I bought this 14-inch version of the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 about three weeks ago and it took me a little longer to publish my thoughts, and that’s because I wanted to see whether a color-deficient screen is something I can live with or not.
Over here the IdeaPad 5 comes with merely a 54% sRGB matte FHD IPS screen. It’s otherwise a bright and punchy panel, but those muted colors are awful to look at, at least for me, as someone used to higher-quality screens. And that’s such a pity, as otherwise, this IdeaPad is an amazing ultraportable laptop.
I bought mine for about 600 EUR in a well-specced version, with the Ryzen 5 4500U processor, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of SSD storage, and 57 Wh battery. This version also gets the blue colored exterior and the metal lid, unlike the all-plastic variants available in other regions.
So, how is it? In just a few words, it performs better than I expected, lasts for a fair while on a charge, and types well. But it’s going back tomorrow, as I’ve finally decided that I can’t cope with that screen. You’ll find my whole experience with this computer down below, with the strong-points and the quirks that will help you decide whether this is the right buy for you or not. And if by any chance Lenovo offers a better-quality screen at some point, this would definitely jump towards the top of my shortlist in its class.
Specs as reviewed – Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14ARE
|Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14ARE|
|Screen||14-inch 1920 x 1080 px IPS 60 Hz, 16:9, non-touch, matte, AU Optronics B140HAN04.E panel|
|Processor||AMD Renoir Ryzen 5 4500U, 6C/6T|
|Video||AMD Radeon Vega 7|
|Memory||16 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (soldered)|
|Storage||1x 512 GB SSD (Samsung PM991 MZALQ512HALU-000L2)|
|Connectivity||Wireless 6 (Intel AX200), Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||3x USB-A 3.1 gen 1, 1x USB-C gen with DP and power delivery, HDMI 1.4b, SD card reader, headphone/mic, Kensington Lock|
|Battery||57 Wh, 65 W USB-C power adapter|
|Size||322 mm or 12.66” (w) x 212 mm or 8.34” (d) x 19.1 mm or .75” (h)|
|Weight||1.40 kg (3.09 lb), .33 kg (.72 lbs) power brick, EU version|
|Extras||white backlit keyboard with NumPad, 2x 2W stereo speakers, HD webcam|
Design and build
I like this minimal and clean design language Lenovo implement with most of their notebooks these days, including these entry-level IdeaPads. Branding is kept at a minimum, with two small metal Lenovo plaques on the lid and interior, and no logo under the screen, and the whole thing looks and feels like a higher-tier product.
Sure, the interior is still plastic, but with this slightly textured surface that feels soft and reliable, and does a very good job at concealing smudges and finger oil. In fact, I much prefer this interior plastic to the metal on the lid, for two reasons: the lid shows smudges easier and has somehow already dented in two small spots, revealing the bare aluminum underneath. Not sure how this happened, I take very good care of all my products, and this sort of over-sensible surface is not something I can accept. Lenovo seems to also offer this notebook with a plastic lid in some regions, and if that’s the same kind of finishing as on the interior of my unit, I’d definitely prefer it to this metal lid. Something to look into.
Materials aside, this IdeaPad 5 is sturdily made, with both a strong main chassis and a strong screen.
As far as dimensions go, this is fairly compact for its class, with narrow bezels around the display, but enough of a forehead to include a camera at the top, with a physical shutter. The quality isn’t much, as expected.
This notebook is, however, a tad heavier and thicker than the more premium 14-inch options, but at 19 mm in thickness and 1.4 kilos in weight, it’s still a proper choice if you have to grab it along every day to school or work.
Having used this almost daily in the last weeks, two aspects bothered me. One is the fact that Lenovo included an always-on LED next to the power button. It’s not very bright, but it’s still unnecessary and a bit annoying when watching a movie at night. They also put some crooked stickers on the palm-rest, but those can be easily peeled off (mine were still on as I was deciding whether to keep or return this).
My other nit is with the limited screen angle and fairly stiff hinge. You’ll need two hands to lift-up the display here, and it only goes back to about 145 degrees and not all the way flat, as I’d want on a portable laptop that won’t always be used on a desk.
