Lenovo Ideapad 520S
Hello, Folks! Today I’m going to a full specifications review of Lenovo Ideapad 520S. It is the 14-inch Lenovo Ideapad, A sleek mid-range Windows laptop that aims to satisfy very large demographic. While it’s not the cheapest laptop around, in some of its various configurations, it still has features that can fulfil more demanding users. So, let’s start-
Design & Build: –
Starting with the exterior, As a brand, Lenovo’s build and design of their laptop is something of a mixed bag. Some of their laptops like their gaming Y series, while aesthetically good, their build quality is not high. Their Higher-end Yoga laptops are usually relatively well built. But my experience with Lenovo’s build and design philosophy is one of form following function. And this somewhat holds true with the 520S.
First of all, the 520S has an aluminium unibody build. The monitor housing and the palm rest assembly are well built- full aluminium unibody in a sort of space grey colour or as Lenovo calls it mineral grey. Very little flex which is quite impressive. But the base of the laptop, however, is a relatively sturdy plastic cover. The 520S also has these polished edges to give it more of a premium look and feel.
Personally, I’m not a massive fan of this kind of design element on any device, but it is useful to a bit more attention to detail. So, the 520S has quite an impressive build, but the quality of the design does feel very utilitarian.
On the dimensions side of things, the Ideapad 520S is 32.7cm across, 23.7cm deep and 1.93cm thick and coming in at around 1.7Kg weight. These are proper dimensions and weight figures for a notebook of this size and class but at the same time nothing spectacular.
Physical Features: –
We have the 14-inch FHD IPS display with an anti-glare finish. On top, we have a 720p camera with microphones either side.
We have the keyboard in the signature Lenovo key-shapes.
On the left side going from back to front, the Power, HDMI, a USB 3.0, a USB-C Port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
On the right, we have a Kensington lock, a USB 2.0 Port, and SD card reader and a Lenovo restore button.
And finally, on the bottom, we have three rubber feet, grilles of the fans and the speaker grilles on either side for the Harman speakers with Dolby Audio.
Moving to the screen, as I mentioned before, we have a 14-inch IPS LED display running at a resolution of 1920 x 1080p. It’s an average display, it’s not very bright but should work fine under most lighting conditions. However, you will start to struggle to see things comfortably in intense sunlight. Colour accuracy is not high, whites have a slight yellow hue. But being an IPS display viewing angles are quite good. Being a Full HD display, you can’t expect too much, but the pixel density is high enough to give the average user comfortable viewing experience.
The thin bezels do add viewing content on this display, with less distraction, but also looks very nice and clean. For the general user this is a delightful display to use, but for those coming from either more colour accurate or 2K or 4K displays, or people who need colour accuracy for their use, this display just doesn’t cut it.
The Lenovo Ideapad 520S has the stereo mentioned above Harman Speakers with Dolby Audio. The sound quality of the speakers on the Ideapad 520S is quite impressive. Good treble, excellent clarity, and has a lot of body and depth to it. However, the speakers don’t seem to like bass very much, and whenever bassy music played there is just slight distortion towards the lower frequencies than actual bass. But despite this, the speakers on the 520S are quite impressive, and indeed, do sell the Ideapad 520S as a media consumption laptop.
The Keyboard is a typical Lenovo Keyboard, with their signature Key shape. I found this keyboard to be nice to type on; it has a right amount of key travel and a friendly and responsive, tactile feedback. I would’ve liked the key travel to have been a tiny bit shorter but overall, it is a pleasant and efficient typing experience, and I would no problem writing a great deal off this keyboard.
The backlighting on this keyboard has two brightness settings, and it does an excellent job of illuminating the keys in the dark, just the right brightness and an even backlight coverage. Personally, the keyboard is one of the highlights on this laptop for me.
The trackpad is quite generous and has a lovely texture to it. 95% of the time it is very comfortable and effortless to use, but like my previous experiences with Lenovo trackpads, because I prefer to use the physical click feature rather than the tap, Lenovo’s trackpads ad Asus’s to some extent, tend to jump occasionally. Multitouch gestures are recognised most of the time and quite accurately too. The actual click is slightly on the firm side for my preference, but for most people coming from other Windows Laptops, they will be quite used to it.
