When it comes to sub-$200 laptops, the Lenovo IdeaPad 100S-14 stands out from the crowd. Priced at $195, it combines a colorful 14-inch screen and keyboard into a stylish package that belies its low price. Just don't leave home without its charger as the IdeaPad 100S' battery life is under 6 hours. However, in its price range, the IdeaPad 100S-14 is one of the best laptops you can get.
Building on the good looks of the original 11-inch IdeaPad 100S, the 14-inch version is bigger but just as classy. Thanks to its understated navy-blue cover and smooth matte finish, the IdeaPad 100S-14 looks and feels more premium than its price suggests. You don't often find cool details like a retro dial for a power button in a $200 laptop. It's too bad that the IdeaPad's plastic chassis is not as sturdy feeling as the HP Stream 11's chassis or the Samsung Chromebook 3's, as there is some flexing around the keyboard and along the bottom cover.
One area Lenovo did not compromise on is its ports and connections. On the left side, you'll find a port for the power charger, a USB 3.0 port, a full-size HDMI to connect to your HDTV and a microSD card slot to expand the laptop's meager internal storage. There are two additional USB 2.0 ports and a combination audio/microphone jack accessible from the right side of the laptop.
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Weighing just 3.2 pounds and measuring 13.3 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches, the IdeaPad 100S-14 is undoubtedly bigger than 11-inch competitors but is thin and light enough to slip into a backpack. It's also much thinner and lighter than the Dell Inspiron 14 3000 (13.6 x 9.6 x 0.8 inches, 3.9 pounds). But both the Samsung Chromebook 3 (11.4 x 8 x 0.7 inches, 2.5 pounds) and the HP Stream 11 (11.8 x 8.1 x 0.7 inches, 2.5 pounds) are more portable than the Lenovo device.
The IdeaPad 100S' 14-inch, 1366 x 768 LED backlit non-touch display is hardly the sharpest or the brightest, but it offers wide viewing angles, where colors don't fade out even when the screen is lying flat at 180 degrees. Compared with the Dell Inspiron 14 3000's panel, Lenovo's screen is superior.
While the IdeaPad's screen registered a dim 188 nits on our light meter, I didn't have to boost up its screen brightness to see Spider-Man fighting Vulture in the darkest parts of the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer. Technically, the dimmer panel on the HP Stream 11 notched the same 188 nits average, but colors are much more washed out on the HP than the Lenovo. The Dell Inspiron 14 3000's 135-nit display is remarkably dim. The 259-nit screen on the Samsung Chromebook 3, meanwhile, outshines them all.
According to our tests, the IdeaPad 100S' panel can reproduce 83.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which just edges out the Inspiron 14 3000 (81.4 percent), and leaves the HP Stream 11 (77.5 percent) and the Samsung Chromebook 3 (63.1 percent) in its dust. I particularly appreciated its wide color range when I watched the vibrant Despicable Me 3 trailer.
Regarding color accuracy, the IdeaPad 100S' screen is dead last in its class with a Delta-E rating of 3.9 (the closer to 0 the better). The HP Stream 11 (3.7) and the Dell Inspiron 14 3000 (3.5) are only marginally better than the Lenovo laptop, whereas the Samsung Chromebook 3 earned a near-perfect rating of 0.2.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 100S-14's bottom-firing dual speakers are simply too quiet and weak to impress, especially when compared with its competitors. Even when you max out the volume, the sound still isn't loud enough to fill a room, though the sound quality remains fair with no obvious distortions or feedback. For a better audio experience, you'll need to plug in the best pair of headphones or speakers you can find.
When I listened to the jazzy "Summer Montage" from the La La Land soundtrack, I was not exactly transported to a jazz club. While I could clearly hear the highs and lows between the bass, trumpet and piano solos on the track, the sound lacked depth. When I moved the laptop from my lap to the edge of a table where its speakers were unobstructed, the sound coming out of those speakers was instantly fuller.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is usually just an afterthought on a budget device, but it is very much a highlight on the Lenovo IdeaPad 100S-14. With a whopping 1.9 millimeters of key travel (1.5-2 mm is ideal) and 79 grams of force (60g minimum) to actuate each keystroke, the IdeaPad 100S makes you forget you're typing on a $200 machine.
Using the IdeaPad 100S-14, I was able to hit 77 words per minute for my 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is not far off from my normal 80 words-per-minute pace on my Surface Pro 4. While I appreciate the IdeaPad 100S' quiet yet responsive keys, I'm not a fan of its unusual keyboard layout that unnecessarily relocates function keys like "Page Down" to the right side. This minor layout shift caused me to hit the "Up Arrow" key when I wanted to press "Shift" on multiple occasions, making this comfortable keyboard slightly frustrating to use at first. However, long-time users will probably get used to the key placement.