On the other hand, Lenovo implemented grippy rubber feet on the bottom, made sure to blunt the front lip and corners, lined a fair selection of ports on the sides, and included up-firing speakers that flank the keyboard.
Furthermore, they also implemented a fairly capable cooling system, with a large intake grill on the bottom and the exhaust hidden beneath the hinge. That still blows hot air into the display, yet its effect is not as bad as on some other laptops that go the same route (such as the ZenBook 14), thanks to the increased distance between the radiator and the actual panel.
As for that IO, you’ll get two USB-A slots and an SD card-reader on the right side, and the status LEDs, a USB-C port, HDMI and a power-plug on the left. This laptop also charges via USB-C, which supports DisplayPort as well and drives a 4K monitor at 60 Hz just fine. I’ve noticed that some 14-inch IdeaPad 5 versions do not include the barrel-plug port and instead ship with an USB-C charger, but keep in mind that’s you’ll have a hard-time powering a high-resolution external monitor on those variants, while also charging up the laptop, so overall this variant is more practical.
Finally, I should also add that you’re getting a fairly-slow SD card-reader here and fairly slow gen1 USB-A ports as well, although I’d say these are fine in this price class.
Keyboard and trackpad
The IdeaPad 5 gets a standard Lenovo keyboard, the same we’ve seen on past Yogas and IdeaPads, but with slightly cheaper feeling plastic keycaps than on the higher-tier models.
No worries though, this is a good typer, quick, quiet, and accurate once you get a hold of its mushier feedback, the kind you should expect from a portable laptop with short-stroke keys.
The layout is standard, and includes PgUp/PgDn/Home and End functionality as secondaries bound to the arrows keys. Many other 14-inch notebooks implement those as an extra column at the right of the keyboard, but there wasn’t space for it here, with the up-firing speakers.
These keys are also easy to tell apart, with the white writing on a gray background, and backlit. The illumination isn’t amazing, with fairly dim LEDs and light creeping from underneath some of the keycaps, but at least they’re uniform and Lenovo also included CapsLock and Numlock lit indicators.
The clickpad is plastic, averagely sized and rather flimsy, rattling with taps. It tracks well, though, handles all the standard gestures and implements decent clicks, although a bit clunky for my liking.
As for biometrics, there aren’t any on this laptop.
OK, this screen is the reason I’ve decided to return my IdeaPad 5. But hear me out.
Color-coverage is problematic here, at 54% sRGB in our tests, and I could easily notice the orange-tinted red and the skewed greens and yellows from the moment I powered this for the first time. However, keep in mind I’m used to good quality screens. My old XPS laptop gets a 100% sRGB panel and my main PC monitors are both 100+ sRGB as well, and that made the transition to the IdeaPad a lot more difficult. If, however, you’re not as pretentious, or you’re coming from an older laptop with perhaps a TN panel, or an older PC screen, chances are you’re not going to find these colors that much of an issue, and in that case, this screen should do.
For what is worth, I’ve included some images of this panel next to a 100% sRGB screen on this ZenBook that I have around, as well as the 100+ sRGB screen on the MacBook Pro. Those are more expensive products, of course, these pics are just meant to show the difference between these panels and the kind of colors you should expect on the IdeaPad. And keep in mind the camera doesn’t accurately capture the differences, and in reality, the gap between these panels is greater than it might seem here.
Ok, so if you can live with those colors, this is not otherwise a bad display, with 350+ nits of brightness, 1300:1 contrast, decent blacks, and OK viewing angles.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with a X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO408D (B140HAN04.E);
- Coverage: 54.1% sRGB, 37.4% AdobeRGB, 38.4% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.41;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 358.48 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 3.51 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1364:1;
- White point: 6400 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.26 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
This panel also came well calibrated out of the box, with just a slight Gamma imbalance. Furthermore, I haven’t noticed obvious luminosity issues or noticeable light-bleeding, which once more attests for the screen’s excellently made frame.
