Lenovo’s first attempt at a truly budget gaming laptop with the IdeaPad branding isn’t half bad.
For just $989, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) offers a strong Intel Core i7-10750H processor and solid Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU as well as decent battery life and a comfortable keyboard. Despite that, the 15.6-inch display is a hard miss due to its bland colors, and the system itself could’ve used a third USB Type-A port.
While it’s not one of the best cheap gaming laptops we’ve tested, overall, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i is a solid budget gaming laptop.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) price and configuration options
I tested the most expensive Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i model , which still put it at $989, just within the entry-level gaming laptop range. It comes with an Intel Core i7-10750H processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 with 4GB of VRAM, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 120Hz display.
CPU: Intel Core i7-10750H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 120Hz
Size: 14.13 x 9.83 x 0.98 inches
Weight: 4.8 pounds
The $919 mid-tier model brings you down to an Intel Core i5-10300H CPU, but upgrades your GPU to a GTX 1650 Ti, while the rest of the components remain the same. The base model runs for $839 and comes with the same Core i5 CPU, a GTX 1650 GPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 60Hz display.
If you’re looking for something a little more pricey, you might want to check out our best gaming laptops page.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) design
The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i’s Onyx Black chassis is unassuming. I wouldn’t have guessed it was a gaming laptop at first glance due to the lack of any symbols or icons apart from a simple Lenovo logo in the top left corner. What’s unique about the design is that instead of featuring a simple square shape, the corners curve slightly inwards, and the lid ever so gently curves downward, like the hood of a car.
Unfortunately, the interior isn’t as discreet due to the light blue keyboard font mixed with the light blue backlighting. The power button is centered just above the keyboard, and there’s a blue IdeaPad Gaming logo on the hinge. While the bottom and top bezel are a little thicker than I’d like, the side bezels are pleasantly narrow. Surprisingly, the webcam is not only above the screen, it also features a privacy shutter.
At 4.8 pounds and 14.13 x 9.83 x 0.98 inches, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i is relatively slim for a 15-inch laptop. The HP Gaming Pavilion 15-dk0046nr (5 pounds, 14.2 x 10.1 x 0.9 inches), Acer Nitro 5 (2019) (5.7 pounds, 15.9 x 11 x 1.1 inches) and Dell G5 15 SE (2019) (5.6 pounds, 14.3 x 10.8 x 1 inches) are all heavier than the IdeaPad.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) ports
On the left side, there’s the power jack, an RJ45 Ethernet port, an HDMI port, one USB Type-A port, one USB Type-C port, a headphone jack, a Novo hole and a power indicator. Meanwhile, the right side is home to only one USB Type-A port.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) display
There are cheap gaming displays, then there are cheap gaming displays, and this falls under the latter in terms of color. The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i’s 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 display boasts a 120Hz refresh rate and is decently bright, but the color is absolutely dismal.
In the recent trailer for Ava, the titular character’s red dress was muted and looked as dull as one of the lamps in the background. In the establishing nighttime shot of the airplane, I was able to make out the details in the clouds and the aircraft, despite how dark it was. The strands of hair leaping from Colin Farrell’s moustache was pretty sharp, too.
When I played Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara Croft’s blue tank top was pale alongside with the dull green foliage that surrounded her. While traversing the shadowy parts of the forest, I could still make out the details of a Jaguar’s fur in the distance. When I cranked down the settings, nocking my arrow and releasing from my bow looked super smooth on the display.
According to our colorimeter, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i’s panel covered a measly 58% of the sRGB color gamut, falling short of the 73% budget gaming laptop average. It couldn’t even match its weakest competitor, the Pavilion 15 (66%), let alone reach the levels of its more colorful competitors, the Nitro 5 (103%) and the G5 15 (154%).
At 278 nits, IdeaPad Gaming 3i’s screen surprisingly surpassed the 269-nit brightness category average as well as its competitors; The Pavilion 15 (241 nits), Nitro 5 (275 nits) and G5 15 (270 nits) couldn’t keep up with the IdeaPad.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) keyboard and touchpad
Typing on the IdeaPad Gaming 3i’s shallow keys wasn’t as unpleasant as I expected, as each key delivered a somewhat clicky feedback. The keyboard was comfortable to type on thanks to the way it dips into the chassis and the texture of the palm rests below.
I sped through 77 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is just short of my current 78-wpm average. The keys felt pleasantly heavy to click on, but would have benefited from more key travel.
Unfortunately, the keyboard doesn’t have any RGB-key lighting. Instead, it is stuck with one color: a light blue, which matches the font of the keyboard. The color isn’t bad, but when the font of the keyboard matches the backlighting, it tends to look gross (with the exception being white).
The touchpad was pleasantly soft and smooth and offered a decent click on top of that. Windows 10 gestures, like two-finger scrolling and three-finger tabbing, worked well thanks to the Windows Precision drivers.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) audio
The IdeaPad Gaming 3i’s side-firing speakers are a little too sharp and don’t pack enough bass.
In Nico Collins’ “Alone,” the percussion opened the song with a sharp and hollow beat, which already told me everything I needed to know about the bass, or lack thereof. The vocals were crisp, albeit a bit sharp. However, during the chorus, all the instruments sounded like they were colliding instead of existing separately.
