Len­ovo IdeaPad 720S

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Tech Advisor - - Contents - An­drew Wil­liams

The Len­ovo IdeaPad 720S is a lap­top with it all. It looks great, feels ex­pen­sive, is pow­er­ful enough for most peo­ple’s needs and is even much better at gam­ing than virtually all style lap­tops twice the price.

Those des­per­ate to be neg­a­tive could call it a jack of all trades. And, sure enough, you can find lighter, longer-last­ing mod­els if you look. How­ever, at the price this is a jaw-drop­pingly ver­sa­tile ma­chine that is extremely like­able and a fan­tas­tic buy if you like to un­wind with a game or two on oc­ca­sion.

While a lovely lap­top even with­out its ex­tra gam­ing cred­i­bil­ity, the Len­ovo’s dis­crete GPU is a key rea­son

to buy. You don’t of­ten see lap­tops this slim that can han­dle games rea­son­ably well.

Price

The IdeaPad 720S we’re re­view­ing costs £899, which gets you a Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. This is the clas­sic style lap­top core spec for mod­els hov­er­ing be­tween £800 and £1,000, although Dell charges £1,149 for the clos­est Dell XPS 13. You can up­grade to the Core i7 model for £1,199, although as there’s no ad­di­tional up­grade to the SSD or RAM, we don’t con­sider it as value-packed as the base model.

De­sign

Looks are sub­jec­tive, but we think the 720S is a stun­ner in this class. Len­ovo has a knack for mak­ing sim­ple but at­trac­tive pre­mium lap­tops. This is a great ex­am­ple of one. It’s all-alu­minium apart from the key­board keys and the glass over the screen, and un­like Asus and Acer ri­vals, Len­ovo hasn’t em­bel­lished the 720S with any ex­tra tex­tures. Ev­ery­thing has a re­laxed an­odised fin­ish.

Some may find it bor­ing, but we see new lap­tops all the time and to our eyes it’s clean, and has enough Len­ovo flavour to avoid look­ing generic. Look at the shape of the keys: Len­ovo’s have an al­most cutesy round­ness that’s dif­fer­ent from a Dell, Ap­ple or Asus lap­top.

The 720S is also one of the first slightly more af­ford­able lap­tops to have a very slim screen sur­round. While we know £899 is still a sig­nif­i­cant out­lay for any­one, this is an al­ter­na­tive to lap­tops that cost well over £1,000.

With just a 4mm be­tween the end of the dis­play and the edge of the lap­top, the Len­ovo fits a 14in screen into the foot­print of a tra­di­tional 13in slim lap­top, like the older gen­er­a­tion HP Envy 13. It’s rapidly be­com­ing the norm for higher-end por­ta­ble lap­tops, although the new Acer Swift 3 still has a thicker sur­round.

Svelte dis­play de­sign aside, though, the 720S doesn’t try to com­pete with the thinnest and light­est lap­tops around. It’s 16mm thick and weighs 1.55kg (our re­view model is 1,492g ac­cord­ing to our scales). That’s a cou­ple of hun­dreds grammes heavy than some, but light enough for ev­ery day por­ta­ble use.

And, let’s not for­get, it also has a dis­crete graph­ics chipset to weigh it down.

Build qual­ity is ex­cel­lent for a sub-£100 lap­top too. The screen doesn’t flex and the key­board area is extremely rigid, sim­i­lar to that of a MacBook. There are even some neat aes­thetic touches we don’t ex­pect in a lap­top that keeps an eye on the bud­get. For ex­am­ple, the cut-outs for the con­nec­tions on the sides are all bev­elled rather than square-cut, ex­pos­ing tiny sliv­ers of bright, non-an­odized alu­minium. It demon­strates real at­ten­tion to de­tail.

Ports and con­nec­tions

The 720S also has con­nec­tors com­monly be­ing re­moved from to­day’s most fash­ion­able lap­tops. As well as a Thunderbolt 3.0-com­pat­i­ble USB-C port there are two full-size USB 3.0 sock­ets, a full-size HDMI and an SD card slot.

Your ex­pe­ri­ence may vary, but it’s ev­ery­thing we look for in a por­ta­ble lap­top used daily for work.

Other light lap­tops are start­ing to use USB-C to func­tion as both power con­nec­tor and data socket, but the 720S still has a sep­a­rate cylin­dri­cal power plug.

