Lenovo IdeaPad Z50-70 budget laptop review

Lenovo IdeaPad Z50-70

Lenovo has given the Z50-70 laptop some extra touches that lift it from the usual lowest-budget laptop category, starting with a full-HD 1920 x 1080 display. (For more, see: Best budget laptops 2014.)

The IdeaPad Z50-70 is a 15.6-inch model with a fourth-generation Intel Core i3, and its discrete nVidia graphics processor will even enable you to play Windows games. We borrowed our test IdeaPad Z50-70 from eBuyer.

Lenovo IdeaPad Z50-70 review: build quality and design

The design aesthetic is upmarket and premium-looking, even if most of the silver on display is just painted plastic. But the top deck as well as the metallic trim that runs the laptop's circumference are made of real metal.

The back of the display lid has a satin silver finish that mimics aluminium, while the underside is black plastic with a fine-textile pattern imprinted. Three screws are all that stands between you and a large plate that covers the memory and hard disk, should you need access. The relatively large 41 Wh lithium-ion battery is removable, and helped this Lenovo turn in one of the longest runtimes of the six on test here.

Edges of the Z50-70 have been tapered down slightly – not enough to miss out on the chance to install a DVD±RW optical drive on the right, but enough to inspire Lenovo to fit the special space-saving ethernet port on the left side with a sprung-loaded flap.

There are two USB 2.0 ports, one on each side; as well as an extra v3 port on the left that joins HDMI and VGA video ports there. Hot air exhausts over an internal finned heatsink on this side, while power connection is through Lenovo's unique rectangular connector that resembles a USB plug in yellow.

Sunken below the deck level slightly, the keyboard is not quite the premium type for which Lenovo business notebooks are famed, but it's still a cut above those found on some low-cost laptops. It's a low-travel type with textured matt flat-top keys, each shaped with a bowed bottom to give the Lenovo trademark shield shape of key. A number keypad joins directly to the Qwerty on the right.

A roughly textured trackpad works well and includes natural two-finger scrolling direction as standard. Separate left and right click buttons sit below for unfussy clicking.

Economies have been made by fitting the cheapest specification Wi-Fi adaptor, single-band and single-stream only. But the main processor is a competent dual-core Intel Core i3-4210U, the ‘U' suffix reminding us that this chip was made expressly for ultraportable notebooks. Only 4 GB of memory is installed but easily upgraded if required, and the 1 TB hard disk is a generous amount of space for a model under £400. Also see: How to choose a budget laptop.

Lenovo IdeaPad Z50-70 review: Lab report

With the same processor and hard disk as the Asus X751L, we see roughly the same middle-of-the-road results for processor, memory speed and system performance.

In Geekbench 3 is was a few points behind the latter, with 1735 and 3622 points respectively for single-core and multi-core modes, perhaps influenced by a slightly smaller complement of 1600 MHz memory. These numbers suggest this Lenovo's processor and memory combination have around 70 percent of the speed of the reference PC that scored 2500/5112 points.

PCMark 7 awarded this Lenovo 2222 points, while PCMark 8 recorded 1959 points (Home) and 2638 points (Work), which are competent results in line with the chipset and hard disk specification.

From this group of six, the IdeaPad Z50-39 is the only laptop fitted with a proper graphics adaptor capable of better performance than Intel's current best attempt in its dual-core mobile chips.

Don't set your Crysis to maximum detail just yet though. We measured a playable 33 fps in Batman: Arkham City at our lowest settings, but beware of a 4 fps minimum that may make even this setup less than smooth. Raising resolution and quality to 1366 x768 and Medium still let the game average 29 fps (3 fps minimum).

Turning to Tomb Raider 2013 though, the action picked up to 67 fps at 1280 x 720 (Low detail), and still maintained 36 fps at 1366 x 768 and Normal quality – and with a minimum framerate that didn't drop below 26 fps.

The large display appears sharp in the Windows interface, aided by the default 125 percent scaling applied which makes fonts appear a little less fuzzy. This is a very shiny screen though, and you will have to fight passed reflections to use it bright daylight conditions.

Its colour reproduction is rather poor, covering just 56 percent of the humble sRGB gamut in our tests, while its contrast ratio of 90:1 is lousy but typical for a cheap Windows laptop.

Battery life proved to be not too bad, stretching to nearly five hours (4 hour 58 min) in the looped-video over Wi-Fi endurance test. Also see: Best laptops 2014 and Best gaming laptops 2014

Lenovo IdeaPad Z50-70 review: Lab tests, benchmarks

Runtime: 4 hr 58 min
Contrast ratio: 90:1
Colour gamut sRGB: 56 %
Geekbench single: 1735
Geekbench multi: 3622
PC Mark 7: 2222
PCMark 8 Home: 1959
PCMark 8 Work: 2638
Batman: Arkham City 1280 x 720, Low: 33
Batman: Arkham City 1366 x 768, Med: 29
Tomb Raider 2013 1280 x 720, Low: 67
Tomb Raider 2013 1366 x 768, Normal: 36

Lenovo IdeaPad Z50-70: Specs

  • Windows 8.1
  • 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080, 141 ppi) gloss TN LCD
  • 1.7 GHz Intel Core i3-4010U (2C/4T)
  • nVidia GeForce 820M with 2 GB
  • 4 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 1 TB 5400 rpm SATA HDD
  • DVD±RW
  • 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • single-band 802.11b/g/n 1x1 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • gigabit ethernet
  • HDMI, VGA
  • SDXC
  • removable 41 Wh lithium-ion
  • 382 x 265 x 27.5 mm
  • 2363 g
  • Windows 8.1
  • 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080, 141 ppi) gloss TN LCD
  • 1.7 GHz Intel Core i3-4010U (2C/4T)
  • nVidia GeForce 820M with 2 GB
  • 4 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 1 TB 5400 rpm SATA HDD
  • DVD±RW
  • 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • single-band 802.11b/g/n 1x1 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • gigabit ethernet
  • HDMI, VGA
  • SDXC
  • removable 41 Wh lithium-ion
  • 382 x 265 x 27.5 mm
  • 2363 g

OUR VERDICT

The Lenovo Z50-70 is a well-rounded 15-inch laptop with a full-HD display and discrete nVidia graphics that can handle better gaming than many comparable budget laptops. Its build quality is good for the price, and battery life of around five hours, plus sub-2.4 kg weight, makes it more usable as mobile workstation.

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