Lenovo IdeaPad 720S

Score

Pros

  • Slim, stylish, all-metal exterior
  • Great screen
  • Excellent overall performance
  • Good connectivity

Cons

  • Nvidia graphics not necessary for all
  • 14-inch form factor adds weight

Key Features

  • Review Price: £850
  • All-metal exterior
  • Intel Core i5-7200U
  • 8GB RAM
  • Nvidia GT 940MX graphics
  • 256GB PCIe SSD
  • 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen
  • Backlit keyboard
  • 15.9mm thick
  • 1.55kg
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What is the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S?

The Lenovo IdeaPad 710S was one of the best laptops of last year thanks to its combination of great design, good features and a low price. Now the company’s back with an updated version called the IdeaPad 720S.

Although similar in many ways – it’s still an all-metal, thin-and-light laptop – it’s received a number of tweaks. You get a narrower bezel round the now larger 14-inch screen (there’s also a 13-inch model available), Nvidia graphics are included and a Thunderbolt port has been added.

With prices starting at £850, this is a fairly pricey laptop. However, it comes in well below the £1200 commanded by most premium Ultrabooks, such as the Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Laptop.

Lenovo IdeaPad 720S – Design and features

This is a great-looking, thin and light laptop. Its exterior is all-aluminium and so feels reassuringly expensive, while it has a heft to it that you’d expect of a premium product. It isn’t quite on the same level as the most expensive – the panels don’t feel like they’re hewn from solid chunks of metal – but it comes close.

Related: Best Ultrabooks 2017

But it’s in terms of size and weight that the Lenovo falls short of premium models. With dimensions of 320.7 x 222.8 x 15.9mm and weighing in at 1.55kg it’s noticeably larger and heftier. It remains portable, but you might fancy a sturdier backpack over a lightweight messenger bag.

The overall fit and finish is, again, a touch below more expensive devices but still impressive. For example, the trackpad doesn’t have the etched glass favoured by the finest laptops. Most premium laptops inhale and exhaust the air for cooling through the hinge of the laptop, to prevent vents being blocked by your lap; here the vents are on the bottom, however.

Similar to the Acer Swift 3, Lenovo has added a chamfer to the edges of some of the panels. But unlike that laptop, here those edges don’t feel as sharp and uncomfortable in the hand.

Related: Best laptops for all budgets

One thing this laptop isn’t at all wanting for is connectivity. Down the right side there are ports for HDMI, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, and an SD card; on the left is a second USB 3.0 port and a headphone jack. Charging is via a conventional power adapter, not the Thunderbolt port.

There’s also a fingerprint reader to the right, below the keyboard; a webcam above the screen; a backlit keyboard and that 1080p screen.

Lenovo IdeaPad 720S – Keyboard and trackpad

Both the keyboard and trackpad reflect this laptop’s mid-range pricing. The keyboard is largely excellent. It’s spacious and has a great layout, plus its key action is crisp and responsive. It’s also backlit, although it isn’t the brightest backlight  you’ll find on a laptop. Overall, it can’t quite compete with the very best, but it’s mostly a pleasure to type on.

As for the trackpad, it lacks the etched glass surface as mentioned, as well as the precise click of the very best – but, otherwise, it’s great. Its aluminium surface feels good in the hand, it tracks accurately, and it’s spacious enough to allow for large, sweeping gestures and big two-finger scrolls.

Lenovo IdeaPad 720S – Display

Continuing the overall trend, the 720S’s screen is a combination of premium and more mid-range features.

The IPS LCD panel offers great viewing angles and excellent overall image quality, while the Full HD resolution is entirely adequate. Maximum brightness is a touch low, which combined with the glossy finish makes this laptop a little less capable than some in bright environments – such as working outside on a sunny day.

In addition, I found the brightness adjustment rather odd. Reducing the brightness from 100% to just 80% resulted in a shift from 300nits to 100nits. Given that the general recommendation is that you work at 120-150nits, and that the brightness button moves in increments of 10%, there isn’t much room to fine-tune the setting to a sensible level. I ended up having to manually enter 85% in the power options to get close to our battery test level of 150nits.

Lenovo IdeaPad 720S Image Quality:

  • Max brightness: 297nits
  • Contrast: 1264:1
  • Colour temperature: 6449K
  • Gamma: 2.13
  • Delta E average: 0.15
  • sRGB coverage: 88.9%

Overall, though, it’s generally a pleasure to use and offers accurate enough image quality that it will be fine for most content creation work. Plus, it can fold flat, which can sometimes be useful if you’re showing something to several people at once or want to type from an elevated position.