Key­board and touch­pad

We’ve al­ready men­tioned that the key­board looks a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from the crowd thanks to their curvy keys. How­ever, the typ­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is fa­mil­iar.

The keys are slightly shal­low, but have de­cent def­i­ni­tion and rea­son­able re­sis­tance. Those des­per­ate

for a meatier feel should look at the Len­ovo ThinkPad 13, although we’re confident most will get on with the 720S’s just fine.

It also has a back­light. Press the Fn key and the space bar and the un­der-key LEDs cy­cle be­tween two in­ten­sity lev­els, pro­vid­ing a soft white/blue glow for late-night typ­ing.

We’re also rather im­pressed by the track­pad. This is one of the more af­ford­able lap­tops we’ve seen re­cently to use a tex­tured glass pad rather than a plas­tic one. It of­fers a smoother glide. The ThinkPad X1 Car­bon’s is softer and smoother still, but that lap­top also costs £800 more.

Next to the pad sits an in­dented fin­ger­print scan­ner. It lets you lo­gin to win­dows se­curely with a quick press, and is among the more re­li­able we’ve used.

Lap­top fin­ger scan­ners are of­ten a lit­tle flaky, re­quir­ing a few at­tempts to work. How­ever, the Len­ovo seems to work ev­ery time.

Dis­play

Like the Acer Swift 3, one fea­ture the 720S lacks is an ul­tra-high res­o­lu­tion screen. 1080p res­o­lu­tion across 14 inches makes pix­i­la­tion fairly ob­vi­ous if you look for it. How­ever, most ri­vals charge more for a true high-res

panel, in­clud­ing the Dell XPS 13. The HP Envy 13 has even dropped from 3200x1800 res­o­lu­tion to 1080p in its lat­est it­er­a­tion. Strangely, it was eas­ier to get a sub-£1,000 high-res lap­top a year or two ago. This isn’t a touch­screen, de­spite hav­ing a tablet-like glossy, glass-topped fin­ish. This is a lap­top with­out even a hint of hy­brid to it.

Colour and con­trast are good, how­ever. The 720S cov­ers a re­spectable, if not truly im­pres­sive, 80.9 per­cent of the sRGB colour stan­dard, 57.6 per­cent of Adobe RGB and 60.3 per­cent of DCI P3. It’s not deep enough for de­sign pros, but thanks to very good con­trast it’ll do the trick for the rest of us.

Con­trast is 1023:1, enough to make blacks look con­vinc­ing even in a low-lit room.

Given the glossy sur­face, though, we’d have liked to see slightly higher bright­ness. The 720S reaches a re­spectable 305cd/m2 at max back­light, but oth­ers get closer to 340- to 350cd/m2. This will be use­ful on a sunny day. How­ever, it is still sig­nif­i­cantly brighter than the new Acer Swift 3.

Per­for­mance

The Len­ovo has a 7th gen­er­a­tion In­tel Core i5-7200U pro­ces­sor with 8GB of DDR4 RAM. For an ex­tra £100 you can up­grade to the i7-7500U model.

For the kind of uses that suit this por­ta­ble lap­tops best, though, many may not notice that much dif­fer­ence be­tween the two.

This a quick and re­spon­sive lap­top. Day-to-day this is im­proved by the re­spon­sive and re­li­able fin­ger scan­ner, and fast all-SSD stor­age. The 256GB drive

reads at 1558MB/s and writes at 595MB/s. While not the ab­so­lute fastest by cur­rent SSD stan­dard, it’s enough to make the lap­top feel much quicker than any hard drive model. There’s enough power and RAM to let you use apps such as Pho­to­shop, and to browse away with far too many win­dows open with­out the 720S slow­ing to a crawl.

We did notice, how­ever, that bench­mark scores are slightly lower than some lap­tops we’ve re­viewed with the same CPU. For ex­am­ple, it scores 6940 in Geek­bench 4, where the Acer Swift 5 man­aged 7424.

Geek­bench 4 re­sults vary a lit­tle be­tween at­tempts, but a con­sis­tent slight low­er­ing of per­for­mance sug­gests some throt­tling. This will be in order to keep tem­per­a­tures at man­age­able lev­els.

