Lenovo positions its new V-series V330 laptop as “value-conscious without sacrificing performance.” The first part of that statement is true—the V330 won’t break the bank for small-office or home-office buyers and budget-strapped businesses, given its $599 starting price. But when it comes to pep, in both formal benchmark tests and in everyday use, this budget-minded laptop exacts some sacrifices. The big question with the V330: Is a solid mainstream feature set—a 15-inch 1080p display, a full keyboard, and a terabyte of storage—worth that performance trade-off? All told, we’d say no: We’d opt for the 15-inch Asus VivoBook S15 in this price range instead.
The Full Fifteen
As you might expect from a laptop equipped with a 15.6-inch display and a full-size keyboard, the V330 has a sprawling footprint. That said, at 0.9 inch thick, it’s thin enough to slip into a bag with relative ease.
Its gray casing has a brushed-metal finish that looks professional, at least until it gets covered with fingerprints. And it will be covered—I left so many traces on the lid just taking the V330 out of its packaging that it looks like a prop salvaged from the set of CSI.
More concerning, I jumped when I opened the V330 for the first time and heard a snapping sound. It was the display’s bezel popping into place. I didn’t note other excessive flex in the chassis, but a pop isn’t a sound you want to hear when you pry open a laptop lid. In fairness to the machine, that never happened again, and there was no damage to the laptop.
Examining the bezel did draw my attention to my favorite aspect of the chassis, though: an integrated webcam security shutter built into the top edge. It’s nice to have a physical obstacle preventing unwanted snooping in case digital safeguards fail…
The V330’s hinge is also fairly sturdy, which is good, since it swivels open to 180 degrees…
I haven’t found much use for that lie-flat ability, though. The lack of touch support in the screen means I can’t use the V330 as a tablet, and the inability to rotate the display all the way around to the back of the case means it can’t be propped up in a presentation or entertainment mode. Apps don’t automatically rotate onscreen when the display is opened, either, so you’re better off turning around the V330 altogether than dropping its lid flat to share the screen. But having the option doesn’t hurt.
Not that anyone will be missing anything if you keep the display to yourself. Lenovo claims the V330 has an anti-glare coating, but I wrote much of this review on the machine while staring at my knuckles’ reflection in the panel. Colors also seem muted, with black levels a bit blue-tinged, and the whole display is dim even at high brightness. It’s hard to recommend the V330 for color-precise creative work or simply enjoying a video.
Text does look sharp on the 1080p display, so professionals will find it serviceable enough for work. But this screen is no prime panel.
On ThinkPads, Input Should Be a Strength…
Next up: the keyboard. It feels similar to the keyboard on the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S I recently reviewed, with the obvious addition of a number pad. Those keys are accompanied by dedicated media controls: play/pause, stop, back, and forward. Having those dedicated keys frees up several function keys to let you disable various hardware, from the webcam and microphone to the touchpad and speakers, which is a welcome convenience. (Pro tip: Being able to quickly kill a microphone is particularly useful if you live with a dog.)
The keyboard is also comfortable to use for extended periods. I typed 114 words per minute (wpm) with four errors, for an effective rate of 110wpm. That stacks up well to other laptops I’ve used in recent weeks and to the full-size keyboard I use at my desktop. My only real complaint about the V330’s keyboard is the small Backspace key; I often end up hitting the adjacent Num Lock instead. Otherwise, the keyboard is comfortable to use and hasn’t caused any problems for me.
Would that I could say the same for the V330’s touchpad. I found it tricky to right-click on demand, highlighting text requires surgical precision, and sometimes even left-clicking on an item was frustrating. I can usually learn how to avoid these problems, or at least live with them, but on the V330 these issues occurred so often that I wanted to dodge using the pad entirely.
Scrolling was the hardest part. On the default setting, moving my fingers even the tiniest bit would send me flying up or down the page. Figuring out how to change the sensitivity was a journey. You have to go to Windows 10’s Control Panel, open Mouse Properties, select ELAN, hit Options, find the Multi-finger option in the ELAN app, then find the Scrolling options. The reward for all that effort? Scant change in some apps, molasses-creep scrolling in others.
