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Lenovo IdeaPad 320S review

A cheap, cheerful laptop that chafes a little

As you'd be right to expect from a low-end laptop, the performance of this machine is nothing to shout about.

It does, however, highlight something pretty significant: Intel's current Pentium line is no slouch in terms of raw performance.

The 320s-14IKB pulled in processor numbers not a million miles away from its (little) big brother, the Core i5 720S. It doesn't feel sluggish or neutered unless you attempt to game on it, and even then the integrated Intel 610 chipset puts up a valiant (if rather feeble) fight.

The Time Spy benchmark didn't find enough resources on board the 320S to run; with only integrated graphics on offer, Time Spy's rather hefty requirements weren't met by this non-gaming machine.

However, the Harman sound system is clear, thick and pleasant. While watching movies is a sometimes futile exercise in neck positioning and screen slanting, at least you'll be able to hear them well.

Benchmarks

Here’s how the Lenovo 320s-14IKB performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Sky Diver: 2158; Fire Strike: 474; Time Spy: DNF
Cinebench CPU: 240 points; Graphics: 25.18 fps
GeekBench: 2604 (single-core); 4884 (multi-core)
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2373 points
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 2 hours and 51 minutes
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 4 hours and 3 minutes

What's missing

There are some niceties that we've come to expect from today's laptops, many of which you won't find here. We've already mentioned the sub-optimal screen, and there's no backlighting on the keyboard. It also retains Lenovo's rather awkward key layout, including the too-close-to-backspace power button.

This particular 320S is also not terribly efficient, exhibiting a rather disappointing battery life, and while its SSD surely helps it stay responsive, 128GB storage is really not adequate for a modern machine.

We liked

Although much of its makeup grates, the overall package – a solid, fast-enough laptop in a damn handsome shell – means the Pentium edition of the IdeaPad 320S punches above its price.

If you're only looking for something for light internet, office and general desktop use, it's solid.

We disliked

There's a typical slew of budget-price parts on offer, a lacking battery, and pretty much everything that would have been nice to have is not included. 

Perhaps we're asking too much, but with stronger members of the IdeaPad 320S line already dropping in price to the same level, this Pentium machine doesn't do quite enough.

Final verdict

It's hard to know whether it's OK to be disappointed in a machine that costs so little, but here we are, slightly underwhelmed. Applause to the processor inside for putting up such a plucky fight, and Lenovo's chassis – wonky keyboard and all – is worthy of high praise. This certainly doesn't look or feel like the budget laptops of old.

The rest of it, though? How 1920x1080 is not now the absolute standard for screens we'll never know, particularly given that budget devices are pouring out of China which manage full HD panels for pennies. A stronger battery life would have been a big benefit, and we'd have gladly sacrificed that SSD for a little more storage space.