There’s no way to buy a budget laptop without making some compromises: If you go with a chromebook, you’ll have to get along without Windows; settling on a Windows laptop means getting underwhelming performance and a dearth of features. Lenovo goes the latter route with its $199.99 Ideapad 110S: It runs Microsoft’s ubiquitous OS, but looks, feels, and performs, well, cheap. If you can live with that, it makes an acceptable second system for home or travel, or maybe a knockaround laptop for the kids. Just don’t expect much more.
Design and Features
Clearly designed with portability in mind, the 110S measures 0.7 by 11.5 by 8 inches (HWD) and weighs a mere 2.43 pounds, but a brief glance will tell you where it falls on the ultraportable price spectrum. Its matte white plastic chassis, adorned only by a dull silver Lenovo logo in the upper-left corner of the lid, makes it look like a toy, or perhaps a prop from a mid-1970s sci-fi flick. The color extends to every corner the laptop, from the thick bezel around the 11.6-inch display to the keyboard deck and even the keys themselves. (For what it’s worth, this design treatment is far from unheard of in this price range—it’s also present on the Editors’ Choice Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series (3162), though there it’s a shocking blue.) The lid and the deck are tacky to the touch, and the bezel is somewhat rougher, but in no case does the plastic feel smooth or look elegant.
Unsurprisingly, the keyboard isn’t bad—this is what Lenovo is known for, after all. If it lacks a bit of travel compared with their usual designs and flexes heavily in the middle, the keys themselves move well and are of decent size. Only the half-height function row (which doubles as controls for media, brightness, and other functions), the arrow keys (in a cluster at the lower right, along with PgUp and PgDn), and the Fn, Window, right Alt, Menu, and tilde keys are appreciably smaller, and as you’ll probably use these less often, that’s okay. The touchpad is tiny, but it feels good, and its buttons are clicky and responsive.
With a resolution of only 1,366 by 768, the 11.6-inch screen offers limited real estate, whether for tiling windows or playing videos. That’s not unreasonable at a laptop of this price, and it means you’re unlikely to have difficulty reading text or Windows interface elements. But the display quality is, at best, average, and looks cloudy and indistinct when viewed from any angle other than straight on. (You do, though, have the option of folding the screen back to a full 180 degrees, so you should be able to adjust it to a workable position no matter how or where you’re sitting.) The speakers are predictably weak, offering little bass response and not getting particularly loud at max volume (the sound might be enough to fill a small room, but not much more than that).
You won’t find any next-generation ports on the 110S, just one USB 3.0, one HDMI, and a microSD card reader along with the power jack on the left edge, and two USB 2.0 ports and a headset jack on the right. Components are unremarkable as well, with a 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060 processor, only 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of flash storage. Lenovo protects the Ideapad 110S with a one-year warranty.
Budget computers are not typically attractive for their blazing speed, and that’s certainly true of the Ideapad 110S. Its score of 1,657 on our PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, which measures overall productivity prowess, is on the low side, as is its CineBench rendering score of 73. On our two multimedia tests, HandBrake (for video encoding) and Photoshop (for applying filters to a large image), it struggled noticeably, finishing them in 10 minutes, 32 seconds, and 15:31, respectively.
As for 3D gaming, forget it. The 110S’s frame rates in our Heaven and Valley gaming tests were unplayable (almost all in the low single digits). And its scores in our 3DMark graphics tests (1,232 for the entry-level Cloud Strike, a paltry 223 for the more demanding Fire Strike Extreme) further demonstrated the futility.
Battery life is also only so-so. Its time of 7 hours, 36 minutes on our rundown test doesn’t quite reach the 8-hour threshold for all-day computing, but that’s more than enough time for the limited scenarios in which you or your family are likely to use the system. You can get better battery life from a Windows laptop in this price range, though. The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series (3162) lasts 10:05 on the same test.
Chances are, you already know whether the Lenovo Ideapad 110S is for you: You’re on the lookout for something affordable you won’t worry about the kids or grandkids ruining, you want to be able to do some quick typing or web work while you’re out and about, or you need something to tide you over until you have the time or the budget to buy something more powerful. If any of these situations applies, you should be pleased with the Ideapad 110S
But there are ways to go beyond the bargain-basement basics. The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series (3162) costs even less, but gives you a nearly identical hardware layout, a sturdier build, and has considerably longer battery life. That’s why it remains our Editors’ Choice for budget ultraportables. And if you can cope with a chromebook, there any number of excellent alternatives that will still run you less than $500, from Lenovo’s own N22-20 Touch Chromebook and the Acer Chromebook R 13 (CB5-312T-K5X4) to the more adventurous (and more expensive) Asus Chromebook Flip (C302CA-DHM4).