The Lenovo Ideapad 530S proves you don't need to spend $1,000 for a premium laptop that doesn't skimp on performance. For $699, you get a 15.6-inch, 1080p display; an 8th Gen Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD -- the minimum specs we recommend for a laptop at this price. However, the highlight is the compact, aluminum design, which could easily make people mistake the Ideapad 530S for a more expensive laptop.
While there aren't any deal-breakers, this machine does underwhelm in some areas. The laptop's battery life falls short of the competition, and its slim bezels border a dull display. Still, the Ideapad 530S is one of the best Lenovo laptops, and a good option for anyone who doesn't want to splurge on a premium laptop but feel like they did.
The Lenovo Ideapad 530S' design reminds me of a monochrome painting you'd find in a contemporary art museum. There isn't much too it, and yet, it's mesmerizing. Every design cue feels like it has a purpose, adding up to a laptop that looks elegant and feels expensive.
The Ideapad 530S would blend in nicely with Apple's portfolio of laptops, and that's quite a compliment. The machine sports a two-tone silver aluminum deck and light-gray lid and keyboard. The contrast is subtle, but it gives the laptop a unique look. A small, dark-gray rectangle with Lenovo branding hides on the side of the lid like a T-shirt tag. A slanted hinge and chrome trim around the deck and touchpad add even more elegance to this sophisticated design.
Unfortunately, the deck of our review unit wobbled when I applied pressure to the left of the touchpad. A replacement unit Lenovo sent us didn't have the same issue, suggesting it's not widespread.
Thanks to the thin bezels, the 14.1 x 9.6 x 0.7-inch Ideapad 530S is remarkably compact for a 15-inch laptop. The Acer Aspire E 15 (15 x 10.2 x 1.2 inches) has a much larger footprint, while the 13-inch Asus ZenBook UX330UA (12.7 x 8.7 x 0.5) is, as you'd expect, a good deal smaller.
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At 3.7 pounds, the Ideapad 530S weighs less than some 14-inch laptops. In comparison, the chunky Acer Aspire E 15 comes in at 4.9 pounds, and the sleek Asus ZenBook UX330UA weighs only 2.7 pounds.
Because of its thin chassis, the Ideapad 530S is light on ports. However, it has pretty much everything you could ask for, short of a Thunderbolt 3 input.
On the left side, you'll find an HDMI, a USB 3.0 port, a USB 3.1 Type-C input, a headphone/mic combo jack and a DC power connector.
The right side is rather sparse, housing only a 4-in-1 card reader and a second USB 3.0 port.
The Ideapad 530S' 15-inch, non-touch 1080p display gets plenty bright, but I wish it were more vibrant. When I watched a trailer for The House with a Clock in its Walls, the ornate gilding around Jack Black's kingly chair was perfectly visible. I didn't even have to squint to see the intricate design on the back of his playing cards.
The colorful house in which the trailer is set should have been bursting with magic, but instead, it appeared uninspired. The bright orange eyes on the living jack-o'-lantern failed to scare, and Cate Blanchett's beautiful purple dress disappeared against the dark scenery. It's not that the colors were dull; they just looked subdued on this matte display. It's not all bad, though. The display's white balance seemed on point, and I didn't notice any glaringly inaccurate tones.
The Ideapad 530S' display fell short in the color department, reproducing only 72 percent of the sRGB color space. The Acer Aspire E 15 (74 percent) edges out the Ideapad, while the Asus ZenBook UX330UA (105 percent) and the mainstream laptop average (90 percent) blow it away.
On the bright side (pun intended), the Ideapad 530S' display reached a respectable 255 nits, outshining the Acer Aspire E 15 (200 nits) and the average mainstream laptop (238 nits). The luminous display on the Asus ZenBook UX330UA (302 nits) makes the Ideapad 530S appear dim in comparison.
Keyboard and Touchpad
While not as brilliant as those on ThinkPad laptops, the Ideapad 530S' backlit keyboard is decent in its own right. I was greeted to pleasantly tactile feedback each time I registered a key press, and the keys felt springy, not mushy.
However, with 1 millimeter of key travel (below our 1.5-mm preference), the keyboard is rather shallow. Combine that with an above-average actuation force of 71 grams, and the Ideapad 530 isn't the most comfortable to type on for extended periods.
With a score of 112 words per minute, I wasn't able to reach my typical 115 wpm average in the 10fastfingers.com typing test. Also, at 92 percent, my accuracy was below my 95 percent average.
The Lenovo Ideapad 530S' speakers get loud enough to fill a large room, but the audio lacks depth. When I listened to Panic! At the Disco's new song "High Hopes," vocals were clear but the pop track sounded thin and veiled. The speakers also failed to separate instruments, which resulted in a grating clash of high-pitched drum hits and shrill guitar sounds.
When I listened to Avicii's remix of "Wake Me Up," Aloe Black's smooth voice sounded hollow and the drum rhythm had no weight to it. Overall, the speakers are good enough for casual listeners, but discerning audiophiles will want to plug in some headphones.
Equipped with an Intel Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM, the Lenovo Ideapad 530S offers loads of performance for the price. I'm the sort of person who avoids cleaning up browser tabs at all costs; fortunately, I never had to with the Ideapad 530S. I opened 20 web pages on Google Chrome, and didn't notice any lag. Even more impressive is that the Ideapad 530S didn't falter once when I simultaneously opened a Twitch stream of Ninja playing Fortnite and four 1080p YouTube videos.
