Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 review: Fast and affordable, with discrete graphics

Content creators will get a kick out of the IdeaPad Slim 7’s productivity features.

lenovo ideapad slim 7 14iil05 main
Ben Patterson/IDG

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At a Glance

Packed with features sure to make productivity mavens happy, the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 delivers both performance and value in a slim and trim shell, even if its battery life isn’t quite what we’d hoped.

Powered by a Core i5 Ice Lake processor and armed with discrete GeForce MX350 graphics, this configuration of the IdeaPad Slim 7 ($880 from Lenovo) deftly handles crushing CPU loads and Adobe Premiere-level graphical chores. It also boasts such niceties as a Thunderbolt 3 port, facial and fingerprint biometrics, Dolby Atmos sound, and Wi-Fi 6 support. 

The IdeaPadSlim 7’s battery life fell a little short of our expectations, and the laptop’s staid design, while pleasingly slim, won’t wow anybody (which shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with Lenovo’s IdeaPad line). Still, it offers a good feature set for this price range (or even cheaper, if you can grab Lenovo’s "instant" discount).

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.

Configuration

Lenovo offers five versions of the IdeaPad Slim 7, ranging from our unit (82A4000MUS) to a $1,130 (or $1,017 post-discount) version with a Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and an integrated Intel Iris Plus GPU. There are also IdeaPad Slim 7 models powered by AMD Ryzen 4000-series chips (here’s our performance preview), but Lenovo is currently out of stock. More units are in the pipeline, we’re told.

Here are the detailed specifications on the system we reviewed:

  • CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i5-1035G1 (Ice Lake)
  • Memory: 8GB LPDDR3 3200MHz
  • Graphics: Discrete Nvidia GeForce MX350
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 14-inch FHD (1920x1080) IPS, 300 nits, non-touch
  • Webcam: 720p
  • Connectivity: One Thunderbolt 3 port, one USB SuperSpeed 5Gbps Type-C, two USB SuperSpeed 5Gbps Type-A, HDMI, combo audio jack, microSD slot
  • Networking: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
  • Biometrics: IR facial recognition, fingerprint sensor
  • Battery capacity: 60.7 Watt-hour
  • Dimensions: 12.62 x 8.19 x 0.58 inches
  • Weight: 3.2 pounds (measured), 0.68-pound AC adapter

Just looking at the specs, this is a rock-solid configuration for the price, starting with the peppy Core i5 Ice Lake CPU, the roomy 512GB SSD, and the 8GB of low-power RAM (though 16GB would have been better). The discrete MX350 graphics card won’t deliver silky gaming visuals, but it should do the trick for content creators.

You also get a reasonably bright 14-inch full-HD display. It's non-touch, unfortunately, although pricier SKUs do offer touchscreens. The Thunderbolt 3 port is great for connecting dual 4K displays and speedy external storage, and a pair of SuperSpeed USB-A ports handle legacy peripherals. More goodies include facial and fingerprint biometrics, plus Wi-Fi 6 (time to pull the trigger on that Wi-Fi 6 router you’ve been pining for), while the beefy 60.7-Watt-hour battery promises plenty of battery life (as we’ll see in our performance section).

Design

True to its name, the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7’s 0.58-inch profile is svelte, but the laptop’s aluminum, slate-gray lid is completely featureless save for a small “Lenovo” logo on the side. In other words (and as with other laptops in Lenovo’s IdeaPad line), don’t expect the Slim 7 draw any envious looks while you’re out and about. Still, we appreciate the lip along the top edge of the lid, which makes it easier to pry the laptop open with your fingertip.

lenovo ideapad slim 7 14iil05 rear Ben Patterson/IDG

As far as the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7's design goes, well ... it's what's inside that counts, right?

Opening the lid reveals more of the same, with a slate-gray, spill-resistant keyboard and palmrest matched by a glass trackpad. The 14-inch display is surrounded by relatively thin side and top bezels, with a slightly chunkier bezel along the bottom. A long, flat hinge allows the lid to open all the way to a 180-degree angle, which could come in handy if you want to flip the display for a slideshow or PowerPoint presentation.

Weighing in at 3.2 pounds, the IdeaPad Slim 7 feels a tad heavy for its size. That said, a sub-three-pound laptop with the Slim 7's feature set would probably cost a few hundred dollars more.

