- Review Date: 6/28/2013
- Bottom line: The Lenovo IdeaPad S405 budget laptop may not cost much, but with plodding performance and a short list of features you'll give up a lot in the bargain.
- Pros: Low price. Attractive design. Decent keyboard.
- Cons: Sluggish performance. Limited feature set.
As a budget system, the Lenovo IdeaPad S405 comes with all the usual caveats: lower quality construction, fewer features, and good-enough hardware. That said, for an inexpensive laptop that will get you online and get you through your homework, the Lenovo IdeaPad S405 looks good, has passable performance, and does it all for an affordable price.
The IdeaPad S405 looks sleek with a metallic finish, but it's superficial, with its 3.4 pound chassis made largely out of plastic. Measuring 0.83 by 13.2 by 9.5 inches (HWD), it is reasonably slim for a low-priced laptop, but the chassis flexes and bows noticeably whenever you pick up the laptop by the corner or type on the keyboard.
The 14-inch display offers standard 1,366-by-768 resolution, high enough for 720p video and side-by-side multitasking, but no support for full HD content. The TFT Color LCD display is best viewed head-on, as the viewing angles are quite narrow, and even when viewed at a slight angle—as one would when sharing a video with someone—I saw color distortion.
The keyboard, though made by Lenovo, doesn't feel as luxurious as on more expensive models, largely due to the all plastic construction. The keyboard flexes as you type, and the keys don't quite have the solid smooth feel experienced on other (pricier) IdeaPad laptops. That said, the sculpted keycaps and relatively smooth key movement is better than you'll get on most laptops in this price range.
The IdeaPad S405 is equipped with two-watt speakers and Dolby Advanced Audio v2, but sound quality was good, not great. When testing the bass with Silent Shout by the Knife, you could hear the bass, but it was empty. When testing treble and volume with Jimi Hendrix's Bold as Love instrumental, the speakers initially produced clear sound sound, but the clarity dropped off the higher the volume went. At full volume, there's enough oomph to fill a large room, but you won't be able to ignore the buzz that comes with it.
The IdeaPad S405 is outfitted with a modest collection of ports, with two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, SD card slot, and a compact Ethernet port. While you also have 802.11n Wi-Fi, you won't find Bluetooth—that's one of the compromises you'll make for the lower price. Lenovo also has built in its OneKey Recovery, which gives you a single button to restore your system in the event of a crash or other problem.
The IdeaPad S405 features a 500GB, 5,400 rpm hard drive, which isn't particularly large, but is a common size in value-priced systems. You won't have all 500GB available out of the box, however, with space being occupied by the operating system—Windows 8 (64-bit)—a recovery partition, and several preinstalled programs. On the start screen you'll find several apps, like AccuWeather, Kindle Reader, Rara Music, Evernote, and a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office 2013. Dig in further on the desktop side and you'll also find McAfee Internet Security, Lenovo Cloud Storage (with SugarSync), and Nitro Pro PDF reader. Lenovo covers the IdeaPad S405 with a one-year limited warranty on parts and labor.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S405 uses a 2.1GHz AMD A6-4455M APU paired with 4GB of RAM. AMD uses a slightly different take on the CPU, which AMD calls the APU, which puts the processor and the accompanying graphics processor—an AMD Radeon HD 7500G—on the same chip die. This isn't the newest processor to begin with (this same processor was actually used in the HP Envy Sleekbook 6z-1000 last August), and when stacked against the Intel Core processors used in competing systems, like the Acer Aspire V5-571-6891 and Toshiba Satellite C875-S7340, it has a tough time keeping up. In Cinebench, the IdeaPad S405 scored 0.79 points, falling far behind the Acer V5-571-6891 (1.80 points) and Toshiba C875-S7340 (2.41 points). Even the similarly-equipped HP Envy Sleekbook 6z-1000 pulled ahead (0.87 points).
This performance gap was made all the more obvious in our Handbrake and Photoshop tests, which the IdeaPad S405 crawled through in 4 minutes 14 seconds and 11:33, respectively. By comparison the Lenovo G580 completed those same tasks in less than half the time (1:18 Handbrake; 5:32 Photoshop), and the Toshiba C875-S7340 wasn't far behind (1:28 Handbrake; 5:47 Photoshop). The IdeaPad S405 will be fine for light productivity and Web browsing, but it will slow down dramatically in any processor intensive application.
Despite the inclusion of the AMD Radeon HD 7500G graphics processor, the IdeaPad S405 had somewhat limited graphics capability. Though sufficient for Web browsing and video playback, gaming performance will be limited to online and casual games, not the high-performance games often associated with a discrete graphics card.
The IdeaPad S405's 4-cell lithium-ion battery did reasonably well in our battery rundown test, lasting 4 hours 7 minutes, identical to the class-leading Acer V5-571-6891 (4:07). This is actually one area where the IdeaPad S405 outperformed its rivals, with the Toshiba C875-S7340 lasting a mere 2:39.
Some value-priced laptops offer more than simple affordability, with features and components that belie the budget-friendly price. While these systems may cut corners with wobbly construction or a trimmed down feature set, they do so while still delivering adequate performance. The Lenovo IdeaPad S405 is definitely affordable, but it comes with too many shortcomings to recommend—the sluggish performance and limited capability are too much to give up for the price. For a similar price without the compromises, we recommend the Editors' Choice Lenovo G580.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.