The Lenovo 530S is a fine laptop with an aluminum build and decent performance at an affordable price, but poor speakers and visuals do very little to help this one stand out from the competition.
- All-aluminum build
- Fast everyday performance
- Doesn’t stand out
- Awful speakers
- Lackluster display
For years, Lenovo has built a name for itself for making reliable laptops at a low price for people on a budget. And, in a lot of ways, the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S continues this trend and should be a fine laptop for every day users.
What you get here is a competent 15-inch laptop with enough power to get you through most anything everyday life can throw at it, with an excellent keyboard to boot. If you’re just looking to do some light office or school work, the IdeaPad 530S will be more than sufficient.
However, next to some other laptops in its price range, the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S starts to look a bit worse for wear.
Pricing and availability
For all intents and purposes, the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S is a budget laptop with high-end parts inside, and is priced as such. You can pick up the starting configuration in the US for $849 (£749, about AU$1,170). This will net you an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
Folks in the UK have a more modest entry point, where you’ll be able to pick up a Lenovo IdeaPad 530S for £599 (about $780, AU$1,090) with a Core i3 – a configuration that makes a lot more sense.
The core issue with the price point for the entry level model is that the Lenovo Flex 6 14 exists. For another $30 at the time of writing, you’re getting the same hardware, but with a touchscreen, and the ability to convert into a tablet. You will be sacrificing an inch of screen real estate, but for all the added functionality, that extra $30 isn’t even noticeable.
However, when you go all-out on the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S, things get even more confusing. Upping the price to $1,249 (£899, about AU$1,630) gets you an Intel Core i7-8550U, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
At this price point, the Lenovo 530S starts to come against heavy hitters like the Dell XPS 15 and the HP Spectre x360 15, which, at $999 (£1,399, AU$1,898) and $1,369 (£1,399, AU$3,699), respectively, are much more fully-featured laptops that we would recommend in a heartbeat for the average user.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 530S isn’t a bad laptop – it’s more than competent at what it does. But, at the price Lenovo is charging for it, we expect a lot more.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 530S looks like, well, a laptop. It has an attractive, all-aluminum build that feels sturdy and should be more than durable enough for the average user. The display shows no sign of flexing, even under stress, and it’s thin enough to avoid judging glances from the hipsters at the coffee shop.
A Mineral Grey finish that, while attractive enough, comes standard with the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S, and you can’t change it. This isn’t that surprising, though, considering the target audience for this laptop: it’ll look fine on display at Walmart.
One major saving grace of this laptop is how thin and light it is. Measuring in at just 14.1 x 9.6 x 0.65 inches and weighing just 3.7 lbs (1.69kg), you’ll be able to carry the IdeaPad 530S wherever you go without putting a strain on your back. The lightweight build was one of the first things that jumped out at us – we were floored by how easy it was to carry this 15-inch laptop around.
As for the port selection, it’s almost perfect. You get two USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, a headphone jack and an SD card reader – everything we could ask for in a mid-range laptop. You will be hard pressed to find an accessory that you can’t use with the IdeaPad 530S short of what few Thunderbolt 3 accessories might be out there.
You’re also going to find a fingerprint reader, which is a welcome touch on a laptop like this – added security is always a bonus. We just wish the reader were a bit more accurate. There were several times that we’ve tried to log into this laptop via fingerprint and ended up having to type in our PIN.
It should come as no surprise that the keyboard here is sublime, though. Lenovo makes some of the best keyboards for laptops, and the keyboard on the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S is a dream. We here at TechRadar do a lot of typing, so we really do appreciate a keyboard that’s as tactile and downright comfortable as this one. Seriously, this might be one of the best laptops for writers in 2018 – as long as you can look past all the faults.
We just wish we could say the same thing about the trackpad. It’s functional, and the Windows Precision drivers work their magic to provide an accurate pointing device. However, we simply don’t understand why it has to be so small. This trackpad takes up so little space, that we constantly feel constrained by it – hitting the edges way too soon. It just isn’t a pleasant experience.
