Lenovo IdeaPad 3i 15 (2022) Review

You won’t find the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i on the computer maker’s website. The budget laptop, not to be confused with the IdeaPad Gaming 3, is a consumer model sold at retail—Amazon lists it for $649.99 marked down to $529.99 at this writing, and we’ve seen prices ranging from $480 to $620—with a 15.6-inch, full HD screen and an Intel Core i5 processor. Like other economy models, it’s not especially powerful or exciting, but the IdeaPad 3i provides decent performance and features (such as a 512GB instead of a skimpy 256GB solid-state drive) as an online- or homework-ready desktop alternative. It doesn’t give us the thrill or that extra pinch of value that earns an Editors’ Choice award, but this affordable laptop deserves a very respectable rating.

The Design: Mostly Generic Gray 

Don’t look for a sleek aluminum or magnesium chassis here: The IdeaPad 3i is a slab of Arctic Gray ABS plastic measuring 0.78 by 14.1 by 9.3 inches (HWD) and weighing 3.6 pounds. That makes it a tad trimmer than the comparably priced Acer Aspire 5 we recently reviewed (0.71 by 14.3 by 9.9 inches, 3.88 pounds), though no 15.6-inch laptop qualifies as an easy-to-carry ultraportable. Build quality is fair, though you’ll feel considerable flex if you grasp the screen corners or mash the keyboard. 

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i lid

(Credit: Kyle Cobian)

Officially listed as model 15IAU7 and product number 82RK0017US, our test unit combines a 12th Generation Core i5-1235U processor (two Performance cores, eight Efficient cores, 12 threads) with 8GB of DDR4 memory and a 512GB PCIe SSD. Interestingly, it comes with Windows 11 Pro instead of most consumer machines’ Win 11 Home. Wi-Fi 6 (not Wi-Fi 6E) and Bluetooth handle wireless connections. 

Bordered by thick(ish) bezels is a 1,920-by-1,080-pixel, non-touch screen. The webcam lacks face recognition, but the power button doubles as a fingerprint reader, so you can skip typing passwords with Windows Hello. Preinstalled Lenovo Vantage software includes system checkups and updates, a choice of power or cooling modes (we used “extreme performance” mode for benchmarking), Wi-Fi security, blue light reduction, and $29.99 annual system optimization and $49.99 annual security subscriptions. A McAfee LiveSafe trial is the only bloatware. 

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i left ports

(Credit: Kyle Cobian)

The laptop’s left side holds two USB 3.2 ports (one Type-A and one Type-C), an HDMI monitor port, an audio jack, and the power plug. An SD card slot and a USB 2.0 port are on the right. A sliding shutter prevents webcam spying. 

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i right ports

(Credit: Kyle Cobian)

Everything You Need, Nothing You Don’t 

Like some costlier notebooks, the IdeaPad 3i turns on when you open its lid rather than waiting for you to press the power button. The webcam has predictably soft-focus 720p resolution, but it captures relatively well-lit and colorful images without too much static. 

Sound from the bottom-mounted speakers is muted and hollow even at top volume, as if someone threw a blanket over the computer. You can make out overlapping tracks, but you will hear no bass to speak of. Dolby Audio software features music, movie, game, voice presets, and an equalizer—none of which makes much difference.

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i keyboard

(Credit: Kyle Cobian)

A dimly backlit keyboard provides a numeric keypad with media control keys above it, as well as the usual top-row function keys for volume, brightness, and airplane mode. The Escape and Delete keys are small, and the cursor arrow keys are in the awkward row rather than inverted-T arrangement we dislike, with half-height up and down arrows stacked between full-size left and right. 

You won’t find dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys, but you can either pair the cursor arrows with the Fn key or use the ones on the number pad with Num Lock turned off. The keyboard has a shallow but reasonably snappy typing feel, not too loud with decent feedback. The buttonless touchpad isn’t very big, but it glides and taps smoothly, with a somewhat stiff click. 

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i front view

(Credit: Kyle Cobian)

Lenovo rates the 1080p IPS display at 300 nits of brightness. It looks a little dimmer than that, though it actually tests higher in our Datacolor SpyderX Elite measurement below. But it isn’t too dark to work comfortably.

Colors on the screen are a little washed out but fairly rich and well saturated. Contrast and viewing angles are decent, and white backgrounds are nicely white instead of dingy, helped by the ability to tilt the screen as far back as you like. Fine details are sufficiently sharp, with no pixelation around the edges of letters.

Testing the IdeaPad 3i: No Unpleasant Surprises

For our benchmark comparisons, we pitted the Lenovo against not only the AMD-powered Acer Aspire 5 but a super-cheap 15.6-inch laptop, the Dell Inspiron 15 3000. The 14.1-inch Gateway Ultra Slim is comparably equipped, while the HP Laptop 17 has both a larger screen and a slightly larger price ($649.99 as tested). You can see their basic specs below.

Productivity Tests 

UL’s PCMark 10 is our main benchmark, which simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10’s Full System Drive test to assess the load time and throughput of a laptop’s storage. 

Three further benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses that company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better). 

Our final productivity test is Puget Systems’ PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe’s famous image editor to rate a PC’s performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It’s an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.

Lenovo’s IdeaPad 3i easily clears a 4,000-point score in PCMark 10, indicating smooth sailing for basic productivity office apps, like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. The laptop also does pretty well in our CPU tests, though no one will mistake it for a video-editing or dataset-crunching workstation. While this IdeaPad is also the fastest of the three entrants to complete our Photoshop exercise, it’s clearly built more for everyday productivity than digital content creation.

Graphics Tests 

We test Windows PCs’ graphics with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs). 

Additionally, we run two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which stresses both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests, rendered offscreen to accommodate different display resolutions, exercise graphics and compute shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation respectively. The more frames per second (fps), the better.

Technically, the IdeaPad’s Core i5-1235U CPU has Intel’s current Iris Xe integrated graphics, but they’re detuned or dialed back to the point where they function as the chipmaker’s older UHD Graphics—in other words, light years from the performance of a gaming laptop’s discrete GPU. The Lenovo isn’t the worst performer here, but all of these notebooks are strictly for solitaire gaming or video streaming rather than fast-paced shoot-’em-ups. 

Battery and Display Tests 

We test laptops’ battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel(Opens in a new window)) with display brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100%. We make sure the battery is fully charged before the test, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off. 

For color and brightness testing, we use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Windows software to measure a laptop screen’s color saturation—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its 50% and peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter). 

As we said, the Lenovo is one of the few laptops to test brighter than it looks in our display analysis, but we’ll gladly take it over the likes of the Acer or Gateway. Its battery life is also fine for its class, though it joins its budget peers in showing dismal color coverage—image editors or desktop publishers need not apply here. 

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i right angle

(Credit: Kyle Cobian)

Verdict: Not Much to Complain About for the Price

We test many laptops that are more impressive than the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i, but they all cost a lot more (and you may be able to find it for even less than its $529.99 Amazon price at press time). It doesn’t have any obvious flaws, and while its screen and keyboard may not delight you, they aren’t as disappointing as many budget models. Put it this way: The Lenovo IdeaPad 3i is an under-$600 Windows laptop that doesn’t make us consider a Chromebook instead.

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i 15 (2022)

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a full-size, low-priced budget laptop, you could do a lot worse than Lenovo’s 15.6-inch IdeaPad 3i.

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