Lenovo IdeaPad S540 15-inch Review: A Confused 15-incher

Lenovo IdeaPad S540 15-inch Review: A Confused 15-incher

The IdeaPad S540 is the latest in the new ’40’ line of IdeaPad S laptops that Lenovo launched earlier this year to replace its 2018 models. Available in a 14-inch and 15.6-inch avatar, the premium mid-range IdeaPad S540 understandably sits slightly above the mid-range IdeaPad S340 and well above the entry-level IdeaPad S145. You can find our review of the two models hereand hererespectively.

It’s hard to say which model will replace the new IdeaPad S540. Internationally, it appears to be replacing the IdeaPad S530. But in India last year we only had the IdeaPad 530S in the same premium mid-range market. So we can safely assume that the IdeaPad S540 takes the place of the latter here. Read our review of the IdeaPad 530S here† Now that the new IdeaPad’s marketplace is sorted, let’s get to work on performance in our test lab.

Achievements and Gaming

All variants of the IdeaPad S540 come with discrete graphics on Lenovo’s official website. They also come with at least 8 GB of RAM and a good solid state drive. Our review unit was powered by an Intel 8th Gen Core i5 CPU along with 8GB of RAM. Storage was handled by a 128GB PCIe NVMe solid-state drive and a WDC 1TB hard drive spinning at 5,400 rpm. Discreet graphics came in the form of an Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 video RAM.

Core i5 + MX250

The review unit did a decent job on our CPU and GPU benchmark tests. In the Accelerated Creative test of PCMark 8, the IdeaPad S540 achieved 3584 points, which is slightly more than the IdeaPad S340’s 3464 and slightly lower than the 3758 of the Asus VivoBook 14 X412. On 3DMark’s Fire Strike and Cloud Gate, the test device achieved 3079 and 13494 points, respectively. These numbers are about three times better than the IdeaPad S340’s scores and about thirty percent better than the Asus VivoBook 14 X412, which is equipped with an Nvidia GeForce MX230 GPU.

Our review unit’s daily performance was good, but not great; let me explain why. With Windows on the SSD drive, I was able to cold boot to the desktop in less than twenty-three seconds. Launching commonly used applications such as Chrome, Explorer, Word, and OneNote for the first time after startup took no more than two or three seconds. But switching between open applications and reading files stored on the hard drive took some time. That one or two extra seconds it took the laptop to switch between windows became a bit annoying while multitasking. Aside from the small but noticeable lag caused by the included hard drive, the IdeaPad S540’s performance is acceptable for its price. However, a full SSD storage configuration is more preferable.

Thanks to the dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics card on board, the review unit lent itself more easily to graphics work than other Intel UHD Graphics-powered models. While it wasn’t naturally adept at running games, it wasn’t terrible either. Doom ran on Medium graphics settings at Full HD resolution with an average frame rate of 30 frames per second. However, Metro: Last Light ran on the same settings with an average frame rate of 77 frames per second. Despite the 60+ frame clock, there were several hitches while playing Metro: Last Light, even on the lowest setting.

During gameplay, the WASD keys on the test unit got a little warm, but not enough to cause any discomfort. The CPU package registered temperatures well above 50 degrees Celsius and the Nvidia graphics card inside hovered around 43 degrees Celsius. Surprisingly, there wasn’t too much fan noise, even when the laptop was placed in a quiet bedroom. In general, the IdeaPad S540 is not suitable for running games. But if your colleague at work says there’s a new platformer you just have to play, the IdeaPad S540 shouldn’t disappoint. The same goes for basic image and video editing.

Battery

The Lenovo IdeaPad S540 is powered by a 52.5Wh three-cell non-removable lithium-ion battery. On our standard battery benchmark test, the review unit managed 3 hours and 54 minutes. The slightly cheaper IdeaPad S340, on the other hand, lasted 4 hours and 39 minutes. But to be fair, I have to keep in mind that that was the 14-inch variant with integrated graphics. The Asus VivoBook X403, on the other hand, remains a top performer in this department with its hit score of 6 hours and 16 minutes.

In our daily tests, with the screen set to 70 percent brightness and Wi-Fi + Bluetooth enabled, the test device lost half of its full charge in about three hours. During the tests, the laptop was loaded with heavy browsing in Chrome with music in the background and 15 minutes of video playback on Netflix. In short, expect up to six hours of uninterrupted use from the IdeaPad S540.