Such a pity for this panel, though. I understand that Lenovo had to cut some corners to reach the aggressive price point, but the screen is among the last I’d sacrifice.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a mid-specced configuration of the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14ARE , with an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U APU, 16 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM, 512 GB of fairly fast Samsung storage and Radeon Vega 6 graphics baked into the AMD APU.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that our review unit is a retail model bought locally and running on the software available as of late-June 2020 (BIOS DTCN18WW V1.04 from 03.Jun.2020, Lenovo Vantage 184.108.40.206).
Spec-wise, the Ryzen 5 4500U is a 6C/6T processor with a TDP of 15W, but able to run at higher TDP and clocks if supplied with enough power and properly cooled. Lenovo also offers a Ryzen 7 4700U 8C/8T variant of this laptop.
Graphics are handled by the Radeon Vega 6 iGPU embedded within the APU, and we’ll talk about its performance down below.
Our configuration also shipped with 16 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM out of the box, in dual-channel, and a Samsung PM991 512 GB PCIe x4 SSD, plenty fast for everyday use. There are actually two SSD drives inside, with the included one being a compact 2230 mm drive, which leaves the full-size 2280 M.2 slot open for ugprades. You can also update the wifi module on this laptop, but everything else is soldered on the motherboard. Accessing the components is a basic task, you just need to pop-out the back panel that’s held in place by a handful of Torx screws.
As far as software goes, everything can be controlled through the Lenovo Vantage app, which offers access to the power profiles, keyboard customization options, system updates, battery settings, etc. I find this unified implementation one of the better system control apps in the business.
There are three performance/thermal profiles to choose from, and you can switch between them by pressing Fn+Q:
- Battery Saving – limits the CPU at up to 9W and keeps the fans noise at very low levels;
- Intelligent Cooling – limits the CPU at down to 19W and the still low fan-noise;
- Extreme Performance – full power CPU running at 25+W and full-blast fans (still quiet).
I’ve kept my unit on Intelligent Cooling most of the time, and only switched to Extreme Performance for benchmarks and some light games. The fan rests completely silent with daily use on Intelligent Cooling, and rarely kick in with heavier multitasking. That translates in slightly higher internals temperatures and warmer interior, especially in the middle of the keyboard, but those are totally worth it compromises on a completely quiet machine.
The Ryzen platform is not just meant for browsing and Netflix, though, it can actually churn through heavier loads as well. We start by testing the CPU’s performance in taxing chores by running the Cinebench R15 benchmark for 15+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run.
On Extreme Performance, the Ryzen 5 4500U runs at 3.5+ GHz and 25+W of power, but also fairly high temperatures in the 90s Celsius. The fan rests quietly, barely audible with this test, and the laptop stabilizes at roughly 900 points.
Switching over to Intelligent Cooling limits the CPU at around 19W and much cooler temperatures in the 74-76 degrees Celsius, with a roughly 7-10% loss of sustained performance, but a greater difference in shorter duration loads. Similar performance is delivered when unplugging the laptop from the wall, and switching over to the Battery Saver mode is going to limit the CPU at 9W and trump the scores, but running demanding loads on Battery Saving makes no sense to begin with, anyway.
To put these results in perspective, here’s how a couple of other AMD and Intel ultraportable notebooks score in this same test.
The 8Core Ryzen 7 4700U outmatches the Ryzen 5 by about 15% at the same 25W of power, while the Intel 6Core i7-10710U kicks in hard at first, but then also drops towards 900 points once is settles at around 25 W as well. As for the more wide-spread Intel 4Core options, those trail the Ryzen 5 4500U by as much as 50% even on the better implementations.
We went ahead and verified our findings with the more demanding Cinebench R20 test and the gruesome Prime 95. In this case, the Ryzen processor runs at 25W for a while, but then it aggressively throttles to only .4 GHz. Not sure what causes this sort of behavior, but I haven’t encountered in any of the other tests.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook, on the same Extreme Performance profile.
3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit passed it without a problem. Luxmark 3.1 fully loads both the CPU and GPU at the same time, but it’s not properly supported by the Ryzen platform.
