The idea is to save money

I was in the tech biz for a long time (I started when the new TV show was hot called Seinfeld), and if there’s one question I get asked more than any other, it’s this: “Rick, how did you manage to be so handsome and smart?” Wait, no, that’s what my wife asks for. From a technology perspective, it’s this: “Which laptop should I buy?” If your budget won’t stretch beyond $400, the answer is easy: Buy the Lenovo Ideapad 3, a well-equipped workstation for the money. It’s not perfect, but many users won’t disagree with my issue with it. This is my Lenovo Ideapad 3 review.

Lenovo

With a price tag that’s usually under $400 (sometimes well under), the Ideapad 3 offers great bang for the buck. It’s a big, stylish machine with enough horsepower to handle basic computing. Just pay attention to the screen resolution, which is on the low side.

$399 at Amazon

The 4-pound Ideapad 3 should appeal to a wide range of users, everyone from students to seniors. It is spacious and comfortable to use and suitable for mainstream computing tasks: web browsing, word processing, Zoom meetings and so on. The 15.6-inch screen is accompanied by a full-width keyboard, one that includes a dedicated numeric pad for spreadsheets and the like. Sorry, it’s not backlit, but that would be a rarity at this price point.

I like the overall design of the machine, which looks shiny, brushed metal on top and smooth, textured plastic underneath. The paint job: subtle, stylish gold (which Lenovo refers to as almond). The matte touchscreen does a great job of repelling fingerprints, which is important for anyone planning to get their mitts on. (Me, I’m happier with a mouse.) Note that this laptop may push the limits of a normal backpack due to the size of the screen.

Lenovo Ideapad 3: Features and specifications

As for the guts, you get an Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid state drive. Those are modest specs, to be sure, but adequate for the aforementioned essentials. In my informal tests, the machine took about six seconds in total to go from cold boot to the sign-in screen, and I found that even with half a dozen browser tabs open (one of which was playing a video), everything felt fast . and responsive.

A closer look at the Ideapad 3 keyboard and touchpad.

Top marks to Lenovo for this excellent keyboard and smooth responsive touchpad. (Photo: Rick Broida/Yahoo)

This may change, of course, if you’re running multiple apps or keep a few dozen tabs open on a regular basis. More RAM would help, but the Ideapad 3 has a less than ideal upgrade path: 4GB soldered to the motherboard and 4GB in a memory slot. You can remove the latter, but replace it with a single 8GB module — for a total of 12GB. Still, that would give apps and tabs a bit more breathing room.

Given the entry-level pricing of this machine, I was expecting a mushy keyboard – but I was pleasantly surprised. The keys felt firm and responsive, with very little give in the middle even when I applied extra pressure. The touchpad also worked well; it is roomy and smooth and responds immediately to different gestures. (There’s also a function key that can quickly disable/enable the touchpad, which is great for those who tend to accidentally graze it while typing.)

Are you Zooming? The Ideapad 3’s webcam tops out at 720p resolution, which is fine for most video calls. As with most laptop webcams, you need good lighting; I started to look great grainy when the room was dim. If needed, you could plug a better webcam into one of the system’s three USB Type-A ports. It has no USB-C, however, and all three ports are on the left side; it would be nice to have one on the right to better accommodate multi-peripheral desktop setups.

The Lenovo Ideapad 3 sitting on a desk with the Windows splash screen displayed.

The Ideapad 3 has a bright, roomy touchscreen. It’s too bad the resolution isn’t higher. (Photo: Rick Broida/Yahoo)

Lenovo Ideapad 3: Things I didn’t like

That’s a minor complaint; My big one has a screen resolution of 1,366 x 768. That’s too low for a 15.6-inch display. The result: Most websites look crowded, and some text appears, well, less than sharp. It’s readable, but a little fuzzy. The screen itself is reasonably bright and offers decent viewing angles, but this is likely to be disappointing for anyone used to a full-HD (ie, 1,920 x 1,080) display.

Unfortunately, although there is an HDMI port for connecting an external monitor, you cannot increase the resolution even if the monitor supports more pixels.

Lenovo Ideapad 3: Should you buy it?

Even with a lower than ideal screen resolution, can you still get your work done? Sure? Can you stream Netflix and join meetings and all that? Definitely. Not everyone will mind – or even notice – the low number of pixels. So, while that’s a dealbreaker for me, I have no hesitation in recommending the Ideapad 3. It’s a well-rounded, well-built machine with more style than you’d expect and a very reasonable price.

Lenovo

With a price tag that’s usually under $400 (sometimes well under), the Ideapad 3 offers great bang for the buck. It’s a big, stylish machine with enough horsepower to handle basic computing. Just pay attention to the screen resolution, which is on the low side.

$399 at Amazon

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