This multimedia-friendly 15.6-inch desktop replacement has good looks and a numeric keypad. Is this the ideal budget laptop for families and students? Read our in-depth review to find out.
When Lenovo launched the IdeaPad line of consumer laptops back in 2008 more than a few people dismissed the IdeaPads as little more than than a cheaper alternative to Lenovo's popular ThinkPad line of business notebooks. True, the IdeaPads have more plastic than their ThinkPad cousins and there are no business-friendly features like docking station connectors or slice batteries. But the IdeaPad line was never designed for the world of business ... these laptops are meant to serve as affordable family and student PCs.
Build and Design
The IdeaPad Z580 doesn't look like a typical budget notebook with its sleek brushed aluminum palm rest and lid. The design is quite detailed too; I like the fancy speaker grille above the keyboard and the touchpad's beveled edge.
Like most Lenovo notebooks, the build quality is again surprisingly good for a budget laptop. The chassis is stiff and no ripples show up on the screen when you press in on lid from behind. Ideally a notebook's internal parts should be subjected to as little flex as possible so they can last a long time; flex is bad for circuit boards. Thankfully, the Z580 feels very solid for a consumer laptop in this price range ($500-$750). Attention to detail is another positive aspect of this notebook; there are no rough or unfinished edges.
Input and Output Ports
The Z580 has a respectable array of input/output ports including two USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and a media card reader. It lacks an ExpressCard slot, eSATA and DisplayPort. Still, you would be hard pressed to find a budget-priced, 15-inch consumer laptop with ExpressCard slot and DisplayPort so we can't complain too much.
Front: Status lights, media card reader
Back: Battery pack
Left: Kensington lock slot, cooling exhaust vent, VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, 2x USB 3.0
Right: Headphone and microphone jacks, USB 2.0, tray-load DVD burner, USB 2.0, AC power jack
Keyboard and Touchpad
Lenovo's 'Chiclet' style keyboards are amongst the best out there in terms of feel. The Z580's keys have plenty of travel and are able to provide ample tactile feedback. The keys make pleasant clicking sounds which add to the feedback. The keyboard feels solid with zero flex. The layout is good; all the keys are in their expected positions; the only nuance is that the keys on the number pad are about 2/3 the size, which takes some getting used to. Keyboard backlighting is not available on the Z580.
The oversized touchpad is actually a clickpad with a press-able surface. While I still prefer a traditional touchpad with separate buttons, this clickpad is actually quite good; it doesn't take too much effort to push down and it has an excellent smooth surface. The clicks are a bit louder than I prefer but that's my only real complaint.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Z580 represents a great value thanks to its combination of good build quality, a solid keyboard and touchpad, good performance, and six hour battery life. The only areas that need improvement are the screen -- 1366x768 is low and hard to be productive with -- and speakers, which sound tinnier than expected. The fan also has a slight whine but isn't loud enough to be annoying.
I'm willing to forgive all of these items as none of other notebooks in this price range offer anything better and struggle to match the Z580 in its other qualities.
Software & Support
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