Lenovo IdeaPad G530
At a Glance
Lenovo 3000 G530 Notebook
The IdeaPad G530 is functional and durable enough for an very inexpensive business laptop, but that's about it.
Let's start by stating the obvious: At $499 for a 15-inch budget laptop, Lenovo's IdeaPad G530 won't win any benchmark sprints. For a notebook to get into this low price range, sacrifices have to be made and corners cut. The primary concern with a notebook of this class is its value, not its absolute performance or some amazing feature set.
You get a feel for how basic, how utilitarian the IdeaPad G530 is the moment you pick it up. It's light for its size, and slim on fancy extras. Fully decked out in basic Lenovo matte black, it's about as unassuming as a modern laptop gets. The standard-size keyboard isn't hard to type on, and includes arrow keys in the "inverted T" arrangement and Page Up/Page Down keys. Extra keys above the keyboard consist of volume up, down, and mute, along with a single programmable key that can be set to launch a program, open a document, or open a Web page--plus a physical button for Lenovo's OneKey Recovery feature. (Does Lenovo expect us to restore our system so often that we need a physical button for it?)
The trackpad motion is smooth and accurate, but the pad has no special features. It's a standard two-button trackpad with edge scrolling. A pair of USB ports is on the left edge toward the front, with another pair on the right. An ethernet jack is on the left, and a modem jack is on the right front edge, a sure sign that this unit is meant for business travelers, the only ones who still want modems. The microphone and headphone jacks are in the center of the front edge, next to the Wi-Fi switch. Rounding out the package is a 1.3-megapixel Webcam, which you can use to log in to your machine instead of via a password, using the built-in VeriFace software.
Specs-wise, you get what you pay for: The Pentium dual-core T3400 CPU isn't the world's fastest, with a clock speed of 2.16GHz, 1MB of L2 cache, and limited bus speed. This notebook uses Intel's GL40 motherboard chipset and adds 3GB of DDR2-667 memory. The 5400rpm 250GB hard drive is fairly average. The Wi-Fi maxes out at 802.11g, when 802.11n is all the rage. The results of this entry-level hardware is predictably low performance. The WorldBench score of 82 is one of the lower scores we've seen on recent general-purpose laptops, but it's not as low as you might expect. 3D gaming is pointless with the machine's limited processor and Intel GMA 4500 integrated graphics, even at low resolutions.
An upside is that these fairly low-end parts tend to be easy on the battery, and the IdeaPad G530 ran for over 3 1/2 hours in our battery test. That's not quite netbook territory, but that's not half bad for a cheap laptop with a 15-inch screen.
Speaking of the screen, we've seen better, though it's nice to get 15 inches at all in a notebook this inexpensive, and the 1280-by-800 resolution is nice. The contrast ratio and horizontal viewing angles make the G530 a really poor choice for doing any sort of work where visual precision is required, and the screen washes out or shifts color if you move your head too much.
The overall experience of using the IdeaPad G530 is one of, well, using a cheap laptop. There doesn't appear to be any sort of durability issue, but it doesn't feel solid the way more substantial notebooks do. The screen quality suffers as soon as you move your head. The integrated speakers are functional, but you don't want to listen to music using them. The system has a VGA output port, but no digital video output at all. The ethernet port is 10/100, not gigabit. You're stuck with 32-bit Windows Home Basic.
It's all too easy to focus on the negatives, though. Too easy to lose sight of the fact that, as a 15-inch, $499 notebook, it's one of a rare breed. It's clearly designed and built for businesses that need cheap notebooks for traveling employees and that will be functional enough for them to check their e-mail, update that spreadsheet, or pull important files off a customer's DVD-ROM and send them back to the home office. For this market, it's a fairly good bargain.
It's far from a barn-burner and will obsolete itself faster than a slightly beefier and more expensive notebook, but we keep coming back to that low, low price tag and all that it implies. If you crave long battery life, but you're okay with poor performance, a netbook like Toshiba's NB205-310 could be a better use of your cash. Trying to find a good deal for a general-purpose machine for under $500, though, can be tricky. Heck, as of late, the most affordable all-purpose laptop we've tested is another Lenovo: The IdeaPad Y450--and its list price is about $300 more. In the end, home users looking for a back-to-school notebook or a replacement for an aging computer can do better.