Intel’s upcoming discrete GPUs, dubbed Intel Arc Alchemist, are coming next year, and some new leaks reveal what kind of performance we can expect from them.
According to the leak, one of the upcoming GPUs, the A380, is likely to offer performance similar to that of Nvidia’s GTX 1650 Super, an entry-level video card from Nvidia’s previous generation of graphics.
The information comes from TUM_APISAK on Twitter, a well-known source for graphics card-related rumors and leaks. The tweet in question talks about some of the specifications of the upcoming Intel Arc A380 graphics card and reveals the expected naming convention Intel might use. It seems that Intel is going to name the new cards A***, with the numbers changing to correspond to the performance tier of that specific card.
What we’re seeing in TUM_APISAK’s reveal is most likely the desktop variant of this graphics card. In terms of specifications, the A380 is said to be based on an Alchemist (XE-HPG DG2) GPU. It will be fabricated on the TSMC 6nm process node. Its 8 Xe cores will house 128 execution units (EUs). The top model of this lineup will allegedly have 512 EUs and 32 Xe cores.
The card is also rumored to have an impressive clock speed of 2.45GHz. Whether this frequency will be the boost clock or the base clock remains to be seen, but such speeds put the A380 within range of AMD Navi 22 and Navi 23 graphics cards. In addition, the card will have 6GB of GDDR6 memory. It has also been said that all Arc Alchemist cards will come with ray-tracing and the XeSS feature set, a form of image upscaling on Intel cards.
There was no mention of the bus, but previous leaks suggest a 96-bit interface. In the desktop version of the card, we can expect to see 16Gbps pin speeds, adding up to 168GB/s of bandwidth. The laptop version is said to be slightly worse, with 14Gbps pin speeds and 168GB/s bandwidth. Intel Arc Alchemist A380 is likely going to be fairly conservative with poweer, with a TDP of 75W.
TUM_APISAK hasn’t provided any benchmarks, but he did suggest that the performance of this card is going to rival that of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Super. While that is a rather dated card by now, it continues to be one of the best budget graphics cards out there. This bodes well for the Arc Alchemist.
The pricing of the card hasn’t yet been revealed, but the launch is still a few months away. Remember, its performance and specifications may not be accurate right now. If the leaks prove to be true, this card is likely to be rather inexpensive, with a price of around $250 or less.
It isn’t only the USA and China that are exploring Mars. The UAE has captured new images of the red planet’s discrete aurora, which could deepen our understanding of the interactions between solar radiation, Mars’ magnetic fields, and the planetary atmosphere.
Up front: The images were taken by the Mars Hope Probe’s EMUS (Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer) instrument, and show a ghostly glow known as the discrete aurora.
The pictures fully characterize the discrete aurora phenomenon in Mars’ atmosphere for the first time in history. Scientists believe they could challenge the notion that large scale solar events are needed to drive Mars auroral events
“The implications for our understanding of Mars’ atmospheric and magnetospheric science are tremendous and provide new support to the theory that solar storms are not necessary to drive Mars‘ aurora,” said Hessa Al Matroushi, the Emirates Mars Mission’s science lead.
Background: The Hope Probe reached Mars orbit in 2021. It aims to build the first full picture ofthe red plane’s climate throughout the Martian year.
Quick take: The patterns of the aurorae as they snake around the magnetic fields of Mars are an intriguing sight. They could also offer fresh insights into how the Martian atmosphere interacts with solar particles.
CyberPowerPC, a well-known computer manufacturer, has surprised gaming enthusiasts with a new prebuilt desktop that can now be found in Best Buy. On the surface, it’s a budget gaming PC like any other, but looking deeper into the hardware reveals an unprecedented choice. The system comes with a discrete Intel Iris Xe DG1 graphics card — a GPU that most people have never even heard of. This raises some questions and might make people wonder: Are there now three, and not two, contenders in the graphics card arena?
