You could spend around $1,000 on any of the latest premium laptops and walk away with a good machine. But purchasing a mainstream or budget laptop remains a crapshoot, even today. Unfortunately, the Lenovo IdeaPad 330S (starting at $379, reviewed at $499), like so many midrange laptops before it, fails to impress. This 15.6-inch notebook has a sleek chassis and comfortable keyboard, but its awful battery life and 1366 x 768-pixel display are inexcusable. If you want an everyday laptop on a budget, we suggest looking elsewhere.
Price and Configuration Options
Lenovo sells several versions of the IdeaPad 330S. The $499 model we reviewed has a 15.6-inch, 1366 x 768-resolution display and is powered by an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD, 5,200-rpm hard drive with 16GB of Intel Optane storage. If you can afford to, we recommend spending $818 for a 1080p display and a 256GB SSD.
Lenovo did a good job keeping costs low while imitating the premium look and feel of pricier Ultrabooks. I only wish the company had taken some risks with the IdeaPad 330S' chassis, which is uninspired to the point of being bland.
The matte-silver finish on the lid and underside of the IdeaPad 330S grows tiring once you open the lid, only to find more of the material coating the deck. The only respite comes from a soft-gray Lenovo tag in the corner of the lid and a darker gray keyboard. I really wish there were some color, or even the chrome trim we find on some midrange laptops, to liven things up.
The IdeaPad 330S' aesthetic shortcomings are excused thanks to a sturdy frame. The laptop's lid is actually made of aluminum, and the solid plastic underside deceived me into thinking that it, too, was metal. I found minimal lid flex when pressing down in the center, and the flexible hinges kept the display in place when I lifted the machine from my desk.
As bland as it is, the IdeaPad 330S has thin bezels, a standout feature you won't find on most midrange laptops. Those narrow bezels offer two key benefits: a more captivating viewing experience and a compact chassis.
For that reason, the IdeaPad 330S is smaller and lighter than its 15-inch rivals. At 3.9 pounds and 14 x 9.5 x 0.8 inches, the IdeaPad is a lot more portable than the Acer Aspire 5 (4.6 pounds, 15 x 10.4 x 0.8 inches), Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (4.9 pounds, 15 x 10.2 x 0.9 inches) and Aspire E 15 (5 pounds, 15 x 10.2 x 1.2 inches).
Despite having a relatively thin chassis, the IdeaPad 330S offers a good selection of ports.
Displays with a 1366 x 786 resolution shouldn't exist anymore, especially on laptops that cost more than $400. And yet, here I am, squinting at IdeaPad 330S' low-res, 15.6-inch panel with an exasperated expression on my face.
When I watched a trailer for Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, I could see patterns in Dwayne Johnson's Maori tattoos, but finer details, like Jason Statham's stubble, looked indistinct. The Rock's red pants blended into the dreary dirt field in a scene where he performs a prefight haka, and the absurd helicopter-missile explosions looked washed out. Worst of all, the screen was dim and the display quality suffered when viewed from even a slight angle.
It's hard to fathom that this display is able to cover 106.4% of the sRGB spectrum, which, on paper, makes this screen more vivid than those on the Aspire 5 (65%), Inspiron 15 5000 (67%) and Aspire E 15 (62%). The IdeaPad 330S even tops the category average (79%).
Those colors are held back by poor brightness. The IdeaPad 330S peaked at only 215 nits of brightness, which is short of the Aspire E 15's score (227 nits) and the mainstream laptop average (244 nits). The Aspire 5 (209 nits) and Inspiron 15 5000 (175 nits) are even dimmer.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The IdeaPad 330S' keyboard may not have the same brilliant keys as Lenovo's ThinkPad laptops, but I still enjoyed typing on this midrange notebook.
The gray keys have the signature Lenovo curve, which conformed nicely to my fingertips. I also enjoyed the keys' 1.5 millimeters of travel, which matches our preference and which prevented me from bottoming out or hitting the deck. And with 63 grams of actuation force, the keys have a nice bounciness.
I do have two big gripes with the keyboard. First, it's not backlit, so nontouch typists will have trouble writing in the dark. Second, Lenovo shrunk several keys, including Backspace, in order to cram a numpad onto the deck.
