Lenovo Ideapad 710S Review: A big departure from the Yoga

If you missed the initial unboxing of Lenovo’s Ideapad 710S, check it out before diving into the full review!

Lenovo’s thin and light Ideapad 710S is a workhorse machine. While pretty basic overall, it shines with a small physical footprint, high build quality, and beautiful 1080p display. It’s a 13-inch laptop in the frame of a 12-ish inch device thanks to a wonderfully thin display bezel that’s pretty obviously comporable to the Dell XPS 13. Starting at $799, this device deserves some attention.

TL;DR

Pros

  • Minimal size, weight, and display bezel
  • All metal enclosure
  • Reliable performance and battery life

Cons

  • Uninspired design
  • Lack of USB C or full-size HDMI
  • Curious key placement

Fit and Finish

On the one hand, the 710S has an impressive aluminum and magnesium enclosure that feels sturdy and durable. On the other, the design itself feels pretty uninspired and comes off feeling like a MacBook Air without many of the nicer design flourishes. It’s a functional design that gets the job done, but we are finding it hard to fawn too heavily over any one aspect of the device’s aesthetics.

The weight comes in at 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg), and the Ideapad 710S measures 5.5” (13.9mm) at its thinnest point. As with most Lenovo ultrabooks of the last several years, the Ideapad 710S is a pleasure to hold and use. Vents are visible on the underside and hinge areas, but during normal use the machine didn’t spit out enough heat on average to be uncomfortable in a lap. Fan noise was not a huge issue during our time with the unit, but we do want to note that fans will absolutely spin up from time to time under light use.

Ports included are two USB 3.0 Type-A on each side, a Micro HDMI slot, a SD card slot, a combo headset jack and power. There’s nothing spectacular, and we would have loved to see at least one USB Type-C port included, but there are enough connections here to cover most basic needs.

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The keyboard is a pleasure to use, a big step up in our opinion from the more ‘premium’ Yoga 900S we reviewed from Lenovo not long ago. The keys have good spacing and are satisfyingly clicky, although Lenovo’s frustrating choices to shorten the right-hand shift key and lack of any media control function keys continue to confuse us. The keyboard is backlit and offers three different levels of brightness.

The trackpad feels like one of the nicer trackpads we’ve used on a Windows laptop, made even more surprising knowing that it doesn’t support the Precision Trackpad standard that Microsoft added to Windows 10. Tracking feels accurate, with no noticeable glitches over time and with gestures functioning accurately. The plus side of not being a Precision Trackpad is that there are even more gestures available, and there were quite a few extras (such as three finger tap to middle click) that we ended up enabling.

Lenovo pulled a trick out of Dell’s pocket with the Ideapad 710S, including one of the smallest bezels on any of Lenovo’s current offerings. We don’t want to sound overly hyperbolic here, but it’s hard to overstate just how nice it is to not have the display outlined by a bunch of dead space. The display itself is a 13” 1080p IPS panel with solid color reproduction and contrast, but unfortunately there is no option available for a touchscreen. Seeing that the hinge can’t fold past 180 degrees, the importance of a touchscreen is debatable, but the lack of a touchscreen option is unfortunate. The device does come with a matte display, something more and more difficult to find on modern computers.

The camera is easily the most disappointing aspect of the entire computer. It’s a 720p shooter with lots of noise in even well-lit rooms, and Lenovo implements digital noise reduction that ends up making shots look muddy. It’s really not good for anything other than the occasional video chat, but even then hope that you’re not trying to impress anyone.

The speakers fare slightly better, but the downward facing drivers make listening to music or watching videos a poor experience without sitting the unit on a flat surface. Even then, the low end is nonexistent. There are some post-processing effects included from Dolby as well that help to make the listening experience better, but software enhancement can only go so far.

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Interaction

Actually living with the computer for a few weeks can be best described as “pleasantly uneventful.” Our review unit included a dual-core Intel Core i5 6200U CPU running at 2.3 GHz, 8GB of soldered on LPDDR3 RAM, and a 128GB PCIe SSD, making for a solid everyday device that can work through nearly everything we needed. For those who need a little more oomph, the Ideapad 710S can be configured with up to a Core i7 6560U, 16GBs of RAM and a 512GB SSD. A normal day was generally some light word processing, 12-15 tabs open in Edge and a couple instant messengers. With this CPU, the machine can even handle some light photo and video editing, although don’t expect those rendering times to be too short.

Battery life is a strength of the Ideapad 710S, giving on average between 7-8 hours on a full charge with moderate use, but definitely not a defining feature. We’re assuming that a lot of the power savings comes from the fact that the machine uses a 1080p non-touch display (compared to other modern Ultrabooks that often use higher resolution touch displays), making that a trade-off that would be well worth it to many.

The most questionable choice Lenovo made is thankfully one of the easiest to correct: Lenovo filled the unit to the brim with various system utilities and less-than-useful pieces of software. Some items, like Lenovo Companion, can be legitimately useful, but unfortunately much of the others are better off ignored. Thankfully, uninstalling specific applications or erasing the entire unit upon first launch can easily clear up these questionable choices and leave you with a spiffy, clean system

Conclusion

The bottom line is that the Ideapad 710S is a solid, reasonably priced laptop that only seems to skimp on inspiration. It’s obvious that this is a computer that wants to do everything well enough to not be in the way, without any bells or whistles to drive the price up. That’s not to say it’s unattractive or cheaply made, especially with the thin display bezel and entirely metal enclosure, but there are no features here that help it stand taller than any of its competitors. To sum up the Ideapad 710S in a word, it would be “balanced,” and we feel like the machine could fit in well with a student or a writer or anyone else who needs a solid, portable PC.

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