The question can be put to rest almost as soon as it’s raised — Intel is not currently in a great place to compete with AMD or Nvidia. However, despite the fact that Intel’s Iris Xe was never meant to end up inside a gaming system, CyberPowerPC still found some use for it. The resulting desktop is being sold at Best Buy for the low price of $750. Aside from the surprising choice of GPU, the other components are what you’d typically find in a budget gaming desktop. CyberPowerPC’s aptly named Gamer Xtreme Gaming Desktop comes with an Intel Core i5-11400F processor, a 500GB SSD, 8GB of memory, and a set of gaming peripherals.
The Intel Iris Xe DG1 is definitely the most interesting part of this otherwise cookie-cutter system. That is partly due to the fact that it wasn’t initially meant for a consumer release. At first, the company sent the card in an SDV (software development vehicle) format to developers within its ISV (independent software vendor) community. There were no plans to release this particular card to the public, and Intel made it clear that the final specs of the GPU would differ from the SDV model.
But a few months ago, Asus presented a dual-fan version of Intel’s Iris Xe DG1. While we don’t know any details about the card found inside CyberPowerPC’s desktop, we can only assume that the specs are similar to the Asus version. If that is true, the card comes with 80 execution units, a 1,700 MHz clock, and 4GB of LPDDR4X memory combined with a 128-bit memory bus.
We expect the card to be sufficient for everyday use, but putting it in a gaming system is a brave decision. However, the DG1 is likely going to be a satisfactory option for gamers on a budget who don’t expect outstanding performance.
Intel has never tried to wedge itself between Nvidia and AMD, both of which are established on the discrete graphics card market. This might still change — Intel is working on its next discrete GPU, the Intel DG2, which is designed for gamers. Rumors initially pointed to a release date in 2022 or beyond, but new leaks suggest that the DG2 may arrive sooner than expected. If Intel’s plans work out, AMD and Nvidia might see some competition in the near future.
Intel has long been trying to convince both users and manufacturers that its graphics tech is all you need but that spiel has always fallen flat when it came to gaming and graphics-extensive applications. It wasn’t until its most recent Intel Xe graphics architecture that that claim actually started to finally show some promise. That said, Intel’s new graphics tech is still missing one critical market but that might change next week when the chipmaker finally reveals its Intel Xe HPG discrete graphics card made especially for gaming.
Intel Xe, basically the company’s 12th gen graphics architecture, introduced a new brand of GPUs that, admittedly, showed more muscle than any of its previous Intel Iris chips. While the technology also covered integrated GPUs like the Intel Iris Xe MAX for laptops, much of the attention and fanfare have been poured over the company’s first discrete graphics cards. That said, those graphics cards, based on the DG1 GPU, were made available only to system builders to sell as part of pre-built PCs. What many consumers, especially gamers, are waiting for is the company’s first commercial GPU.
That might come as the Intel Xe HPG, short for High-Performance Graphics, that was teased back in 2020. This GPU, targeted at enthusiasts, is meant to combine several traits from the integrated Xe-LP, the server Xe-HPC, and the large-scale compute Xe-HPC. Unlike the already available versions of Intel Xe-LP, this one is made specifically to address the needs of gaming.
Intel hasn’t committed to a date when it would announce this Xe HPG but a scavenger hunt discovered by Wccftech hints that an important event is scheduled for March 26 at 9 AM PT. Whether that’s an actual announcement or an announcement of an announcement still isn’t certain. Right on schedule, however, Intel also started promoting the GPU with a video teaser.
Details about the Inte Xe HPG “DG2” remain slim aside from the DDR6 memory that Intel itself confirmed last year. Recent leaks did hint that the card will have 512 execution units, 4,096 cores, and 12GB of that DDR6 video memory. That, however, may apply to only one graphics card as Intel is also expected to launch a whole line of them covering different tiers.