Display and audio
The Lenovo IdeaPad 530S display falls in line with the rest of the laptop: it’s fine, but nothing spectacular. This is a 15.6-inch, 1080p IPS display with a matte finish that should work just fine in most environments. However, it’s just not very bright.
During our battery test (which we’ll get into a bit later), we had to squint to see the screen – in a dimly-lit room. Luckily, when you crank up the brightness, the display is more than serviceable. Of course, that then is possibly an extra hit to battery life.
But, then, there’s the speakers. They’re quiet, they sound like crap, and you really just need to wear headphones. Nothing sounds good – we’d even recommend avoiding YouTube. It’s just another case of a laptop with down-firing speakers that sound like they got put through your washing machine. We even had to mute notifications because they sounded so bad. If being underwater is your vibe, you’ll feel right at home, otherwise, check out our list of the best headphones.
For example, we were sitting down to do some work on this laptop, and we decided to listen to one of our favorite songs – Karma by Alicia Keys. On the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S, this gorgeous song was transforms into an ugly mess, and we are honestly a little offended. Trust us, if you’re looking for a laptop to enjoy some music with in your downtime, look elsewhere.
Luckily, for all the flaws the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S has, its performance is actually pretty admirable. We are able to get through an entire workday with a ton of tabs open in Chrome, iTunes and Slack without a hitch. We get that the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S aims to be a no-nonsense office work machine, and it at least pulls that off.
The benchmarks are pretty impressive, too. Scoring 543 in Cinebench and a very respectable 12,722 in the GeekBench 4 multi-core test, the Intel Kaby Lake Refresh CPUs on offer here continue to impress us with their performance boost over 7th-generation processors.
Don’t be fooled by the presentation of the laptop, this thing can get some work done, and it can multitask like a champ. Just don’t expect to do much in the way of gaming on this thing. The integrated graphics resulted in a paltry 3DMark Time Spy score of 381 – beyond the odd indie game, just don’t even try it.
In the TechRadar battery test, we loop a movie in VLC Media Player at 50% brightness and volume, with all radios except for Wi-Fi turned off. In those parameters, the IdeaPad 530S is actually kind of impressive. Now, don’t get us wrong, a battery life of six hours isn’t anything to write home about, but you should be able to get through most projects without having to reach for the charger.
However, you shouldn’t expect it to get you through a full day of work. In the PCMark 8 Battery test, which simulates more real-world workloads like word processing and video conferencing, the IdeaPad scored just three hours and 58 minutes – which will almost get you to your lunch break.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to carry this laptop around without its charger, and since it doesn’t use USB-C, you won’t be able to have any chargers pulling double duty.
Software and features
What is really surprising about the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S is the almost complete lack of bloatware. Beyond a few Lenovo branded programs that either update drivers or suggest different apps, the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S actually comes out of the box relatively clean.
Save for McAffee LiveSafe, there’s basically no third party software here.
With a laptop like this, we’d expect all kinds of software that we’d have to go through and remove, but we have to give Lenovo props here: it does offer a relatively clean install of Windows 10.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 530S isn’t a terrible laptop – it’s just not especially great, either. If you’re looking for a laptop to get some work done and you really don’t care about anything else, it’s going to be fine.
But, when you start looking at products at comparable price points, it just doesn’t make sense to pick this laptop up over many similarly-priced options. You can get laptops from other manufacturers – hell, even from Lenovo itself – at the same price points that make so much more sense. You can get better displays, better speakers, better trackpads … better, well, pretty much everything elsewhere.
That’s precisely why it’s so hard to recommend this laptop – it gets the job done, and it isn’t what we would consider a bad product, but why would you buy the Lenovo IdeaPad 530S over laptops with more features for a similar price? We just can’t think of an answer to that question.