The fan sys­tem is rea­son­ably quiet even un­der stress, and in our ex­pe­ri­ence its rev­o­lu­tions per minute (speed) doesn’t jump about too much. This helps it avoid be­com­ing too in­tru­sive. How­ever, like most slim lap­tops the fan has a rel­a­tively small di­am­e­ter, so does be­come high-pitch un­der pres­sure.

This is among a new wave of lap­top with real, if mod­est, gam­ing abil­i­ties. As well as a Core i5 pro­ces­sor, the 720S has an Nvidia GT940MX GPU with 2GB RAM.

It makes play­ing mod­ern games for more en­joy­able than most other slim lap­tops, with up to dou­ble the frame rates of a ma­chine us­ing an in­te­grated graph­ics chipset. For ex­am­ple, Alien: Iso­la­tion runs at an av­er­age of 64fps at 720p, low set­tings rather than around 30fps.

This gives you much more head­room to make the game look better. At 1080p, maxed set­tings it runs at

an av­er­age 26.4fps. That’s be­low the ideal min­i­mum of 30fps, but shows that if you fid­dle with the set­tings a lit­tle you’ll be able play com­fort­ably in Full HD.

A more de­mand­ing game such as Deus Ex: Hu­man Rev­o­lu­tion shows that the GT940MX isn’t a re­place­ment for a higher-end rig, though. At 720p res­o­lu­tion, low graph­ics, the game is playable at an av­er­age 29.2fps. How­ever, at 1080p ul­tra it plays at a very slow 10.3fps.

Given the lap­top is 16mm thick, 1.55kg and not ridicu­lously ex­pen­sive, we think this sort of gam­ing per­for­mance is great.

How­ever, there’s just one is­sue: the GT 940M is now an older chipset, and Nvidia has al­ready re­leased a next-gen­er­a­tion fol­low-up, the MX150. We haven’t re­viewed a lap­top with this graph­ics pro­ces­sor yet, but early in­di­ca­tions sug­gest a worth­while 33 per­cent

boost. HP al­ready uses the MX150 in its 2017 model Envy 13, which is £100 more ex­pen­sive than the 720S but oth­er­wise looks very ap­peal­ing.

That’s some­thing to think about if you’re in­tend­ing on play­ing games.

Bat­tery life

The 720S has a four-cell 56Wh bat­tery, a non-re­mov­able unit of solid if ‘nor­mal’ ca­pac­ity. It had us wor­ry­ing the use of dis­crete graph­ics might lead to unin­spir­ing bat­tery life. We needn’t have wor­ried.

When play­ing back a 720p video on loop, the Len­ovo IdeaPad 720S lasts 12 hours five min­utes, a very re­spectable up­per-rank­ing re­sult. As long as you keep the ex­er­tion level rea­son­ably low, you’ll eas­ily get a full day’s work out of a charge.

Un­usu­ally, this is when the lap­top is used at 79 per­cent screen bright­ness too. This isn’t some­thing to

get ex­cited about, though. The Len­ovo IdeaPad 720S uses a rather odd bright­ness curve that only reaches our test level of 120cd/m2 at that point. It’s the sort of bright­ness you might use in­doors.

The speak­ers are solid too, if a lit­tle too re­liant on their Dolby At­mos pro­cess­ing. This max­i­mizes the im­pres­sion of vol­ume us­ing dy­namic com­pres­sion: so the solo gui­tar into to a song might sound very loud, only to drop in vol­ume as the rest of the band come in. Ac­tual vol­ume isn’t close to that of a MacBook, but there is at least enough rich­ness to the sound to avoid a thin, ugly tone.

Verdict

The Len­ovo IdeaPad 720S is a lap­top that proves you can some­times get more if you pay less. Its more ver­sa­tile than a lot of £1,000-plus por­ta­ble lap­tops be­cause it has a sep­a­rate graph­ics card, mak­ing it a pass­able gam­ing ma­chine.

That it adds this with­out ru­in­ing bat­tery life or porta­bil­ity is ex­cel­lent. It is one of the most ver­sa­tile porta­bles around.

The one re­gret is that the lap­top doesn’t have Nvidia’s lat­est GeForce MX150 graph­ics, us­ing the older 940MX kind instead. How­ever, maybe we shouldn’t com­plain too much if such a move would have added sub­stan­tially to the price.

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