By David Gonzales
Is there still room in this world for low-end laptops? This is the question that Lenovo begs you to consider with its Intel-powered IdeaPad 100 notebook. It’s no top-shelf performer, but it’s not outright terrible either. Apparently, it’s meant to go head-to-head against Chromebooks. After spending a few long weeks with it, here now is our Lenovo IdeaPad 100 review.
Design and build
In terms of design, the Lenovo IdeaPad 100 is, for lack of a better term, simple. It’s so simple that it can be described thusly: it looks like just another laptop on the market today. That is, the design is not outrageous or flashy, but it certainly doesn’t look cheap.
The IdeaPad 100 uses mostly black body and has a bit of a carbon fiber texture laid out on its lid. It has a full-sized keyboard, a large trackpad with left and right click buttons, as well as an entire row of peripheral ports on the left side and a full DVD writer on the right.
Judging by the bareness of the IdeaPad 100’s design, it’s no surprise that it’s meant mainly as a budget-friendly notebook model. It has minimal physical features, but outright support for the latest Microsoft OS. Yes, the default operating system is none other than Windows 10, which we’ll get to in a bit.
Physically, the 15-inch IdeaPad 100 is fairly slim but heavy. It has a solid build that’s not that prone to flexing and offers a fair amount of tactile feedback and average multi-touch gesture support on the trackpad.
The display is large and is somewhat finicky when it comes to viewing angles. And although it offers native HD content support — with its resolution of 1366×768 pixels — it’s not as good as one could have hoped on a 15-inch model. The screen isn’t the worst thing we’ve seen from a budget laptop, but it certainly could have been a lot better. At least, it seems to best some of its main competitors from other brands.
Software and performance
With Windows 10 running on the IdeaPad 100 right out of the box, you may be able to get a taste of what the latest OS from Redmond has to offer. The operative word there being “may” since the IdeaPad 100’s low specs make it struggle in certain tasks.
Our review unit is decked out with a speedy and capable quad-core Intel Celeron processor. It comes with 2GB of RAM, uses Intel HD graphics, and relies on a 5400 RPM hard drive. That last bit there is the main cause of most problems that you may encounter with the IdeaPad 100. From the slow boot time to the occasional freeze-ups, you’ll have that slow and rather old storage format to blame.
With that said, the IdeaPad 100 does hit its stride after a few minutes of use. Regular benchmark tests yielded fairly low to average results, and the real world usage performance shows pretty much the same. But once the system has warmed up, so to speak, you can get a lot out of the IdeaPad 100’s entry-level innards as far as performing low-level computing tasks is concerned.
For instance, the IdeaPad 100 is a great laptop for typing. With its large keys on the full-size keyboard, you’ll have no trouble typing out long documents or emails. And if you need to navigate the screen, you can easily rely on the trackpad which supports a handful of multi-touch gestures. The sad thing about the trackpad is that it doesn’t offer the best surface for extended periods of use. And although the left and right click buttons are a godsend, it’s still much better to use a dedicated wired or wireless mouse.
Using the IdeaPad 100 for hours at a time is no problem, thanks to its bright and mostly color-accurate screen. The glossy display is not the best for use outdoors, but indoors where a laptop is likely to be used most of the time, it works without any problems whatsoever.
Thing thing about using the IdeaPad 100 is that if you have spent more than a couple of hours working on it you may end up at a point where everything is simply too sluggish. When that happens, your best option is to just turn it off and start up from a cold boot all over again.
The IdeaPad is best for light amounts of work, mainly through the Web browser. It’s also capable of doling out some light entertainment, but don’t expect much of it in terms of audio quality because the speaker is no good at loud volumes. Turning it all the way up to 100 will give you terrible tin can-level audio, which crackles and just sounds terrible no matter what you play. On the bright side, the IdeaPad 100 has a 3.5mm headphone jack, as well as Bluetooth for wireless accessories.
With such a low-power chip running inside it, you might think that the IdeaPad 100 offers superb battery life. In a sense, yes it does. With what use we got out of it, the battery managed to last on average around 4 and a half hours of use per charge.
That’s actually a respectable runtime for a 15-inch laptop, even if it’s less than half of what the average Chromebook can offer. The good thing is that charging the IdeaPad 100 only takes about an hour. And the power brick is a bit light, to boot.
To answer the question posed in the beginning of this review, you would only have to consider a few things. Is the screen big enough, and is it usable? Does it have a full, standard keyboard? Can it deliver average performance? If you can get a yes for the above questions and more, then you’re well on your way to justifying the existence of low-end laptops.
But the biggest factor of all, of course, is the price. And that is where the IdeaPad 100 will get you. Yes, it comes with some obvious shortcomings. But it’s also so affordable that you’ll end up saving a lot of money in purchasing it.
If you want to go as low as possible with your Windows laptop budget, this could be a top choice with a free OS and free anti-virus included. If you absolutely need to use Windows, then it wouldn’t hurt to consider this one.