You'll need to make tough choices if you are looking for a laptop at a reasonable price. It can be difficult to balance a budget and a set of features that mostly includes the essentials when you are comparing machines that look almost identical. It's refreshing to find a great laptop at a low price like the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 14 Although it costs $519, this laptop is not cheap.
However, the 14-inch model comes with everything you need for your budget notebook. This includes a fully HD screen, sturdy frame, and comfortable keyboard. All of these features are combined with top-quality performance and unexpected luxuries. This budget-friendly Windows laptop has been awarded the Editors Choice Award.
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Lenovo's IdeaPad line of laptops is comparable to that of the Dell Inspiron or HP Pavilion series—midrange to low-end machines that run the gamut on price, size, and features. The IdeaPad 3 14 is a mid-range laptop that costs around $500. It features an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor and 8GB DDR4 RAM. There's also 256GB SSD storage. Amazon.com offers the review unit with Windows 10 already installed. However, they also offer a Windows 11 version for $560.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 3 14 does not offer customization options beyond the OS selection. It's important to note that experienced laptop owners can exchange one of two 4GB RAM sticks untested for an 8GB RAM stick, increasing the RAM by 12GB. This could jeopardize your warranty.
The stock memory and storage amounts are on the low side—we like to see 16GB of RAM and 512GB of solid-state storage these days. But the lower amounts are par the course for laptops of this price range, and the processor is the star of the show here. AMD's Ryzen mobile CPUs have become formidable chips in recent years, and despite the 5500U being built on the older AMD Zen 2 architecture, the silicon still performs well and is a commanding starting point in the budget-laptop market. (Higher-end Ryzen 5000U-series CPUs are based on the newer Zen 3; the 5500U is an outlier.) Overall, the six-core, 12-thread processor has more than enough fuel in the tank for basic internet and word processor needs, as well as moderately complex tasks, without any noticeable lag.
This is the IdeaPad 3 14's standout performance that sets it apart from other laptops in its price range. Here's how you can choose the most powerful laptop CPU.
But enough about the insides—the outsides are just as important. Budget laptops can often feel and look cheap, with flimsy, plastic parts that make the devices feel more akin to Leapfrogs than a sophisticated laptop. (See, for example, the HP Stream 14.) Notably, the IdeaPad 3 14 bucks the trend and doesn't falter in this regard. Measuring in at 0.78 by 12.76 by 8.49 inches (HWD) and just over 3 pounds, it's a sturdy machine with a unique blue finish that gives the laptop a slick, eye-catching look. Yes, it still is plastic pretending to be metal, but you could do a lot worse in this department.
The IdeaPad 3 14 also makes some smart airflow enhancements. Using the Lenovo Vantage app, you can choose among three fan speeds that suit your performance needs. The rubber grips found underneath the laptop actually give the laptop an ever-so-slight airflow boost, since they keep the bottom of the chassis from sitting flush against your desk.
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You can find the 14 inch full HD screen between four bezels with narrow sides that provide serious screen space. Although the bezels may not look as modern as on the XPG Xenia 14's, they are still very thin. Eye Care Mode is also available on the IdeaPad 3 14 and adjusts your monitor's color temperature to reduce blue light. This can help you feel less fatigued if your computer is used for long periods. The privacy shutter is located at the top and a 720p camera can be found on the back.
When put to use, the IdeaPad 3 14 is one of the better budget laptops I've handled. The keyboard is comfortable, with just enough give to make key presses satisfying. The touchpad is responsive, and there's even a fingerprint reader integrated into the power button. Unfortunately, the speakers, located under the touchpad, aren't great. They aren't very loud and give off a hollow sound. You're better off using headphones or an external speaker.
The IdeaPad 3 14 has a wide range of ports. You'll also find a USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot on the right.
And on the left side, you'll find a USB 3.0 Type-A port, an HDMI output, an audio jack, and the power adapter port. There's also an oval-shaped USB-C port here, a cutting-edge jack that still isn't a given on budget laptops. In the IdeaPad 3 14's case, it's limited to data transfers only and can't handle video output.
Budget laptops can be full of unwanted preinstalled software known as bloatware, but the IdeaPad 3 14 is mercifully light on it. The usual offenders are here: Spotify, Disney Plus, McAfee Antivirus, and Alexa are just some of the apps taking up your precious storage space, but you can simply uninstall them if you don't need them.
The IdeaPad 314's features are great, but how do they compare to other laptops of its category? We brought the Asus VivoBook S14 (3511), the Dell Inspiron 15, 2021's HP Pavilion x360 15 (15), the more expensive Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 13, and the MSI Modern 14, our Editors' Choice choice for the best budget laptop. While these machines all make use of an Intel processor-and-graphics solution, they're in the same performance ballpark and share similar CPU and GPU setups.