There’s a lot to like about the HP Envy 13, starting with its super-slim design, its bright 4K display, its comfy keypad and impressive quad-core performance. The Envy 13 also manages to pack in a discrete GPU and respectable battery life, all for a very reasonable price tag. That said, we did encounter some issues with the laptop’s overly sensitive trackpad (which HP says it’s investigating), resulting in a jittery cursor that regularly jumped around the screen and even highlighted and deleted our words by accident.
For as little as $750 with discounts, you can snap up an HP Envy 13 with a 13-inch full-HD display, an 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8565U processor, 8GB of RAM, and an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 core. On the other end of the spectrum is a 13-inch HP Envy with a 4K display, a 1TB SSD, a 10th-gen Intel Core i7-10510U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics card, all for a discounted $1,350 sticker price. You can explore all these configurations directly on HP’s Envy 13 shopping page.
We tested the HP Envy 13-aq0044nr ($1,100 on Amazon), which cherry-picks features from both the higher- and lower-end configurations of the laptop.
CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i7-8565U
RAM: 16GB DDR4 RAM
GPU: Discrete Nvidia GeForce MX250
Display: 13-inch UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS BrightView touchscreen
Storage: 512GB SSD
Overall, that’s an impressive amount of power under the hood for a fairly reasonable price. The 8th-gen Core i7 processor might look like a disappointing downgrade to those thirsting for a 10th-gen Intel CPU, but from what we’ve seen, there’s not much of a performance gap between the 8th-gen Whiskey Lake processor in this configuration and the 10th-gen Comet Lake chip in the pricier Envy 13 models. Both of these quad-core CPUs are built on Intel’s 14nm process, for one thing. While the Comet Lake processor has a slightly higher boost clock, you’re probably not going to feel the difference in typical daily desktop duties.
Besides the solid CPU, you’re also getting a generous 16GB of RAM and a roomy 512GB SSD, meaning you’ll enjoy plenty of multitasking headroom, plus enough storage to install plenty of programs and even a decent amount of media. The 4K touchscreen should deliver razor-sharp visuals (although you’ll pay a price in the battery-life department), and then there’s the cherry on top: discrete graphics in the form of an entry-level Nvidia mobile graphics card, handy for working in Adobe Premiere or even playing a little Fortnite.
Sleek, slim and silver (or “pale gold,” if you cough up an extra $10 on HP’s online configurator), the HP Envy 13 cuts an enviably trim profile. Measuring 12.1 x 8.3 x 0.58 inches and weighing in at just 2.8 pounds (or 3.42 pounds with the AC cord, which comes with a compact power brick), the Envy 13 feels great to hold in your hands, and it’s barely there in your backpack. I should know, because the Envy 13 served as my laptop at CES in Vegas this year. My back is eternally grateful for the Envy 13’s light, wafer-thin shell.
The top of the HP Envy 13’s aluminum lid is featureless save for the HP logo stamped in the middle. When you close the lid, the front lip has an hourglass edge that makes the laptop easier to open, while the L-shaped back edge of the lid covers the hinge, making the rear of the Envy 13 look like the spine of a book. When opened, the hinge props up the Envy 13’s lower chassis, angling the keyboard while also allowing for a cooling airflow beneath the laptop.
Opening the Envy 13’s lid reveals (in the case of this particular SKU) the eye-popping 4K display, which is surrounded by slim bezels on the top and sides but a rather chunkier one on the bottom. Above the keyboard sits a speaker grille with an attractive diamond-cut design. The power button takes residence just above the Escape key, which should help prevent the accidental presses users sometimes experience with side-mounted versions.
Protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass NBT coating, the HP Envy 13’s 4K touchscreen checks most of our boxes. With its IPS (in-plane switching) display technology, the Envy 13’s screen boasts solid viewing angles, dimming only slightly when viewed from the side or top.
The display is also impressively bright, measuring about 395 nits (or candelas) according to our light meter, which is well over our 250-nit minimum standard for comfortable indoor reading.
Of course, the brightness and 4K resolution of the Envy 13’s display will put a dent in the laptop’s battery life, as we’ll see momentarily.
