Lenovo IdeaPad 320S review

The mid-range 300 series of IdeaPad laptops from Lenovo has always been about productivity, and the updated line appended with an "S" signifies that these laptops are now slimmer and lighter than before. There's nothing flashy about the IdeaPad 320S, but it's meant to be a workhorse with a decent amount of performance and a relatively affordable price.

How does it stack up in a world filled with mid-range laptops? Let's have a look.

About this review

Lenovo supplied Windows Central with a review unit of the 15.6-inch IdeaPad 320S. This specific configuration has an Intel Core i5-7200U processor (CPU), 8GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB hard-disk drive (HDD), and a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce 940MX graphics card (GPU). This specific configuration costs about $700.

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As reviewed

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S hardware and specs

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S

There are a few different configurations available for the IdeaPad 320S, but here are the specs of the laptop we received.

Category XX
Processor Intel Core i5-7200U (up to 3.10GHz)
Dual-core
Storage 1TB 5400RPM SATA HDD
RAM 8GB DDR4-2133MHz
Display 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, matte
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620
NVIDIA GeForce 940MX with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM
Ports USB-A 3.0
USB-A 2.0
USB-C 3.0
HDMI 1.4
3.5 mm jack
SD card reader
Speakers Dual Harman Kardon speakers
Dolby Audio
Wireless Intel dual-band Wireless-AC 3165
802.11ac (1 x 1)
Bluetooth 4.1
Camera Front-facing 720p
Touchpad Precision
Battery Three-cell 52WHr
Weight 4.18 lbs (1.89 kg)
Dimensions 14.28 inches x 9.92 inches x 0.78 inches
362.7 mm x 251.9 mm x 19.8 mm
Color Silver
OS Windows 10 Home
Price About $700

Nothing flashy

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S design

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S

Lenovo went with a two-part chassis for this standard notebook design, using aluminum for the lid and a polycarbonate/ABS alloy for the rest. The result is a nicely balanced package with a lid that you can almost open with one hand. A silver finish on the lid and bottom has a bit of sparkle, and inside, around the keyboard and touchpad, the faux brushed aluminum does an outstanding job of hiding fingerprints.

The chassis has a bit of wedge shape to it, giving it the appearance that it's thinner than it really is. Still, it remains 0.78 inches (19.8 mm) thick across its entire body and weighs just over four pounds, no doubt owing partly to the GeForce 940MX GPU. It's not exceptionally light, but it's not noticeably heavy, especially for a 15-inch device.

A single hinge takes up most of the upper part of the laptop, and it has a smooth action. In a movement test — picking the laptop up and giving it a light shake to simulate a moving vehicle — there was a tapping noise where the left edge of the display was hitting the chassis. This was alleviated by setting the display angle just right, but it's a problem I haven't come across before. Likewise, when bending the main chassis, the polycarbonate/ABS alloy creaks a bit and doesn't feel as sturdy as the usual magnesium hybrids.

The left side of the laptop houses several ports, including HDMI 1.4, USB-A 3.0, USB-C 3.0, and a 3.5 mm jack. The right side has a USB-A 2.0, an SD card reader, and a Kensington lock slot. Ports have a comfortable amount of space between them, and you shouldn't have a problem using them at once, even if you have a USB flash drive plugged in.

In the hinge slot and on the bottom of the device, there is ample venting to reduce heat. The fan comes on once in awhile, especially when the 940MX kicks in, but it's not so loud that it's annoying.

The down-firing speakers are muted when sitting in your lap, and there's a noticeable difference even when the laptop is sitting on a flat surface. Uncovered, they're loud and crisp and work well.

You can see the price

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S display

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S

The IdeaPad 320S has a 15.6-inch IPS matte display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, which is pretty much perfect for anyone looking to get work done. Because of the matte finish, it's much easier to work from just about anywhere, including outdoors. However, direct sunlight is a killer due to the dim backlight. Most of the time I had brightness cranked way up, wishing I could go about 25 or 50 percent higher. But you won't have a problem using this laptop in the dark.

