The march of technology stomps ever onwards, and it’s as noisy as ever. But we don’t see the technology parade the way we once did. We’ve found ourselves able to tune out its incessant footsteps.
That constant, desperate upgrade cycle has, by all accounts, slowed rapidly; sometimes a great budget laptop will meet all our needs. Why invest close to a grand on the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S when you could have its (slightly larger) little brother, the decidedly affordable Lenovo IdeaPad 320S?
Yes, if you want the power to wrestle polygons you’re better off looking elsewhere – the Medion Erazer X6603 (also, sort of, a Lenovo product) is a solid gaming laptop at a decent price – but could this cut price PC, with its paltry Pentium processor, actually have what it takes?
Here is the Lenovo IdeaPad 320S-14IKB configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Pentium Gold 4415U (Dual-core, 2MB cache)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 610
RAM: 4GB DDR4 SDRAM (2133 MHz)
Screen: 14-inch, 1366 x 768 TN
Storage: 128GB SSD
Ports: 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI, 1 x USB Type-C, SD reader, audio multi-jack
Connectivity: Intel Dual Band Wireless AC
Camera: Built-in HD webcam
Weight: 3.75 pounds (1.7kg)
Size: 15.35 x 10.47 x 0.78 inches (32.7 x 23.6 x 1.9 mm; W x D x H)
Price and availability
As mentioned, we’re testing the Pentium flavour of the IdeaPad 320S 14-IKB here – it’s also available with a beefier Core i3, a Core i5 and, proving the versatility of its chassis, a full-on Core i7 with FHD screen.
While the MSRP of the Pentium model is a reasonably high £399.99 (around $550, AU$700), you can find it for £50 less – if you don’t, there’s little benefit to buying the Pentium model over the already-discounted Core i3 flavour of the same machine, which is the same price at press time.
We’ve been unable to find any evidence of this Pentium model being sold anywhere other than through certain UK retail stores, though its Core i3-7100U cousin (with otherwise identical specifications) is available for an MSRP of £479/$479/AU$649.
You don’t usually expect a budget machine to look any good. Spend under £400/$600/AU$700 and you’d traditionally be dragging a silvery paving slab out of your bag, a thick, chunky, ugly beacon, shouting to all around that you’re a cheapskate with poor taste in computers.
Not so with the IdeaPad 320s, which shares the same slim, curvy chassis throughout its line. It’s really rather nice. Were it not for the holographic blue ‘Pentium’ sticker on the base, you’d never know this was a budget machine at first glance.
This white version (there’s an aluminium version of the same chassis, used in more premium models) does have a few peculiarities to bear in mind. Everything but the aluminium lid is made of plastic, so it’ll all-too-easily pick up dirty marks, and there’s a certain amount of flex in both the base and the screen, so you’ll want to put it in a proper padded case rather than just tossing it in a backpack.
The low-end IdeaPad 320s-14IKB’s biggest sacrifice, and the loudest klaxon announcing its budget nature, is its screen — this is the most bog-standard 1366 x 768 TN panel you’re likely to find.
It takes some angling before you’ll find a position that doesn’t wash out or even invert some of the colors; move your head around and the whole image shimmers. It’s not great.
Credit, though, to Lenovo for not adding a glossy material to make it even more difficult to see. The anti-glare coating on the screen really does neuter reflections, making this the ideal sub-HD media machine if you can tilt the screen just right.