Lenovo IdeaPad 720S review

A compact laptop with plenty of power

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

Tight bezel, decent CPU, and dedicated graphics, all crammed in to an almost impossibly small slimline aluminium case. Nice.

For

  • Great overall performance
  • Beautiful design
  • Discrete graphics offers extra options

Against

  • Slightly awkward keyboard
  • Middling battery life
  • Loud fan

There are literally hundreds of 14-inch laptops on the market. If you want your kit to stand out, it's a sector where innovation absolutely matters. Lenovo hasn't thrown traditional laptop design out of the window with the IdeaPad 720S, and nor should it have done, but this is far from a run of the mill machine.

If anything, the 720S – also known as the Lenovo IdeaPad 80XC – seems poised for a bare-knuckle battle with Dell's slightly-dinkier XPS 13, probably one of the best all-around laptops in the world. 

It has a similar slim bezel design, a comparatively compact, luxurious frame, and even goes one better with a discrete graphics solution on board. But is it punching above its weight?

Spec Sheet

Here is the Lenovo 720S configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 2.5GHz Kaby Lake Intel Core i5 7200U (Dual-core, 3MB cache, turbo boost up to 3.1GHz)
Graphics: NVIDIA NVIDIA GeForce 940MX (4GB GDDR5 RAM), Intel HD Graphics 620
RAM: 8GB DDR4 SDRAM
Screen: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 IPS LED
Storage: 256GB SATA SSD
Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x HDMI, 1 x USB Type-C, SD reader, audio multi-jack
Connectivity: Intel PRO Wireless AC 7260 + BT Wireless LAN Combo
Camera: Built-in HD webcam
Weight: 3.4 pounds (1.55kg)
Size: 15.35 x 10.47 x 0.78 inches (38.9 x 26.6 x 1.98cm; W x D x H)

Price and availability

The IdeaPad 720S pushes itself out of the mid-range bracket in terms of its cost. In the US comes with an MSRP of $969.99, though hunt around and you'll find it slightly cheaper. The UK price is £949.99 which obviously includes VAT and the typical UK markup, although again, it's potentially available for less if you shop around. And it's not yet available in Australia, though we'd expect a price somewhere in the region of AU$1,600 when it does land.

There's a single specification on offer, so you'll take your Core i5 and like it, though this is a highly-engineered device so we'll forgive Lenovo's skimping on the options. In terms of the competition, it's cheaper than a similarly specced model of Dell's XPS 13 ($999/£1,149/AU$1,599), handily squashes HP's thinner and far lighter Spectre Pro 13 ($1,169/£1,362).

That said, it's not the cheapest Kaby Lake Core i5 machine on the market by any means. Asus's 15.6-inch VivoBook Slim, for example, can be found for a full £200 less, and sports the same processor and the company's similarly-tight Nano Edge screen.

Design

Despite its 14-inch panel, the 720S is incredibly compact – a heavily reduced slim bezel (not quite the equal of the XPS 13, but still immensely handsome) means more machine in less space. 

The reduced keyboard has a few compromises; while it's neatly backlit, it stuffs the directional arrows into the space of three keys, and inexplicably includes the power button as a keyboard key directly next to Delete and Backspace. It's not instantly triggered on pressing, so this isn't as boneheaded as it sounds, but it's still an odd choice.

There's still room for a large multitouch trackpad, a fingerprint sensor, and just enough ports that it doesn't seem neutered. And the aluminium case itself is clearly squashing some serious hardware inside, as the 720S weighs in at a not inconsiderable 3.4lbs. It's not back-breaking by any means, but definitely unusually weighty for a machine of this size.

Screen and sound

One thing seems to play off against another on the 720S. On one hand, the IPS screen has tremendous viewing angles; on the other, it tops out at a resolution of 1920x1080, not even tacking on the extra 120 vertical pixels that many modern panels manage. Yes, we're being picky.

There's also a decent JBL-engineered, Dolby-infused sound system on board, with surprising audio thickness for such a diminutive laptop, but you'll often struggle to hear it over the wind tunnel blast of the 720S's infernal fan cooling system. 

It's one of the loudest laptops we've ever used when under stress. To be fair, that cooling really works – the 720S barely even gets warm to the touch – but it whirrs at a truly irritating pitch.