The fingerprint reader to the right of the trackpad is an elegant feature that many Lenovo laptops have had for a very long time, this fingerprint reader works a treat and unlocks the computer through Windows Hello. Very accurate, speedy, nothing to complain about here.
Processor, Memory & Performance: –
Moving onto the internals, before we begin, there are a ridiculous number of configurations of the Lenovo Ideapad 520S with different CPU choices, GPU and storage settings. The availability of these configurations also varies by market.
We have a 7th Generation Dual-Core Intel Core i7 7500U. Lenovo also offers Core i3 and i5 configurations. The performance is snappy in most cases. Browsing the web, productivity, streaming videos, the Ideapad 520S in this configuration is entirely smooth. But when you have lots going on, dozens of tabs open, downloading games, a video streaming in the foreground, the Lenovo Ideapad 520S, even with the i7 did experience some stuttering once in a while. It takes us quite neatly into RAM.
As far as I can tell, the Lenovo Ideapad 520S is only available with 8GB of DDR4 running at a quite impressive 2133 MHz. It is probably what caused slowdown I experienced when doing quite a lot of multitasking. Whilst having so many programs running and so many tabs open is rare, everyone will do something similar at some point.
Therefore, having a 16GB RAM option would have been welcome of the Lenovo Ideapad 520S, but this just isn’t the case. The Ideapad 520S also comes with the opportunity to add a discrete graphics card, the Nvidia GeForce 940MX + Intel HD 620. Graphical performance on the integrated graphics is passable and will satisfy the needs of the most users. For slightly more intensive usage, simple games like Minecraft ran very comfortably with an average render distance and full graphics quality. More demanding titles like Battlefield 4 will run at around 20FPS or less even at the lowest graphical settings making it very unpleasant.
The addition of the Nvidia 940MX will improve general graphical performance somewhat. For more demanding tasks like Photoshop and Light Video Editing, the GeForce 940MX will improve performance noticeably. For light gaming, Minecraft will run even smoother at higher render distances, moderately demanding titles like Battlefield 4 will run significantly better and should also achieve 30 or more FPS even on medium graphical settings. It is just about playable but still not pleasant.
So, in general, performance on the i7 unit I tested is okay. For most light and moderate users, the performance the Lenovo Ideapad 520S provides should satisfy most of your needs and give a couple of years of future proofing. For more demanding and professionals users, I would recommend looking elsewhere, especially laptops with Quad-Core CPUs and having the option of more than 8GB of RAM.
Storage wise, the Lenovo Ideapad 520S is only available in two storage configurations 128 and 256GB. These are PCIe SSD drives, and they run seriously quickly. Start-up is instant, and the quick drive does make general usage quite snappy, although more extensive drive options would’ve been appreciated.
With regards to fan noise, during regular use, the fans do run, and you will hear it. It isn’t deafening, but if you don’t have something playing in the background, you will notice it.
Battery life on the Lenovo Ideapad 520S is a mixed bag. We found that doing just passive activities like streaming 1080p YouTube videos on medium brightness, the Ideapad 520S lasted around 9 hours, which is respectable. However, when you start doing more active things, like browsing the web, working on Powerpoint, Wordpad, battery life began to suffer at around 3-6 hours depending on how much multi-tasking you were doing. So, battery life isn’t fantastic, but if you manage it well, the Lenovo Ideapad 520S can just about get you through a working day, but I would still bring the charger just in case.
So who is it for?
If you are a student, or someone who is looking for a general purpose laptop, for browsing the web, some productivity, or media consumption, watching YouTube videos, streaming Netflix etc. It can be an excellent laptop for you.
The 14-inch display with thin bezels, give the Lenovo Ideapad 520S a smaller footprint as well as a more accommodating and comfortable display size, it’s relatively light as well, and easy to carry around with you.
With the PCIe drives, this laptop should be snappy and provide an excellent user experience for light to moderate use.
The battery life is good enough that if you manage it correctly, it should be just about last a full day and it has a good typing experience and let’s not forget the pretty speakers.
The Lenovo Ideapad 520S is not for demanding or heavy users, graphic design, video editing, heavy multitasking. The hardware just isn’t designed for that kind of use. If you want something for high-performance, look at the like Razer Blade 14 or other laptops around the realms or $1000 or over.