Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14ARE review

I bought this 14-inch version of the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 about three weeks ago and it took a little longer to publish my thoughts. That’s because I wanted to see if a lack of color screen is something I can live with or not.

Here the IdeaPad 5 only comes with a 54% sRGB matt FHD IPS screen. It is otherwise a bright and punchy panel, but these subdued colors are terrible to look at, at least for me, as someone used to higher quality screens. And that’s a shame, because otherwise this IdeaPad is an amazing ultra-portable laptop.

I bought mine for around 600 EUR in a well-equipped version with the Ryzen 5 4500U processor, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD storage and a 57 Wh battery. In contrast to the all-plastic versions available in other regions, this version also has the blue-colored exterior and the metal lid.

So how is it? In just a few words, it works better than I expected it to last a while and type well. But it is going back tomorrow as I have finally decided that I will not be able to cope with this screen. Below is my entire experience with this computer, with the strengths and quirks that will help you decide whether this is the right purchase for you or not. And if Lenovo happens to offer a better quality screen at some point, it would definitely be at the top of my shortlist in its class.

Specifications as verified – Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14ARE

Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14ARE
screen 14 inch 1920 x 1080 px IPS 60 Hz, 16: 9, non-contact, matt, 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)
camp 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 supply, HDMI 1.4b, SD card reader, headphones / microphone, Kensington Lock
battery 57 Wh, 65 W USB-C power supply
size 322 mm or 12.66 inches (W) x 212 mm or 8.34 inches (D) x 19.1 mm or 0.75 inches (H)
Weight 1.40 kg (3.09 lb), 0.33 kg (0.72 lbs) Power Brick, EU version
Extras white illuminated keyboard with NumPad, 2x 2W stereo speakers, HD webcam

Design and build

I like this minimal and clear design language that Lenovo implements with most notebooks these days, including these entry-level IdeaPads. Branding is kept to a minimum, with two small Lenovo metal panels on the lid and interior and no logo under the screen, and the whole thing looks and feels like a higher quality product.

Sure, the interior is still made of plastic, but with this slightly textured surface that feels soft and reliable, and very well hides stains and finger oil. In fact, I prefer this inner plastic to the metal on the lid for two reasons: The lid shows slight stains and is already pressed in at two small places, making the bare aluminum underneath visible. I am not sure how that happened, I take good care of all of my products and I cannot accept this type of hypersensitive surface. Lenovo apparently also offers this notebook in some regions with a plastic cover. If this is the same type of workmanship as inside my device, I would definitely prefer this metal lid. To investigate something.

Aside from the materials, this IdeaPad 5 is sturdy and has both a strong main body and a strong screen.

In terms of dimensions, this is fairly compact for its class, with narrow bezels around the display, but enough forehead to hold a camera with a physical shutter on top. The quality is not much as expected.

However, this notebook is slightly heavier and thicker than the higher quality 14-inch options. However, with a thickness of 19 mm and a weight of 1.4 kg, it is still the right choice if you need to take it with you to school or work every day.

After using this almost daily for the past few weeks, two aspects bothered me. One of them is the fact that Lenovo attached a constantly lit LED next to the power switch. It’s not very bright, but it’s still unnecessary and a bit annoying to watch a movie at night. They also stuck some crooked stickers on the palm rest, but these can be easily peeled off (mine were still on when I decided to keep or return them).

My other weakness is the limited screen angle and the fairly stiff hinge. You need two hands to lift the display here. It only goes back to about 145 degrees and not quite flat as I would expect from a portable laptop that is not always used on a desk.

On the other hand, Lenovo has attached non-slip rubber feet on the underside, ensuring that the front lip and corners are blunt, lined with a fair selection of ports on the sides, and incorporating high-quality speakers that flank the keyboard.

They also implemented a fairly powerful cooling system with a large inlet grill on the bottom and the outlet hidden under the hinge. This still blows hot air into the display, but the effect isn’t as bad as some other laptops that go the same way (e.g. the ZenBook 14) because the distance between the cooler and the actual control panel is greater .

