Buying a budget laptop usually involves trade-offs, and Lenovo's G50-45 is no exception. You get a relatively bright display and fairly solid quad-core AMD performance for just $299, but the design and keyboard leave something to be desired. The biggest trade-off is the short battery life. The G50-45 is worth considering if you're on a really tight budget, but overall, it's not one of the best laptops you can buy.
While the G50-45 is not unappealing or uncomfortable to use, it looks just as inexpensive as its $300 price tag would suggest. Its black plastic case, deck (don't let the machined texture fool you) and glossy bezel look and feel disposable.
On the left edge of the G50-45, you'll find a VGA port, an Ethernet port, HDMI port, a USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port. The right side has a headphone/mic jack, a 2-in-1 (SD/MMC) card reader, another USB 2.0 port, a DVD-RW drive and a Kensington lock slot.
Measuring 15.12 x 10.43 x .98 inches and weighing in at 4.6 pounds, the G50-45 is one of the sveltest budget laptops we've seen. The Inspiron 15 5000 (5.11 pounds) and the Asus X555LA (5 pounds) put more heft in your bag during transit.
Display and Audio
Watching the trailer for American Ultra on the G50-45's 15.6-inch HD (1366 x 768) display, the small text in the background looked crisp, unlike the screens on the X555LA and the Inspiron 15, which rendered that same text fuzzily.
The screen on the G50-45 is also the brightest in its price range, with an average of 238 nits of brightness. That helped the laptop stand out from the others during head-to-head comparisons, giving fiery explosions more pop.
While I was able to get a lot of volume out of the G50-45 by raising the audio to 100 percent, the sound quality was subpar. The bass on Jay Z and Kanye West's "No Church in The Wild" sounded muffled, and the highs on Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" were below the peaks they should have been reaching.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Webcam
While some may associate Lenovo with the amazing keyboards on the company's ThinkPad notebooks, the G50-45's keyboard was the worst of the budget laptop keyboards I encountered. Not only are they scalloped on the bottom, many of my clicks also didn't register, leading to my worst 10FastFingers typing test result: 49 words per minute with a low 89 percent accuracy. By comparison, I notched 63 wpm on the Asus X555LA with 98 percent accuracy.
My difficulty typing on the G50-45 is partially due to the keys only having 1.35 millimeters of travel -- shorter than both the X555LA (1.55 mm) and the Inspiron 15 5000 (1.5 mm), the latter being the amount of travel we look for in a notebook keyboard.
The G50-45 opts for a traditional touchpad with dedicated mouse buttons, as opposed to a more modern, clickable touchpad.
The G50-45's webcam originally shot photos that were about as low-quality and grainy as any laptop can take, but once I updated the machine to Windows 10, the camera was also upgraded. I didn't see this jump in quality from the Aspire E5 or the Asus X555LA, but see for yourself. The photo I captured after the jump to Windows 10 was in better lighting, but the leap in photo quality is too large to attribute it to the setting.
Powered by a 2-GHz AMD quad-core A8-6410 processor with 6GB RAM, the G50-45 handled a dozen open tabs in Chrome (which included TweetDeck, Facebook, email and both streaming video and music) with the Camera app open and a full system scan running, all with ease. Adding another dozen tabs -- simulating the activity I put my laptop through every day -- slowed the system a little, but not as much as the Aspire E5 did.
The Geekbench 3 benchmark test, which measures overall performance, gave the G50-45 a good score of 3,759, which is above average (3,522) for recent budget notebooks. Unfortunately, its score is lower than both the Inspiron 15 5000 (4,432) and X555LA (4,220).
The G50-45 took a whopping 11 minutes and 48 seconds to match 20,000 names to their addresses on our spreadsheet test, much slower than the Inspiron 15 5000 (7:06) as well as the category average (9:28) for budget laptops we've recently tested.
Putting the G50-45 through a multitasking test, we opened a 69MB Word document while a 1080p video played in the background. The Lenovo laptop took 40.9 seconds to complete the task, faster than the budget laptop category average (52 seconds) and the Inspiron 15 5000 (41.2 seconds), but slower than the X555LA (34.6 seconds).
While we wouldn't go out buying a budget laptop with the intent to game, the G50-45 ran World of Warcraft (with resolution at 1366 x 768 and automatic graphics) at a respectable 35 frames per second. That's above our 30-fps standard for smooth gaming, the category average (28.7 fps) and the Inspiron 15 5000 (28.9 fps).
Battery Life and Heat
Larger laptops like the G50-45 tend to stay out of commutes due to their size and weight, but even among 15-inch systems this notebook offers poor battery life. The notebook lasted only 4 hours and 22 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (Web surfing over Wi-Fi with the screen at 100 nits), which is shorter than the category average (5:10) and the worst time among six budget laptops tested.
If you decide to use the G50-45 in your lap, though, you won't need to worry about getting burned. After 15 minutes of streaming-HD video, the laptop's keyboard, touchpad and underside only measured 87, 89 and 89 degrees, respectively, staying below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
The G50-45 may have some software preloaded, but those programs (iHeartRadio, Flipboard, Kindle and Evernote) are well-regarded enough that you won't be jumping to delete them.
At just $299, the Lenovo G50-45 is an affordable laptop with a bright screen and good performance for the price. However, the short battery life is disappointing, and the keyboard doesn't live up to the Lenovo brand. Although it costs $100 more, we recommend the Dell Inspiron 15 5000 ($399) because of its better build quality, longer endurance and better typing experience.