Display

Rated at 300 nits of brightness, the Lenovo Slim 7’s 14-inch full-HD display looked sharp and bright to my eyes. I generally kept the brightness setting down in the 70- to 80-percent range while testing the laptop indoors--cranking the brightness up to 100 percent made the screen uncomfortably bright. The display was also easy to see outside under an umbrella, although its glossy finish makes for tough reading in direct sunlight.

The Slim 7’s IPS (in-plane switching) display boasts characteristically wide viewing angles. The screen dims only slightly when viewed from the sides or above. Even when looking at the display from close to a 90-degree angle, I had little problem reading the text in an on-screen Word document.

Keyboard, trackpad, speakers, and extras

The IdeaPad Slim 7’s keyboard feels great to type on. The keys themselves offer plenty of travel, and keystrokes feel snappy and springy, perfect for avid typists. Even better, the keyboard is quiet enough that you won’t disturb those in close proximity. You also get hotkeys for mic mute, airplane mode, Windows 10 settings Windows lock, Task View, and the Calculator app. There aren’t any media playback hotkeys.

lenovo ideapad slim 7 keyboard Ben Patterson/IDG

The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 boasts a comfy, snappy keyboard, while its touchpad does a nice job or rejecting false inputs.

The Slim 7’s glass-covered touchpad felt smooth and responsive. Crucially, it did a fine job of rejecting false inputs, both during the regular course of my typing and also when I deliberately smushed my palms into the bottom corners of the trackpad. I noticed perhaps a couple instances of a herky-jerky cursor during several weeks of testing, but otherwise, it was smooth sailing.

The IdeaPad’s fingerprint sensor is embedded into the power button that sits on the right side of the laptop, up near the hinge. The fingerprint reader was awfully finicky during my testing, perhaps because of the sensor’s slightly awkward positioning on the side of the laptop. In any case, I frequently had to rescan my fingertip before successfully unlocking my Windows profile. Luckily, I had much better luck with the IR camera, which worked pretty much flawlessly and made unlocking the Slim 7 a breeze. Once I got started with facial recognition on the laptop, I never looked back.

Equipped with a pair of upfiring speakers that have been optimized for Dolby Atmos, the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 delivers impressive sound for a laptop, although (here comes our usual disclaimer) you’ll get much better audio from an external speaker or a pair of headphones. Tuning up “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings, the Slim 7’s speakers teased out plenty of detail while not ignoring the mid-range. There was even some decent bass—well, decent by laptop standards, anyway. The Atmos-enabled speakers also managed to do a solid job of serving up a virtualized 3D soundstage (although again, we’re grading on a curve),. You can fine-tune the sound using the included Dolby Atmos desktop app.

The IdeaPad Slim 7's 720p webcam captures blotchy, washed-out video that's adequate for Zoom and Skype video calls, but just barely. If you're planning on presenting to a large group or if you're going on virtual job interviews, you'd be better off with a dedicated webcam

Ports

The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 has just about every base covered when it comes to ports, including (on the left side) one that we rarely see in this price range: Thunderbolt 3, handy for connecting a pair of 4K monitors or hooking up a fully loaded laptop hub. Also on the left side is a full HDMI port, a combo audio jack, and a USB-C Power Delivery port.

lenovo ideapad slim 7 14iil05 left side Ben Patterson/IDG

The left side of the Lenovo IdeaPad 7 features a Thunderbolt 3 port, a full HDMI port, a combo audio jack, and a USB-C power port.

On the right, you’ll find a pair of USB SuperSpeed 5Gbps Type-A ports (we would have preferred SuperSpeed 10Gbps, but let’s not get greedy) and a microSD card reader.

lenovo ideapad slim 7 14iil05 right side Ben Patterson/IDG

A pair of USB SuperSpeed 5Gbps Type-A ports sit on the right side, along with a microSD slot. A fingerprint reader is embedded in the power button.

All that’s missing is ethernet, although that’s a lot to ask given the Slim 7’s svelte design.

Click here to read about the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7's performance results

At a Glance
  • The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 delivers both performance and value in a slim and trim shell, even if its battery life isn’t quite what we’d hoped.

    Pros

    • Facial and fingerprint biometrics
    • Dolby Atmos sound
    • Thunderbolt 3 port
    • Discrete graphics

    Cons

    • Middling battery life
    • Pedestrian design
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