For this I / O you get two USB-A slots on the right and an SD card reader, and on the left the status LEDs, a USB-C connection, HDMI and a power plug. This laptop is also charged via USB-C, which also supports DisplayPort and easily drives a 4K monitor at 60 Hz. I’ve found that some 14-inch IdeaPad 5 versions don’t have a barrel plug connector and instead come with a USB-C charger. However, keep in mind that it is difficult for you to power a high-resolution external monitor with these variants, while charging the laptop at the same time, this variant is more practical overall.

Finally, I would like to add that you get a fairly slow SD card reader and also fairly slow gen1 USB-A ports here, although I would say that they are fine in this price range.

Keyboard and trackpad

The IdeaPad 5 has a standard Lenovo keyboard, as we saw it in previous Yogas and IdeaPads, but with slightly cheaper plastic keycaps than in the parent models.

Don’t worry, this is a good guy, quick, quiet, and accurate once you get the mushier feedback you should expect from a portable laptop with short-stroke keys.

The layout is standard and contains the functions PgUp / PgDn / Home and End as secondary files that are linked to the arrow keys. Many other 14-inch notebooks implement this as an additional column on the right of the keyboard, but there was no space for this with the uploaded speakers.

These buttons are also easy to distinguish, as the white text is backlit on a gray background. The lighting is not surprising as there are fairly weak LEDs and light coming out from under some keycaps, but at least they are consistent, and Lenovo also has CapsLock and Numlock indicators built in.

The Clickpad is made of plastic, of average size and quite thin, and clatters with taps. However, it tracks all standard gestures well and implements decent clicks, although it’s a bit chunky for my taste.

There is no biometrics on this laptop.

screen

OK, this screen is why I decided to return my IdeaPad 5. But listen to me.

Color coverage here is problematic with 54% sRGB in our tests, and I could easily notice the orange red and the distorted shades of green and yellow from the moment I powered it up for the first time. However, keep in mind that I am used to high quality screens. My old XPS laptop has a 100% sRGB panel and my main PC monitors are also over 100 sRGB. This has made the transition to the IdeaPad considerably more difficult.
However, if you are not that demanding or if you come from an older laptop with possibly a TN panel or an older PC screen, you will probably not find these colors as often. In this case this screen should be enough.

For what it’s worth, I’ve included some pictures of this panel alongside a 100% sRGB screen in this ZenBook that I have nearby, as well as the 100+ sRGB screen in the MacBook Pro. Of course, these are more expensive products. These pictures are only meant to show the difference between these panels and the colors you should expect on the IdeaPad. Keep in mind that the camera does not capture the differences exactly. In reality, the distance between these panels is larger than it seems here.

Ok, if you can live with these colors, this is otherwise not a bad display with more than 350 nits of brightness, 1300: 1 contrast, decent blacks and good viewing angles.

We received the following in our tests with an 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;
  • Maximum brightness in the center of the screen: 358.48 cd / m2 with power supply;
  • Min. Brightness in the center of the screen: 3.51 cd / m2 with power supply;
  • Contrast at maximum brightness: 1364: 1;
  • White point: 6400 K;
  • Black at maximum brightness: 0.26 cd / m2;
  • PWM: No.

This panel was immediately well calibrated with only a slight gamma imbalance. Also, I haven’t noticed any obvious brightness issues or noticeable bleeding, which in turn confirms the screen’s superbly crafted frame.

Too bad for this panel. I understand that Lenovo had to make some cuts to reach the aggressive price, but the screen is one of the last I would sacrifice.

Hardware and performance

Our test model is a medium-sized configuration of the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14ARE with an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U APU, 16 GB DDR4 3200 MHz RAM, 512 GB relatively fast Samsung memory and Radeon Vega 6 graphics built into the AMD APU.

