Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 review: a showcase for AMD
AMD has started a laptop revolution. For evidence, just look to The Verge’s Instagram account. “No Ryzen no buy,” reads the most-liked comment on a recent photo of the Intel-powered Lenovo Legion 5i. “If it’s INTEL no point of purchasing it,” reads the second comment down. There’s no doubt about it: the Ryzen 4000 series has brought exceptional performance to midrange ultraportable laptops — performance that previously cost an arm and a leg.
We saw the titanic Ryzen 9 4900HS rocket Asus’ ROG Zephyrus G14 to the top of the portable gaming market. U-series Ryzen chips brought unheard-of performance and value to HP’s Envy x360 and Acer’s Swift 3. So it’s safe to say that I expected Lenovo’s IdeaPad Slim 7, which shows off the eight-core Ryzen 7 4800U, to be good.
The Slim 7 is not just good, it’s exceptional. Sure, it’s not a perfect laptop — and it likely won’t be a bargain — but the combination of performance and power efficiency that the 4800U offers is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
A quick caveat: you can’t buy it in the US at this time. It’s currently planned for the Netherlands, Germany, and Australia, but Lenovo hasn’t announced pricing yet. So if you’re in those countries, or can ship one from abroad, keep an eye out. If you’re elsewhere, this unit is a proof of concept for the moment. US residents who like what they’re seeing here and don’t want to import a device can get the Slim 7 with an eight-core Ryzen 7 4700U for $899.99 — that model is linked below. We’ve seen great results from that processor in the Acer Swift 3.
There’s no Intel system in this category with eight cores and sixteen threads — systems with Intel’s closest counterpart, the six-core Core i7-10710U, are usually over $1,000 (that’s Dell XPS 13 territory). And the 15-watt 4800U delivered better performance than I’ve seen in any ultrabook or other ultraportable this year. I absolutely piled tasks on: dozens upon dozens of Chrome tabs, Slack, Spotify, photo editing, Skype and Zoom calls, Google Sheets, and anything else my hodgepodge of office work required. I left everything open as I went about my day.
Not only was there no slowdown, but I couldn’t even get the fans to spin up — I never heard them unless I put my ear to the deck. The center of the keyboard only got hot under heavy loads like gaming, and the bottom of the chassis was occasionally warm but never uncomfortable. The touchpad and wrist rests were always cold.
You can also play real games on this thing. Of course, you won’t be running AAA titles on their highest settings. But Overwatch ran at an average of 70fps on high and 46fps on ultra — the best performance I’ve ever seen from integrated graphics. For context, the Dell XPS 13 with Intel’s Iris Plus graphics ran the same game in the low 40s on ultra and low 50s on medium — and last year’s Razer Blade Stealth 13 with an MX150 discrete graphics card averaged mid-60s at medium. Obviously, you wouldn’t buy the Slim as a serious gaming laptop, but running around the practice arena and blasting training bots was a great time, without a stutter in sight.
Our reviews generally leave extensive synthetic benchmarking to others — but the Slim 7 has been blowing Intel systems out of the water on those as well and coming close to Intel’s H-series Core i9 in multi-threaded performance.
The one area the Slim 7 ran into trouble was video editing. This is the second AMD system I’ve reviewed that hasn’t played nice with Adobe Premiere Pro — I wasn’t able to run our traditional export test using hardware acceleration without the system crashing. Hopefully Lenovo will fix this issue at some point, but the system I received, as Lenovo sent it, would not be a good choice for video work (and Lenovo wasn’t able to offer a solution during my testing period).
Running the Adobe test (which involves exporting a five-minute, 33-second 4K video) without hardware acceleration took 51 minutes, which is faster than it took the six-core Envy x360 to complete the task, but it’s obviously too slow for practical use. I’m not too worked up over any of this, though, because the dim 1080p screen will likely rule the Slim 7 out for creative professionals anyway.
The most impressive feature of the Slim 7, though, isn’t even the performance. It’s the battery life.
Running through the multitasking load that I described earlier, in battery saver mode at 200 nits of brightness, the Slim 7 lasted 13 and a half hours. On the Better Battery profile, it lasted over 11 and a half hours. Remember: I was not going easy on this thing — you’ll certainly get even more juice if you’re just clicking around a tab or two.
Those results were a game-changer. They’re miles better than I got running the same load on the HP Envy x360 (around eight hours), the Dell XPS 13 (seven and a half hours), the Asus Zephyrus G14 (almost nine hours), and even low-power stuff like Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet (11 and a half hours) for which battery life is a major selling point. I’ll be blunt — this is the longest battery life I’ve ever seen from a laptop. It’s astonishing.