Next, here are some benchmark results. We ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks on the standard Extreme Performance profile. Here’s what we got.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 2662 (Graphics – 2896, Physics – 12318, Combined – 957);
- 3DMark 13 – Night Raid: 10076 (Graphics – 11891, CPU – 5404);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 960 (Graphics – 846, CPU – 4123);
- AIDA64 Memory test: Write: Read: 37399 MB/s, Read: 35626 MB/s, Latency: 96.9;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 1736;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 28. average fps;
- PassMark: Rating: 4225 (CPU mark: 13185, 3D Graphics Mark: 2181, Disk Mark: 11363);
- PCMark 10: 4932 (Essentials – 9012 , Productivity – 7431 , Digital Content Creation – 4862);
- GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 4857, Multi-core: 19947;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1094, Multi-core: 4862;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 992 cb, CPU Single Core 174 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2418 cb, CPU Single Core 444 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 208. fps, Pass 2 – 57.66 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 55.76 s.
We also ran some Workstation related loads, on the Auto profile:
- Blender 2.82 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 6m 36s (Auto);
- Blender 2.82 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 20m 40s (Auto);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: CPU not properly recognized;
These are some solid results for a U-type mobile platform. Here’s how this Ryzen 5 4500U configuration compares to a couple of other AMD and Intel + Nvidia options available in the same format.
Finally, we ran a couple of games on the Extreme Performance profile, and don’t forget this runs entirely on the Radeon Vega 6 iGPU.
|Ryzen 5 4600Uwith Radeon Vega 6||Extreme Performance|
|Bioshock Infinite (DX 11, Low Preset)||63 fps (50 fps – 1% low)|
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Low Preset, no AA)||21 fps (18 fps – 1% low)|
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Lowest Preset)||41 fps (30 fps – 1% low)|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider (DX 12, Lowest Preset, no AA)||33 fps (20 fps – 1% low)|
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (Vulkan, Lowest Preset, no AA)||28 fps (20 fps – 1% low)|
|Strange Brigade (Vulkan, Low Preset)||33 fps (27 fps – 1% low)|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Low Preset, Hairworks Off)||14-25 min-max fps
(21 fps avg, 16 fps – 1% low)
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3, Dota 2 – recorded with MSI Afterburner in game mode;
- Bioshock Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities.
Based on those findings above, older or casual titles such as Minecraft or Fortnite run alright at FHD resolution and low graphics settings, but this struggles with the more recent AAA games, and you’ll have to lower the resolution to 900p and 720p for constant 30+ framerates.
This is otherwise a good implementation of the Ryzen 5 + Vega 6 hardware. The GPU runs and full 1.5 GHz speed in all our tests on both the Intelligent and Extreme Performance profiles, but I noticed a fair bit of CPU fluctuations between stock and Turbo speeds. That doesn’t translate into noticeable stuttering, but might have an impact on 1% lows in certain CPU-heavier titles and it’s not something I can explain.
This IdeaPad is almost on par with some of the Intel + MX250 10W implementations out there, but the newer MX350 or the full-power 25W MX250 configurations available in some 14-inch chassis do a better job at gaming and graphics loads in general.
The hardware also runs fairly hot in some titles, especially in the more demanding ones such as FarCry 5. In this case, the APU stabilizes at 25W and temperatures in the high 80s, but Witcher 3 and Mordor run at lower power and thus, lower temperatures.
Once more, these findings attest that you should not expect to run recent AAA titles on this sort of a laptop, not only it won’t perform well, but it will also run hot. Older titles or casual games such as Fortnite or Minecraft or LOL should run well here, though, some even with Medium+ settings.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
Lenovo went with a dual-heatpipe and one large fan thermal module on this configuration, a slightly more complex solution than what’s normally implemented at this level.
It allows the APU to run smoothly at 25+ W in demanding loads and tests, while at the same providing passive cooling with daily use, keeping the fan inactive most of the time, with only warm exterior temperatures.
The APU does heat-up to 80 and 90 degrees in demanding chores and games, and a fair bit of that heat also spreads onto the exterior.
We recorded temperatures in the mid-40s in the middle of the keyboard, on top of the AMD processor, and mid-50s around the radiator, but also 60+ on the underside, around the thermal module. Furthermore, hot air is blown into the screen, with the panel reaching 40-45 degrees around the exhausts. At the same time, the fan spins at around 39-41 dB in this case.
