lenovo Ideapad s340-15 review: Quad-core dynamic performance, but cheap screen
This affordable laptop has great performance numbers, but be sure to get one with an IPS screen rather than a questionable TN set.
Those looking for powerful productivity power, a spacious screen and a comfortable keyboard should give the Lenovo IdeaPad S340-15IWL a good shot, but make sure you choose the right model.
While we were happy with the S340-15IWL’s benchmark results ($730 list, but generally closer to $500 online), the configuration we tested came with a low-priced TN screen loaded with poor viewing angles.
You can upgrade to a super IPS panel for a modest cash amount (like $40 or so) while still keeping the same interior items, so you have options. A slim design completes the package, although we do wish Lenovo could increase battery life a bit from the S340.
The 15-inch Lenovo S340 lineup includes models ranging from $630 to $830, although Lenovo’s ongoing “instant” deals usually negate a few hundred or more manufacturers’ list prices. Our review model (SKU is 81N8003SUS), for example, has a list price of $730 on Lenovo.com, but at the time of inscription this review, Lenovo is selling it for $510 after an “instant” discount of $220.
On paper, these are some decent specs if you can buy the S340 at the $510 sale price. The Whiskey Lake quad-core processor will serve you well when it comes to everyday computing tasks, and even some CPU-intensive activities like video editing.
The 8GB of RAM gives you plenty of room when it comes to multitasking, while the relatively roomy solid-state drive has enough room for your Office and access programs, if not your entire media library. The core of the integrated graphics is good for light photo editing and maybe a chess game, but no more than that.
However, there is a red flag for this particular setting: TN (neutral nematic) screen. While TN panels are fast and responsive (players with split-second feedback love them), they’re also notorious for poor viewing angles, which means they tend to look bloated unless you’re directly in front of them. We’ll tell you what a Full-HD screen looks like in real life in a bit. (Spoiler: Not very good).
If you poverty to save additional money, there’s a $630 (or $430 on sale) S340 with the similar basic specs as this version, except that it has a dual-core Intel Core i3 processor instead of a quad-core CPU. Nucleus . . You can also spend more cash (starting at $830, or $550 on sale) to get an S340 with an IPS-Display, or go for a version with the latest 10th Gen Ice Lake Core i5 processor ($710 list). Less than the MSRP of some 8th generation models, but minus any immediate savings).
When we think of Lenovo, we usually think of all-business black ThinkPads, but the S340 manages to have a relatively elegant profile. Gaging 14.1 x 9.6 x 0.7 inches and evaluating 3.9 pounds (or 4.4 pounds if you comprise the AC adapter), the S340
looks nicely slim but a little heavy. The laptop’s platinum gray casing (Abyss Blue is another color option) looks simple but elegant, with a flat lid and no distinguishing features except for the small Lenovo logo on the side.
Open the lid and you’ll find a 15.6-inch display with a thin top and side bezel, although the bottom bezel is a bit thicker. The gray keyboard and palm rest are unremarkable, although it is worth noting that the power button is located above the upper right corner of the number pad, which reduces the likelihood of it being pressed by accident.
Affordable laptops often come with cheap screens. While this $510 (on sale) S340 configuration almost qualifies as a budget laptop, its underpowered offering definitely falls into the budget category.
While we’re talking about a Full-HD (1920 x 1080) screen here instead of the obscure 1366 x 768 seen on many under $500 laptops, the S340’s screen brightness tops out at 205 nits (or lumens) according to our %s reading . . Typically, we prefer a laptop screen to have a 100 percent screen brightness reading of at least 250 nits, and consider 200 nits to be barely enough for comfortable indoor viewing.
However, the bigger issue than brightness is the cheaper TN (Twisted Twisted) panel technology it uses, which (as we’ve noted before) suffers from poor viewing angles. In fact, the S340’s screen looked a bit shattered and deprived of contrast even when I was watching it dead. As soon as I started moving my head in one direction or another, the screen almost immediately started fading out. The colors went in reverse when I looked at it from a 45-degree angle. In short, the screen on this version of the S340 provides a poor viewing experience, whether you’re working on an Office document or watching a video on Netflix.
However, keep in mind that there are S340 models with IPS (In-Plane Switching) displays which should (on paper, anyway) look a lot better. In fact, the S340’s (SKU: 81QF0005US) configuration is identical to that offered for the upgraded IPS monitor, and the “instant” saving is $550, or just $40 more than the model we’re reviewing here. That extra forty dollars would be money well spent.
The S340’s backlit keyboard felt comfortable and refreshingly handy, with enough distance (the distance the keys move when pressed) to keep it from feeling too bulky, along with a nice tactile bump and flexible bounce. You also get Alt-enabled hotkeys to disable the microphone and webcam, as well as dedicated media keys above the number pad. Speaking of which, yes, there is a 10-key number pad, although it does feel a bit compact compared to the rest of the keyboard.
The S340’s mid-size touchpad is located halfway below the main keyboard, which means it’s positioned slightly to the left of the overall chassis. The trackpad allowed me to precisely move the cursor without much jerking, and it also did a good job of rejecting accidental inputs from my palm. It takes quite a bit of pressure to click on the trackpad, but that’s pretty normal when it originates to laptops in this price variety.
Lenovo says the S340 comes with Dolby Audio, and there’s actually a Dolby Audio app that lets you choose between movie, game, audio and music profiles. But while Dolby Audio does a good job of extending the sound range and creating a virtual surround sound effect, it can’t do much for the sound quality of the S340’s muddy, bass-deprived speakers. The S340’s 2-watt drivers aren’t bad; They are just standard laptop speakers. For better quality, it is best to connect the headphones or pair them with a decent Bluetooth speaker.
