Best Budget Student Laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad Z580
IdeaPad Z580 is sharp-looking and a good performer at a fair price.
As summer winds down, it's time for high school and college kids to gear up for studies — and some distractions from their work, as well.
While they might all want a MacBook Air, most students will probably have to go a bit more mainstream. The 15-inch Lenovo IdeaPad Z580 is a great real-world option. While the word "budget" inherently means compromises, the Z580 excels where it counts — especially for the price of $679 (as tested).
What we like
The IdeaPad Z580 satisfies all the "musts" in a laptop. It's fast and powerful, with good ergonomics. Battery life is respectable, and as a bonus, it doesn't heat up as much as most laptops.
Speed starts from the moment you push the power button. In tests, the Z580 booted up in 44 seconds — that's 11 seconds faster than the average for this category. And once started, it had plenty of power for multitasking. In a sample test, we simultaneously opened 11 tabs on Google Chrome, streamed a TV show on Netflix and used the included ooVoo video-chat app — without a hitch.
And while it's not a gaming laptop, per se, the Z580 can power a few study diversions. On the "Good" quality setting in "World of Warcraft," the Z580 managed a respectable frame rate of 64 fps — quite usable and well above the 50 fps category average.
Despite all the action under the hood, Z580 keeps cool. While the laptop was playing a few episodes of "Mad Men," its touchpad and the center of the keyboard were a cool 81 degrees Fahrenheit — well below the 95-degree threshold at which the heat becomes uncomfortable. Meanwhile, the underside registered a mild 88 degrees.
Speaking of video, the Z580 has a few features to make entertainment better. It features a movie mode for video that produces more-vibrant colors and smoother images. The Dolby Home Theater v4 sound system is plenty loud and reproduces most audio and music well, with the exception of heavy bass.
Keep in mind
The aluminum lid comes in three colors. All have a matte finish that nicely repels fingerprints. But we found the gray version rather dull and recommend you go with the red or white option.
Okay, there have to be some compromises at this price. Some of that is in measurements. The Z580's dimensions (below) make it a bit chunky, and we started noticing the 5.2-pound weight after carrying it for a bit.
While the screen looks good in the right conditions, viewing angles weren't the best. People sitting to the right or left of the screen couldn’t see images clearly. So video and games may be a solo activity. And the screen is noticeably dimmer than other laptops in the category. So working in a brightly lit room could be challenging.
Battery life was about average, lasting 5 hours and 19 minutes in a test of continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi.
A laptop is just one of many expenses for students. And the Lenovo IdeaPad Z580 is a great option to keep the costs in line. It's a handsome model, with plenty of power for work and play.
Lenovo IdeaPad Z580 Key Specs
- Price: $679 (as tested)
- Screen: 15.6-inch, 1366-by-768-pixel display
- Processor: 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5
- RAM: 6GB
- Hard drive: 750GB
- Dimensions: 14.8 (l) by 9.8 (w) 1.4 (h) inches
- Weight: 5.2 lbs.
Test results were provided by LAPTOP magazine, a sisterr site to TechNewsDaily.