Decent overall value but terrible performance?

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Last year, Lenovo’s range of IdeaPad laptops was fairly evenly spread across the price range, but the naming convention was a bit confusing. In the budget and mid-range segment, we had the IdeaPad 330 and IdeaPad 330S, two very similar sounding model names, but different in construction, quality and performance. In the upper middle segment, the IdeaPad 530S, which we noted in our review, had remarkable performance coupled with a stylish design. What about this year?

In this year’s ’40’ series of IdeaPad ‘S’ models, we have the IdeaPad S540, which is a successor to the IdeaPad 530S, so to speak. Just below it is the IdeaPad S340, which surprisingly comes with features like a webcam privacy hatch. On the bottom rung, we have the IdeaPad S145: a true 15.6-inch budget model that starts at Rs 26,990, with an Intel or AMD chip on it. Let’s take a closer look at that.

Performance

While the new IdeaPad S145 is offered with an AMD Ryzen 5 3000 series processor on Lenovo’s official website, our test model came with an Intel Core i3-8145U CPU (last year’s Whiskey Lake refresh) with 4GB of RAM. Storage was provided by a WD Blue 1TB hard drive spinning at 5,400 rpm. Needless to say, there was no discrete graphics card on board; only the Intel UHD Graphics 620 integrated GPU. According to the hardware maintenance manual published by Lenovo, the built-in memory can be expanded from 4 GB to a maximum of 12 GB by adding an 8 GB DDR4 RAM chip.

Intel 8th generation Core i3 CPU combined with a platry 4GB RAM and slow hard drive

The review unit did a decent job on our CPU and GPU benchmarks. In any case, the scores were better than last year’s IdeaPad 330 and IdeaPad 330S. In the Conventional Creative test of PCMark 8, the review unit achieved 2805 points, which is almost three times more than the IdeaPad 330 and almost 300 points more than the IdeaPad 330S in the same test. Scores were similar on PCMark 8’s conventional home and work tests. On 3DMark’s Fire Strike and Sky Diver, the review unit scored 796 and 3,385 points, respectively.

The day-to-day performance of the IdeaPad S145 review unit was appallingly poor, but I can confidently attribute that to the low RAM and slow hard drive inside. The laptop took more than two minutes to cold boot to the Windows 10 desktop and be fully ready to use. The Start menu took an average of more than six seconds to pop up. There were constant hitches and windows freezing while using everyday applications like Chrome, Explorer and OneNote one by one. Maximizing a window would sometimes take up to five seconds, and the content inside would get stretched and distorted in the process. Even a single YouTube video in the foreground stuttered and stammered frequently.

In summary, the IdeaPad S145 is an unbearably slow device when used with the included 4GB of RAM and hard drive. I highly recommend getting a variant with at least 8GB of RAM and a solid-state drive if you plan on using your laptop for everyday work. If you already bought it in the same configuration as our test model, consider increasing the RAM to 8 GB and replacing the hard drive with a SATA III solid-state drive. A 256GB unit shouldn’t cost you more than Rs 5,000. These two upgrades will go a long way in improving the day-to-day performance of this laptop.

Battery

In our standard battery benchmark test, the IdeaPad S145 rating unit scored 3 hours and 16 minutes, which is about a forty minute advantage over last year’s IdeaPad 330 and IdeaPad 330S scores. In daily tests, with the screen set to 70 percent brightness and Bluetooth + Wi-Fi enabled, the laptop lost 42 percent of its charge in about two hours. Charging from 36 percent to about 95 took about an hour and a half. During the tests, multiple copies of Chrome, OneNote and File Explorer were open in addition to WhatsApp for PC. In summary, the 35Wh dual-cell lithium-ion polymer battery in the IdeaPad S145 seems like an ideal companion for quite long uninterrupted use away from the mains. Expect up to three and a half hours of continuous use on this laptop.

Screen, audio and IO

The IdeaPad S145 has a 15.6-inch non-touch screen display with Full HD resolution and 220 nits maximum brightness. According to Lenovo, the screen can cover 45 percent of an unspecified color space (although we think it’s sRGB). In reality, the colors on the screen appear totally washed out, causing the white of the backlight to burn through brightly. In addition, the matte finish on the screen creates a grainy effect on the screen, making the viewing experience worse. Tilting the screen down even a few degrees will make text on the screen unreadable. In summary, the IdeaPad S145’s display isn’t great for image/video-focused work. That said, it will do the job for the occasional spreadsheet or document.