Lenovo IdeaPad 720S – Webcam and audio

Lenovo has fitted the 720S with a standard 720p, 30fps webcam that sits in the top bezel above the screen. Its image quality is entirely typical, with there being a graininess that softens detail. On the whole, however, it copes well in relatively low light and offers enough detail for casual video calling and streaming.

As for this laptop’s speakers, there are two of them situated at the front of the laptop on its underside. Between them they do a decent job. Volume is sufficient for most purposes; there’s no distortion, even at maximum volume, and overall clarity and balance is okay. There’s no true bass to speak of, but there’s none of the tinny shrillness from which poor laptop speakers suffer.

Lenovo IdeaPad 720S – Performance

The 720S is available in two main configurations: one uses the Intel Core i7-7500U CPU and the other uses an Intel Core i5-7200U. Power users will appreciate the extra speed provided by the Core i7. However, considering it costs an extra £100 and you get nothing else for it, other than a grey finish to the exterior, the pricier option doesn’t leap out as good value.

Otherwise, the standout and surprise feature of this laptop is the addition of Nvidia GT 940MX graphics. Not that this turns the 720S into a high-end gaming machine, but it does provide between two and three times the performance of the integrated graphics on the Intel processor.

This means you’ll be able to comfortably play more basic titles such as Minecraft and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – although you’ll still have to be at a fairly low resolution and detail settings to get a good frame rate.

Putting that into numbers, in 3DMark: Ice Storm the Intel 7500U’s integrated graphics managed 51,696 points, while the Nvidia chip hit 67,394. However, this underplays the speed advantage of the Nvidia chip. In the much more demanding 3DMark: Fire Strike test, the Nvidia graphics managed 1925 points compared to just 804 of the Intel integrated.

It’s worth noting, though, that the addition of the Nvidia GPU surely adds to the price of this machine, and for most users it’s unnecessary. Not every model of the 720S will come with dedicated graphics, so if you don’t need it, have a look a different retailers to see which specification they’re offering.

As for overall system performance, both CPU options are plenty fast enough for most day-to-day tasks. The model I tested used the 7200U and it seldom felt like it was slowing me down. In the PCMark 8 benchmark it scored 2426 points, which is entirely in line with other similarly specified laptops – paying more for any non-“Pro” laptop won’t get you extra performance.

Also helping out is the use of a speedy PCIe SSD. This ensures boot and app-loading times are as short as possible and further adds to the overall zippy feel of this machine. It isn’t the fastest SSD around, but with transfer speeds of 1245MB/sec (read) and 555MB/sec (write) in AS SSD, it’s comfortably faster than a more typical SATA SSD you’ll find in some other mid-range laptops.

It all adds up to a laptop that will most certainly have the power the vast majority of users need, with only the most demanding users requiring more. Also, the cooling system stays impressively quiet. It does throttle back the CPU to 2.5GHz under sustained 100% load, but it maintains this with a relatively unobtrusive fan noise.

Lenovo IdeaPad 720S – Battery life

Lenovo claims up to 14 hours of battery life from this laptop, but this is unrealistic in most instances – only when sat doing very little at minimum brightness will it last that long. Instead, the company also provides a figure of 8 hours when watching video, which is far more realistic.

However, in our tests, this laptop actually exceeded that latter figure. Testing with Powermark, using a custom loop of 10 minutes watching video and 5 minutes browsing the web, and with the screen set to 150nits (85%) brightness, it lasted 9hrs 4mins. This is an excellent result, and comfortably puts this laptop in the same league as more expensive options.

I also tested by watching an hour of Netflix at the same brightness; this depleted the battery by 10%, suggesting it will last around 10 hours just watching video.

Should I buy the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S?

This is an ideal laptop for anyone that wants all the key features of a premium, thin-and-light laptop but without paying the £1200+ price of such machines. It can’t quite match the sleekness, build quality and screen resolution of those premium models, but in every other regard it’s either on a par or better.

From its stylish design and great build quality, through its decent screen and great keyboard, to its ample performance and battery life – this is a machine that can do just about anything while looking great while doing it.

If portability is of utmost importance then it may not be top of your list, but this is still a laptop that you could take with you just about anywhere.

Verdict

Not the slimmest or lightest laptop around, but an all-metal design, great screen, plenty of performance and good battery life combine to make the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S an excellent option for its price.

Score

Score in detail

  • Performance 8
  • Keyboard 8
  • Design 8
  • Screen Quality 8
  • Build Quality 8
  • Value 9
  • Touchpad 8
  • Features 9
  • Heat & Noise 8
  • Battery Life 9