Missing in action is the Windows Hello-enabled fingerprint reader, which you won’t find even on the most expensive S340 configurations.
Lenovo S340 comes with a solid selection of ports and connectors for its price range. Opening on the left side, there’s a regular HDMI port, a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port, and a combo audio-jack, along with a barrel-shaped accusing port.
On the right, we have a couple of USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, as well as a 4-in-1 media card reader.
All in all, this is the tick on most of our boxes in the Ports section. Sure, a Thunder 3 port would have been great, but you wouldn’t usually see one on a laptop this cheap. The 4-in-1 memory card booklover is a welcome improvement over the typical microSD card slot, and USB-C lets you connect a reasonably fast external storage drive.
With a quad-core Intel-Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and integrated graphics, the S340 has it all; In other words, the machine that will take over the Office tasks and sometimes at full capacity. When multicore power is obligatory. As you’ll see in our standards, the S340 doesn’t disappoint, and we were agreeably surprised by some of its biggest results.
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Since most Lenovo S340 users will use it as a desk and general productivity machine, our early benchmark results are good news.
PCMark 8 is designed to simulate everyday computing activities such as creating Word documents, playing with spreadsheets, online shopping, and video chatting. A PCMark 8 score of 2000 or higher generally means that the system can run Office without any effort.
As we can understand, the Lenovo S340 leads a relatively close package, with every laptop on the chart topping the 3000 mark. In other words, all the systems in the comparison will handle Office with ease, including the Lenovo ThinkPad at the bottom. In fact, the performance of Office for a laptop with a 3500-score PCMark 8 won’t feel much better than one with a 3150-score; Instead, they will appear more or less evenly while browsing the web, working with Excel, or performing most other daily computer tasks.
A more demanding test of PCMark 8, our HandBrake benchmark measures how fast a laptop can encrypt a 30GB MKV file into a format suitable for an Android tablet. It’s an extensive CPU test that reliably spins laptop cooling fans and favors systems with the most processor cores.
Once again, the quad-core Lenovo S340 performs well, managing to hit the HandBrake target in less than 4,000 seconds (or just over an hour). That’s a score that gives the S340 an impressive bronze in comparison, beating some more expensive laptops in the process. Of course, the S340 is slightly larger than some of the competitors on our table, and therefore easier to cool.
It’s worth noting that though the S340 runs on a Whiskey Lake CPU somewhat than the older Kaby Lake Revive chip that powers most of the additional laptops on our chart, overall performance tests have exposed that Whiskey Lake processors have (on average) only at a small speed. A boost on Kaby Lake Refresh systems (both 8th Gen Intel processors, by the way), so it’s not similar the S340’s Core i5-8265 chip is an partial advantage.
At the bottom of the table is the dual-core Acer Aspire 5 model, which shows the difference a quad-core processor makes when it originates to video processing and other CPU-intensive tasks. However, if you don’t plan on processing huge video files on a regular basis, you might consider saving some money with a dual core laptop.
Another benchmark designed to push the CPU to the limit, Cinebench testing involves rendering a 3D image in real time. As with HandBrake, laptops with the largest number of essentials generally get the best Cinebench scores.
And yes, it’s another good offering from the S340, outperforming its quad-core rivals with the extra space. In addition to a good multi-threaded Cinebench score, the Lenovo S340 also posts the best single score in our table, showing the efficiency of the S340’s single CPU cores.
With an integrated Intel UHD graphics core, the Lenovo S340 is not just a gaming machine. While the S340 ranks third on our 3DMark Sky Diver benchmark, that won’t help it pass the 60fps mark (or even come close to it) when it comes to Fortnite.
What the Sky Diver graph shows is the gap in graphics performance between one laptop with a discrete graphics card and one with united graphics. That big blue line at the top signifies the Acer Aspire E 15 with a separate GeForce MX150 graphics card (and that’s fair an entry-level GeForce card, mind you). The rest is at the back, mostly equipped with integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 cores.
The only exception is last year’s Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 6 14 with a GeForce MX130 discrete graphics card, which was supposed to return much better numbers than it ended up being. We are still scratching our heads.
That said, not everybody needs a laptop with discrete graphics. Unless you’re a gamer or plan to do video work, the integrated graphics will probably be fine, not to mention cheaper.
We verified the battery life by playing a 4K video with the Windows 10 Movies & TV video player, with a screen brightness of about 250 nits (since the S340’s screen can’t be bright, we just increased the maximum brightness setting) and set the volume to 50 percent with headphones connected.
The S340’s average score (we ran the test three times) of 503 minutes, or just under 8.4 hours, is a bit disappointing given the performance of its competitors. In fact, with its 52Wh battery, the S340 performed significantly worse than the other laptops at our table with smaller 48Wh batteries.
Now, this could simply be a factor in Lenovo adjusting the S340 to favor presentation over energy competence (although we should note that our benchmarks were done on AC power), and in any case eight hours of battery life. The battery isn’t negligible. However, we expected the S340 to get better numbers given the size of its battery.
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The Lenovo IdeaPad S340 isn’t the primary solid line of laptops to come with low-end models with TN technology, so we wouldn’t condemn it based on the particular configuration we tested. In fact, criticizing a TN panel for poor viewing angles is like hitting a turtle for being slow; That’s right, take them or leave them. Swap an IPS screen for a TN panel (which you can do cheaply, if you go for the next higher model), and you’re probably looking at a great value.
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