor, you can also undervolt the CPU. I was able to achieve a stable -70mV undervolt on my machine, using Intel XTU. I did a Cinebench test and got more stable results over the course of the 15 runs, and higher frequencies at the sustained 90W power limit. Temps landed around the same as without the undervolt. You could also do this for power conservation as well, but the effects are minimal.
And here’s how this Core i9-1198oHK configuration compares against other 8C/16T options on the market, both Intel and AMD. Excellent performance once undervolted, but very similar to the regular i9-11900H at same power. And the Legion also runs louder than the competition in this test.
We also ran the 3DMark CPU profile test, where the Intel i9-11980HK beat any of the other CPUs we’ve tested so far.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook. 3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit passed it fine, which suggests there are no significant performance losses that might be caused by thermal throttling on this laptop.
I did a number of synthetic benchmarks on this laptop. For my first run, I set Lenovo Vantage to Performance mode:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 23795 (Graphics – 31049, Physics – 26120);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 11677 (Graphics – 11820, CPU – 10930);
- 3DMark 13 –CPU profile: max – 8209 16 – 8213, 8 – 5587, 4 – 3729, 2 – 1979, 1 -1004
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 7446;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 7919;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 22356;
- GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1667, Multi-core: 9836;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 191.09 fps, CPU 2317 cb, CPU Single Core 246 cb;
- CineBench R23: CPU 13859 pts, CPU Single Core 1625 pts;
Excellent scores, but at the expense of loud fans in the 50-52 dB.
These are the results with Vantage set to Balanced:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 22649 (Graphics – 28462, Physics – 26776);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 10592 (Graphics – 10615, CPU – 10469);
- 3DMark 13 –CPU profile: max – 7093, 16 – 7134, 8 – 5980, 4 – 3772, 2 – 1988, 1 -1017;
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 6758;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 7053;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 20805;
- GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1674, Multi-core: 9419;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 194.28 fps, CPU 2057 cb, CPU Single Core 245 cb;
- CineBench R23: CPU 12418 pts, CPU Single Core 1623 pts;
This Balanced profile is much quieter at 42-43 dB across the various tests, and with the GPU being limited at 115W, I was expecting lower scores in the GPU tests. In reality, we’re looking at a roughly 10-12% drop in 3DMark and Uniengine, which is not bad.
Even so, I’d rather Lenovo would push a higher TDP of around 130-140W for this mode, paired with fans around 44-45 dB, if possible. That would make more sense to me on a Balanced profile. As it is, this Balanced mode is very close to the Quiet mode in terms of GPU performance and even fan noise.
And these are the results with Vantage set to Quiet mode:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 19418 (Graphics – 27797, Physics – 18408);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 10094 (Graphics – 10794, CPU – 7384);
- 3DMark 13 –CPU profile: max – 4788, 16 – 4377, 8 – 3627, 4 – 2546, 2 – 1606, 1 -967;
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 6728;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 6882;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 19085;
- GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1556, Multi-core: 6952;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 134.96 fps, CPU 1281 cb, CPU Single Core 223 cb;
- CineBench R23: CPU 7531pts, CPU Single Core 1534 pts;
This mode is impressive as well, with fan noise of up to 40 dB. The GPU scores are within 80% of what the platform delivers on Performance, but the CPU is significantly limited by the aggressive TDP cap of just 25W, and that’s shown in the scores.
If you venture into the BIOS, you can set an OC for the GPU only. I set the OC to +100Mhz and then retook some benchmarks in the Performance mode:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 25882 (Graphics – 32222, Physics – 25706);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 12601 (Graphics – 12825, CPU – 11468);
- 3DMark 13 –CPU profile: max – 8034 16 – 8023, 8 – 6168, 4 – 3760, 2 – 2001, 1 -1017
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 7874;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 8007;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 22569;
I see no reason not to have this OC in place. Lenovo supports it and it doesn’t significantly add too much thermal load. On top of that, the results are noticeable. For the remainder of my testing, this OC was left on.
Finally, here’s how things change when I swapped out the RAM for my 32GB RAM kit:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 25350 (Graphics – 30928, Physics – 26496);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 12524 (Graphics – 12869, CPU – 10875);
- 3DMark 13 –CPU profile: max – 8019 16 – 8033, 8 – 6196, 4 – 3741, 2 – 2001, 1 -1018
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 7914;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 7907;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium : 22383;
- GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1643, Multi-core: 9404;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 237.60 fps, CPU 2276 cb, CPU Single Core 243 cb;
- CineBench R23: CPU 13780 pts, CPU Single Core 1622 pts;
While the RAM that comes preinstalled on the Legion 7 appears to be the cheaper kind, like I saw in the Legion 5 Pro, I didn’t see as much of a performance difference like I did with the 8GB modules. This could be because it’s 16GB modules, or perhaps it’s because Intel is less reliant on RAM than AMD. Regardless, the default RAM is just fine to me.
