Hands On with the Completely Redesigned Lenovo IdeaPad Lineup

Tech Features Lenovo
Hands On with the Completely Redesigned Lenovo IdeaPad Lineup

As part of its back-to-school announcement, Lenovo’s IdeaPad notebook lineup was completely redesigned to bring elevated aesthetics at an affordable price. And even though Lenovo executives claim that these laptops are designed with personalized style in mind—rather than the speeds and feeds that are the target of more premium Ultrabooks—the company did not skimp and all of the new IdeaPads come with Intel’s newest 7th Generation Kaby Lake processor, with up to Core i7 configurations.

There are three series that part of the IdeaPad notebook family: IdeaPad 320, IdeaPad 320S and IdeaPad 720S. The S models are Lenovo’s more premium options, with an emphasis on slimness.

IdeaPad 720S: Giving the MacBook Pro a Run for Its Money

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The IdeaPad 720S is the range’s most premium option, and is the only series that’s available in one screen size. With a 14-inch screen, the IdeaPad 720S represents Lenovo’s premium ultra thin and light notebook. While the screen is a full HD 1080p panel, the downside is that it doesn’t come with a touchscreen option. Still, you get a sleek, nearly bezel-less display and a metal unibody design.

Compared to Apple’s recent MacBook Pros, the IdeaPad 720S comes with a backlit keyboard that offers more travel, but key travel doesn’t feel quite as deep as Microsoft’s Surface Laptop. The materials feel premium, given its metal construction. The laptop lid is constructed with a magnesium and aluminum blend, so hopefully its more rigid and helps to prevent dings and dents over time. The rest of the laptop is machined out of aluminum.

The Precision Touchpad offers a very nice tracking and scrolling experience, and it comes with a generous size. The touchpad doesn’t feel overly large like on the MacBook Pro, but it is roomy enough to be comfortable to use and not accidentally activate while you’re typing.

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Unlike similar notebooks in this class, discrete graphics come standard, and the notebook comes configured with Nvidia’s GeForce 940MX. I wish Lenovo opted for one of Nvidia’s VR-ready graphics, but at the $969 entry price point, it’s still nice to get a laptop with a discrete GPU instead of having to solely rely on Intel’s integrated option. Other specs include up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM and up to a 512GB PCIe SSD drive.

In my brief experience with the IdeaPad 720S, it feels zippy, and thanks to slimmed down bezels, like on the more premium Lenovo Yoga 910 that we reviewed, makes this 14-inch notebook feel like a 13-inch laptop. The more compact size will make it easier to carry around between classes for students looking to pick one up for back-to-school. It measures 12.6 × 8.78 × 0.63 inches and weighs 3.4 pounds.

Port selection on this notebook is healthy, with a Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C port that delivers power and data, two standard USB Type-A 3.0 ports and an HDMI port. JBL speakers tuned with Dolby Audio round out the experience, which should offer students a nice entertainment experience on their downtime. The notebook comes with a 56 WHr battery, but Lenovo was not able to give us its stated battery life claims at this time.

Lenovo also offers an optional fingerprint reader for fast passwordless Windows Hello logins.

IdeaPad 320S

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If you don’t need some of the nicer premium upgrades on the more premium IdeaPad 720S series, the IdeaPad 320S combines an elevated design with value. This laptop looks and feels more expensive than it actually is, and pricing starts at $730 for a 14-inch configuration, while the 15-inch model starts at $749. Like the more premium 720S, the IdeaPad 320S can be configured with up to Intel’s latest Core i7 processor in its 7th Generation Kaby Lake family, so you’re not skimping on performance. The 14-inch model relies purely on Intel’s integrated graphics, but the 15.6-inch comes with Nvidia’s GeForce GT940MX discrete GPU for a bit more performance, which should be useful for casual gaming and some light video work.

Resolution again is capped at 1080p on this model, which doesn’t look bad, even spread out over a larger 15-inch canvas. With 8GB of DDR4 kmemory and up to 256GB SSD storage on the 14-inch and up to 512GB PCIe SSD on the 15-inch model or a 1TB HDD, performance feels snappy. Even at the more affordable price points that these notebooks hit, you’re still getting fast performance.

For collaboration, the laptop offers a full 180-degree lay-flat hinge, so you can open up the screen and lay it on a table for sharing the content with other classmates.

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At just over three-quarters of an inch in thickness, both the 14- and 15-inch notebooks in this series also come with reduced bezels, adding to the attractive design and making the laptops appear more co pact. The 14-inch notebook measures 12.9 × 9.31 × 0.76 inches and weighs 3.74 pounds, while the larger system measures 14.3 × 9.92 × 0.78 inches and weighs 4.18 pounds.

The keyboard again is comfortable and the typing experience feels very similar to that on the more expensive 720S. Unlike the 720S, the speakers are made by Harmon with Dolby Audio tuning, but you still get the great Precision touchpad experience with the 320S series.

And while you do have a USB Type-C port on this device, it doesn’t support the faster Thunderbolt 3 data speeds. Additionally, the USB Type-C port on this more budget-friendly model is only used for data, and you’ll need to bring a barrel charger to recharge this device. The battery is slightly smaller, at 52Whr, and Lenovo was not able to give us any stated battery life claims. Other ports include a single USB 2.0 port, a single USB 3.0 port and an HDMI port.

To keep costs down, the 320S is constructed with ABS plastic that’s laced with a glass fiber. The laptop is coated with a metallic touch paint job, and the laptop definitely looks and feels more expensive than it is. The combination of paint color and material choice gives this laptop a brushed metal look, and it feels cool to the touch so it definitely feels like metal when you pick it up.

IdeaPad 320

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The IdeaPad 320 is available in both 15- and 17-inch screen size and represents the most affordable option in Lenovo’s range. Pricing starts at just $439 for the 15-inch HD display without touch. Adding touch brings the price up to $489. The 17-inch version is available with an HD+ screen, but lacks any touchscreen option. That model starts at $489.

Lenovo executives say that this model is targeted at older users and students, and it ships with an integrated DVD-R/W optical disc drive, making it convenient for users to consume data. To make the experience more personal, the 320 series is available in a variety of different tones and hues, and the laptop is constructed out of ABS plastic with a matte paint coating, giving it a non-slip feel.

However, it doesn’t have a rubberized coating, which makes it feel nice. I found in the past that rubberized coatings tend to attract a lot of dirt and oils, making them a fingerprint magnet, so I am glad that the coating isn’t present. The matte paint job does a good job of giving this notebook a non-slip feel without the downsides of a rubberized coating. The overall design is attractive and the notebook measures just 0.9-inch thick.

And while a Core i7 processor is present on this line, you’re limited to slower HDD options, rather than faster solid state drives, to keep costs low. Configurations come with up to 16GB DDR4 memory and up to a 2TB HDD for storage. The notebooks come with a 30 WHr battery, and Lenovo did not provide stated battery life claims.

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Both screen configurations for this notebook come with a keyboard with decent key travel. The USB Type-C port here is again used just for data and not charging, and the faster Thunderbolt 3 protocol isn’t supported. You can configure the IdeaPad 320 with an optional fingerprint reader for Windows Hello integration. Other ports include an HDMI, Ethernet, two USB 2.0 ports, 4-in-1 card reader, and a combo audio jack.

The 15i.6-inch model measures 14.9 × 10.2 × 0.9 inches and weighs 4.85 pounds, while the 17.3-inch model measures 16.4 × 11.5 × 0.9 inches and weighs 6.17 pounds.

All the IdeaPad models will be available starting in June.

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