The IPS panel has a great viewing angle, and there's really not a lot of bezel along the sides or top, something that you usually don't see from a laptop at this price. There is enough room for a front-facing 720p camera, but it is not compatible with Windows Hello. There's no fingerprint reader, either, so if you have to have Windows Hello, you're either looking at a third-party device or a different laptop.

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S

Using the laptop for about a week, I really didn't have any issues with the display. The colors seemed slightly washed out, and testing color reproduction revealed low 69 percent sRGB and 52 percent AdobeRGB ratings. Still, this laptop is designed to be a workhorse, and color reproduction is something that can take a hit to keep the cost down.

The best parts?

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S keyboard and touchpad

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S

The best parts of the entire laptop might just be the keyboard and touchpad, and that's no doubt what Lenovo intended when it set out to create a device aimed at students or anyone focused on productivity. The chiclet keys are slightly curved and have an almost perfect amount of travel. Hitting the deck is quite soft, and the result is a nearly silent typing experience.

There are three levels of backlight to choose from, and the F keys have a full range of shortcut options, including volume, brightness, touchpad toggle, airplane mode, and lock. The power button is located along the top row of keys.

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S

The touchpad uses Precision drivers for full Windows 10 gestures. Right out of the box, sensitivity is perfect, and I had no issues with tracking. As far as the size, it's not too big and not too small.

Good for a bit of fun

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S gaming

Rather surprisingly based on the price, this laptop comes with a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce 940MX GPU. While this is by no means a high-end GPU based on today's standards, it's still nice to see in a mid-range laptop. The addition of this hardware means you can enjoy a bit of gaming.

I ran a 3DMark Sky Diver test on the IdeaPad 320S and came up with a score of 6,615. Standard notebook scores sit around the 5,573 mark, while a gaming laptop from 2013 sits at about the 9,595 mark. You can see here the age of the 940MX.

This is by no means a real gaming laptop, but you can get away with some medium and low requirement games. The real upside is that the 940MX will take over from the integrated HD Graphics 620 when the going gets tough, like if you're working in Photoshop Elements.

Better than expected

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S performance

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S

Using the IdeaPad 320S as an everyday driver for about a week, it quickly became apparent that the 5400RPM HDD was the major bottleneck in performance. Other than that, there aren't any standout problems.

The battery lasts between seven and eight hours, even with the screen on full brightness (which isn't exactly that bright). This is based on standard use, things like word processing and web browsing, and that life no doubt takes a hit when the 940MX GPU kicks in.

CPU

Geekbench 4.0 Benchmarks (Higher is better)

Device CPU Single core Multi core
Lenovo IdeaPad 320S i5-7200U 3,686 7,106
Lenovo Yoga 720 15 i7-7700HQ 3,784 10,255
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2nd Gen) i5-7200U 3,911 7,549
Surface Laptop i5-7200U 3,725 7,523
Lenovo ThinkPad T470 i5-7300U vPro 4,394 8,580
Dell Latitude 5285 i7-7600U 4,635 9,289
Lenovo ThinkPad X270 i7-7600U 4,512 8,566
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s i5-7300U vPro 3,919 6,077
Lenovo Yoga 720 13 i5-7200U 3,881 7,509
Lenovo X1 Carbon i5-7300U 4,139 8,311
HP EliteBook x360 G2 i7-7600U 4,496 8,435
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext i7-7500U 4,316 8,320
Dell Latitude 7280 i7-7600U 4,381 7,935
Dell XPS 13 (9360) i7-6560U 4,120 7,829
HP Spectre 13 i7-7500U 4,100 7,469
Surface Book i7-6600U 3,948 7,415

The laptop-class Core i5-7200U CPU has a 15W TDP and performs as well as expected. It will serve you for everyday tasks, and I saw no standout problems during use.