Before we proceed, remember that our review sample is a locally purchased retail model that runs on the software that will be available at the end of June 2020 (BIOS DTCN18WW V1.04 dated Jun 03, 2020, Lenovo Vantage 3.3.61.0) becomes.

In particular, the Ryzen 5 4500U is a 6C / 6T processor with a TDP of 15 W, but can be operated with a higher TDP and higher clocks if it is supplied with sufficient power and properly cooled. Lenovo also offers a Ryzen 7 4700U 8C / 8T variant of this laptop.

Graphics are processed by the Radeon Vega 6 iGPU embedded in the APU, and we’ll look at their performance below.

Our configuration also comes with 16 GB DDR4 3200 MHz RAM in dual-channel format and a Samsung PM991 512 GB PCIe x4 SSD that is fast enough for everyday use. There are actually two SSD drives inside, with the one included is a compact 2230mm drive that 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 to the motherboard. Access to the components is a basic task. All you have to do is fold out the back wall, which is held by a handful of Torx screws.

In terms of software, everything can be controlled through the Lenovo Vantage app, which provides access to power profiles, keyboard customization options, system updates, battery settings, etc. I find this unified implementation one of the better system control apps in the company.

There are three power / heat profiles to choose from, which you can switch between by pressing Fn + Q:

  • Battery saving – Limits the CPU up to 9 W and keeps the fan noise at a very low level.
  • Intelligent cooling – limits the CPU up to 19 W and the still low fan noise;
  • Extreme performance – CPU with full power at 25 + W and full fan (still quiet).

I set my device to intelligent cooling most of the time and only switched to extreme performance for benchmarks and some light games. The fan is completely silent during daily use with intelligent cooling and rarely occurs with heavy multitasking. This leads to slightly higher internal temperatures and a warmer interior, especially in the middle of the keyboard, but these are absolutely worth compromising on a completely quiet machine.

The Ryzen platform is not only designed for surfing and Netflix, but can also handle heavier loads. We start by testing CPU performance when taxing tasks by running the Cinebench R15 benchmark more than 15 times in a loop with a 2-3 second delay between runs.

With extreme power, the Ryzen 5 4500U works with 3.5+ GHz and 25 + W power, but also with relatively high temperatures in the 90s. The fan is quiet and barely audible in this test, and the laptop stabilizes at around 900 points.

By switching to intelligent cooling, the CPU is limited to around 19 W and much cooler temperatures at 74 to 76 degrees Celsius, with a loss of sustained performance of around 7 to 10%, but a bigger difference for loads with a shorter duration. Similar performance is achieved when the laptop is disconnected from the wall. When you switch to battery saver mode, the CPU is limited to 9 W and the score is trumped. However, carrying out demanding loads while saving batteries makes no sense at first.

To put these results in perspective, see how some other ultra-portable AMD and Intel notebooks perform in the same test.

The 8Core Ryzen 7 4700U outperforms the Ryzen 5 by about 15% with the same power of 25 W, while the Intel 6Core i7-10710U turns on hard at first, but then drops towards 900 points as soon as it sets in at around 25 W. The more common Intel 4Core options are up to 50% behind the Ryzen 5 4500U even in better implementations.

We checked our results with the more demanding Cinebench R20 test and the cruel Prime 95. In this case, the Ryzen processor runs at 25 W for a while, but then aggressively throttles to only 0.4 GHz. I’m not sure what causes this type of behavior, but I haven’t come across any of the other tests.

We also ran our combined CPU + GPU stress tests on this notebook with the same Extreme Performance profile.

3DMark Stress loops the same test 20 times and looks for fluctuations in performance and deterioration over time. This device passed it without any problems. Luxmark 3.1 fully loads both the CPU and GPU at the same time, but is not properly supported by the Ryzen platform.