PCMark 10 is the first benchmark we use. This test simulates various Windows programs and gives an overall score to office workflows. A score between 4,000 to 5,000 is an indicator of outstanding performance. The majority of the pack is in the middle. However, the IdeaPad 3 14 stands out and displays strong numbers.
PCMark 10's Full System Drive storage test was not available. This subtest measures program loading time and boot drive throughput. This test is not available on budget laptops because they don't have enough RAM or lack of storage. But the IdeaPad 3 14 was able to run the test and scored 1,321 points—not the greatest result we've seen for an SSD-equipped laptop, but in the budget laptop sphere, more than enough to run productivity circles around the present company.
Next, we will test video transcoding with the HandBrake app 1.4. This is an open-source program that converts multimedia files into different formats and resolutions. Because video conversion is an extremely CPU-intensive task, budget laptops don't have much to offer in this regard. They typically use less cores and weaker processors.
Although you wouldn't likely do serious multimedia work with a budget laptop for this purpose, it would be an excellent choice if you were. The IdeaPad 314 is the clear winner in this benchmark, with only the VivoBookS14 coming close behind.
We switch to Cinebench R23 benchmark to test CPU performance. This multi-core test is meant to work all cores and threads of the processor. This is where the Ryzen 5 5500U's six cores are useful, and the IdeaPad 314 easily beats it.
Finally, we come to an end with our productivity tests. The Geekbench is yet another stress test that simulates real-world tasks. Although the IdeaPad 3 14 scores highly, it is only barely. It is not far behind the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 13. The IdeaPad 3 is a clear winner in all productivity tests. But what about graphics benchmarks?
Every laptop in this comparison makes use of integrated graphics—either Intel's newer Iris Xe silicon, the standard Intel UHD Graphics found in many budget laptops, or in the IdeaPad 3 14's case, AMD's Radeon integrated GPU. Budget laptops often have problems running graphics benchmarks because they don't have sufficient memory or an adequate GPU.
3DMark is a Windows graphics testing suite that includes several subtests to test the gaming performance of the computer. It also contains software APIs and GPU functions. Two DirectX 12 tests are specifically run: 3DMark Night Raid, and 3DMark Time Spy. The IdeaPad 3 falls short here, finishing behind the Asus Vivobook S14 (and the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 13). However, the higher the number the better. This is where the IdeaPad 3 falls short, coming in behind the Asus Vivobook S14 and the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 13. This is true for both the demanding Time Spy and the less complex Night Raid.
Next benchmark: GFXBench 5.0 (a graphics simulator which stress-tests low-level as well high-level routines). Two subtests of the GFXBench 5.0 benchmark were run, Aztec Ruins (Car Chase) and Car Chase (Car Chase). These tests are rendered offscreen in order to allow for different resolutions so that comparisons can be made. It struggled to complete the 1440p Aztec Ruins testing, which averaged 23 frames per second (fps). Although it did better in the 1080p Car Chase, it still couldn't maintain a steady 60fps. It is possible, though, to achieve a higher frame rate by tweaking the configuration. This would work if you are playing more demanding games.
We first charge the laptop to full power and play the locally saved Blender movie Tears of Steel. Then, turn on the loop and adjust the brightness and volume to test the accuracy of all the devices. We'll also play the movie from a USB drive if the laptop does not have sufficient space. The laptop was also set to Airplane mode.
It was a good IdeaPad 3 14 and it tapped out in 10 hours 32 minutes. A valiant effort—but still coming up short when compared with the Asus VivoBook S14, the HP Pavilion x360 15, and the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 13.
Display brightness and color testing are the final trials in our benchmark trial. Datacolor's SpyderX Elite calibration and software tools allow us to measure screen performance and output levels of brightness. We also measure the gamut settings for three color spaces that are most important for laptop users, namely the DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB standards.
Although the colors of the IdeaPad 314 were fairly average for budget laptops (and comparable to the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 13 with its AMOLED panel), they were still quite disappointing. The screen brightness performed much better. It should be at the very least bright if it isn't colorful.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 314 is a cheap laptop that doesn't make compromises. The IdeaPad 3 is a great choice because of its fast performance and sturdy build.
Although it may still suffer from the typical budget laptop flaws like a lackluster display and uninspiring speakers, the IdeaPad 3 14 notebook is well worth the cost of admission. It is also one of the most affordable notebooks available. This is our Editors Choice choice for budget laptops.