These temperatures are recorded in FarCry 5, and the laptop is going to run cooler with less demanding games.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Quiet Mode, fans at 0-33 dB
*Gaming – Extreme Performance mode – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 39-41 dB
For connectivity, there’s latest-gen WiFi 6 with an Intel AX200 module on this laptop. It performed very well with our setup and the signal and performance remained strong at 30-feet, with obstacles in between.
Audio is handled by a set of stereo speakers that fire through those grills around the keyboard. Well, through the lower part of those grills, as most of those are just for decor. Expect fairly punchy volumes, in the 76-78 dB at head-level, and no distortions at higher volumes, but not much in terms of audio quality, with very little on the lower end.
The same can be said about the HD camera placed at the top of the screen. It’s fine for occasional calls, but the quality is muddy and washed out.
There’s a 57 Wh battery inside the IdeaPad 5, which is larger than what you’d normally get on an affordable 14-incher. Corroborated with the efficient AMD hardware implementation and screen, this notebook lasts for a fair while on a charge.
Here’s what we got on our review unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~60 brightness).
- 7.7 W (~7+ h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Quiet Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.3 W (~9 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Quiet Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.8 W (~10 h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Quiet Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 9 W (~5-6 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Intelligent Cooling Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
The laptop comes with a compact 65W charger that plugs-in via a classic barrel plug. It’s a dual-piece design with a compact brick and long cables, and a full charge takes about 2 hours. USB-C charging is also supported here.
Price and availability
The IdeaPad 5 14ARE is available in stores around the world in multiple versions.
It starts at as low as 400 GBP in the UK or 500 EUR in Germany, but that’s for the Ryzen 3 4300U model with only 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, a smaller 45Wh battery, and a TN screen. It’s cheap, but don’t get that!
Instead, the Ryzen 5 variant with 8 GB of RAM, 256/512 GB of storage, and the same IPS screen and 57 Wh battery we got on our units goes for around 600 GBP or 700 EUR.
For some reason, this 14-inch version of the IdeaPad 15 is no longer available on the US Lenovo webstore right now, but it might come back. In the meantime, the 15-inch IdeaPad 5 15ARE starts at a little under $700 for the Ryzen 5 model.
Furthermore, you’ll most likely find these discounted here and again, just as I found my unit. Remember that I paid 600 EUR for the 16 GB RAM/512 GB SSD variant, which is listed at around 800 EUR MSRP.
Lenovo did almost everything right with this IdeaPad 5. In fact, this product feels and performs like a much more expensive product than the 600 EUR I paid for it. Nonetheless, it’s going back and that’s because I for one can’t live with a 54% sRGB screen. I was planning for this to retire my old XPS 13, but it’s not going to.
Sure, it’s a very quick little laptop, and also quiet and comfortable with daily use. It’s also made well, types well, and includes the IO that I’d need while on the go. However, I also edit photos and videos on my travel laptop, and that’s one more reason why that washed out screen won’t cut it for me. I understand that Lenovo had to cut some corners to meet the lower price-point and still end up profitable, but the screen is just too important to skimp on.
They also skimped on the metal coating on the lid, which as mentioned already, has already dented in two small spots while in my backpack, and that’s despite the fact that I took care of the laptop and put it in a protective sleeve most of the time. This, again, is not something I can accept and I’m going to pay extra for a more reliable finishing and a better display.
Otherwise, this IdeaPad is a solid 14-inch ultraportable, and fairly priced. I got mine for a great deal, but the MSRP is a bit higher and on par with the competing AMD-based products such as the Lenovo Flex 5, the US-exclusive Asus ZenBook Q407IQ or the Acer Swift 3. Too bad most of these are also plagued by poor-color displays, but there are some exceptions in the slightly higher price brackets, such as the HP Envy 13 or the Asus ZenBook UM433 lineups, as well as Lenovo’s own top-of-the-line Ideapad Slim 7.
So even if I’m returning my unit, if you’re fine with this sort of a screen and you can find the laptop for a good deal, then by all means, go for it.
That wraps up my time with this IdeaPad 5, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. Was I too harsh on that screen quality? What do you think?