Lenovo’s IdeaPad 530S is a modest-but-dependable 15-inch laptop that has a few perks for a mainstream machine. The $699 model in hand here features an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU clocked at 1.6GHz, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). None of that hardware is bowl-you-over impressive, but it will get the job done for most users who aren’t PC gamers or video editors, and the IdeaPad 530S handles day-to-day tasks with aplomb. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Lenovo opts for a simple, sleek chassis design that doesn’t attract too much attention, while pulling positive ergonomic elements from other Lenovo machines. On the whole, this is a solid-enough mainstream machine that gets most of the essentials right, though we’d also look at models such as the latest Acer Aspire E 15 and the Asus VivoBook F510UA as examples of slightly less costly 15-inchers that deliver fine value.
Big Screen, Trim Shell
You’ll find all the usual connectivity options for a 15.6-inch-class laptop along this IdeaPad’s edges. You get two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.1 Type-C port, an HDMI port, a four-format flash-card reader, and a dual-mode audio jack. It also offers Bluetooth 4.1 compatibility and supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi connections.
Examine the left side of the laptop, and you’ll spot an LED battery indicator. The power adapter also plugs into this edge. It is capable of getting the IdeaPad 530S back to two hours of battery life after 15 minutes of charging, assuming that the laptop is powered off and you’re using the bundled 65-watt charger.
Those ports are housed in an aluminum case that’s just large enough to accommodate them. The IdeaPad 530S is only 0.65 inch thick, 9.6 inches deep, and 14.1 inches wide, and the diagonal-cut edges make it feel even smaller in hand.
Lenovo also surrounds the 15.6-inch 1080p display with narrow (0.23-inch-wide) bezels on the left and right sides, with the top bezel just slightly roomier to fit the 720p camera. Combine that with a weight of just 3.7 pounds, and even I, a staunch proponent of 13-inch laptops as the mobility ideal, am impressed by how compact the IdeaPad 530S is given the screen size.
I’m less thrilled by the display. It’s not bad—it successfully thwarted my attempts to make screen glare a problem, and it has wide viewing angles. Much like Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber, however, it’s not particularly bright. Anything less than maximum brightness was hard to see in dimly lit rooms, and even on the highest setting, the display was still much darker than any other screen in my home. This indirectly made all of the colors seem muted, too, which is a bit of a bummer if you want to use that big-ol’ display to catch up on some videos.
Lenovo puts the use of Harman speakers at the center of its IdeaPad 530S marketing, with the claim being that it can get louder than competitors without sacrificing clarity. Sounds don’t get tinny when the volume’s cranked up—and the IdeaPad 530S does get plenty loud—but anything beyond that could just be the placebo effect. It does suffer the same problem as other laptops that have their speakers venting out the bottom of the case, which is that audio is muffled on soft surfaces. Even Harman’s speakers can’t seem to defeat the denim factor.
Another serviceable but not extraordinary aspect of the IdeaPad 530S is its touchpad. I don’t have the same grade of beef with it that I did with the Avita Clarus‘ giant, promising-looking one, but I do occasionally make accidental right-clicks, and selecting text is a consistent lesson in frustration. Either way, I’m able to get through the day with minimal issues, and that’s good enough for me. Just don’t expect using the touchpad to be competely glitch-free, and it should serve you well.
I’m more enamored with the keyboard on the IdeaPad 530S. The keys are easy to find when touch-typing and don’t feel as abrasive as the flat-topped keys used by other laptops. But comfort doesn’t translate to speed: I scored 102 words per minute (wpm) with three errors in Typing Test’s “Aesop’s Fable” test for an effective 99wpm. That’s 2wpm fewer than I score with my Logitech G Pro, and 3wpm fewer than I achieved on the Clarus’ keyboard, which I liked less. I think part of the issue lies with the distance between the keyboard and the case’s edge; it’s a lot of space to have to reach over.
The overall performance feel is, if not notable, snappy enough. The machine wakes from sleep quickly, and I don’t notice any hitches when opening a lot of media-heavy browser tabs at the same time. I also found that I could work comfortably while switching through various office-typical programs that I had open. The only real complaint is the fan—it seems to spin up pretty often, and while it’s not as loud the ones I’ve heard on some other laptops (especially gaming-oriented machines), I definitely notice the whine if I’m not playing music or movie sound through the speakers. The whine doesn’t appear to be related to what I’m doing. The fan just seems to kick in at frequent intervals.
Performance Testing: Solid i5 Citizen
These solid-citizen impressions are borne out in benchmark testing. Comparing the IdeaPad 530S to similarly outfitted laptops such as the Acer Spin 3, Asus VivoBook F510UA, and Lenovo’s own ThinkPad L580 shows a middle-of-the-road performer that stood out only on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test.
Most of these machines use the same CPU as the 530S (that specific Core i5 is a staple of mainstream and budget machines) and thus don’t show a huge spread in performance in our charts below. The IdeaPad 530S scored 3,378 on that PCMark 8 test, and the next-highest performer was the ThinkPad L580, which notched in just below at 3,309, within the margin of error. (Higher is better.) The other machines clocked in a bit lower, with all but the Y-series-based Clarus within close striking distance of one another and the IdeaPad 530S.
The PCMark 8 Work Conventional test aside, the IdeaPad 530S was neither the best nor the worst performer in several other benchmark tests I ran. Its 3DMark Cloud Gate result was competitive. So it was on the CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test: The IdeaPad 530S scored 549, which edged out the Spin 3’s score of 529 but paled in comparison to the VivoBook F510UA’s 703. (Though using the same CPU, the VivoBook likely features slightly better thermal management, or more bulk to its cooler inside, to sustain a higher score on this CPU-heavy trial.)
One potential bright spot for the IdeaPad 530S is its battery. It lasted 10 hours and 34 minutes (10:34) in the course of the PC Labs video-playback rundown test, in which the laptop is tasked with playing a continuous video file of The Lord of the Rings trilogy with the brightness set to 50 percent and all wireless bands turned off. It was surpassed, by just a smidge, in this group by the ThinkPad L580’s 10:48 runtime. Both are much longer than the results from the Spin 3, the VivoBook, and the Clarus.
Of course, screen brightness is a likely big factor here. It’s hard not to think the IdeaPad 530S had a bit of an unfair advantage because of how dark its display is; all else being equal, pushing more lumens means eating more energy. Sure, you can watch a movie for 10-and-a-half hours with it, but do you want to?
Slim Bezels, Mainstream Appeal
At this writing, the IdeaPad 530S was a $699 model, with the option to pay $749 for a version with an upticked Core i7 U-series CPU. That’s less than the ThinkPad L580, which is available from Lenovo starting at $915, but more than the Spin 3. If you’re looking for a dependable laptop with a trim look and a trim price, plus a long-lasting battery, this IdeaPad entry has plenty of appeal. You’ll just want to make sure and take a peek at the slightly dim display before you buy, to see if that’s a no-go for your eyes.