Full HD display but colors are weak

The IdeaPad S145 has two small speakers on the bottom lip on the front, which deliver a flat, uninspiring sound despite the Dolby badging (and the included Dolby Audio app). The maximum volume is not enough even for the occasional two minute YouTube watch and the sound is mostly flat across the bass, mids and trebles, making the pair best used for Windows error sounds and message notifications. Better invest in headphones or portable wired speakers if you want clear sound.

Weak sound too

The IdeaPad S145 has the most ports on the left side of the case, which should be useful for right-handed mouse users. On the left, there’s a proprietary round-pin power port for charging, a full-size HDMI port, a USB-A 2.0 port, and a pair of USB-A 3.1 ports. On the right side we only see a full size SD card reader and a 3.5mm audio jack for headsets. Being a budget model, the laptop skips the ever-ubiquitous USB-C port. It also does not have a fingerprint scanner. Images from the VGA webcam are understandably grainy and pixelated.

Gates on the left…

…and gates on the right…

Keyboard and touchpad

The IdeaPad S145’s keyboard isn’t particularly comfortable, but it isn’t particularly uncomfortable either. The entire keyboard island and the individual keys are slightly convex in shape because they bulge upwards in the middle. This is the exact opposite of what laptop manufacturers usually do to provide a more comfortable typing experience, that is, create a bowl-shaped design (for easier key identification). In the case of the IdeaPad S145, this is presumably done to maintain rigidity over the keyboard island. On the plus side, the numpad section contains dedicated keys for media playback, ie play/pause, next track and previous track. If anything, I wish the keys were backlit, but that’s a bit much to ask for a laptop in this price range.

Dedicated media playback keys above numpad

Not being a Windows 10 recognized precision unit, the touchpad is slow and uneven in following the movement of the pointer across the screen. The acceleration of the pointer also varies with the direction of fingertip movement, making for an unpleasant touchpad experience. A triple tap opens Windows Search by default, and Windows settings only allow you to adjust the sensitivity of the touchpad unit. Surprisingly, the click buttons under the simple plastic surface of the touchpad feel good. All things considered, you’re better off getting a wired or wireless USB mouse.

Touchpad is not a precision unit, but click works well

Build and design

The IdeaPad S145 uses plastic in its construction in a manner similar to last year’s IdeaPad 330. The laptop’s top cover and keyboard island have a glossy plastic-like finish with a soft brushed design in plain silver. Not only does this give the device a playful look, but it also makes it less grippy in the user’s hands, especially when quickly removed from a backpack. Fortunately, the keys, hinges, base panel and screen edges use a darker shade for some contrast and thus better visual appeal.

Glossy plastic top cover could use a matte finish for more class and grip

The Lenovo badge on the top cover of the IdeaPad S145 is a redesigned unit with one sticker flush with the surface of the cover. Opening and closing the lid from one side reveals quite a bit of flex on the surface of the lid. The same is observed on the keyboard island when the keys are tapped hard. On the plus side, the laptop lid can be opened up to 180 degrees (like the more expensive ThinkPad range). In addition, the laptop’s power brick is now integrated with the plug, making the whole charging kit more portable and attractive. All things considered, the IdeaPad S145 looks and feels good for a laptop in its price range, although a matte finish all around would have been more appreciated for its grip and overall appearance.

Display folds all the way back

Bottom Line

The Lenovo IdeaPad S145, in its current configuration of an Intel 8th Gen Core i3 CPU, 4 GB RAM and a 1 TB hard drive, is not terrible value for its Amazon.in List price of Rs 32,990. But you still shouldn’t buy it unless you plan on using it for extremely basic computing (like checking your email every now and then or watching videos offline). It is unsuitable for multitasking and serious internet use. We recommend that you upgrade the RAM to 8 GB and replace the slow hard drive with a solid-state drive before using it for serious work. You can also choose a variant of the Lenovo IdeaPad S145 with those upgrades at the time of purchase.

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