I typed at 123 words per minute with an accuracy of 96% on the IdeaPad 330S, beating my averages of 119 wpm and 95% accuracy.
The IdeaPad 330S offers a favorable price-to-performance ratio. The laptop's Intel Core i5-8250U CPU and 8GB of RAM (with 16GB of Intel Optane memory) provide enough power for everyday multitasking. I noticed some brief pauses when loading 16 web pages in Google Chrome, but the IdeaPad 330S powered through and finished rendering each page without major stoppages. The laptop kept a steady pace, even while I streamed two 1080p videos on Twitch and another pair on YouTube. However, if you want the best speeds, go with an SSD because the hard disk drive in this machine is painfully slow.
The IdeaPad 330S scored a 12,307 on the Geekbench 4.1 overall performance test, which narrowly tops the scores from the Aspire 5 (11,391, Intel Core i5-8250U) and Inspiron 15 5000 (11,791, Intel Core i5-8250U) but crushes the Aspire E 15's result (7,871, Intel Core i3-8130U) and the mainstream laptop average (8,369).
On our file-transfer test, the IdeaPad 330S' sluggish 1TB, 5400-rpm hard drive needed 2 minutes and 51 seconds to duplicate 4.97GB of mixed-media files, for a rate of 29.8 megabytes per second. That sluggish pace is far slower than the results from the Aspire 5 (43.1 MBps, 1TB HDD) and Inspiron 15 5000 (130.5 MBps, 1TB HDD), as well as the mainstream laptop average (106.1 MBps). Only the Aspire E 15 (33.5 MBps, 1TB HDD) struggled about as badly as the IdeaPad 330S.
The IdeaPad 330S also finished dead last on our Excel macro test, which involves matching 65,000 names with their corresponding addresses. With a time of 2 minutes and 20 seconds, the IdeaPad finished the task after the Aspire 5 (1:23), Inspiron 15 5000 (1:11) and Aspire E 15 (2:12). If it's any consolation to the Lenovo machine, the average mainstream laptop is a tad slower (2:21).
Equipped with integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics, the IdeaPad 330S isn't meant for gaming. However, it'll do for casual gamers who want to run apps or play games at low graphics settings. The IdeaPad 330S scored a 57,791 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, netting a lower score than the Aspire 5 (67,490), Inspiron 15 5000 (69,943) and Aspire E 15 (63,817), while also falling short of the mainstream laptop average (61,450).
Get this: Avengers: Endgame has a longer runtime than the IdeaPad 330S. The machine lasted just 2 hours and 42 minutes on our battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits. The Aspire 5 (4:43), Inspiron 15 5000 (5:08) and Aspire E 15 (8:48) endured for several hours longer than the IdeaPad, and the average mainstream laptop can go for 6 hours and 35 minutes without a charge.
The 720p webcam located on the thin bezel above the IdeaPad 330S' display captures decent images. There was surprisingly little visual noise in a selfie I shot in our dimly lit room, and the lights above me weren't blown out. Unfortunately, my face looked a ghastly white and fine details, like strands of hair, were blurry.
The IdeaPad 330S remained cool throughout our testing, even after we played a 15-minute HD video in full screen. The hottest location, the bottom panel near the hinge, warmed to 88 degrees Fahrenheit, which is well below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
The center of the keyboard (86 degrees) and the touchpad (74 degrees) weren't much hotter than room temperature.
Despite having a poor display, the IdeaPad 330S is a good laptop, at least until you leave it unplugged for a few hours. There is simply no excusing the laptop's sub-3-hour runtime, especially given this midrange notebook's dim, low-resolution panel. That's a shame, because there's a lot to like about the IdeaPad 330S, from a sleek chassis to strong performance and a comfortable keyboard
At $499, the IdeaPad 330S doesn't hold up well against the Aspire E 15, a sub-$400 laptop with a 1080p display and nearly 9 hours of battery life. If you're OK with a smaller display, we recommend the Surface Go, a 10-inch tablet with a vivid, high-res panel. While the IdeaPad 330S is more powerful than both of these machines, short battery life and a poor display ruin the experience.
Credit: Laptop Mag