Most people won’t go through all those steps; they’ll just make do with the default setting. Since I’ve already established that the V330 will appeal mostly to professionals who need to navigate documents, spreadsheets, and the like quickly, that is a serious compromise to have to make. At least the touchpad is aligned under the keyboard spacebar instead of centered on the chassis itself, making it easier to reach when you’re typing on the main bank of QWERTY keys.
Audio Needs Help, Connectivity Is Good
The V330’s speakers are unremarkable and suffer from the same problems as other dual speakers cut into the bottom of a laptop case…
Sounds never quite ring true, with high notes in particular sounding muffled, and placing the laptop on anything other than a perfectly flat, audio-reflective surface makes it even harder to hear anything. That might not bother cubicle-dwellers who should be using headphones, anyway, but it does make watching or listening to something in the open less than optimal.
As for the connections, you get a set that’s predictable for a 15-incher, but above average for a budget machine. On the left, you can see Lenovo’s AC-adapter port (no charging over USB-C here), a VGA output (for legacy displays and projectors), a fold-open Ethernet port, a full-size HDMI out, a USB 3.0 port with charging ability when the laptop’s powered down, and a USB Type-C port.
On the other side, you’ll see a full-size SD-card slot, a headphone/mic combo jack, a second USB 3.0 port, and a cable-lockdown notch.
The big plastic spacer you see on this side, between the last two items, is a panel for an optional DVD drive. This test model didn’t include one.
Dragged Down by a Hard Drive
In benchmark testing and in day-to-day usage, the V330 was a tale of two laptops.
The V330 feels sluggish in everyday use—it often takes at least five seconds to launch Google Chrome and even longer to open Slack—but it performed reasonably well, or at least on-point for its CPU, in our formal benchmark tests. Compared to laptops with the same Intel Core i5-8250U processor (or similar chips), the V330 actually came away with the best or second-best results in three benchmarks, while delivering the second-worst results in two others.
Why the mismatch between the testing and reality, in this case? The fact that it uses a conventional hard drive rather than an SSD for a boot drive. That, no doubt, is the culprit behind the sluggish program launches and the poky overall feel. This is reflected in some formal tests, but not others.
For starters, Lenovo’s budget warrior took second place in our Handbrake and Cinebench R15 benchmarks within this competitive set…
The Asus VivoBook S15 took first place on those two trials. The V330 fared worst in the PCMark 8 Work Conventional productivity test and in the battery rundown trial. The PCMark 8 result of 2,970 bested only one of the machines here. On the battery rundown test, the V330 landed more than three hours behind the two leading Asus machines. Eight hours is not bad, mind you, but for a laptop, those few hours are important.
Next up, graphics benchmarks…
No surprises in the graphics testing here, as the V330 uses the Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics on the Core i5 CPU. You can see the major difference that even a modest dedicated chip makes, like the GeForce MX GPU in the MSI PS42 8RB.
In short, this is not a gaming laptop, nor does it have any aspiration to be. You might be able to squeak out playable frame rates if you dial down the resolution far from the native 1080p and push the detail settings in the game way down. But Intel HD or UHD silicon is nothing if not predictable.
Stake Me an SSD, and a New Screen
Lenovo’s positioning and pricing of the V330 is supposed to get the laptop into professionals’ hands. A typical office-goer might not have many problems with these benchmark results. After all, keeping the same Excel spreadsheet open all day with the laptop plugged in (and its entertainment value not a factor) could mitigate the V330’s performance deficiencies.
Outside that kind of scenario, however, using the Lenovo V330 requires you to resign yourself to using a slightly sluggish laptop with a mediocre screen and no major standout features. We’ve tested better models from Acer, Asus, and even Lenovo itself; look at the models linked above for some better bets for the same money, or close enough to it to be worth the splurge.