Lenovo is probably best known for its business laptops, especially the ThinkPad range it bought from IBM, when Big Blue decided to stop making laptops back in 2005. The company also produces some more consumer-focused models, however. The Lenovo B550 falls into this category and, although it has quite a basic spec, its price reflects this. Our review model was provided by Laptops Direct, where you can buy the B550 for the relatively modest sum of £382.
Cheap and chunky
Perhaps not unexpectedly for such a cheap machine, the B550 is rather large and chunky. It measures a considerable 245 by 36 by 381mm and is relatively heavy, too, at 2.75kg. The chassis looks a little plasticky -- apart from a silver Lenovo logo on the lid, it's clad head to toe in matte black plastic. To be fair, Lenovo has tried to add a little spice to the design by using a slightly ridged pattern on the lid and wrist rest, but overall, the styling is pretty uninspiring.
The keyboard is quite traditional and uses standard tapered keys. Aside from the rather odd decision to transpose the position of the 'Ctrl' and 'Fn' keys, the layout is rather good. The company has even managed to squeeze in a half-sized numerical keypad on the right-hand side. The keyboard feels solid and the keys have a springy action, so it's easy to tap out emails at a decent speed. We also like the trackpad's matte finish and largish size. Unlike many of its rival models, the B550's trackpad doesn't support multi-touch, so you can't, for example, use multi-touch gestures to zoom or rotate pictures in Windows Photo Gallery.
The B550's 15.6-inch screen has a fairly pedestrian resolution of 1366x768 pixels, but it uses LED backlighting and has a glossy coating -- both of which help its colours to look quite punchy. Also, unlike most glossy displays, it isn't all that reflective, so you can comfortably use it indoors under bright lights. That said, its horizontal viewing angles are a little limited, but this is a common complaint with budget laptops, and only really becomes an issue if you're trying to share a movie with a friend sitting beside you.