As an average user, choosing a notebook that ticks all the boxes while managing to keep costs relatively low could be a difficult thing. Lenovo's 15-inch Ideapad 330s aims to do exactly that, balancing style, functionality and portability into a package that begins at a price of Rs 53,999 and caps out Rs 75,899. But it does miss out on a few things which may bother you.
That being said, the Ideapad 330S is perhaps one of the best everyday notebooks for students as well as working professionals. It may not be packed to the gills with features or gaming laptop-level hardware, but given the price, the 330S should be able to meet most of your demands, leaving a cue for all other similarly-price notebooks to pick up on.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
The Ideapad 330S is very simply designed. The unit we had for review was the silver variant and is very unassuming to look at. Even the Lenovo branding is tucked away in the corner in a manner that you often won't notice it. I personally do prefer the bare look, but if you want to grabs a few eyeballs, you might want to slap a skin onto the lid.
Open the lid up and you see the 15.6-display nestled in a frame with surprisingly thin bezels and a thicker chin. The overall look here, in fact, is somewhat reminiscent of Lenovo's premium Thinkpad Carbon X1 notebook, without all that carbon-fibre of course.
The profile of the laptop is angular and reduces in thickness as you move towards the front. They are also bevelled, which adds a bit more finesse to how it looks.
The build of the laptop is quite good with a good mix of polished aluminium and plastic. The body is made of plastic while the lid is made of aluminium. The frame of the display, however, is again made of plastic. The quality of materials used here does feel sturdy, but pressing down on the empty spaces around the trackpad does show a certain amount of flex.
The almost-flat base of the laptop is equally weighted across its sides and the laptop doesn’t feel too heavy or too light on any one side. Thin rubber strips on the base of the laptop keep the computer sitting firmly on the lap or a table.
The hinge, on the other hand, is not particularly great but it does swivel 180-degrees, which is convenient when sitting at odd angles. The hinge casing is also of the same plastic material as the rest of the body.
Keyboard and trackpad: 7.5/10
The keyboard was very enjoyable on the 330S. I did find the keys to be a little mushy and low on travel but did get used to them within a couple of days. Another thing which did take getting used to were the directional arrow keys, which have been squished a bit to fit within the rectangular outline of the keyboard.
Despite lacking travel, which I personally prefer, I did not find myself being disappointed with the experience. I did type a lot on the keyboard and never missed a keystroke.
The keyboard on the variant I reviewed is also backlit, the strength of which can be altered by holding the 'Fn' key and pressing the 'Spacebar'.
As for the trackpad, it is made of plastic but is reliable. The trackpad responds smoothly to mouse movement as well as gestures and is rather good. The left and right click zones are distinct, but the two-finger-tap gesture for right click is supported.
The variant we received for testing is the maxed out variant of the Ideapad 330S. It features the new 8th gen Intel Core i7-8550U CPU, 8 GB (4 GB DDR4 Soldered and 4 GB DDR4 SODIMM) of DDR4 RAM, an AMD Radeon 540 GPU with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory. Rounding this up is a 1 TB 5,400 RPM HDD. This is quite good for the Rs 75,899 price you pay for it, but I can't help but wish that Lenovo had thrown in at least a 128 GB SSD here, or at least an Intel Optane drive to complement the HDD.
The display is a 15.6-inch unit with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. This is an IPS LED panel with a matte finish. In terms of ports, you get two USB 3.0 ports, one USB Type-C 3.1 port, a 4-in-1 card reader, an HDMI port and a 3.5 mm combo audio jack.
The hinge, as I mentioned in the build section, is one of the major highlights of the Ideapad 330s and can rotate by up to 180 degrees.
In terms of connectivity, you get 1x1 WiFi AC and Bluetooth 4.1 support. You also get two 2W speakers, which take care of the audio output, and a 3-cell Li-Polymer battery underneath.
While most laptop makers skimp on the quality of the display, that is certainly not the case with the Ideapad 330S. In fact, the 15.6-inch display turns out to be another of the highlights of the laptop.