Gaming on the Lenovo Legion 7
Now let’s talk about the gaming benchmarks. I did three sets of benchmarks this time: Performance mode, Quiet mode, and with the swapped-out RAM kit. Here’s what I got:
w/ OC and upgraded RAM
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing OFF)
|123 fps avg, 115fps low
||110 fps avg, 101 fps low
||119 fps avg, 109 fps low
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing ON)
|54 fps avg, 49fps low
||47 fps avg, 43fps low
||58 fps avg, 54 fps low
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On)
|89 fps avg, 83fps low
||75 fps avg, 71fps low
||88 fps avg, 82 fps low
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks Off)
|103 fps avg, 90fps low
||90 fps avg, 85fps low
||103 fps avg, 94 fps low
|Horizon Zero Dawn
|95 fps avg, 88fps low
||82 fps avg, 77fps low
||95 fps avg, 87 fps low
(Ultra, Ray Tracing On, DLSS Auto)
|58 fps avg, 55 fps low
||52 fps avg, 49 fps low
||58 fps avg, 54 fps low
|Cyberpunk(Ultra, Ray Tracing On, DLSS off)
||31 fps avg, 28 fps low
||27 fps avg, 25fps low
||31 fps avg, 28 fps low
(Ultra, Ray Tracing Off, DLSS off)
|57 fps avg, 52 fps low
||49 fps avg, 45 fps low
||58 fps avg, 51 fps low
|79 fps avg, 74 fps low
||73 fps avg, 65 fps low
||86 fps avg, 79 fps low
As stated before, not a lot of difference from swapping out the RAM. As soon as I saw these results, I just replaced the stock RAM back into the machine. Not to say that other RAM won’t potentially show improvements because my RAM kit is 4-5 years old after all. But I just didn’t see an improvement as much as I did with the Legion 5 Pro based on the AMD Ryzen hardware.
The rest of these gaming benchmarks are remarkable though. The 165W TGP certainly gives this machine a performance boost over many of the other RTX 3080 models out there. Compared to the Razer Blade 15 I just tested, there’s a 10-15% performance boost, and that’s not even considering that this model has 11% more pixels to drive on the screen. Here’s a separate article comparing a few RTX 3080 laptops at different powers.
The Quiet mode benchmarks were also VERY respectable, where the GPU is set at 115W, close or even better than what many modern laptops offer on their top-performance profiles. Almost every game performed higher than 60fps and there was very low fan noise. I would probably set myself in this mode very frequently.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
This 2021 Lenovo Legion 7 uses a vapor chamber cooling system to keep the internals cool. I was a little skeptical at first, especially after seeing the reviews from last year. But after some use, I’m sold – this is a good system.
Keep in mind though, the iCue software for RGB is stupidly inefficient, so I just opted to keep it off completely for the remainder of my testing. It actually made the temperatures better…
There are two large fans that are always on, but operate at very low speeds when the laptop is idle. Normal temps while idling are in the high 30s and low 40s C. Fan noise is limited to roughly 28dB.
With light tasks, the CPU only gets into the mid-40s and the fans stay the same. Heavier tasks, though, will trigger the fans. And it makes a big difference what power mode you are on.
In Performance mode, the CPU spikes are larger because you’re putting up to 135W into it. So even short bursts of power can spike temps enough to cycle the fans. It’s gradual at least, so it’s not like you’re dealing with annoying oscillations in the fans or anything. It’s just worth noting that the Balanced mode is probably ideal for those that want less disruption from their fans while doing productivity work.
In Balanced mode and doing normal tasks and some heavy internet use, I saw CPU temps rise into the 50s and 60s, depending on the action. The fans hovered at around 35dB, which isn’t that bad.
In Quiet mode and on battery, the fans were effectively at idle speeds the entire time. Even with a Cinebench benchmark running, you’re only looking at 35W TDP, which doesn’t generate enough heat to be too much for idle fan speeds. That’s good news for those planning on using this in quiet places a lot.
