£800 is a fair amount of money to spend on a laptop. But a gaming laptop? That seems like a bargain. This is what Lenovo hopes people will think, anyway. Our IdeaPad L340 review will explore whether they're right.
Basically an upgraded and improved version of the Lenovo IdeaPad L340, one of the best student laptops around, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i is not only well-suited to day-to-day computing tasks, but is also capable of running most games smoothly and efficiently.
The key word here is 'most'. This laptop doesn't quite match up to the specs of other, pricier rivals. And so if you're a hardcore gamer, you'll probably want to look at spending some more money.
If, however, you're a first-time gamer, a casual gamer, or just want an efficient, all-purpose laptop that you can play games on every now and again, then keep reading.
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Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i review: design
To our minds, the design of this laptop is one of its best features: quite simply, it looks more expensive than it is. Cast in formidable Onyx black, and with imposing, angular looks, no one will be left in any doubt this is a laptop dedicated to gaming.
Straight out of the box, you're struck by its starkly rounded corners and subtly curving lid. The weight, too, is noticeable: at 2.2 kg (4.8lb) it has a real heft, giving you the distinct impression this laptop means business. Plus when it's closed, you can open it with just one hand: a real touch of class.
Nothing about this laptop is subtle, and that includes the keyboard, which covers a wide surface area of 335 x 125mm, a good portion of the 359 x 249mm available. The keys are nicely spaced apart, printed with large capitals, and have a pleasingly tactic feel to them. The arrow keys are oversized, which befits a gaming laptop, and the keyboard's blue backlight is very cool. The trackpad is also nice and large, at 69 x 109mm, and we found it impressively responsive in use.
One more thing: we love how the webcam at the top comes pre-covered with a sticker for privacy. And after you've removed it, you can still choose to have your webcam open or shuttered at any time, via a small switch.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i review: Screen and speakers
The Lenovo Ideapad Gaming 3i boasts a 15.6-inch, IPS screen offering Full HD, 1920 х 1080p resolution. It has a screen ratio of 16:9, a pixel density of 142 ppi and – crucially for gaming – a refresh rate of 120hz.
This all adds up to a pretty decent display whether you're doing day-to-day tasks, watching TV and movies, or playing games. The refresh rate makes for smooth motion, viewing angles are nicely wide, and the resolution is perfect for AAA titles.
Where the screen falls down a little is that colours look a little flat and lifeless, which means it isn't the best choice for Photoshop or video editing work. While the 250nits maximum brightness is acceptable for playing games or watching video inside, it's not great for outdoor use on sunny days. And note that it does not function as a touchscreen.
Sound comes from two 1.5W stereo speakers, which are loud enough for enjoying TV and movies across a big room. Overall, though, while audio quality is acceptable, with a decent level of bass, it's nothing to write home about. That said, if you're serious about your gaming, you're going to want to use a gaming headset, anyway.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i review: Performance
The IdeaPad Gaming 3i runs Windows 10 Home 64 and features an Intel i5-10300H processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. This is a pretty powerful set of parts, and the laptop takes day-to-day computing tasks in its stride, from surfing the web with multiple tabs opened, to streaming video and music, to running software like Microsoft Office. But is it good enough for gaming? The answer is a mixture of yes and no.
While the processing power of the IdeaPad Gaming 3i is impressive, the Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card lags a little behind. And in practice that means that, while you can play virtually any game on this device, for some triple AAA titles you'll have to drop down your settings and compromise on frames-per-second and brightness.
If gaming is your true passion, and you're sensitive to these things, this might prove a deal breaker. However, for most casual and first-time gamers, it probably won't be a big issue. And, of course, it won't apply to every game.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i review: Battery and connectivity
Another compromise the IdeaPad Gaming 3i makes to achieve its budget price is battery. It gave us four hours 46 minutes of doing basic word processing and web-based research, and four hours 49 minutes of playing a movie downloaded from Netflix, but when playing a AAA game it only managed to last two hours three minutes. So if you want to do significant gaming away from a power socket, we'd suggest this isn't the best laptop for you.
On the positive side, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i does offer good connectivity, although it would have been nice to have three, rather than two USB Type-A slots, one of which needs to be used for power. On the plus side, they're on opposite sides, giving you the choice of whether to charge your laptop from the left or the right.
The ports lie mainly on the left-hand side, where you'll find one USB-A and one USB-C port, an HDMI 2.0 port, an RJ45 Ethernet port, a headphone/mic jack, and a Novo hole (a pinhole for system recovery), along with a power indicator. On the right hand side, there's just the one USB Type-A port.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i review: verdict
With the IdeaPad Gaming 3i, Lenovo has set out to create a gaming laptop at an affordable price, and we'd say they've done a pretty darned good job. Yes, its graphic chip isn't the best, meaning you may have to play some AAA games at less than optimal frame-rates. But that's the sort of compromise that brings the price well under a grand.
If gaming is your life's true passion, you'll probably be better off saving up for something more expensive. But for someone seeking a work laptop or general-purpose laptop who likes to play PC games every now and again, this device ticks all the boxes. Similarly, if you're just getting into gaming then as an entry-level gaming laptop, you won't find finer for the price.
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