Running at a full HD resolution (1920 x 1080) the display really holds up regardless of what you choose to do with it. The fact that it has a matte finish also ensures that the display does not reflect a light source behind you and also reduces glare.
Viewing angles are not too great as brightness levels take a huge hit when viewed at any angle from the side, which means that unless you’re looking at the display from a perfectly straight angle, brightness levels will seem abnormally low.
Talking about brightness, the Ideapad 330S has a below average peak brightness, so much so, that even while indoors, I found myself increasing the brightness to full while watching a video. Running our tests, we found out that the peak brightness the laptop could attain was only 200 nits. The colour accuracy was more or less on point but considering the display covers only 57.8 percent of the sRGB colour space, we're not particularly excited. The colour gamut is more than enough for the average consumer and is fine for gaming and movies.
The display fared quite poorly when we measured the white levels, though otherwise, the contrast ratio was quite decent.
We might seem to be bashing the display here, but the fact of the matter is that this is one of the better displays we've seen in a laptop priced around the Rs 60,000 to Rs 80,000 range.
Having spent time with the laptop as my main PC for a good period, I can confidently say that the laptop was able to handle almost everything I threw at it with relative ease. This involved using the laptop mostly for work, which in itself means having at least 25-40 Chrome tabs open at any given time, Microsoft Word and a bunch of image re-touching apps like FastStone and IrfanView. Slack and Telegram were also open at all times.
The omission of an SSD here, however, really hurts the overall experience and I really think Lenovo could have at the least added the option of adding one into the highest specced variant of the notebook. Keeping aside slower boot speeds, even loading programs like Word would take forever. Copying large volumes of files was also a painfully slow experience. All of these are problems an SSD could have easily taken care of.
If you are a gamer, you might want to stay away from this one. I'm personally not a very heavy PC gamer but I did try the two most popular Battle Royale titles out there — PUBG and Fortnite.
Fortnite was playable on medium settings with all the effects turned down to medium. You could lock the framerate down to 30 fps for stutter-free gameplay, but I played a round or two with the fps set to 'unlimited' and the worst the 330S dropped to was 28 fps, which is completely playable, but certainly not ideal. Anything more demanding than Fortnite, however, and you will struggle.
I did try to play PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds (PUBG) at 720p and the lowest graphics settings, only to return with disappointing frame rates at idle, which turned to unplayable (below 20 fps) when there was a lot of action happening. Ported mobile games like Asphalt 9: Legends ran at full tilt though. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, we saw an average fps of about 35 and a minimum of 20. This is, again, a tolerable frame-rate for light gaming. Gamers will get more powerful laptops in this price range, but they will be larger and heavier.
Compared to other laptops with the same CPU, the IdeaPad 330S performs much worse. It seems to me that the laptop seems to be having some trouble with thermal throttling and that it's unable to sustain a heavy load for long. For the average student and office worker, however, there's more than enough performance on tap.
Temperatures were under check, under regular as well as synthetic load. Though one thing that I did notice is that the area on the left of the trackpad, where your palm would naturally rest, did heat up when under load. It's not enough to get too bothered about, but it did get warm enough to make my hands sweat a fair bit.
Battery Life: 7/10
In our standard PCMark 8 Home Battery Life test, the laptop lasted for 3 hours and 23 minutes, which is just below average, but this can be ascribed to the presence of the discrete GPU. As weak as it is, it does draw more power than Intel's integrated chip.
At a regular day's work, the Ideapad 330S managed about six and a half hours before dying, which is actually very good for a Windows laptop, especially given my usage.
Price and verdict
The IdeaPad is a good laptop for everyday use, and it certainly looks the part, but it's also in need of some tweaks. The Radeon 540 GPU is a bit of a wimp and seems to serve little functional purpose. It's not much use for gaming and consumes a lot more power than an integrated GPU. And while having 1 TB of storage is nice, the lack of an SSD really hurts the user experience.
If you can look past these shortcomings, however, and have never experienced the joys of an SSD, the IdeaPad 330S is a great pick for people who're looking for a portable workhorse for general use. That being said, a prime alternative to consider here is the Dell Inspiron 15 7572, which offers the same configuration as well as an SSD for just Rs 1,000 more.