Keyboard, trackpad, speakers, and extras
The HP Envy 13’s backlit keyboard is among the comfiest that I’ve tried, with a generous amount of travel (the distance a key sinks into the when it’s struck), a crisp mid-stroke bump, and a springy rebound. The Envy 13’s keys are also remarkably quiet, which your coworkers will likely appreciate.
I did, however, have trouble with the Envy 13’s overly sensitive trackpad, particularly around the bottom corners. With my right palm regularly grazing the trackpad as I typed (given that the trackpad is centered on the main chassis rather than the space bar), the mouse pointer frequently jumped across the screen, occasionally bringing the cursor with it if I happened to nudge the trackpad at the wrong moment. That meant the trackpad sometimes selected and deleted random swaths of text, or moved the cursor from one line to another while I was still typing. The problems persisted even after I fiddled with the laptop’s trackpad sensitivity settings.
We reported our issues with the Envy 13’s trackpad to HP, and the company was able to replicate the problem. We’re told that HP is continuing to investigate whether the trackpad bugginess we encountered was an isolated incident or more widespread, and we’ll update this review once we hear back. It’s also possible that a firmware update could fix any nagging trackpad issues.
Back on the plus side, I was impressed with the HP Envy 13’s Bang & Olufsen-designed laptop speakers. A sizeable cut above the tinny speakers you usually hear on laptops, the Envy 13’s top-firing drivers deliver solid mid-range sound, with a fair amount of high-end detail and even a little bass. Mind you, the Envy 13’s speakers can’t hold a candle to a decent pair of headphones or external speakers, but we’ve heard worse—much worse.
The HP Envy 13 also boasts a Windows Hello-enabled fingerprint reader near the bottom-right corner of the keyboard, handy for signing into Windows with a swipe of your finger. A switch on the right edge of the laptop electrically disables the webcam (although there’s no physical shutter).
Given the HP Envy 13’s slim and trim profile, the laptop’s limited selection of ports shouldn’t come as a big surprise. On the left side of the Envy 13, you get a drop-jaw USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port, a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port, and a combo audio jack.
On the right side, there’s a second drop-jaw USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port, a microSD media card reader, and a barrel-shaped AC port, along with the aforementioned webcam kill switch.
There are no Thunderbolt 3 ports, although that’s not much of a shock given the Envy 13’s $1,000-ish price range.
While the HP Envy 13 doesn’t break any speed records, it does a nice job of balancing performance with portability, serving up solid benchmark numbers considering its impressively slim and light chassis. If you want substantially faster performance from a less-than-three-pound laptop that’s as svelte as this one, expect to pony up twice as much for an Ice Lake-powered model. That said, the biggest compromise we’re seeing in this particular Envy 13 configuration comes in the battery life department, with the bright 4K display being the likely culprit.
PCMark 8 Work 2.0 Conventional
Our first test measures how well a given laptop performs day-to-day computing tasks, with PCMark 8 designed to simulate such daily duties as spreadsheet work, online shopping, word processing and video chat. A score of 2,000 or more usually points to silky-smooth Office performance.
While the HP Envy 13’s PCMark 8 score is second to last in our chart (we’ve compared the Envy 13 to a range of similarly priced two- and four-core Intel Core-powered laptops, along with a Dell running on a six-core Ice Lake chip), the laptop still has no trouble dusting our 2,000 low-water mark for the PCMark 8 benchmark. Indeed, if you take a laptop that scored about 3,000 in PCMark 8 (such as the Dell Inspiron 15 at the bottom of our chart) and another that snagged a 3,500 result (like our chart-topping Lenovo IdeaPad S340), you’d be hard-pressed to notice any difference in terms of general computing performance.
It’s also worth noting that the Ice Lake-packing Dell XPS 13’s PCMark 8 score sits almost smack-dab in the middle of our chart, which goes to show that paying extra for Intel’s hottest new CPU won’t pay much in the way of dividends when it comes to web browsing or Office.