Screen, audio and IO

The IdeaPad S540 is available in both 14-inch and 15.6-inch versions. Our review unit came with the larger 15.6-inch Full HD IPS LCD display, which was bright and colorful for everyday tasks like browsing and playing video. The colors on the panel looked natural with no noticeable signs of saturation or light loss. The panel’s maximum brightness of 300 nits was sufficient for a bedroom with bright indirect sunlight. I often found myself pushing the brightness level below 70 percent while working indoors. In addition, the panel’s anti-reflective finish made text easy to read.

Display is bright and colorful

The sound from the IdeaPad S540’s two downward-firing speakers is loud, but could use more clarity. Even with the pre-installed Dolby Audio music app enabled, there’s a noticeable amount of distortion when playing bass-heavy tracks like The Weeknd’s star boy and that of Ini Kamoze Here comes the hot stepper. While highs and mids come through in YouTube videos featuring vocals, the lows fall flat. In short, this pair is louder than the one on the cheaper IdeaPad S340, but no clearer.

Dolby Audio not working properly on the IdeaPad S540

The IdeaPad S540 has all the essential ports, but could have offered more for its size. On the left side of the body we see a round pin power port for charging, a full-size HDMI port, a USB-C 3.1 port and a 3.5mm audio jack for headsets. On the right we see two USB-A 3.0 ports and a slot for an SD card reader. What you’re missing are the LAN port and a Kensington Security Slot.

Gates on the left…

Gates on the right…

Fortunately, there is a fingerprint scanner just below the keyboard, which works smoothly in combination with Windows Hello for screen unlocking and app authentication. Like the IdeaPad S340 and many other modern ThinkPad models, the IdeaPad S540 is equipped with a physical webcam slide cover. This eliminates the need for the user to stick a small piece of heavy duty tape over the webcam in their quest for total privacy.

Fingerprint scanner works well with Windows Hello

Physical shutter for the webcam is useful

Keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard on the IdeaPad S540 may be more uncomfortable than the device on the cheaper IdeaPad S340, which is bad news for users who type a lot. The convex keys, which have two-stage backlighting, lack travel and feedback. As a result, you’re typing quite a bit wrong. In addition, the positional shift caused by the addition of a numeric keypad makes for an uncomfortable typing experience in general. On the plus side, you get dedicated keys for media playback, something you’ll also find on the much cheaper IdeaPad S145. In summary, the IdeaPad S540’s keyboard is a disappointment.

Uncomfortable Keys

However, the IdeaPad S540’s touchpad is much better than the keyboard. Being a true precision unit, the touchpad accepts multi-finger taps and swipes. All settings can be changed from Windows Settings without installing any third-party driver or utility. The matte surface of the touchpad is smooth and fairly easy to press. Overall, the touchpad on the IdeaPad S540 is great for everyday tasks like browsing and cropping images.

Build and design

Being the top model, the IdeaPad S540 has an all-metal construction. The top cover and base panel are made of aluminum with “diamond cut” around the edges, giving the laptop a sleek, premium look. Thanks to the matte finish on both sides, the laptop is reasonably grippy. The IdeaPad S540 is 16.95 mm thin but weighs 1.95 kilograms. In other words, it’s quite slim, but nowhere near lightweight. If you’re looking for something compact and lightweight, this isn’t it.

The inside of the IdeaPad S540 looks just as clean as the outside. Opening the lid reveals a 15.6-inch matte screen with fairly thin bezels on three sides. The lid goes all the way back to 180 degrees, which is good news for anyone who works from bed a lot. All things considered, the IdeaPad S540 is a well-designed device. The only problem with it is that, despite its best efforts, it ends up weighing almost as much as any other 15-incher out there with discrete graphics, like the HP 15.

The lid goes all the way back

Bottom Line

In my opinion the 14-inch version of the IdeaPad S540, or even the recently launched one Asus Vivo Book S431, makes a lot of sense for users who want something thin and lightweight. Lenovo’s new Legion Y540 and ASUS’ TUF Gaming series, on the other hand, make a lot of sense for users who want mid-range PC gaming. At a rather steep price of Rs 66,990, the IdeaPad S540 is neither here nor there. It’s a large 15.6-inch mainstream laptop that does its best to fit into the Thin and Light category. It is frankly a confused device.

If you can live with its misplaced identity, the 15.6-inch Lenovo IdeaPad S540 is a great laptop for everyday tasks such as web browsing, online video playback, spreadsheet editing, programming, light image and video editing, and even a little low-graphics gaming. The speakers and keyboard disappoint, but the screen and touchpad work well. It’s hard to recommend this Lenovo. But it’s certainly not a bad buy.

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