Next, here are some benchmark results. We ran the full line of tests and benchmarks for the standard profile for extreme performance. We have the following:

  • 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 2662 (graphic – 2896, physics – 12318, combined – 957);
  • 3DMark 13 – Night Raid: 10076 (graphic – 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 coding):
    28. average fps;
  • Minimum score: Rating: 4225 (CPU brand: 13185, 3D graphics brand: 2181, board brand: 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 did some workstation-related charging in the auto profile:

  • Blender 2.82 – BMW car scene – CPU Compute: 6 m 36 s (car);
  • Blender 2.82 – Classroom Scene – CPU Compute: 20 m 40 s (car);
  • Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: CPU not recognized correctly;

These are some solid results for a U-type mobile platform. So this Ryzen 5 4500U configuration compares to some other AMD and Intel + Nvidia options available in the same format.

Finally, we ran some games in the Extreme Performance profile. Don’t forget that this is done entirely on the Radeon Vega 6 iGPU.

Ryzen 5 4600Umit Radeon Vega 6 Extreme performance
Bioshock Infinite (DX 11, low default) 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 default) 41 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
Rise of the Tomb Raiders (DX 12, lowest preset, no AA) 33 fps (20 fps – 1% low)
Shadow of Tomb Raider (volcano, lowest preset, no AA) 28 fps (20 fps – 1% low)
Strange brigade (volcano, low preset) 33 fps (27 fps – 1% low)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, low preset, Hairworks Off) 14-25 min-max fps
(Average 21 fps, 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 the above findings, older or occasional titles like Minecraft or Fortnite run flawlessly with FHD resolution and low graphics settings. However, this struggles with the newer AAA games, and you’ll need to lower the constant resolution to 900p and 720p over 30 frame rates.

Otherwise, this is a good implementation of the Ryzen 5 + Vega 6 hardware. The GPU is running and has the full speed of 1.5 GHz in all our tests in both the Intelligent and Extreme Performance profiles, but I’ve noticed some CPU fluctuations between standard and turbo speeds. This doesn’t cause a noticeable stutter, but it can affect 1% lows on certain CPU-heavy games, and I can’t explain that.

This IdeaPad is almost on par with some Intel + MX250 10W implementations, but the newer full-power MX350 or 25W MX250 configurations available in some 14-inch cases are better suited for gaming and graphics loads in general .

The hardware also runs quite hot in some titles, especially the more demanding ones like FarCry 5. In this case, the APU stabilizes at 25 W and temperatures in the high 80s, but Witcher 3 and Mordor run at lower power and therefore lower temperatures.

These results again confirm that you should not expect to run current AAA titles on this type of laptop. Not only will this not work well, it will also run hot. Older titles or casual games like Fortnite or Minecraft or LOL should go well here, some even with Medium + settings.

Noise, heat, connectivity, speakers and others

Lenovo has equipped this configuration with a dual heat pipe and a large fan heat module. This is a slightly more complex solution than the one normally implemented at this level.

As a result, the APU can run smoothly with more than 25 W during demanding loads and tests and at the same time offers passive cooling for daily use, with the fan remaining inactive most of the time and only having warm outside temperatures.

The APU heats up to 80 and 90 degrees during demanding tasks and games, and a good deal of this heat is also distributed to the outside.

We recorded temperatures in the mid-40s in the middle of the keyboard on top of the AMD processor and in the mid-50s around the cooler, but also 60+ on the underside around the heat module. In addition, hot air is blown into the screen, with the plate reaching 40-45 degrees around the exhaust systems. At the same time, the fan rotates at around 39-41 dB in this case.

These temperatures are recorded in FarCry 5, and the laptop gets cooler with less demanding games.

* Daily use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, quiet mode, fan at 0-33 dB
* Gaming – Extreme Performance Mode – Play Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 39-41 dB

For connectivity, there is WiFi 6 of the latest generation with an Intel AX200 module on this laptop. It went very well with our setup and the signal and performance stayed strong at 30 feet with obstacles in between.

