It would be understandable if you thought there weren’t very many mid-range notebooks anymore. In the last two years, everyone’s attention has focused elsewhere. For gaming and getting your hands on the latest Windows 10 features, the most expensive machines available are a frequent draw. Low-end notebooks excite with their price tag and not much else. The Lenovo IdeaPad 510S is proof that mid-range notebooks are still out there waiting to take back their place in the public consciousness. It takes its cues from both ends of the buying spectrum.
There’s no Windows Hello fingerprint reader or infrared camera, though there is an HD camera in the bezel that allows you to easily take self-portraits and handle Skype calls. Every key on the keyboard is backlit to allow you to easily work in low-light situations. Measuring just .76-inches, the body of the notebook is on the slimmer slide, too. Up to a 7th Generation Intel Core processor can be stuffed inside along with a solid state drive.
The $649.99 Lenovo IdeaPad 510S isn’t going to turn heads or surprise wallets, and it’s still one of the best ways to spend your money on a Windows 10 notebook right now.
Lenovo Ideapad 510S Review: Design & Internals
For its part, Lenovo says that it wants the IdeaPad 510S to settle somewhere between a luxury item that feels high-quality and a notebook that exists to get a job done.
The first thing you’ll notice about the IdeaPad 510S out of the box is its metal lid. It’s clad in a lightly textured silver skin that feels premium. This silver skin covers just the top of the notebook where there’s a Lenovo logo to add in a nice bit of flourish. A plastic bottom that matches the color of the top lid is punctuated by air vents for cooling the components inside. Closed, the notebook forms a kind of wedge. It feels like a binder when closed. Around .76-inches separates the top from the bottom. It weighs 3.74 pounds.
The recessed inner edges on the left and right side of the notebook hold all its ports. A lock slot, power plug, USB 2.0 port, headset/microphone jack and media card reader all sit on the left edge. More expensive computers have debuted with just these ports in recent years, but Lenovo knows its target audience. Two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port and an expanding Ethernet port sit on the right edge. Anyone looking for a mid-range notebook needs ways to add a display and pair accessories. These will do. There’s no USB Type-C or Thunderbolt port on this machine at all. Buyers miss out on the fast data transfers, but also don’t have to adopt new cables and dongles to integrate this PC into their existing monitor and keyboard setups.
The keyboard deck is dominated by an embedded black backlit keyboard. Also on the keyboard deck is a touchpad of reasonable size that has its left and right click buttons embedded underneath. There’s a beveled edge around the mousepad to help catch your eye and drive home that semi-premium feeling.
The 14-inch display in the IdeaPad 510S is of full high-definition resolution. That is, you get the best experience possible when watching videos and enjoying Windows 10. There are cheaper PCs that you can buy that force you to choose between having this much screen real estate and 1080p video. I’d say that this display is almost the perfect balance between resolution and display size for the price, but it has its issues.
Gotta Be Mobile’s Lenovo IdeaPad 510S came equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor, Intel HD 620 Graphics, 8GB of RAM, an AMD Radeon R7 M460 graphics card and a 256GB solid state drive. This configuration runs around $799 on Amazon.
Lenovo IdeaPad 510S Review: Experience & Performance
The components make for a reasonably powerful machine. Despite the promise of the dedicated AMD graphics, this PC isn’t meant to play Battlefield 1 or Mass Effect Andromeda at a high frame rate. That AMD card does come in handy for lots of tasks that you will find yourself doing daily. Browsing the web and editing photos on the IdeaPad 510S was a delight. The extra RAM, processor and graphics help Windows 10 Home’s Edge browser perform loads better than it does on Intel HD Graphics with 4GB of RAM.
Other mission critical apps like Word, PowerPoint, Google Chrome, Mail and Calendar loaded quickly, too. Windows 10 started quickly as well thanks to that solid state drive. You’ll need to unlock the operating system with a password, however, since there’s no Windows Hello camera or fingerprint reader present like on some other notebooks beginning in this price range.
I can’t speak highly enough of the Lenovo IdeaPad 510S’ battery life either. Even with the Intel Core i7 processor, I still reached around 8 hours of battery life. This was with a few tabs in Edge open to my most commonly used web apps, a word processor and a messaging app running in the background. Buyers can expect to enjoy around 6 hours of video with this machine. The built-in Lenovo Harman audio speakers ensure you’ll hear ever bomb blast and tire screech from your favorite Netflix shows. You’ll need them to sometimes distract you from the fair amount of noise this PC can make when being pushed by updates or resource intensive programs.
I only wish that I could promise you’d be able to see those videos in any lighting situation. The FHD 14-inch display has lots of things going for it. Its lack of gloss prevents the device from turning into a really expensive mirror in bright lighting situations. It’s 1080p, too, meaning it’s not doing harm to battery life as much as the 4K displays that expensive notebooks now come with routinely. Even its viewing angles are generous.
It’s not generously bright, though. I’d normally keep a notebook on around 50% brightness for a battery test, but I had to bump up the Lenovo IdeaPad 510S’ display to 75% before things became comfortably legible. There are 40-foot windows in my home office that face the sunlight in the afternoon. Even with it cloudy outside, my windows competed heavily with this machine’s display.
At maximum, the display can go to about 220 nits. I had to turn it up to 100% brightness eventually. This helped to vanquish interference from sunlight but hurt battery life. It shaved 2 hours off my expected battery estimates. I was forced to dive into my bag and retrieve the laptop’s power cable to get through my afternoon routine.
I didn’t need to retrieve a mouse out of that bag the entire time I had the machine, though, which speaks to a great trackpad and decent drivers. A recent experience with another mid-range notebook reminded me of just how much more at ease you are getting work done when there’s a good trackpad to be used. The same goes for the Lenovo IdeaPad 510S’ keyboard, which offers plenty of travel and isn’t as mushy as some other keyboards in this price range.
Lenovo IdeaPad 510S Review: Specifications
|Processor & Graphics||2.7GHz 7th Generation Intel Core i7-7500U
Intel HD 620 Graphics or Intel HD 520 Graphics
(Optional NVIDIA GeForce 930MX Graphics)
|Memory & Storage||8GB of DDR4 RAM
256GB Solid State Drive
|Display||14-inch FHD 1920 x 1080p Display|
|Ports & Extras||· Harmon Speakers
· HD Web Camera
· 4-ini-1 Media Card Reader
· 1 USB 2.0 port
· 2 USB 3.0 ports
· Headset Jack
|Battery Life||9 Hours of Battery Life, 6 Hours Playing Video|
|Dimensions & Weight||13.21-inches x 9.25-inches x 0.76-inches, 3.74 lbs.|
Lenovo IdeaPad 510S Review: Should You Buy?
The Lenovo IdeaPad 510S is the type of PC that doesn’t get a lot of respect. It’s clearly a machine borne out of compromise. We’re all so anxious to spend lots of money on the next must-have notebook or 2-in-1 that looks cool and is so thin that we forget about reasonably priced machines like this. The IdeaPad 510S offers users a mostly solid experience. It does this while starting at only $649 and maxing out at $899.
I’d recommend this machine without reservation to anyone looking for an everyday laptop for work or school. That is, I would if it wasn’t for the display brightness. Even still, those comfortable with balancing screen brightness and battery savings during long work sessions can do a lot worse than this.
Not everyone needs flashy designs or rock-bottom prices. The world is filled with people willing to spend a little more and get a little more in return. The Lenovo IdeaPad 510S is for them.