Gaming is where the thermals really kick in though. I did some testing in all three modes to test the average temperatures of both the CPU and GPU. I also measured the fan noise at my head level. I used the same scene with Horizon Zero Dawn for all three modes, but did an extended session for the performance mode, so I could record the chassis temperatures as well.
To make things easier, I put my results into a table this time. But I also took screenshots of HWinfo in all three modes. Take a look:
||82C avg with 90C spike
||81C avg with 94C spike
||70C avg with 85C spike
|Avg fan noise after stabilized temps
||95 fps avg, 88 fps low
||85 fps avg, 80 fps low
||82 fps avg, 77 fps low
Seeing the difference in fan noise in each mode was really eye-opening to me. Of course, this only applies to games that aren’t heavily reliant on CPU performance. But for many games, the appeal to play on the Balanced or even Quiet mode is real.
Onto the external temps. I measured the surface temps while watching a show on Netflix and multitasking while on battery, and another shot while playing Witcher 3 for an extended session. Here is what I captured:
For normal use, the underside stays pretty cool. Note that this test was in battery mode where the CPU is limited to 45W. If you plug in, it will heat up further depending on what power mode you are in. I chose to show you the best-case scenario for this review, assuming that if it really mattered to you, you’ll swap power modes accordingly.
For gaming, the palmrest stays at low enough temperatures to prevent your palms from sweating. The WASD and arrows keys are also reasonable. The underside gets really hot, though, but that’s pretty much the case with any laptop with this kind of hardware in it. Use a lapdesk.
The Wifi module is the Intel AX201 Wifi 6 adapter. I’ve tested this in many other laptops lately and this one is just as good. I took a speed test at roughly 25ft from my router and got 480Mbps – about average for me. I didn’t experience any abnormalities in my usage and the Bluetooth worked well. It’s Bluetooth 5.2 by the way.
There are two downward-facing speakers on this model. The only gripe I have with them is the cutouts are in a spot that might get covered while using this on your lap. On other Legion models, the cutouts were on the chamfer of the bottom corner, making that more difficult.
The sound is pretty good though, for a gaming laptop. After some tweaking with the Equalizer in Nahimic, I was able to achieve good sound, with good highs and adequate mids. The bass was also decent and I could detect frequencies as low as 100Hz.
When looking at the internals, I noticed that the speakers are pretty large, which explains why the bass was decent. The problem is, there’s no dedicated subwoofer though. So you have to pick your poison here – you can’t just turn everything up in the EQ without having the sounds distort.
I was able to pick a decent curve though that appealed to me. With the volume turned all the way up, I was able to reach an amplitude of 75dB. I prefer above 80dB, but this laptop just can’t get that loud. But the quality of the sound was much better than what I hear from say, the Razer Blade, so that counts for something.
You have to be careful with the bass. Turned all the way up, I felt some vibration throughout the palmrest. I thought it was ok for the most part but I can see how that would be annoying.
To summarize: good speakers. Not perfect, but better than I was expecting from a gaming laptop.
The webcam is basically a standard 720p shooter. It’s pretty good as far as image quality goes. In good lighting, it’s good enough for teleconference use in a professional environment. But even the low light correction is decent.
It’s not Windows Hello enabled though. I was wondering if it was possible on this model because it includes Tobii head tracking. But that’s not the case. The head tracking is nowhere near as accurate as the eye-tracking software that uses an IR blaster. It’s a cool gimmick though.
One of the nicest features of the camera is the switch on the right side of the laptop. It’s a kill switch for the webcam, which completely removes all the power from it. It’s a better solution than a privacy shutter in my opinion because it tells you in software whether or not the camera is actually on.
My unit has an 80Whr battery installed. This is normally fine for any laptop, but I struggled to get some decent battery life with this one. There are a couple of reasons leading to this but one, unfortunately, isn’t fixable.
First is the iCue software. If you use it to customize your keyboard settings, it launches some nasty services that kill your battery life. The only way to stop this is to manually stop the services or uninstall iCue. It’s super annoying so I just uninstalled it.
The second thing drawing a lot of battery life is the CPU. But even in low power use, the CPU is still allowed to draw 25-35W if needed. So even doing simple tasks, the CPU is going to use what it needs.
There’s no good way to fix this except to maybe use Throttlestop and limit the IccMax while on battery, which would limit the TDP. If I get any good settings, I’ll be sure to post them here.