To put that in context: with constant use, I still never needed to charge this thing during the day. If I wasn’t constantly using it, I only needed to plug it in every other day or so. You can bring this device on road trips, you can bring it on trains and planes, you can carry it around campus for a full day of classes, you can lounge around the office — you can fully embrace the single primary use case for a laptop of this form factor. And you may not even need to bring the 65-watt brick with you. Since the Slim 7 charges with USB-C, you can use a charger for a MacBook, Nintendo Switch, or any number of modern devices in an emergency.
What’s impressive isn’t these metrics in a vacuum, though — it’s the small package they come in. The Slim 7 is, as the name implies, slim, at 0.58 inches thick. It weighs 3.1 pounds, which means it’s slightly heftier than other 14-inch ultraportables like the IdeaPad 5 and the IdeaPad S940 — not to mention thin 13-inchers like the Envy x360, the MacBook Air, and the Dell XPS 13. Of course, the Slim 7 is still far from a heavy device, and it’s no problem to carry around in a backpack or briefcase. It’s remarkable to see such a combination of performance, cooling, and efficiency in this form factor.
Design-wise, the Slim 7 is a step up from some of the clunkier ThinkPads, but a non-enthusiast might struggle to pick it out of a line of Lenovo’s other offerings. It’s an IdeaPad through and through. It’s dark gray, it’s sturdy, and there’s a nice backlit keyboard. It’s not beautiful, but it’s got a refined and professional aesthetic. It feels well-made.
If the Slim 7 has a noteworthy weakness, it’s the display. The 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 IPS panel is rated for 300 nits of brightness, but it only got up to 260 in my testing. It’s quite glossy (it looks like it should be a touchscreen, but it’s not) and kicked back a glare visible enough that I couldn’t stomach working outdoors for more than a few minutes. I even saw some while working indoors during the day — I ended up turning off my lights to watch a video. Lenovo isn’t offering any higher-resolution configurations, so you’ll need to look elsewhere if you’re doing creative work.
The brightness didn’t hinder my office work at all, though. What did hinder it was the 16:9 aspect ratio, which just feels really cramped for multitasking — especially if you’ve used a 16:10 or 3:2 display before. I almost always had to zoom out if I was using multiple windows side by side, and I had to move the taskbar around to access all the buttons I needed in Premiere Pro. You can also scale everything out in settings (150 percent is the recommended profile), which still makes everything a lot smaller.
In every other area, the Slim 7 is largely acceptable. The speakers are not terrible (which is a compliment — laptop speakers are usually terrible). They have a nice surround quality to them (there are speaker grilles on either side of the keyboard) and I could actually hear the bass in songs. The Slim also comes loaded with Dolby Atmos software, which allows you to shift between various presets: “Detailed,” “Balanced,” and “Warm.” The changes are subtle, but I did notice the difference.
The port selection leaves little to be desired. On the left are two USB-C ports, one HDMI, and one audio jack; on the right, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 and a microSD card slot. Two notes: first, there’s no Thunderbolt 3 (you’ll need an Intel system for that); and second, both USB-C ports are on the same side, which gives you a bit less freedom when deciding where and how to plug it in. That sounds nitpicky, but it can be a nuisance when you’re using the thing every day.
The keyboard isn’t my favorite I’ve ever used, but it’s certainly fine. It’s on the shallow side, but it has a decent click and it’s not too loud. One hiccup was that a couple of the keys, including space and backspace, were actually squeaky. Again, that may not be the biggest deal for some, but it’s worth considering how many times per day you press space and backspace and how many squeaks that means you’ll be hearing. I feel similarly about the touchpad, which I measured at about 4.18 x 2.5 inches — it’s solid and gets the job done, but it requires a firmer press than some.
Finally, the Slim 7 comes with some crapware: I got occasional pop-ups from McAfee, so you may spend a couple minutes uninstalling stuff when you first pop it open. (I actually do think one preloaded program, Glance by Mirametrix, is kind of interesting — it keeps an eye on where you’re looking and can do things like blur your display when you look away and warn you when someone is peeking at your screen. It also sends you periodic reminders to rest your eyes).
There’s a world in which I give the IdeaPad Slim 7 a middling score. I certainly have complaints — about the bloatware, the port placement, the keyboard, and the screen — but at the end of the day, I can’t bring myself to care about any of those things because what’s inside this laptop is a story that’s never been told before.
I wish I could go back to 2018 and tell people about this laptop. I wish I could tell them that in just two years, there would be an eight-core, 16-thread laptop that was just over three pounds and half an inch thick. Oh, and with integrated graphics, it can run Overwatch better than an entry-level GPU. Oh, and it doesn’t cost $2,000. I think they’d be shocked. And I think they’d be excited.
The Slim 7 goes beyond one laptop. It’s proof of what an ultraportable can be. Of course, other laptop makers will need to put in the work — they’ll need to figure out how to cool these chips — but now we know it can be done.
Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge