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Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen
Beautiful unibody design
Light and thin
Poor battery life
No HD display
The Lenovo Ideapad 320 is a low-end budget laptop that looks and feels like a much more expensive machine. Unfortunately, it performs like the budget laptop that it is.
The Lenovo Ideapad 320 is a budget-priced line of laptops that look a whole lot more expensive than they are. The unit we tested is the most affordable configuration, including an Intel Celeron N3350 dual-core processor running at just 1.10 GHz, an Intel HD Graphics 500 chip, 4 GB of RAM, and a 15.6-inch display.
Those specifications leave the Ideapad 320 struggling to perform anything beyond the most basic tasks, but at least it looks great doing it.
The Lenovo Ideapad 320 blows the competition out of the water in terms of stylish design. When you look at this laptop, you don’t see a budget device—the sleek unibody construction looks like it belongs on a much more expensive machine. It’s thin, light, and still manages to feel sturdy in the hand. A lot of budget laptops feel like cheap plastic when you touch them, but the Ideapad 320 manages to escape that trap.
The DVD drive is located on the right side of the laptop, and all of the ports, including the power jack, headphone jack, ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, and HDMI, can be found on the other side. This is nice for a desktop replacement, because it means you only have to deal with cables on one side of the machine.
The sleek unibody construction looks like it belongs on a much more expensive machine.
The keyboard is particularly nice, featuring an island-style design with individual keys that feel snappy. The one major difference from earlier Ideapad designs is that the up and down arrow keys have been shrunk down to allow for a full-sized right shift key, which may help some users feel more comfortable when typing for long periods of time.
The touchpad is located in front of the keyboard and has a unified design, with the left and right buttons incorporated into the main body of the pad. It feels smooth and responsive and supports multi-touch.
The Lenovo Ideapad 320 is a Windows 10 laptop, and we didn’t run into any peculiarities or snags when setting it up. Despite feeling a bit sluggish due to the slow Celeron processor, the actual setup process didn’t take us any longer than we’ve experienced with other laptops that have slightly better specifications. From plugging it in to reaching the desktop, we timed the setup process at about 15 minutes.
Once the initial setup process is complete, there’s also some bloatware that most users will want to deal with. The laptop comes with a free trial of McAfee and several apps from Lenovo, all of which slow the machine to a crawl when they launch.
The display is bright and clear enough for a budget laptop. The viewing angles from above and below the screen aren’t very good, but the brightness and color reproduction remain acceptable even at pretty extreme horizontal viewing angles.
The main drawback of the Ideapad 320 screen—and one of the biggest problems with this laptop as a whole—is that the screen isn’t full HD. The maximum resolution that it’s capable of displaying is 1366 x 768. The reason Lenovo went with this screen was to cut costs, but we’d really like to see a 1920 x 1080 display in a laptop that looks and feels as nice as this one does.
The Intel Celeron N3350 dual-core processor (which runs at just 1.10GHz) and the Intel HD Graphics 500 GPU really hold the Ideapad 320 back in terms of performance. Competitors in this same basic price range boast better processors and graphics chips, and you can even find the Ideapad 320 configured with a speedier i3-7100U (running at 2.4 GHz) and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU.
In the configuration we tested, the Ideapad 320 is frustratingly slow and struggles to perform anything beyond the most basic tasks. Opening even half a dozen tabs in a web browser creates noticeable slowdown, and apps feel like they take a long time to open.
We subjected the Ideapad 320 to the PCMark 10 bench test, and its scores matched our experience to the letter. It managed just 1,062 in the overall benchmark test. For comparison, the Acer Aspire E15 is a close competitor in terms of price and scored more than double that at 2,657.
In the configuration we tested, the Ideapad 320 is frustratingly slow.
The Ideapad 320 scored an acceptable 2,739 in the essentials category, 1,769 in the productivity category, and an abysmal 672 in the digital content creation category. That means it’s perfectly capable of basic tasks like word processing and light web browsing, but intense image or video editing on this laptop is not recommended.
We also ran some gaming benchmarks from 3DMark, but the results are hardly worth mentioning. In the most forgiving benchmark, Cloud Gate, which is designed for low end laptops, it managed a score of just 1,941 at 11 FPS. The Acer Aspire E 15 scored 6,492 in that benchmark and managed a smooth 36 FPS.