In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara’s voice was full and weighty. The wildlife that surrounded me, as well as the crashing rocks nearby, were a little too sharp on the ears and sounded more distant than they actually were. The intense percussion that played in the background during a tense puzzle sequence was too soft and didn’t have enough bass to carry the moment.
The laptop comes with the Dolby Audio software, which offers presets for Movie, Music, Game and Voice. The software helped make the audio sound brighter and louder, but you can’t adjust the presets. However, you can customize the audio via an equalizer, but that won’t be useful to you unless you know what you’re doing.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) gaming, graphics and VR
In the underbelly of the IdeaPad Gaming 3i lies a modest Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of VRAM, which was able to run Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 32 fps on the Highest settings at 1080p as I hopped and skipped my butt around a jungle for hours on end.
On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i averaged 33 fps, sliding past the 27-fps budget gaming laptop average. With the same GPUs, the Pavilion 15 and Nitro 5 underperformed, at 29 fps and 30 fps, respectively, while the G5 15 nailed 37 fps.
The IdeaPad Gaming 3i hit 58 fps on the Hitman benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), climbing over the 57-fps category average. The Pavilion 15 matched the average and the Nitro 5 was one frame short, at 56 fps, all the while, the G5 15 excelled with 85 fps.
On the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (Very High, 1080p), the IdeaPad Gaming 3i nailed 41 fps, surpassing the 37-fps budget gaming laptop average. It also narrowly sailed past the Pavilion 15 (39 fps), Nitro 5 (40 fps) and G5 15 (40 fps).
When it came to running the Far Cry New Dawn benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), the IdeaPad Gaming 3i averaged 48 fps, which fell under the Pavilion 15 (54 fps) and Nitro 5 (51 fps).
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) performance
What makes this machine stand out among the rest is its new Intel Core i7-10750H processor packed with 8GB of RAM all for under $1,000. It managed to juggle 40 Google Chrome tabs and five YouTube videos without a hitch.
On the Geekbench 4.3 overall performance test, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i scored 20,911, flying over the 16,756 budget gaming laptop average. It defeated the Core i5-9300H CPU in the Nitro 5 (14,432) and G5 15 (16,722) with ease, but surprisingly, it barely lost to the Pavilion 15’s Core i7-9750H (21,326).
The IdeaPad Gaming 3i transcoded a 4K video to 1080p on the HandBrake benchmark in just 10 minutes and 41 seconds, flying by the 13:34 category average. It also just beat the Pavilion 15 (10:42) and tore up the Nitro 5 (15:33) and G5 15 (14:31).
Lenovo’s 512GB SSD copied 4.97GB of data in 10.7 seconds, translating to 476 megabytes per second, which is over 100MBps faster than the budget gaming laptop average (356MBps). The 256GB SSD in the Pavillion 15 and G5 15 scored 351MBps and 130MBps, while the Nitro 5’s 512GB SSD climbed up to 536MBps.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) battery life
For a budget gaming laptop, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i offers a decent enough battery life. It continuously surfed the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness and stopped after 5 hours and 40 minutes, which is slightly longer than the 5:17 budget gaming laptop average. The Pavilion 15 (5:26) and Nitro 5 (4:22) didn’t last quite as long, while the G5 15 kicked ass for an hour longer, surviving 6:53.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) webcam
The 720p shooter in the IdeaPad Gaming 3i took images that look like they came from a flip phone.
The test shots were pixely and blotchy to the point where all of the detail in my hair was a blur. It translated the blue tape on the wall behind me into pure black. To top it off, the poor contrast nearly blew out most of the window, save for a few patches of outside greenery. If you plan on streaming, take a look at our best webcams page.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) heat
Thanks to its plastic chassis, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i didn’t get too hot under the hood. After streaming a 15-minute, 1080p video, the underside hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just slightly above our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the keyboard and touchpad measured 89 and 77 degrees, respectively. At its hottest, the machine was 105 degrees on the left rear-center underside, just in front of the vents.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15-inch) software and warranty
Thankfully, the only real app that Lenovo shoves in the IdeaPad Gaming 3i is Lenovo Vantage, which packs a ton of performance features for gaming, such as status updates on your CPU, GPU, RAM and storage. You can customize your fan speed, Wi-Fi settings and even charging settings. The app also includes a section for warranty support as well as the option to initiate hardware scans and system updates.
Apart from that app, there’s also some Windows 10 bloatware, such as Candy Crush Friends, Farm Heroes Saga and Disney Magic Kingdoms.
Overall, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i offers you strong performance, decent battery life and a comfortable enough keyboard in a package under $1,000. However, it might be tough to move past the dull display and the limited number of USB Type-A ports.
If you’re looking for an alternative, you can spend roughly $100 more for the Dell G5 15 SE (2019), which offers a vivid display, longer battery life and three USB ports. It seems like a great trade-off for just an additional $100.
However, if you’re looking for a cheap gaming laptop to get by, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i will serve you well, as long as you’re not a stickler for displays.