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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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All that’s missing is ethernet, although that’s a lot to ask given the Slim 7’s svelte design.
With its quad-core, Core i5 Ice Lake CPU and discrete graphics, we were expecting plenty of productivity power from the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7, and that’s just what we got. The Slim 7 handles Office and daily PC duties with ease, it excels at shouldering multi-core CPU loads over lengthy periods, and it packs enough graphical punch to please content creators. That said, the IdeaPad Slim 7 falls more in the middle of the pack when it comes to delivering quick bursts of power, and we’ve seen better battery life.
PCMark 8 Work Conventional
Our first benchmark measures how well a given laptop performs during such everyday computing chores as web surfing, composing Word documents, tinkering with spreadsheets, and video chat. Because most of the tasks simulated by PCMark 8 require only a single computing core, laptops with fewer CPU cores remain on an even playing field with those that have more. A PCMark 8 score of 2,000 or higher generally means you’ll see smooth Office performance.
So don’t fret when you see the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 sitting in the bottom half of our performance chart. Every laptop in the comparison pool of similar models breezed through the PCMark 8 benchmark with a score north of 3,000—easy peasy.
Our next benchmark involves using the free HandBrake utility to encode a 30GB .MOV video file into a format suitable for Android tablets. This lengthy, multi-core task is guaranteed to spin up cooling fans as CPU temperatures begin to soar. Given that it takes about an hour or so to complete the test, our HandBrake benchmark does a good job of showing us how a laptop handles heat buildup over time. In this case, laptops with the most cores generally get the best scores.
This time, the IdeaPad Slim 7 snags a solid third place (shorter bars are better for HandBrake), behind a pair of other Ice Lake laptops with more powerful Core i7 CPUs, and notably ahead of another laptop (the Acer Swift 3) with the same Core i5 processor as the Slim 7. For a slim-and-trim laptop in the IdeaPad’s price range, any HandBrake score south of 4,000 is exceptional. The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 manages to sneak just beneath that mark, which is no small feat.
More of a sprint to HandBrake’s marathon, Cinebench puts a laptop through its paces as it renders a 3D image in real time. Unlike the lengthy HandBrake benchmark, the Cinebench test is generally over in a matter of minutes, which means we expect laptops with the fastest boost clocks to get the upper hand.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7’s Cinebench performance is more so-so than it was for HandBrake, although to be fair, it’s essentially neck-and-neck with the fourth-place LG Gram and its Core i7 Comet Lake CPU. If anything, it’s the Core i5 Comet Lake-powered Lenovo Yoga C740 that’s the surprise, nestled in the top three with those two Core i7 Ice Lake systems. But while the IdeaPad Slim 7 is a tad slower out of the gate than the Yoga C740, it’s still well ahead of the Acer Swift 3 and its identical Core i5 Ice Lake chip.
We are a tad concerned by the Slim 7’s single-threaded Cinebench performance, which is third-to-last in our chart, although the laptop’s solid PCMark 8 score gives us some comfort in terms of its single-core efficiency.
3DMark Sky Diver
The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 comes equipped with a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX350 graphics card, an entry-level GPU that won’t set your hair on fire in terms of gaming but should grease the wheels for Adobe Premiere and other content creation tools. We expected the Slim 7 to top the charts for our 3DMark Sky Diver benchmark, given that all the other laptops in our comparison only have integrated graphics.
And there you have it. The two Core i7 Ice Lake systems make a somewhat better showing than the rest, due to their turbocharged Iris Plus graphics cores, but they still can’t hold a candle to the Slim 7’s discrete graphics.
Just to put things in perspective, we also ran a couple of quick gameplay benchmarks, lest anyone were to think that the IdeaPad Slim 7 is a full-on gaming machine. As expected, the Slim managed only sub-30-fps visuals for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Rise of the Tomb Raider using their maxed-out graphics presets. To wring 60 fps or better from those two aging AAA games, you’ll either have to dial the graphics way back or upgrade to a gaming laptop with, say, a GeForce GTX 1650 GPU or better.
We test battery life on a laptop by looping a 4K video using the stock Windows Movies and TV app. We set screen brightness set to approximately 250 nits and volume to 50 percent, with headphones plugged in.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7’s result here is decidedly meh. While the laptop’s nearly 10.5-hour performance sounds pretty good at first blush (remember, of course, that the battery will drain much faster during CPU-intensive activities), we were expecting more given the Slim 7’s sizable 60.7 watt-hour battery. The Lenovo Yoga C740, for example, pretty much matches the Slim 7’s performance with a only a 50 watt-hour battery, while our chart-topping Lenovo Yoga C640 blows the Slim away with a 60.3Whr battery that’s similar to the Slim’s.
So, what’s the deal here? First, let’s consider the fact that the Slim 7’s quad-core Core i5 Ice Lake CPU drains more power than the Yoga C640’s dual-core Comet Lake chip, which gives the less powerful C640 a big advantage in terms of battery life. Then there’s the Slim 7’s discrete graphics core, which draws more power compared to the integrated graphics used by the other laptops in our chart. Finally, the Slim 7’s impressive CPU performance—especially during our HandBrake benchmark—may be exacting a toll in the battery life department. (We ran our battery drain tests using the Slim 7’s default “Balanced” power plan.)
We wish the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 had more staying power in terms of battery life, and we wouldn’t have minded faster burst performance, along with a touchscreen. Still, with its Core i5 Ice Lake CPU, discrete MX350 graphics, fingerprint and facial biometrics, Thunderbolt 3 port, and Atmos sound, the IdeaPad Slim 7 delivers an impressive arsenal of productivity tools for the price, as long as you can live without all-day battery life.
Best Prices Today: Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 14IIL05 82A4000MUS
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.