A considerably more demanding test than PCMark 8, our next benchmark involves converting a 40GB MKV video file into a format suitable for Android tablets using the free HandBrake utility. Unlike PCMark 8, our HandBrake benchmark is a multi-core, CPU-intensive test that sends internal laptop temperatures soaring. Because it also takes up to an hour or more to perform, it gives us a good idea of how a given laptop handles heat management over a long period of time.
Looking at our results, the HP Envy 13 turns in a pretty solid showing considering its thin, light, and thus difficult-to-cool design. It sits in a tight bunch with similar (and generally thicker and heavier) quad-core, 8th-gen laptops. Meanwhile, the Dell XPS 13 and its six-core Ice Lake CPU (here’s where that pricey new Ice Lake chip starts to pay off) sits comfortably in first place, while the dual-core Acer Aspire 5 lags way behind the rest.
Like our HandBrake benchmark, Cinebench is a processor-intensive test that dependably spins up cooling fans. But while HandBrake takes about an hour or so to complete, Cinebench (which involves rendering a 3D image in real time) is generally over within minutes, a scenario that shows us how a laptop handles brief but crushing CPU loads.
Again, the quad-core HP Envy 13 does well. The extra boost clock in its Core i7 CPU gives it a slight leg up versus its quad-core Core i5-packing competitors. In fact, the Envy 13 trails only the Dell XPS 13 and its Ice Lake processor, which manages to crush the rest of the field, while the dual-core Acer Aspire 5 (again) brings up the rear. For such a thin, light, and reasonably priced laptop, the Envy 13’s single- and multi-threaded Cinebench scores are nothing to sneeze at.
3D Mark SkyDiver 1.0
With its discrete graphics card, the HP Envy 13 is a thin-and-light laptop that’s actually got some modest game, although “modest” is the key word. While the Envy 13’s Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics card is a vast improvement over Intel’s integrated UHD Graphics 620 core, we’re still only talking entry-level discrete graphics here. In other words, don’t expect to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare at 60 fps on Ultra settings.
Still, taking a quick look at our performance chart, you can see what a difference a discrete graphics card can make. Even with its new, super-charged integrated Iris Plus graphics, the pricey Dell XPS 13 can’t touch the graphics performance of the Envy 13 and the (barely) chart-topping Dell Inspiron 15 7000, each of which boast discrete GeForce MX250 graphics cards. The Inspiron probably gets its (slight) edge over the HP Envy 13 thanks to its larger, easier-to-cool chassis. Far below the Dell Inspiron and HP Envy are all the laptops saddled with integrated graphics, including the new Dell XPS 13 with its 10th-gen Iris Plus integrated graphics core.
While the GeForce MX250 is primarily intended for pro-video users working with (for example) Adobe Premiere, it can play some games provided you keep your expectations in check. Firing up Fortnite, the Envy 13 managed to squeeze out 50- to 60-fps visuals at medium settings for about five minutes or so. That figure fell to a still-playable 30 fps once the Envy’s fans began spinning up.
Integrated graphics in laptops have long been the butt of jokes among PC gamers, as that technology so worthless that it comes free with your laptop. But times and technologies are changing, and believe it or not, the latest integrated solutions are finally due some respect.
Integrated graphics that didn’t stink actually started with Ryzen 3000, and continued with Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake and again with Ryzen 4000. Intel, however, took it up another notch when it introduced its 11th gen “Tiger Lake” CPUs with Iris Xe graphics.
And yes, it can run Crysis. Not the remastered version, but the one from 2007. Here’s the proof (see blue bars below):
Performance of a game from 2007, even if it created its own Internet meme, isn’t something people care too much about. So yes, it can run Rise of the Tomb Raider too, which dates to 2015. Set to Very High at 1080p resolution, the Iris Xe and Radeon do reasonably well. With lower settings and a lower resolution, they’re even better.