We tried to launch Streets of Rogue, a lightweight retro indie game, and found that the Ideapad 320 was able to manage a maximum of 20 FPS, dipping as low as 3 FPS at times when a lot of action was happening on the screen. The takeaway is that you can use this laptop to play very basic games, but it’s absolutely not a gaming laptop.
You’re best off using the Ideapad 320 for basic productivity tasks like word processing, light web browsing, and email. The excellent keyboard is great for long sessions of typing, but the sluggish processor means that running any resource-intensive applications—or even editing images—is a real chore.
The Ideapad 320 has dual Dolby-optimized speakers that sound really good for a laptop in this price range. They’re decently loud when you turn the volume all the way up, and we didn’t notice any distortion when listening to music on YouTube or playing Streets of Rogue.
The downside to the speakers is that they’re located toward the front of the laptop, and they fire down instead of up. That means it’s easy for the speakers to be muffled by a table surface, your lap, or whatever else you set the laptop on. The speaker grills are mounted on a slight angle so they don’t sit totally flush against a desk surface, but the positioning is still less than ideal.
The wireless card in the Ideapad 320 doesn’t support 801.11ac, so it can’t connect to 5 GHz networks. That isn’t a concern if your wireless modem only supports 2.4 GHz, but anyone with an 801.11ac modem will miss that extra speed.
We tested the Ideapad 320 on Speedtest.net, and we found that it was able to achieve download speeds of 78 Mbps (compared to 66 Mbps on an Acer Aspire E 15 that was tested at the same time). The lack of 801.11ac also prevents the Ideapad 320 from achieving the fast download speeds of comparable laptops with this compatibility.
The Ideapad 320 includes a 720p webcam that works well enough for basic video chat, but it’s a bit washed out and blurry for professional video conferencing.
The rest of the hardware in this laptop is also a little anemic for video conferencing—don’t expect to run Skype or a Discord video chat while also running a game or other resource-intensive application.
Battery life is one of the weakest points of the Ideapad 320. It has a two-cell lithium ion battery with a nominal capacity of 30 Wh, which just isn’t enough for a laptop like this. In our testing, it only stood up to about four and a half hours of constant use.
By turning off the Wi-Fi, lowering the screen brightness all the way, and adjusting other settings, you can squeeze out another hour or two of battery life. But generally speaking, we don’t think the battery capacity is enough to make this a truly portable laptop.
The battery only stood up to about four and a half hours of constant use.
The Lenovo Ideapad 320 comes equipped with Windows 10, some basic Windows apps, a free trial from McAfee, and a handful of Lenovo apps that most users will probably want to uninstall. The bloatware situation isn’t that bad, but this is a laptop where every ounce of processing power and RAM matters, so having unnecessary apps hurts its already slow performance.
Priced under $300, you would be hard pressed to find a laptop that looks and feels this good without spending a whole lot more. But even though the Ideapad 320 looks slick and feels solid, the performance just isn’t there. Competitors in this price range blow it out of the water in terms of performance, so what you’re really paying for is a laptop that looks like a premium device even though it isn’t.
Competitors in this basic price range can’t compete with the Ideapad 320 in terms of aesthetics or build quality. The Acer Aspire E 15, which is available for about the same price, feels like cheap plastic in comparison, and the slightly more expensive HP Notebook 15 is more or less in the same boat.
The problem is that while the Ideapad 320 looks and feels better than the competition, it falls far behind in terms of performance. The HP Notebook 15 beats it in every important benchmark, and for about $100 more you can get a 15.6-inch HP with a much faster processor, bigger battery, and even a touchscreen.
The Ideapad 320 really falls apart in comparison to the Acer Aspire E 15, which more than double its scores in many benchmarks. The Aspire E 15 also sports a full HD 1920 x 1080 display, a faster processor, more RAM, and a battery that lasts well over eight hours between charges.
Looks aren’t everything — this budget laptop is stylish but extremely limited in its basic configuration.
Unless you only need a laptop for email and web browsing, you’ll want to invest in a more high-end configuration of the Ideapad 320 that’ll give you a faster processor and more RAM. But even if you do step up the processing power, this laptop still suffers from a low-resolution screen and low-capacity battery. Generally speaking, you can find better laptops in this price range—they might just not look as good.