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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Small, impressive form factor
Insanely good battery life
Very affordable price
Soft, washy display
Limited processing power
Poor speakers and webcam
For those in the market for a sub-$200 laptop, the Lenovo 130S is hard to beat, especially when you consider the travel-friendly build and excellent battery life.
The Lenovo 130S-11IGM is an interesting little machine for the budget-minded user. Down at the bargain basement of laptop prices you might expect to find lackluster performance and cheap quality. To be fair, this isn’t a fast laptop by any stretch, nor is it the most premium build out there. But, considering it does run Windows 10, and does so way under $200, your expectations will (and should) be adjusted accordingly.
What surprised me when I got this unit in-hand was just how capable it was at handling most of my daily tasks. I spent a few days with it, and found that for non-power users, or those just looking for a more dispensable travel machine, this is a great option.
One thing I like about most of Lenovo’s laptops is just how unadventurous they are from a design standpoint. When gaming PCs load up their chassis with RGB lights, and Apple is covering everything in space gray aluminum, it’s nice to see Lenovo sticking to simple, professional builds. My configuration for the 130s came in a light gray color that actually does remind me of the classic Mac silver (Lenovo calls it Mineral Gray).
The all-matte finish isn’t trying to hide that this is a plastic laptop, and that’s okay, because well, it is plastic. The Lenovo logo is embossed off-center on the top shell, and the darker-colored gray for the keys is a nice subtle contrast to the rest of the color scheme. The real standout aspect to the design is the ultra-slim tapered look that makes this laptop sleek, small and portable. It measures just 0.7 inches thick (though it tapers thinner at the front of the machine) and weighs just barely over 2.5 pounds. This means it’ll look right at home in your briefcase, perfect for trips where you don’t want to bring a heavier, more expensive computer.
Like all other modern Windows 10 machine, Cortana (Microsoft’s voice assistant) is here to walk you through the Windows configuration process with verbal cues and text prompts. I’ve been testing a few budget Windows laptops these past couple weeks, and I can say confidently that the Lenovo 130S is in the top-tier at this price point for speed of setup.
From opening the box to landing on the Windows start screen it took roughly seven minutes—a blistering figure when you compare it to the closer-to-25 minutes it took to set up some slower budget machines.
Once you’ve been taken through selecting your region, signing in, and opting into various Cortana skills, you’re dropped right into Windows’ home screen. I took some time to dig into Lenovo’s options, and what I recommend is setting up Night Light right out of the gate. This feature lets you set your display to a warmer color profile at a certain time. It’s a good feature for saving your eyes and preventing sleep issues due to too much exposure to blue light.
The 11.6-inch screen is certainly nothing to write home about, especially compared to what consumers are used to on high-end MacBooks and Microsoft Surface products. It’s a 1366x768 LED panel that checks most of the boxes you’ll want on paper, but feels pretty soft and washed out in actual practice.
The real standout aspect to the design is the ultra-slim tapered look that makes this laptop sleek, small and portable. It measures just 0.7 inches thick (though it tapers thinner at the front of the machine) and weighs just barely over 2.5 pounds.
Screens are usually the first place a budget manufacturer will skimp to save on cost, and that’s definitely at play here, but it’s also important to note that virtually all other laptops at this price point will opt for the same cost-saving measures. This results in displays with limited color range and softer resolution.
To be fair, you are getting HD on this screen, and if you activate Night Light mode at about 40 percent strength all the time, it softens the blues enough to bring the color response into a much more reasonable range. Another positive is that the plastic panel sports a matte finish, mitigating glare. All in all, the screen is just okay, but certainly serviceable for basic tasks.
I don’t want to sing the performance praises too much on this laptop, because it is most definitely on the slower side. But when compared to other manufacturers at this price point, the 130S offers satisfyingly capable performance for 80 percent of the tasks you’ll throw at it.
Under the hood, there’s a dual-core Intel Celeron N4000 processor that gives you base speeds at 1.1GHz, turbo up to 2.6GHz, and a 4MB cache. This is the same processor used on a lot of laptops in this range, most of which are dual-core, but in my real-world experience, the 130S felt and behaved much more premium than the price would imply. This is also probably due to the 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and the 64GB of eMMC flash storage.
These two aspects give you a little bit of headroom for multiple tasks, and a reasonable amount of on-board storage, respectively. One note about eMMC storage is that the technology, though not quite as fast and modern as SSD storage, it is certainly faster than standard spinning disk hard drives.
Finally there’s an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 600 card that isn’t winning any awards, and is pretty par for the course. I don’t want to over-promise—AAA games and high-lift media editing will definitely choke this machine up. But watching video, playing some light Windows 10 S-style games, and doing basic web browsing will be surprisingly snappy.
I was thoroughly impressed by the build quality of the Lenovo 130S. In almost every way, this machine feels solid to the touch. The keys are a plastic that is much higher quality than competitors in the space, and even the trackpad is impressively responsive. This all makes for seamless interaction with the computer.