We can go on with comparing integrated graphics against integrated graphics, but we know you want to see how Iris Xe and Radeon compare to GeForce cards. To do that, we reached for results from various laptops we’ve reviewed to compare Tiger Lake and Ryzen. While the CPUs on those discrete graphics laptops make a difference in the graphics score, sticking with 3DMark’s synthetic Sky Diver gives a result that’s about 90 percent graphics-bound.
One weakness of Sky Diver is it runs separate tests focused on the GPU and then on the CPU. Although that gives you a better way to judge GPU or CPU performance, it doesn’t give you that much insight on what might happen during a concurrent load when both are used heavily, such as in many games. That doesn’t make what it tells you wrong, it’s just you need to understand the results.
For GPUs we went through and pulled scores from Nvidia’s low-end GeForce MX150, MX250, and MX330, and even threw in two GeForce GTX 1650 GPUs. One is Max-Q, while the other is is a full-power version.To really round it out, we also rope in scores from various HD laptops, older Ryzen APUs, and a Kaby Lake G score too. Kaby Lake G, if you don’t recall, is a combined Intel CPU with a combined custom Radeon graphics chip in a tiny package.
To make the results a little easier to read, we’ve highlighted them by brand color: green for Nvidia, red for AMD, and blue for Intel. The chart is ranked from fastest to slowest. No surprise, at the bottom are Intel’s basic UHD graphics CPUs.
The first red bar from the bottom is AMD’s older Ryzen 3000 chip that, although a bit disappointing compared to Ryzen 4000, was a decent performer in graphics and competitive with Nvidia’s GeForce MX150.
As we move up the chart, we see Intel’s 10th-gen Iris Plus graphics suddenly becomes a player. It edges out Ryzen 7 3580U as well as GeForce MX150, and it’s competitive with GeForce MX250 and GeForce MX330. We expect Nvidia’s new GeForce MX450, which isn’t quite out yet, to reset expectations.
Where integrated graphics gets really interesting is with 11th-gen Tiger Lake and Iris Xe, as well as Ryzen 7 4800U with its Radeon graphics. The Ryzen 7 4800U steps away from the GeForce MX330, as does Iris Xe. Iris Xe scores, we need to point out, are based on a pre-production reference laptop. How fast Iris Xe is in a production laptop will greatly depend on the design of the laptop, so you can expect to be somewhere between the lowest score for Iris Xe and the highest score.
Iris Xe on its higher power setting gets uncomfortably close to a GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q GPU, with a score about 13 percent slower. Core i7-1185G7 is also awfully close to the Core i7-8705G with a custom Radeon RX Vega GPU. Leading the list and in no remote danger is a GeForce GTX 1650. We’ll point out the GeForce GTX 1650 is a 50-watt GPU and in a larger and heavier XPS 15 7590 laptop.
Integrated graphics have basically come a long way. You can see that illustrated below were we grabbed Sky Diver results from 4th-generation Haswell CPUs with HD4400 graphics all the way to today’s 11th gen Iris Xe graphics.
So yes Internet, you’ll have start looking for something else to make fun of.
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What was known previously as the Intel Xe HPG discrete graphics chip for laptops appears to be officially branded as the Iris Xe Max, and will appear in Acer’s latest Swift 3x laptop. Intel, though, is remaining quiet on the matter.
Acer’s new Swift 3x (SF314-510G), announced Wednesday, lists the laptop’s graphics capabilities as the “Iris Xe Max,” the brand that PCWorld discovered in an Intel sizzle reel in September. The Verge was granted some hands-on time with the new device (but not permission to run any graphics benchmarks) and confirmed that the Iris Xe Max is indeed Intel’s new discrete GPU. It will be paired with Intel’s new Tiger Lake CPUs, specifically the Core i7-1165G7 and Core i5-1135G7 chips.
Unfortunately we don’t know the Swift 3x’s price, or its ship date. Intel also declined to confirm whether the Iris Xe Max is a discrete GPU.