For now, though, I just took a series of battery life tests with the brightness at 50%, which is about 120 nits. Here were my results:
- 9.9 W (~8 h 5 min of use)– idle, Best Battery Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi ON, backlighting off;
- 43.1 W (~1 h 51 min of use)– idle, Best Battery Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi ON, backlighting off, iCue on;
- 19.4 W (~4 h 7 min of use)– text editing in Word with light internet use, Better Battery Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 19.8 W (~4 h 2 min of use)– 1440p 60Hz Youtube fullscreen in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 18.1 W (~4 h 25 min of use)– 1080p Netflix fullscreen video in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 32.6 W (~2 h 27 min of use)– heavy browsing in Chrome, Better Performance Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 69.9 W (~1 h 9 min of use)– Gaming – Wither 3, Maximum Performance Mode, 60fps cap, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON.
As you can clearly see, iCue is a huge battery hog. And heavy use is going to kill your battery in just a couple of hours, even if you disable iCue. Keep a charger on you if you plan to be out and about.
The power brick is 300W and is the exact same as what I saw with the Legion 5 Pro. It’s really big, but I guess it could be worse, considering the GPU and CPU power requirements.
But you also get USB-C charging on this unit. So if you have a portable GaN charger, you can just attach it to the port on the back of the laptop. You can’t game on this charger, but it’s a more portable solution to keep your unit charged.
Even though this laptop is made of metal, I didn’t detect any micro-vibrations while plugged in with an ungrounded GaN charger. I’ve seen this with every metal laptop up until now, so I found that interesting.
Price and availability
There are currently no listings on Amazon for the Legion 7 or the Legion 7i, but here’s a link that should find them when they pop up (at the time you’re reading the article).
In the meantime, the only way to purchase this laptop is on Lenovo’s website. The trouble is you might be waiting a while for custom builds. I had a Legion 7 with an RTX 3070 on order for nearly two months and the order date got pushed back to November until I canceled it. Once the Legion 7i I have on hand was in stock, I jumped right on it.
But even at the time of this review, the Legion 7 and Legion 7i aren’t even available to customize an order. Perhaps because of the pandemic? I’m not sure why but I’ll try to keep this section up to date when I find out more.
The model I have retails at $3329, but Lenovo always seems to have sales going on. I ended up getting mine for $2996 and it just came out. The RTX 3060 starts at $1799 but it’s out of stock, so I can’t quote the upgrade options for right now.
The AMD version of this laptop is the Legion 7 Gen 6. It’s virtually identical in every way, but has slower SSDs, no Thunderbolt, but possibly better battery life. The prices seem equal to the Legion 7i. For reference, I had an RTX 3070 model on preorder for about $2100 before I canceled it.
Final thoughts on the 2021 Lenovo Legion 7i
Needless to say, I’m very pleased with this 2021 Lenovo Legion 7i. The Legion 5 Pro already checked all my boxes, but this is a significant improvement from even that, which makes it worth the little extra. Well, it’s not really a “little extra” because I have the 3080 version here, but if you compare the 3070 config prices of both models, I think it’s worth the extra $200 for this 7.
Key is, I like the all-metal build and the fact the screen goes all the way back. The keyboard is also much more to my liking with firmer feedback and especially the nicer-looking RGB, even if that’s somewhat limited with me deleting the iCUE software. But that’s ok with me because I happen to usually pick blue and it just so happens to be a default color on this model. Lucky me.
Add in the 16” QHD+ screen, which I absolutely love, and the stellar performance of the hardware, and it leaves very little else to complain about. All except for the battery life that is.
And that’s just it. It might be a deal-breaker for some that are looking for a machine with higher battery life. If that’s the case, perhaps the Legion 5 Pro is the better choice for you. Maybe even the Legion 7 AMD models would be better,
but I haven’t tested that model.
Update: I’ve also documented my later experience with the AMD Ryzen version of the Legion 7 in this other review. Check it out!
For me though, I’m sticking with this one. I prefer having the Intel model for Thunderbolt support and the faster SSDs. I can deal with the battery life because I’m typically close to a plug and always have a compact USB-C charger in my backpack.
So if it’s not obvious yet, I’m definitely keeping this model. This will be my laptop for the next several years and I’m excited to see how well it holds up over the next several months. Perhaps I’ll write an update article after 6 months.
Update: We’ve put up together a comparison of the Lenovo Legion 7 against two other popular RTX 3080 laptops that we’ve reviewed here on the site, the Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 and the ROG Scar 17.
Update: If interested in a more portable alternative with mid-tier specs and a good price, you should also check out our review of the Lenovo Legion Slim 7 series.
In the meantime, feel free to post any questions you may have in the comments section. I’m happy to answer and can test anything I might have missed.
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