The size of the device might slow you down a bit because the 11.6-inch form factor shrinks the keyboard noticeably, and obviously, the screen real estate itself doesn’t leave much room for lots of windows. But, after a few hours with the 130S, you get almost completely used to the previously cramped spacing.
Audio: Very underwhelming
Another common area for corner-cutting at this budget price point is the quality of the onboard speakers. While virtually no laptops offer audiophile music playback, the speakers on the 130S are almost unlistenable. I couldn’t even really locate where they were firing from, which leads me to believe that Lenovo buried them somewhere without much thought to where they were going to vent the sound. This is forgivable because most people will use headphones when they want decent sound quality on a laptop, but it’s definitely worth pointing out here as a shortcoming.
Being a leader in the PC space, Lenovo knows what it’s doing when dealing with connectivity and I/O. The Wi-Fi card uses the 802.11ac protocol, keeping it fully compatible with 5GHz bands and ultimately providing great performance. There’s Bluetooth 4.0 built-in too, which gives a stable connection and solid range. I was worried about the port selection on the 130S, because of such a thin, small chassis, but the spread of available I/O is downright impressive.
There are two full-sized USB 3.0 ports on-deck and even a USB-C 3.1 port to cover you for peripherals and speedy data transfer. There’s a microSD card reader, which comes in handy because even though 64GB of storage is more than the 32GB common in other laptops at this price point, you’ll likely want to expand this storage eventually. Finally, Lenovo has even loaded in a full-sized HDMI port, giving you out-of-the-box support for a monitor and TV connection.
There’s really not much to say about the webcam except it’s nice Lenovo included one at all. On paper, it has a 0.3MP sensor, which reminds me of my first camera phone, and somehow takes pictures and video at worse quality than that. The price has to give at some point, and if I had to pick some components to skimp on when making a laptop, webcams would be on the list. But, be aware of this if you want to be taking video calls because the resolution and performance here do not scream professionalism.
One key feature Lenovo is hanging its hat on is the battery life, but I can’t help but think that even the number the manufacturer is touting is selling the laptop short. The two-cell lithium polymer battery has a 32Wh capacity, and Lenovo pegs this at a conservative 8 hours of basic use.
Now that would honestly be impressive in and of itself, considering most modern, middle of the road laptops tend to top out at around 5-6 hours. But during testing, this little beast routinely brought me past 10 hours of use, including heavy web browsing, a little bit of light gaming, and HD videos. Your mileage will vary of course based on your needs and use, but the impressive battery life is where the display shortcomings are yielding value (smaller screen means less power drain). Considering most users will likely choose this machine as a travel-only laptop, the excellent battery life is a true marquis feature.
The two-cell lithium polymer battery has a 32Wh capacity, and Lenovo pegs this at a conservative 8 hours of basic use.
It’s great that Lenovo is offering a Windows 10 experience here, rather than opting for a lighter Chrome OS. But, the developers have chosen to use Windows 10 S, a lighter, more processor-friendly version of Windows. This does mean you’re limited to the apps available through the Windows Store, and as such, the experience is a little closer to Chrome OS in practice.
But, if you do want to download third-party apps, you can choose switch the machine into a full Windows 10 mode, as long as you bear in mind that the performance suffers. I did find that Google products tend to work much more slowly in Microsoft’s Edge browser than in Chrome, but Chrome otherwise slows the whole machine down, so it’s a trade-off.
Beyond Gmail and YouTube, the Edge browser was much more capable than the abysmal Internet Explorer I was used to in my younger years. All in all, it’s nice you have the option for a full Windows machine, but I recommend sticking with S mode and giving the battery life and the processor a welcome boost.
This laptop fits squarely in the sub-$200 space, but you can routinely find it available on Amazon for around $160. That is practically the cheapest Windows laptop you can get (with the exception of some seriously off-brand offerings), and it’s mind-boggling at the quality of the device. As stated before, the processor and screen suffer from the price cuts, but are largely forgiven thanks to the form factor and the battery life. This is an adequately priced machine that’s perfect for young users or clumsy travelers.
To me, the closest comparison to the Lenovo 130S is Asus’ Vivobook 11. Both of these laptops are pleasantly tiny, feather-light, and are perfect for travelers. They both occupy the same price point, and they even sport similar processors and screens.
Where you’ll see some differences is in the component offering—Asus has the edge in trackpad design, while Lenovo’s keyboard reigns supreme—and in general performance. I found the Lenovo ever-so-slightly faster, and as a result, more enjoyable to use. But if you like the design of the Asus more, it’s a negligible choice.
A laptop that punches above its weight for the price.
What is there to say about a $160 laptop? For the price of a pair of Apple AirPods, you can get a full computer that is capable of running Windows 10, gives you amazing battery life, and fits easily into even small backpacks. Sure, you’ll have to lower your expectations on the screen quality, and be prepared for this machine to get slower as it ages. But for the price, it makes a great secondary “beater” machine to take with you on trips and not worry about damaging an overly expensive device.