Intel representatives, who had previously promised more details on the Iris Xe Max, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In August, however, Intel confirmed its first discrete GPU for gamers, referred to then as the Xe HPG, which company executives said would support hardware ray-tracing as well as a new memory controller.
Otherwise, Acer’s Swift 3x looks like a standard Swift 3, a laptop that has traditionally boasted a solid keyboard, a good display, and excellent battery life. Because the Swift 3x uses only a 1080p display, we might be able to expect even better battery performance, up to 17.5 hours, Acer says. Fast-charging for just 30 minutes will power the Swift 3x for up to four hours of use.
The Iris Xe Max is the most innovative news about the Swift 3x, and we’ll be interested to see what it will deliver: performance on a par with Nvidia’s low-end GeForce MX-series chips? Or something better?
Acer Swift 3x (SF314-510G) features and specs
Display: 14-inch (1920×1080, IPS), maximum brightness of 300 nits
Packed with features sure to make productivity mavens happy, the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 delivers both performance and value in a slim and trim shell, even if its battery life isn’t quite what we’d hoped.
Powered by a Core i5 Ice Lake processor and armed with discrete GeForce MX350 graphics, this configuration of the IdeaPad Slim 7 ($880 from Lenovo) deftly handles crushing CPU loads and Adobe Premiere-level graphical chores. It also boasts such niceties as a Thunderbolt 3 port, facial and fingerprint biometrics, Dolby Atmos sound, and Wi-Fi 6 support.
The IdeaPadSlim 7’s battery life fell a little short of our expectations, and the laptop’s staid design, while pleasingly slim, won’t wow anybody (which shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with Lenovo’s IdeaPad line). Still, it offers a good feature set for this price range (or even cheaper, if you can grab Lenovo’s “instant” discount).
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.
Lenovo offers five versions of the IdeaPad Slim 7, ranging from our unit (82A4000MUS) to a $1,130 (or $1,017 post-discount) version with a Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and an integrated Intel Iris Plus GPU. There are also IdeaPad Slim 7 models powered by AMD Ryzen 4000-series chips (here’s our performance preview), but Lenovo is currently out of stock. More units are in the pipeline, we’re told.
Here are the detailed specifications on the system we reviewed:
Connectivity: One Thunderbolt 3 port, one USB SuperSpeed 5Gbps Type-C, two USB SuperSpeed 5Gbps Type-A, HDMI, combo audio jack, microSD slot
Networking: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
Biometrics: IR facial recognition, fingerprint sensor
Battery capacity: 60.7 Watt-hour
Dimensions: 12.62 x 8.19 x 0.58 inches
Weight: 3.2 pounds (measured), 0.68-pound AC adapter
Just looking at the specs, this is a rock-solid configuration for the price, starting with the peppy Core i5 Ice Lake CPU, the roomy 512GB SSD, and the 8GB of low-power RAM (though 16GB would have been better). The discrete MX350 graphics card won’t deliver silky gaming visuals, but it should do the trick for content creators.
You also get a reasonably bright 14-inch full-HD display. It’s non-touch, unfortunately, although pricier SKUs do offer touchscreens. The Thunderbolt 3 port is great for connecting dual 4K displays and speedy external storage, and a pair of SuperSpeed USB-A ports handle legacy peripherals. More goodies include facial and fingerprint biometrics, plus Wi-Fi 6 (time to pull the trigger on that Wi-Fi 6 router you’ve been pining for), while the beefy 60.7-Watt-hour battery promises plenty of battery life (as we’ll see in our performance section).
True to its name, the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7’s 0.58-inch profile is svelte, but the laptop’s aluminum, slate-gray lid is completely featureless save for a small “Lenovo” logo on the side. In other words (and as with other laptops in Lenovo’s IdeaPad line), don’t expect the Slim 7 draw any envious looks while you’re out and about. Still, we appreciate the lip along the top edge of the lid, which makes it easier to pry the laptop open with your fingertip.