The IdeaPad 100S-14 has discrete buttons on its 3.7 x 1.9-inch touchpad, a welcome differentiator you won't find on its competitors. I actually found it more efficient to scroll through long web pages and highlight text using a combination of the click buttons and swipes on the touchpad, which caused less strain on my hands. The IdeaPad 100S' touchpad is sensitive enough to recognize light taps and button presses.
With the 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060 CPU with 2GB of RAM, 32GB eMMc flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 400 driving the IdeaPad 100S-14, I didn't encounter any serious problems switching between 10 different web-browser tabs, including a 3-hour concert from YouTube. However, there was some stuttering in the streamed video at times, as well as minor lag when opening a large file or the Start Menu.
The IdeaPad scored 1,880 on Geekbench 4, a synthetic test that measures overall performance, with the Inspiron 14 3000 (1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060 CPU) hitting 1,824, while the Stream 11 (1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060 CPU) smoked its rivals with a score of 2,023.
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The IdeaPad took 14 minutes and 33 seconds to complete the OpenOffice spreadsheet test (matching 20,000 names with addresses). The HP Stream 11 wasn't that much faster than the IdeaPad at 13 minutes and 42 seconds. The Dell Inspiron 14 3000 was significantly slower than all its rivals, taking 22 minutes and 2 seconds to finish.
So how does the IdeaPad 100S' 32GB onboard flash memory stack up? It took the Lenovo laptop 1 minute and 47 seconds, which translates to a transfer rate of 43.5 MBps, to copy 4.97GB of mixed-media files during our Laptop File Transfer test. The HP Stream 11 was even faster, completing the test with a rate of 50.4MBps. The Dell Inspiron 14 3000 was the fastest in this price range, transferring the files at a rate of 69.72 MBps.
With an integrated Intel HD Graphics 400 GPU, the IdeaPad 100S is more suitable for playing casual titles like Candy Crush Soda Saga and watching videos. It earned just 13,568 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, which is much lower than the HP Stream 11's score (16,230).
Out of 32GB of storage, 29.1GB is technically available on the Lenovo IdeaPad 100S-14. But Windows 10 and the preinstalled bloatware occupy 19.42GB of the laptop, which means only 9.68GB comes free for use. Internal storage was so lacking on the 14-inch IdeaPad 100S, I had to uninstall three 1080p movie trailers just to free up enough space to install the 3DMark benchmark test for this review.
Given how quickly you can run out of space on this device, you're better off storing important files on a microSD card or a USB drive, or on a cloud service like OneDrive or Google Drive.
Unfortunately, the Lenovo IdeaPad 100S-14 has worse battery life than other sub-$200 laptops we tested. Even with the screen set to 40 percent brightness and Wi-Fi turned on, I got only about 5 hours and 30 minutes from the Lenovo device before I had to recharge. And all I did was edit a Google Doc, respond to some emails, download and watch three 1080p movie trailers, as well as stream a long YouTube video on the budget device.
According to our Laptop Mag Battery test (it continuously surfs the web via Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness), the IdeaPad 100S lasted a bit longer at 5 hours and 51 minutes, but still fell way short of its competitors. In fact, both the Samsung Chromebook 3 and the Dell Inspiron 14 3000 lasted over 9 hours (the Chromebook was just shy of 10 hours), while the HP Stream 11 ran for 8 hours and 23 minutes.
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The Lenovo IdeaPad 100S-14 may not be an icebox but it does a better job than most at insulating its hotspots from the user. While its underside felt warm after several hours of continuous use, at least I didn't feel like I had a hot potato in my lap like I did within 30 minutes of using the HP Stream 11.
After streaming a video for 15 minutes, the IdeaPad 100S' center-left underside reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is above our 95-degree comfort threshold. The touchpad and keyboard registered a comfortable 77 degrees and 85 degrees, respectively.
The onboard webcam's image quality is so pixelated that I would not recommend using it for serious video calls. While the camera saw the general outline of my face, it could not show finer details like the flowers on my shirt with any clarity.
With so little internal storage, Lenovo made sure to not clog the IdeaPad 100S' already limited storage with unnecessary software. The company keeps it simple with just one main pre-loaded app called Companion, which tracks the system updates you need. On the third-party app front, you'll find Sling TV, Candy Crush Soda Sage and a one-month trial of McAfee LiveSafe.
Lenovo backs the 100S with a standard one-year warranty that covers parts and labor, but does not include shipping costs if you need to send it in for service. See how Lenovo fared in our 2017 Best and Worst Brands special report.
For users who don't want to sacrifice on either style or price, the $195 Lenovo IdeaPad 100S-14 is a fantastic choice. Not only does this Windows 10 machine feature the best 14-inch display and keyboard in its price range, but it also looks and types like a more expensive device.
Unfortunately, the 100S-14's subpar battery life makes it a mediocre choice for students or frequent travelers. While it doesn't have as good a typing experience or as large a screen, the HP Stream 11 provides much longer endurance in a more-portable chassis. However, if you're looking for a thin-and-light budget laptop with a reasonably large display and a great typing experience for under $200, you can't go wrong with the IdeaPad 100S-14.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag