Lenovo IdeaPad S340 full review
With gadgets like smartphones costing in excess of £1,000, you might not have much left to spend on a laptop. Whatever your reason, budget laptops that are worth having are hard to find, but the Lenovo IdeaPad S340 has a lot to offer for not much money at all if you are ok with its downsides.
MWC might be largely about phones, but we’ve also got a range of new laptops from Lenovo that look interesting. The IdeaPad S340 could be your new budget friendly go-to laptop.
The IdeaPad line-up for 2019 includes the more premium S540 and the C340 with ‘C’ standing for convertible. We’re most interested in the S340 which is a sort of follow up to the very popular IdeaPad 320S.
Price & Availability
Choosing a laptop sku (model) is hard enough at the best of times but the S340 comes in both AMD and Intel variations.
Official pricing starts at just £329 for the chepeast AMD model, which comes with a Ryzen 3 processor. You can then jump to a Ryzen 5 or 7 - with other upgrades - for £499 or £599. Either way these are all very cheap and affordable laptops.
Over on the Intel side of the fence you can get a Pentium Gold model at £349 with a number of different Core i3/5/7 models reaching up to a not so budget £749. See the Intel range here.
These are all 14in laptops and as usual, we can't test them all but we have the cheapest one of the lot with the AMD models under the 'S340-14API' model name. You can also opt for a 15in model (S340-15IWL) which starts at £349. UK retailers include Amazon, Currys PC World and Laptop Outlet with prices as low as £259.
Lenovo makes things quite confusing with an S340 Chromebook version, but we're reviewing the Windows 10 model here.
Design & Build
The IdeaPad S340 has a plastic build with carbon fibre threads weaved into it. You really wouldn’t know to look at the device though, which is a shame, not that we expect proper carbon fibre at this price.
In theory it makes the plastic stronger, but the S340 has an aluminium finish on the lid, which is nice.
This laptop isn’t particularly thin or light, but Lenovo still calls it ‘ultrathin’. At 17.9mm thick we wouldn’t say this fits with that description. Part of the design makes the S340 appear to be thin but it’s simply an illusion.
The 14in model is 1.55kg while the 15in jumps to 1.8kg. Again, not headline grabbing figures but this is a budget laptop.
A new design feature is the TrueBlock privacy shutter which allows you to physically cover the webcam should you feel the need. This has trickled down from the ThinkPad range which is good to see. The slider is a little fiddly to use, though and it's not overly obvious it's even there.
We took a look at the Sand Pink model, but you can also get the S340 in Onyx Black, Abyss Blue and Platinum Grey.
Keyboard & Trackpad
We like the (optionally backlit) keyboard which has a springy and responsive feel with enough travel to satisfy. There are some annoyingly small keys in places though such as the up and down arrows which take up the space of one normal key. There are, at least, some function keys along the top so you can easily adjust things like screen brightness.
If it swings it for you, the 15in model has a 10-key numeric keypad on the side.
The trackpad isn’t especially large but works reasonably well. It can be a little unresponsive at times but nothing serious and overall it works perfectly well with decent palm-rejection. It requires some pressure to regesiter a click but this isn't a surprise at this price.
Screen & Speakers
The display has bezels 20 percent smaller than previously and you’ll be able to choose from a 14- or 15.6in size. They’ll come in Full HD with optional touch and IPS.
The model we tested was 14in which is a nice size and the bezels around the display are surprisingly small for a laptop this cheap. However, the quality is clearly a sign of where costs have been kept down.
You'll have to accept that buying the S340 means pretty poor viewing angles and the dislay isn't that bright either capping at 215cd/m2 in our test with Lenovo claming 250. Colours are also pretty washed out and contrast is poor, too, with blacks looking closer to grey.
This is even when viewing dead on so this screen isn't good if you need to do tasks like edit photos or want to watch films in decent quality. Some more expensive models come with an IPS screen so look for those in the specs if this is important.
So the screen won't provide a great experience for watching Netflix and neither will the speakers. They're quintessential cheap 2W laptop fodder so sound muddy and lacking in bass.
There's Dolby Audio so you can choose between Movie, Game, Voice, and Music modes. It does improve the soundstage a little but there's only so much you can do with poor speakers so you're better off plugging in some headphones here.
Specs & Performance
As we’ve mentioned there are Intel and AMD versions of the IdeaPad S340 with a large number of options without even including the 15in models.
On the AMD side there's a Ryzen 3, 5 or 7 to choose from - simple. Intel starts at the Pentium Gold but goes up to a 10th-gen Core i7. However, most of the models use 8th-gen chips.
You're also looking at integrated graphics but if you want something extra to help with video editing for example then the Core i7-8565U has an Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU.
Our Ryzen 3 model comes with just 4GB of RAM but while Lenovo says you can get up to 12GB, the other models in the range have 8GB. On the storage front, you get a 128GB SSD at the very least with 256- and 512GB also available on other models.
As you can see in the chart below, the S340 we tested lags behind in the performance benchmark tests. The Ryzen 3 3220U is, as you'd imagine, at the basic end of the chip market with two cores and a 2.6GHz clock speed. Combined with the 4GB of RAM, you're going to be limited to basic tasks and won't have much capacity for multi-tasking.
This is totally understandable for this very low price, but it might be worth jumping to the Ryzen 5 or 7 models, or an Intel model if you need more beefy performance.
The amount of ports on offer here make up for things like the lacking display somewhat.
You get two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, full-size HDMI, a separate power input, headphone jack and a 4-in-1 SD card reader. Many of which are rare these days, especially when splashing out on a flagship laptop so if you hate the idea of being forced to use a USB-C dongle then the S340 will be a real boon.
Note that there's no Thunderbolt 3 support here but that's understandable and the USB-C port still means you can connect some speedy storage.
When it comes to battery Lenovo promises the AMD model will offer up to eight hours and Intel getting up to 10.
However, in our standard test looping an HD video at 120cd/m2 screen brightness (an unusually high 70% in this case), resulted in a very impressive 14 hours and 26 minutes.
Furthermore, RapidCharge tech means from just a 30 minute charge, we found the S340 topped up to 50% so that's very handy if you don't have long to give it some juice before heading out.
As we thought when we first saw the S340 for an initial play, Lenovo has made one of the best budget laptops on the market.
It's so affordable, yet looks really nice, has a decent keyboard, loads of handy ports and amazing battery life, too. Of course, performance is limited to basic tasks but there are more powerful models of this laptop available if you need more grunt.
The biggest let down, like a lot of budget laptops, is the display which is very basic. Look for an IPS model if this will get on your nerves.
Lenovo IdeaPad S340: Specs
- Windows 10 Home
- 14in up to Full HD IPS with optional touch
- 15.6in up to Full HD IPS with optional touch
- Up to Intel Core i7-8565U
- Up to AMD Ryzen 7 3700U
- Up to Nvidia MX250 (2GB RAM)
- Up to Radeon RX Vega 10
- 4/8/12GB RAM
- 128/256/512GB SSD
- 720p web cam
- 2x USB-A 3.0
- 1x USB-C
- Headphone jack
- SD card reader
- Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
- Bluetooth 4.2
- 2x 2W speakers with Dolby Audio
- Up to 10 hours battery with RapidCharge
- 322x230.5x17.9mm (14in)
- 358x245x17.9mm (15in)
- 1.55kg (14in)
- 1.8kg (15in)
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