GPU

Geekbench 4.0 Graphics OpenCL (Higher is better)

Device Score
Lenovo IdeaPad 320S 16,240
Lenovo Yoga 720 15 13,727
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2nd Gen) 19,738
Surface Pro 2017 30,678
Surface Laptop 19,256
Lenovo ThinkPad T470 21,276
Dell Latitude 5285 21,921
Lenovo ThinkPad X270 17,376
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s 16,635
Lenovo Yoga 720 13 18,185
Lenovo X1 Carbon 20,932
Dell Latitude 5480 21,616
Dell XPS 13 (9360) 19,410
Surface Book 18,197
Dell Latitude 7280 17,827

The integrated HD Graphics 620 isn't quite a knockout performer, coming in with an average benchmark in the OpenCL test. This isn't a big problem, as the 940MX GPU can take over when the going gets tough. Testing the 940MX in the same benchmark, we saw a score of 30,539.

PCMark

PCMark Home Conventional 3.0

Device Score Comparison
Lenovo IdeaPad 320S 2,576 Better than 40 percent of all results
Lenovo Yoga 720 15 2,993 Better than 57 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2nd Gen) 2,773 Better than 46 percent of all results
Surface Pro 2017 3,055 Better than 57 percent of all results
Surface Laptop 2,494 Better than 40 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad T470 3,103 Better than 62 percent of all results
Dell Latitude 5285 3,079 Better than 57 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad X270 3,009 Better than 57 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s 2,576 Better than 40 percent of all results
Lenovo Yoga 720 13 2,717 Better than 46 percent of all results
Lenovo X1 Carbon Core i5 2,965 Better than 57 percent of all results
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext 2,998 Better than 57 percent of all results
Dell XPS 15 (9560) 3,534 Better than 71 percent of all results
Dell Latitude 7280 2,829 Better than 52 percent of all results
HP Spectre x360 15 2,472 Better than 41 percent of all results

The PCMark Home Conventional test measures how well a bunch of your hardware works together to perform a number of everyday tasks. The IdeaPad 320S performs well but is no doubt hampered by the slow HDD.

SSD

CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

Device Read Write
Lenovo IdeaPad 320S 117.7 MB/s 117.0 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 720 15 1,839 MB/s 1,238 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2nd Gen) 1,253 MB/s 763.6 MB/s
Surface Laptop 423 MB/s 237 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad T470 1,079 MB/s 716.1 MB/s
Dell Latitude 5285 1,300 MB/s 1,113 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X270 PCIe 1,049 MB/s 636.9 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s 1,557 MB/s 1,333 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 720 1,904 MB/s 1,169 MB/s
Lenovo X1 Carbon 1,518 MB/s 1,188 MB/s
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext 1,365 MB/s 1,213 MB/s
Razer Blade Pro 2,571 MB/s 2,467 MB/s
Dell XPS 15 (9560) 2,207 MB/s 1,628 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (9360) 1,287 MB/s 794 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 15 1,128 MB/s 862 MB/s

The 5400RPM HDD here is excruciatingly slow. Unzipping compressed files, installing apps, and launching apps will all take a noticeably longer time than if you're used to a solid-state drive (SSD), but concessions must be made somewhere in order to keep the price down. If you're concerned about top performance, a laptop with an SSD will be a better choice.

TL;DR

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S review: Conclusion

Lenovo IdeaPad 320S

Despite a few spots where you can see the mid-range price show — the dim display, slow HDD, and creaky chassis — the IdeaPad 320S is a strong contender in the productivity field. The 15.6-inch display is big enough for multitasking, and the matte finish is a nice touch.

The addition of a GeForce 940MX GPU, while not the most powerful hardware, is appreciated, especially for anyone who enjoys a bit of light gaming or who plans on using the laptop for multimedia editing. For a student heading back to school, the IdeaPad 320S is more than worth a look.

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Pros:

  • Great battery life.
  • Dedicated GPU.
  • Matte display.
  • Decent performance.

Cons:

  • Very slow HDD.
  • Display is dim.
  • Some creaking in the chassis.
  • Display hinge is a bit flimsy.

3.5 out of 5

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