Budget -friendly laptops are no longer ugly-looking, painfully slow computers. That’s the issue we’ve had to endure for a few years. And now, they are finally starting to feel more premium too. Lenovo is one of the companies that’s catching up with the industry trends with its all-new IdeaPad 300.
Our review unit, the Lenovo IdeaPad 330 is moderately equipped with an 8th-generation Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive with 16GB Optane Memory Module, and a 15.6-inch full HD display. It’s priced reasonably, placing it in that “entry-level budget” category. It isn’t necessarily the cheapest you can score at this price, but it stays well below the $700 entry-level threshold.
Competition is very stiff in this space, though. Here’s how the Lenovo IdeaPad 300 stacks up.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 330 is a nice-looking budget notebook. No doubt about that. It has a Platinum Gray color scheme that is a bit held back on a color spectrum, but that’s a good thing for an office/college laptop. The color scheme passes for an aluminum build especially on the keyboard deck and palm rest, but otherwise, we’re looking at a surface that’s understated and attractive. Even the sideways Lenovo logo on the lid does live up to the company’s minimalist design, just like the conservative Lenovo Yoga 730.
The clean aesthetic whispers a wave of solidity that you confirm once you grab the IdeaPad in your hand. The keyboard and bottom don’t flex much like the similarly priced Asus VivoBook F510UA, and there’s only some slight give in the lid when firmly pressed than expected. For the build quality, its surprising to see high-quality workmanship in this price range.
The same quality extends to the hinge – stiff enough to allow the display swing to lay almost flat. We have also been drawn to the recent craze over display bezel size, and the impact on the notebook’s overall size. The IdeaPad doesn’t have the smallest bezels we’ve seen, especially on the top where you find a webcam. Still, they are small enough on each side to maintain a modern appearance, unlike most budget machines.
On size, many affordable notebooks tend to be chunky cases. The IdeaPad 330 is cut differently. It is relatively thin at 0.9 inches and very light for a machine with a 15.6-inch display at 4.8 pounds. Compare it with any other 15-inch notebook, like the Acer Aspire E 15, that weighs 5.27 pounds and is 1.19 inches thick, with huge bezels around the screen.
Connectivity is excellent for a relatively thin laptop. It comes with a pair of USB-A 3.1 ports, a USB-C 3.1 port, a full-size HDMI connection, an SD card reader, and a 3.5mm combo audio jack. Missing is Thunderbolt 3 support, which is never available in less expensive notebooks. Wireless connectivity comes via 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 radios.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The Lenovo IdeaPad 330 specs include the company’s island keyboard with white lettering. Here, you’re looking at a typical solid choice, it’s surprising that the keyboard here is much better than some of Lenovo’s low-priced notebooks like the Yoga 730.
Of course, key travel is rather short compared to premium notebooks like the Dell XPS 15 and HP Spectre x360, but the spring mechanism is responsive enough to avoid abrupt bottoming action. Also, the keyboard is non-backlit but still effective to use while offering a comfortable experience.
The possible nod to the notebook’s low price is the lack of a fingerprint reader and a touch display. Not everybody cares about a touch display on a budget notebook, but if its something you’ve gotten used to on other laptops, you’ll have a difficult time tapping the screen sans a response.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 330 sports a 15.6-inch (1366 X 768 resolution) display that’s just bright enough for this physical size. While you can find Full HD 13.3-inch displays at this price point, the IdeaPad is part of a smaller contingent of affordable laptops sporting a larger screen. It has 200 cd/m2 maximum brightness, which is where budget notebooks fail to match premium alternatives, which usually have even better AdobeRGB that exceed 70 percent.
This laptop isn’t designed with photo and video professional’s in mind. As a general use laptop, the display is acceptable for simple productivity tasks like web browsing and processing documents. It’s bright enough due to lack of gloss-related reflections, and you won’t be distracted by the screen while watching videos.
Sound is just okay as well, with enough volume to fill a small office and a favorable lack of distortion when pumped all the way up. It lacks bass, though, and while it is well set for the usual YouTube video, you’ll need a headphone for movies and music.
Lenovo outfitted the IdeaPad 330 with Intel’s 8th-generation U-Series processors, which we have proven to be capable and efficient performers. Our review unit uses the Core i5-8250U, which contributes to solid performance and impressive battery life.
For the most part, the IdeaPad will perform in line with its CPU, coming in the same level with some other laptops with the same Core i5 processor, like the Asus F510UA-AH51. The Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-576-392H) does come behind the IdeaPad 330, however.
Storage performance is a bit of a mixed bag. No, it is great. The 1TB hard drive is paired with a 16GB Optane Memory Module, that delivers SSD-like performance to traditional spinning drives. SO, what that means that instead of using a smaller SSD, it makes sense to have a bigger HDD then boost it with an Optane module. This approach allows you to work with large files or use database applications, without spending too much.
Overall, performance is very good, and the IdeaPad 330 will suffice as an affordable productivity machine for just about any user. And the chassis remains comfortable, doesn’t get warm and fans that spin up but are never overly loud.
Unsurprisingly, the Lenovo IdeaPad 330’S Intel HD Graphics 620 graphics offer no more than casual gaming capability. If gaming is your poison, you’ll need to select a more expensive and better-equipped notebook, for example, the Acer Aspire E 15 that includes a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU, if you need better mobile gaming.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 330 only packs in 35 watt-hours of battery in its chassis, which is pedestrian for a notebook with a larger display. Yes, the Core i5-8250U is an efficient CPU and the display is only 720p and not a power-hungry 4K, so little battery capacity won’t excite. It is an underwhelming performer, lasting just over two and a half hours. That’s significantly less than the Aspire E5-576-392H’s 10 hours of battery life.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 330 stands out in the budget category for its build quality that’s more attractive and solid than many notebooks in this price range. Also, it’s thinner and lighter than many of them, and well-equipped with excellent connectivity. Unfortunately, the battery life holds it from truly standing out. If you don’t mind carrying around your adapter, this IdeaPad is an excellent buy.
Is there a better alternative?
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly 15.6-inch notebook that doesn’t ask you to compromise, then the Acer Aspire E 15 might be the right ticket. It’s only $599.99 at Amazon for a Core i5-8250U, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SATA SSD, and Acer includes a discrete Nvidia MX150 GPU that’s a right choice for most light gamers. Battery life is also excellent, but you have to put up with a larger and fairly heavier chassis.
Another viable alternative is the Asus F510UA-AH51, coming in at around the same price for almost the same configuration as our review unit. It equips a 15.6-inch Full HD display, and so it’s sharper and offers better viewing angles. Its battery life is better when watching video, and it’s slightly a faster performer, and is nearly as modern looking and as svelte.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The Lenovo IdeaPad 330 only compromises on short battery life, but makes with a premium-like design, useful connectivity and solid performance.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 330 (81DE01M2US) stands out in the budget category for its build quality that’s more attractive and solid than many notebooks in this price range. Also, it’s thinner and lighter than many of them, and well-equipped with excellent connectivity. Unfortunately, the battery life holds it from truly standing out.
- Premium-like design
- Strong productivity performance
- Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
- Battery life is just short