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This budget-friendly laptop is able to run most modern games at a playable frame rate, and if you’re looking for something that’s useful for getting work done on, it has a decent selection of ports, a responsive Windows Precision trackpad, and a full-size backlit keyboard with satisfying key travel. The IdeaPad Gaming 3’s design doesn’t stray too far from what you might expect for a budget gaming laptop. It’s a hulk of plastic that, for the money, actually looks presentable and low-profile.
So, what’s the catch? Unfortunately, this model suffers in the graphics department, perhaps the most important aspect of a laptop designed for gaming. I reviewed the top-end $989 configuration that features Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1650 4GB graphics. This is a particularly disappointing oversight, partly because it’s the bottleneck of this experience when it comes to gaming.
Despite this, it can run everything I currently want to play at a playable frame rate, so long as I’m willing to turn down the eye candy to maintain 60fps at 1080p. This includes Persona 4 Golden, Risk of Rain 2, more demanding games like Control, Hunt: Showdown, and the particle effect-laden Tetris Effect.
If you just want to be able to play Fortnite, or some games in your Steam backlog, but don’t care about running each title at its maximum settings, you won’t be disappointed here. But each time I ran into some slowdown in a game, it served as a moment to reflect on Lenovo’s strange decision to pair a very capable processor and fast PCIe-based storage with this weak GPU.
You’ll want to dig into Lenovo’s included Vantage software to get the most out of this machine. It’s where you can toggle an option to automatically switch to performance mode when a game boots up (it puzzlingly is off by default, meaning gaming performance isn’t great without it switched on). Another option worth toggling is the Rapid Charge, which lets the battery charge to 80 percent in just an hour. Also, this is where you can update this laptop’s BIOS and other hardware that the Windows Update tool doesn’t target. Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to mistake this app for bloatware, since it constantly hounds you about McAfee virus protection unless you either sign up or delete it from the hard drive.
No matter what activity you’re doing, you’ll be looking at the 15.6-inch FHD IPS display. The one I tested has a 120Hz refresh rate, though the less expensive options have a 60Hz display. Neither are the brightest of displays, topping out at 250 nits, but the bezels surrounding it are minimal, and the colors and viewing angles look sharp. There’s also a 720p 1-megapixel webcam at the top of the screen, complete with a webcam cover if you want some privacy.
The relatively small 45Wh battery was able to last around four hours with batch of work apps, though as expected, it didn’t hold up for too long while I played games. After playing Control and Tetris Effect for about an hour, it automatically switched to battery-saver mode at the 30-percent level, which renders most games unplayable. When this laptop is plugged in with the included 135W charger, it keeps cool and relatively quiet. Also, while connected to power, you can hit the Fn + Q keys to flip between the performance profiles at any time, letting you manually amp up the graphics card and processor performance.