The Lenovo Ideapad 530S performed well in our performance benchmarks. It scored a 11,966 in the Geekbench 4 test, which measures overall performance. It crushed the Core i5-equipped Acer Aspire E 15 (9,278), but fell just short of the speedy Asus ZenBook UX330UA (12,871) with the same CPU. The average mainstream laptop (8,600) doesn't get anywhere near the performance of the Ideapad 530S.
The Ideapad 530S did a bang-up job during our productivity test, which tasks laptops to match 65,000 names with their corresponding addresses in Excel 2016. The laptop completed the task in 1 minute and 24 seconds, narrowly finishing before the Acer Aspire E 15 (1:30). The mainstream laptop average is far behind, at 2:10.
The 256GB PCIe SSD in the Ideapad 530S took 18 seconds to duplicate 4.96GB of mixed-media files for a rate of 282 megabytes per second. Again, the Lenovo topped its competitors, and by a good margin. The Acer Aspire E 15 (150 MBps) and the Asus ZenBook UX330UA (181.8 MBps) performed the task at a much slower rate. The mainstream laptop average transferred the same files at a sluggish rate of 135.9 MBps.
It took the Lenovo Ideapad 530S 21 minutes and 5 seconds to convert a 4K video into 1080p using the HandBrake app. The Asus ZenBook UX330UA squeezed out a victory this round, with a time of 20:55, while the Acer Aspire E 15 (25:15) and the mainstream laptop average (29:14) were left behind.
With integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics, the Ideapad 530S doesn't have the power to play a game like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided at high settings, but it shouldn't have problems with less-demanding titles. The Ideapad 530S scored a 69,450 in the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test. That middling result falls short of the GeForce MX150-equipped Acer Aspire E 15 (122,144), the Asus ZenBook UX330UA (73,990) and the mainstream laptop average (70,406).
Oddly, the results were flipped in real-world testing. The Ideapad 530S played Dirt 3 at 49 frames per second, beating the Acer Aspire E 15 (33 fps), Asus ZenBook UX330UA (27 fps) and the mainstream laptop average (47 fps).
The Ideapad 530S' battery life is better than average but behind some of its competition. The laptop lasted 7 hours and 41 minutes on our Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits. The mainstream laptop average is 7:19.
For comparison, the Asus ZenBook UX330UA stayed powered for a bit longer at 7:53, while the Acer Aspire E 15 dominated this category, lasting 9:26.
The Ideapad 530S' webcam is a notch above average, but that's not saying much. Despite the Ideapad 530S' narrow bezels, the webcam is located above the display, where it belongs. The 720p camera took a long time to adjust to the bright lighting behind me, but once it did, I was able to make out fine details in my face, like strands of hair in my beard. The selfie cam accurately captured the natural red tone of my face, but my dark-blue shirt leaned gray. The image I captured in our dimly lit office didn't exhibited much noise.
The Lenovo Ideapad 530S ran warm in our heat test, but not uncomfortably so. When we played a 1080p YouTube video for 15 minutes, the touchpad maintained a reasonable 89.5 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the location between the G and H keys warmed to 94 degrees, while the underside breached our 95-degree comfort threshold, hitting 96 degrees. The hottest location on the laptop, the lower-left bottom corner, was only 1 degree warmer.
Software and Warranty
The Lenovo Ideapad 530S comes with a standard catalog of pre-installed software. To its credit, Lenovo included only three branded apps: Lenovo App Explorer, Lenovo Vantage and LenovoUtility. As the name suggests, App Explorer spotlights certain apps and gives you custom recommendations from the Microsoft App Store.
With genuinely useful tools, Vantage feels less like bloatware than Explorer. The app has a single interface where you can update your system, change hardware settings, adjust audio levels and find support. I could do without LenovoUtility, which simply presents an on-screen visual when you press certain hotkeys, like the num lock or the disable touchpad key.
The Lenovo Ideapad 530S has all the Windows 10 bloatware we've come to dread. That includes a couple of Candy Crush Saga titles, along with Disney Magic Kingdoms and Hidden Cities games. Other pre-installed apps include LinkedIn, Minecraft and the Microsoft Solitaire Collection.
What Does the Ideapad 530S Cost?
Our review unit, the base model, starts at $699, and is equipped with an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. You can bump up the CPU to a Core i7-8550U for an additional $100, and double the SSD storage to 512GB for $150 on top of that.
You'll pay $1,249 for the decked-out model, which has a Core i7-8550U CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Even at that price, the 15.6-inch display maxes out at 1080p resolution.
The Lenovo Ideapad 530S is an impressive laptop with an elegant, lightweight design. Add capable components and narrow bezels, and this machine covers almost all of the bases. Best of all, the $699 Ideapad 530S is priced comfortably below the daunting four-figure mark. However, the Ideapad 530S doesn't offer the most colorful display, and its speakers failed to impress.
If you're a gamer, consider the Acer Aspire E 15. The $600 laptop packs an Nvidia GeForce MX150 CPU, which can play most modern games at low settings. And if you're a student or business professional who travels frequently, and doesn't need a 15-inch laptop, go with the Asus ZenBook UX330UA. The 13-inch ultrabook has longer battery life and a more vivid display than the Lenovo. Otherwise, we strongly recommend the Ideapad 530S -- it's a gorgeous laptop with strong performance that doesn't break the bank.
Credit: Laptop Mag