Watch out, XPS 13, the Lenovo Ideapad 710S might be the new sheriff in town

Lenovo's Ideapad 710S is a budget hero with limited options

Many Ultrabooks were released in 2015, but two stood out – Dell’s XPS 13 and Asus’ UX305CA. Both combined attractive, light-weight design with affordable performance. Now Lenovo has decided to crib that formula for its new Ideapad 710S.

The display bezels stand out immediately. While I didn’t have a tape measure to check, I don’t think they’re as thin as the XPS 13, and the use of silver instead of black makes them look a bit thicker than they are. Still, they’re small enough to reduce the footprint of the Y710S. It weighs only 2.6 pounds, and is just half an inch thick, as a result. Those figures tie the Asus Zenbook UX305CA, and undercut the XPS 13.

Where the 710S really stands out, though, is its processor.

Despite its reduced size, the Ideapad 710S looks and feels solid. Its metal construction is tight, and while not quite as rock-solid as the beefier XPS 13, it’s certainly on par with the Asus or even the MacBook Air 13. Keyboard quality isn’t the best, but it’s also far from the worst, as there’s reasonable tactile feel and enough travel to make it obvious when a key has bottomed out. I think the silver model looks a bit drab, but Lenovo has an answer for that – you can order it in gold!

Where the 710S really stands out, though, is its processor. The base $800 model has a Core i5. That’s better than the Core i3 in the XPS 13, and the Core m3 in the UX305CA. It’s impressive that Lenovo has managed to stuff a processor that powerful in such a small chassis. This may make the 710S the new value leader in the budget Ultrabook segment, though we’ll of course have to test it before making that call. Base models will have 4GB of RAM, which is par for the course in the segment, though the Zenbook has 8GB for starters.

Intel Iris graphics can be optioned as well to provide a minor boost to graphics speed, though don’t get your hopes up when it comes to gaming. 1080p will be all this rig can handle, and even that’ll be pushing it in a lot of modern titles.

Battery life may be the compromise for the added speed. Lenovo says it’ll manage 8 hours, which sounds fine – but manufacturer claims tend to be higher than users see in real-world use. Dell’s XPS 13 claims 18 hours, yet the model we reviewed only hit 8 hours.

The Ideapad is also behind the curve in high-end potential. While a Core i7 processor can be optioned, it’s not possible to upgrade beyond the base 1080p display, or purchase a solid-state drive larger than 256GB. The Dell XPS 13 and Asus UX305CA are superior in this area, since both offer an optional 3,200 x 1,800 panel. Dell’s laptop can equip drives as large as 1TB, while the Asus maxes out at 512GB.

I came from the Ideapad 710S impressed, but with a few reservations. The performance should be better than competitors, but it’s unclear how that might impact battery life, or system temperature. We’d also really like to see more powerful versions offered. Why offer a top-tier design if it can’t be equipped with similarly impressive hardware?

Highs

  • Base Core i5 processor
  • Extremely thin and light
  • Attractive 1080p display

Lows

  • Battery seems mediocre
  • High-end versions aren’t exciting
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