PC

Lenovo Ideapad 330s: An everyday workhorse

Lenovo's Ideapad 330s is an affordable laptop for daily tasks

Smartphone prices reached an all-time high last week with the launch of the latest Apple iPhone.

But the other everyday computing device used by many people - the notebook - is becoming increasingly affordable.

Last month, I tested a $998 Acer Swift 3 laptop with a fingerprint sensor, in-plane switching (IPS) screen and a backlit keyboard. You could not buy a notebook with these features at this price a few years ago.

The Acer seemed rather bland, but at least it did not look cheap.

The same can be said of the Lenovo Ideapad 330s, another affordable mainstream notebook that starts at $1,049.

My review set, which has the latest Intel Core i7 processor and a dedicated AMD graphics chip to drive its 15.6-inch IPS display, costs $1,299. It looks modern and chic, with a relatively sleek chassis that weighs around 1.9kg.

I almost missed the small Lenovo logo, located at the side of the lid. Its aluminium lid feels cool and makes the laptop seem more upscale.

This lid can be flipped open to lie flat. The screen is surrounded by narrow bezels on all sides except at the bottom, where there is another nondescript Lenovo logo.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $1,299

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-8550U (1.8GHz)

    GRAPHICS: AMD Radeon 540 Graphics 4GB GDDR5

    MEMORY: 4GB DDR4 + 16GB Optane memory

    SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: USB Type-C Gen 3.1, 2 x USB 3.0, HDMI, SD card reader, audio jack

    BATTERY: 30 watt-hour

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Its matt IPS screen is decent with good viewing angles, but it is clearly far from the best available. It is not quite as bright or vibrant as other IPS displays I have tried.

The screen is powered by a mid-tier AMD Radeon 540 graphics chip. It can run most games if you set the graphics settings to more modest levels. For instance, it managed an average 32 frames per second in Crysis 3 at medium setting at its native full-HD resolution.

But more serious gamers should look elsewhere, especially as the laptop speakers sound flat and lack volume and depth.

Lenovo has omitted the fingerprint sensor in a move likely to keep costs down. The laptop's plastic chassis also costs less than a metal version, though it has more flex.

But this did not hinder my typing experience. I could churn out about 80 words a minute on its well-spaced, backlit keyboard, which has a numeric keypad at the side.

The touchpad feels responsive and not mushy. It is a precision touchpad, which means it supports native Windows 10 gestures like a downward three-fingered swipe to show the desktop.

Speaking of which, the desktop is very clean with just two icons. Unlike Acer, Lenovo has not preloaded its notebook with a ton of third-party programs.

Like the Acer laptop mentioned earlier, the 330s comes with Intel Optane Memory technology. This is a 16GB memory cache that stores frequently-used apps and data so that they can be retrieved quickly when needed. This cache, which uses flash memory, is faster than the laptop's mechanical 1TB hard drive.

Buyers can choose different configurations for the laptop, including one with both an SSD and a hard drive. Having an SSD and more RAM would improve its performance, but also raise the cost.

To my surprise, the 330s lasted seven hours and 10 minutes in the video-loop battery test, which was longer than I had expected because its 30 watt-hour battery seems puny.

• Verdict: An affordable mainstream laptop that is good enough for everyday computing tasks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2018, with the headline 'An everyday workhorse'. Print Edition | Subscribe