Opening the lid reveals more of the same, with a slate-gray, spill-resistant keyboard and palmrest matched by a glass trackpad. The 14-inch display is surrounded by relatively thin side and top bezels, with a slightly chunkier bezel along the bottom. A long, flat hinge allows the lid to open all the way to a 180-degree angle, which could come in handy if you want to flip the display for a slideshow or PowerPoint presentation.
Weighing in at 3.2 pounds, the IdeaPad Slim 7 feels a tad heavy for its size. That said, a sub-three-pound laptop with the Slim 7’s feature set would probably cost a few hundred dollars more.
Rated at 300 nits of brightness, the Lenovo Slim 7’s 14-inch full-HD display looked sharp and bright to my eyes. I generally kept the brightness setting down in the 70- to 80-percent range while testing the laptop indoors–cranking the brightness up to 100 percent made the screen uncomfortably bright. The display was also easy to see outside under an umbrella, although its glossy finish makes for tough reading in direct sunlight.
The Slim 7’s IPS (in-plane switching) display boasts characteristically wide viewing angles. The screen dims only slightly when viewed from the sides or above. Even when looking at the display from close to a 90-degree angle, I had little problem reading the text in an on-screen Word document.
Keyboard, trackpad, speakers, and extras
The IdeaPad Slim 7’s keyboard feels great to type on. The keys themselves offer plenty of travel, and keystrokes feel snappy and springy, perfect for avid typists. Even better, the keyboard is quiet enough that you won’t disturb those in close proximity. You also get hotkeys for mic mute, airplane mode, Windows 10 settings Windows lock, Task View, and the Calculator app. There aren’t any media playback hotkeys.
The Slim 7’s glass-covered touchpad felt smooth and responsive. Crucially, it did a fine job of rejecting false inputs, both during the regular course of my typing and also when I deliberately smushed my palms into the bottom corners of the trackpad. I noticed perhaps a couple instances of a herky-jerky cursor during several weeks of testing, but otherwise, it was smooth sailing.
The IdeaPad’s fingerprint sensor is embedded into the power button that sits on the right side of the laptop, up near the hinge. The fingerprint reader was awfully finicky during my testing, perhaps because of the sensor’s slightly awkward positioning on the side of the laptop. In any case, I frequently had to rescan my fingertip before successfully unlocking my Windows profile. Luckily, I had much better luck with the IR camera, which worked pretty much flawlessly and made unlocking the Slim 7 a breeze. Once I got started with facial recognition on the laptop, I never looked back.
Equipped with a pair of upfiring speakers that have been optimized for Dolby Atmos, the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 delivers impressive sound for a laptop, although (here comes our usual disclaimer) you’ll get much better audio from an external speaker or a pair of headphones. Tuning up “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings, the Slim 7’s speakers teased out plenty of detail while not ignoring the mid-range. There was even some decent bass—well, decent by laptop standards, anyway. The Atmos-enabled speakers also managed to do a solid job of serving up a virtualized 3D soundstage (although again, we’re grading on a curve),. You can fine-tune the sound using the included Dolby Atmos desktop app.
The IdeaPad Slim 7’s 720p webcam captures blotchy, washed-out video that’s adequate for Zoom and Skype video calls, but just barely. If you’re planning on presenting to a large group or if you’re going on virtual job interviews, you’d be better off with a dedicated webcam.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 has just about every base covered when it comes to ports, including (on the left side) one that we rarely see in this price range: Thunderbolt 3, handy for connecting a pair of 4K monitors or hooking up a fully loaded laptop hub. Also on the left side is a full HDMI port, a combo audio jack, and a USB-C Power Delivery port.
On the right, you’ll find a pair of USB SuperSpeed 5Gbps Type-A ports (we would have preferred SuperSpeed 10Gbps, but let’s not get greedy) and a microSD card reader.
All that’s missing is ethernet, although that’s a lot to ask given the Slim 7’s svelte design.
Click here to read about the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7’s performance results