Audio is processed by a number of stereo speakers that are triggered by the grilles around the keyboard. Well, through the lower part of these grills, since most are just for decoration. Expect quite punchy volumes at 76-78 dB at head height and no distortion at higher volumes, but not much in terms of audio quality, with very little at the bottom.

The same applies to the HD camera at the top of the screen. It’s fine for occasional calls, but the quality is muddy and washed out.

Battery life

The IdeaPad 5 has a 57 Wh battery that’s larger than what you would normally get with an affordable 14 incher. This notebook is confirmed by the efficient implementation and the screen of the AMD hardware and holds for quite a while against charging.

We got the following on our test device: The screen brightness is set to about 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 use) – 1080p full-screen video on Youtube in Edge mode, quiet mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 5.8 W (~ 10 h use) – Netflix full screen in Edge mode, Quiet mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 9 W (~ 5-6 h use) – Edge browsing, smart cooling mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.

The laptop comes with a compact 65 W charger that can be connected using a classic barrel connector. It’s a two-piece design with a compact brick and long cables. The full charging process takes about 2 hours. Charging via USB-C is also supported here.

Price and availability

The IdeaPad 5 14ARE is available in severa
l versions in stores around the world.

It starts at £ 400 in the UK or EUR 500 in Germany, but that goes for the Ryzen 3 4300U with only 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, a smaller 45 Wh battery, and a TN screen. It’s cheap, but don’t get it!

Instead, the Ryzen 5 variant with 8 GB RAM, 256/512 GB storage and the same IPS screen and 57 Wh battery that we received for our devices costs around GBP 600 or EUR 700.

For some reason, this 14-inch version of the IdeaPad 15 is no longer available from the Lenovo Webstore in the United States, but may be available again. In the meantime, the 15-inch IdeaPad 5 15ARE for the Ryzen 5 model costs a little less than $ 700.

In addition, you will likely find them here and again, just like I found my device. Remember that I paid 600 EUR for the 16 GB RAM / 512 GB SSD variant, which is listed at around 800 EUR RRP.

Follow this link for updated prices and configurations in your region.

Final thoughts

Lenovo has done almost everything right with this IdeaPad 5. In fact, this product feels and works a lot more expensive than the 600 EUR I paid for it. Still, it goes back and that’s because I can’t live with a 54% sRGB screen. I was planning to get my old XPS 13 out of circulation, but it won’t be.

Sure, it is a very fast small laptop and also quiet and comfortable in everyday use. It’s also well done, taps well, and contains the I / O that I would need on the go. However, I also edit photos and videos on my travel laptop. This is another reason why this washed out screen is not suitable for me. I understand that Lenovo had to make some cuts to get the lower price and still be profitable, but the screen is just too important to be without.

They also saved time on the metal coating on the lid, which, as mentioned, is already pressed into two small places in my backpack, despite the fact that I took care of the laptop and mostly put it in a protective case . I also cannot accept this and I will pay extra for a more reliable processing and a better display.

Otherwise, this IdeaPad is a solid 14-inch ultraportable at a fair price. I got mine for a lot, but the MSRP is slightly higher and corresponds to the competing AMD-based products such as the Lenovo Flex 5, the US-exclusive Asus ZenBook Q407IQ or the Acer Swift 3. Too bad that most of them are also from displays Plagued with poor colors, but there are some exceptions in the somewhat higher price ranges, such as the HP Envy 13 or the Asus ZenBook UM433, as well as Lenovo’s top-class IdeaPad Slim 7.

Even if I send my device back, if you agree with this type of screen and you can find the laptop for a good deal, you should definitely give it a try.

That completes my time with this IdeaPad 5, but I would love to hear your thoughts about it. Was I too hard with this screen quality? What do you think?

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Andrei Girbea, editor-in-chief of Ultrabookreview.com. I have been dealing with mobile computers since the 2000s and you will mainly find reviews and detailed instructions that I wrote here on the website.

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