When I'm looking to be productive, more screen real estate is a necessity. Bigger screens lets me have multiple windows in view at once, or pin different applications to the screen corners. While I can get by on a 12-inch screen, I adore 15- and 17-inchers.
While strolling through Best Buy a week ago, I saw a compelling 17-inch laptop from Lenovo: the Ideapad 330. After playing on the display model laptop a bit, I decided to take the plunge and purchase the laptop myself.
About this review
This model has an 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U processor (CPU); 8GB of DDR4 RAM; a 1TB, 5400 RPM Hard Disk Drive (HDD); and a 17-inch, 720p display. After using the stock configuration, I swapped in a 512gb SATA 3 Solid State Drive (SSD) and installed a clean version of Windows from a USB drive.
Lenovo IdeaPad 330 17-inch hardware and specifications
|Processor||8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U
1600 x 900 (HD)
|Storage||1TB 5400RPM SATA HDD|
|Graphics||Intel UHD Graphics 620|
Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet
Two USB-A 3.0
3.5mm audio in/out
USB-C 3.0 (data only)
SD card reader
|Speakers||Dual 1.5W stereo with Dolby Audio|
|Wireless||Intel Dual Band Wireless AC-3165
802.11ac (2 x 2)
|Battery||30Wh, 4000mAh internal|
|Dimensions||16.46 in x 11.52 in x 0.98 in
(418.1 mm x 292.6 mm x 24.89 mm)
Lenovo Ideapad 330 17-inch design and features
This laptop is built entirely out of plastic, to keep both the weight and the cost down. But it isn't cheap-feeling, and it won't scratch easily. It's also well balanced: it's not a huge strain to briefly use it one-handed, with the bottom of the laptop resting on my forearm. It's also not awful to carry in a backpack.
There are 15 screws keeping the back panel attached. Unscrew those and run a flathead screwdriver or spudger along the panel seam, and it will be off in no time. Inside, you can see the 2.5-inch hard drive, battery and single SODIMM slot for RAM. This model also includes 4GB of RAM soldered onto the board, allowing for a maximum of 20GB if you really want to expand it. The DVD drive comes off with the back panel, and can be replaced with a Blu-ray drive. The Wi-Fi and Bluetooth card is located in the middle and can be replaced with any m.2 network card.
Finally, you can see there's a bit of extra room around the battery. At this time Lenovo does not sell larger batteries that you can install for this laptop.
There are full-sized HDMI, USB-A and Ethernet ports, so you won't need a dongle. Unfortunately, the USB-C port only works for data transfers, not display-out or charging. I love having the full-sized ports to be able present materials in meetings, but it's frustrating that Lenovo crippled the USB-C port.
The built-in microphones are serviceable for video calls, but the webcam is bad. There aren't any biometrics available for Windows Hello, which isn't too much of a surprise given the price point.
Lenovo Ideapad 330 17-inch keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard and touchpad are generously-sized, fitting with the large chassis. The keys themselves offer plenty of travel, and require a satisfying amount of force to register input. They aren't stiff or loose. Unfortunately, there isn't backlighting, but there are lights to indicate if Caps Lock and the Number Pad are on.
The trackpad is a different story. It's a good size, but it doesn't use Precision drivers. Trying to install Precision drivers just left the trackpad inoperable, so I resigned to using a wireless mouse with the laptop.
Lenovo Ideapad 330 17-inch performance
Besides the size, performance is the main appeal of this laptop. For only $530, you're getting the same processor that's in the $1,200 ThinkPad T470. You're also getting 8GB of RAM, more than enough to keep up with most use cases.
What doesn't keep up with most use cases is the 5400 RPM hard drive. I'm not sure why Lenovo decided to pair this great CPU and RAM with such slow storage, but the product is worse for it.
Thankfully, you can easily put any SSD in this laptop and it'll scream. Whether you already have an SSD or you just want to spend an extra $80 or so, you'll be so happy you did. With the SSD in place, the laptop starts up about 10 times faster, powers down much faster, applications open in an instant, and multitasking is a breeze.
The display is just OK. It's a 720p panel with decent colors and viewing angles.
Another bad mark is the battery. Even with a full charge and up to date BIOS and power management drivers, I could only squeeze about three and a half hours of work from the laptop. That's just writing up Google Docs documents inside Microsoft Edge, with a couple other Edge tabs open for research. I had the screen brightness at 75 percent,, which is the minimum you'll want to use it at. This is also a 720p panel, so the GPU isn't working nearly as hard as it could be. Simply put, the default battery is too small. If you're going to use this laptop, be prepared to bring the charger with you wherever you go.
Lenovo Ideapad 330 17-inch review conclusion
Out of the box, this laptop is pretty terrible to use because of the slow HDD and low battery life. However, it's an inexpensive way to get great performance, if you don't mind installing an SSD and maybe a larger battery if they become available.
Working on such a large screen is a joy, and it performs better than anything else at this price point once you swap the hard drive out. There are plenty of ports, but not being able to use the USB-C port for charging or display-out is what's going to cause me to return this laptop.
- Easy to upgrade internals.
- Big display.
- Great keyboard.
- Full sized Ethernet, USB-A and HDMI ports.
- Poor webcam.
- No Precision trackpad.
- USB-C port is limited.
- Stock HDD is slow.
- Stock battery is too small.
Best Buy has these on sale regularly. It costs $530 right now, but I picked it up for $439 a week ago. Even adding $100 for an SSD, either of those prices is a bargain for a laptop with the i5-8250U and 8GB of RAM. If you don't mind the effort it takes to install the SSD, and you can find a way to manage the battery life, it's hard not to like this laptop despite its faults.
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