Ever since the launch of Windows 8, PC manufacturers have been trying to sell us expensive Ultrabooks and tablets, and convertible tablets that think they're Ultrabooks. However, the top-selling laptops still tend to be unglamorous 15-inch models that sell for £500.00 or less, such as Lenovo's G-Series of 'everyday' laptops. See also Group test: what's the best budget laptop?
Prices for the G-Series start at around £349.00 for a model with an AMD A4 processor, 4GB of memory and 1TB hard drive, but we tested the new G505s, which costs £499.00 with an A10 processor running at 2.5GHz, 8GB of memory and 1TB hard drive. The G-Series also includes one 17-inch model, which costs an extra £50.00, for people who need a larger screen. Take a look at The 8 best laptops of 2013.
You're not going to get anything fancy for that sort of price, but the G505s gets all the basics right. The laptop's case is made out of plastic, but it has a smart matte-black finish and feels sturdy enough to withstand the occasional bump in a backpack. The keyboard is firm and comfortable, and was large enough to let me type at full speed when I took the G505s down to my local wifi watering hole. My only complaint here is that the trackpad isn't very sensitive, and you sometimes need to give it a good firm tap in order to click a button or launch an app.
It's also rather heavy, weighing 2.4Kg and measuring 28mm thick when folded flat. However, that's about average for a 15-inch laptop with a built-in DVD drive such as this, and the weight was just about manageable when I took it to my wifi bar for an afternoon. It's certainly no Ultrabook, though, and a laptop of this size and weight is going to spend most of its time indoors.
Battery life is also a little disappointing. A laptop like this ought to have room for a reasonably large battery, but the under-sized battery in the G505s provides a capacity of just 41Whr, and could only manage three hours (180mins) of streaming video on the BBC iPlayer. More casual web browsing or running Microsoft Office apps might allow you to stretch that out for another hour, but that's still quite poor even for a laptop in this price range. Our recent review of budget laptops found that 4-5 hours of streaming video was quite common, so the G505s certainly leaves room for improvement there.
The screen is good for a laptop in this price range, though. It's not touch-sensitive, and the 1366x768 resolution isn't ideal on a 15.6-inch display such as this, but those are acceptable compromises at this price. More importantly, the image is bright and clear, with viewing angles wide enough that you can browse the web or sit back and watch some streaming video without having to constantly adjust the screen. And while I'm not entirely sure what a 'glare wedge' is, I was pleased to find that the screen of the G505s was less glossy and reflective than that of many laptops we've seen recently.
It's well connected too, with an Ethernet port for a wired network, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0, memory card slot and both HDMI and VGA ports for connecting a larger screen. There's no Bluetooth, though, so wireless connectivity is limited to 802.11 b/g/n.
Performance is relatively modest, with a PCMark 7 score of just 2700. But, to be fair, that score is largely a reflection on the 5400rpm hard drive, and the 2.5GHz AMD processor is more than adequate for web browsing and running Microsoft Office. The healthy 8GB of memory should also allow you to tackle more demanding tasks, such as the occasional spot of photo or video-editing, while the 1TB drive provides plenty of room for storing music, photos and videos.
It can even handle a spot of casual gaming too, as the integrated Radeon HD8650G graphics managed a perfectly playable 35fps when running Stalker with medium graphics settings at 1280x720 resolution.