There is no glory in being basic or entry-level when it comes to laptops. Yet, for many of us, all the computer that's needed is something that spends most of its time in one place and handles Web browsing, social networking, e-mail, word processing, streaming music and movies, and maybe some light photo and video editing.
The Lenovo G580 is that laptop. Or at least the version of it we tested was, powered by a speedy third-gen Intel Core i5 processor. The G580 comes in several configurations, not all of which are equipped to handle these tasks as smoothly. And even our G580 configuration, while good, is currently not the best you can get for the money from Lenovo.
So, while we like the G580 in general, we wouldn't pay more than $500 for the configuration we tested, and we'd skip the base models running on Intel Celeron processor.
The Lenovo G580 looks the part of a simple bare-bones laptop. The lid is a glossy, glittery, deep dark brown polycarbonate that, as long as you clean your fingerprints from it, would look very nice sitting on a home office desk. The dark brown continues inside, while the bottom of the chassis is nondescript matte black. It's definitely a laptop that blends in with its surroundings.
|Price as reviewed||$499.99|
|Processor||2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M|
|Memory||4GB, 1,600MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.8 x 9.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.7/6.0 pounds|
Compared to all of the slender and light ultrabooks we've seen lately, the G580 is a giant. Generally speaking, the lighter and thinner a laptop is, the higher the price, so the G580's less travel-friendly dimensions make sense. It's not a system you'll necessarily want to hump around everyday, but fine for room-to-room excursions around the house or office.
You get a full keyboard and number pad with the G580. One benefit of having a thicker body is that you actually get a decent amount of key travel when typing compared with the island-style keyboards on thinner models. It's not a lot, but at least it feels like the keys are moving. The size and shape of the keys are overall very good, though the right Shift key is shrunken, which took some adjustment. It's also not backlit, which is to be expected at this price.
Above the left side of the keyboard are the power button and another button with a small arrow on it. This launches Lenovo's OneKey Recovery software for system backups and recovery. It's a nice extra for an entry-level laptop that requires almost no effort to use.
The G580's touch pad is seamless with the palm rest, set off by a rectangle of microbumps above its two large mouse buttons. It's just large enough not to be frustrating to use and plenty responsive to handle Windows 8 functions like opening the Charms bar on the right or flipping through open applications. It handled palm drags while typing pretty well, but it would sometimes recognize a finger drag as a double tap, which could inadvertently launch an app or drag files or Start menu tiles around accidentally.
The glossy 1,366x768-pixel native resolution LCD is good, but in a world filled with high-resolution displays, it looks dated. Off-angle viewing isn't great, but viewed directly head on or just off to the sides is fine and it gets reasonably bright for its class. It's not a touch screen, though, so the Windows 8 experience isn't the best; check out the Acer Aspire V5, which is about the same price, but adds a touch screen.
Above the screen is a built-in Webcam that did well in our Skype tests. White balance was better than we've seen from competing models, so even in incandescent or fluorescent lighting, our room looked bright and white and not yellow. It did well in low-light conditions, too; noisy, but reasonably so.
The front-firing stereo speakers were another surprise. They delivered loud and full sound for a budget laptop, and not the thin, tinny audio we've come to expect. A decent set of headphones or external speakers would still be more enjoyable, but for casual music listening and video watching they were good.
|Lenovo G580||Average for category [midsize]|
|Video||HDMI, VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The ports and connections on the G580 are about what we would expect to find on a budget-friendly system. The one disappointment is the lack of built-in Bluetooth. While there are G580s with this wireless feature, our configuration did not have it, and for $500 it really should. You do get two USB 3.0 ports, though, as well as a VGA output and a DVD burner, which are becoming scarce these days.
As we mentioned earlier, the G580 comes in a handful of preconfigured versions available at retail or direct from Lenovo. The exact configuration we tested may have been priced better at some point, but as of this review it was a little high for what you're getting. Our suggestion: If you're interested in this model, look for a version with at least a Core i5 processor, 6GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive, and Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. It should be priced around the $500 mark for that configuration; if it's significantly more, look elsewhere.
There are less expensive versions with Intel Celeron and Core i3 processors, but the value for those just isn't the same; spending a little extra money will get you much better performance.
And this configuration does get you good performance for the money, at least for processor-intensive tasks. The integrated graphics were enough to handle casual gaming and some light video and photo editing, but doing anything more demanding will not be a good experience.
Battery life is also not a strong suit for the G580. It's not horrible, but you definitely won't want to travel without its small power supply. In our video playback test, the battery lasted 3 hours and 27 minutes. With some power management, you should be able to get up to 4 hours with this configuration.
Conclusion The Lenovo G580 delivers on its promise of essential computing at an affordable price. The sub-$500 Core i5 version we tested isn't the biggest-bang-for-your-buck G580 available right now, though, so be sure to look over the system specifications so you get the most for your money.
Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.System configurations:
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 3210M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Seagate 5,400rpm
Toshiba Satellite U845t-S4165
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Toshiba SSD
Asus VivoBook S500C
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB HD + 24GB SSD
HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15 Sleekbook
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/sp 1; 1.8GHz AMD A8-455M APU; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 512MB (Shared) AMD Radeon HD 7600G; 750GB Seagate 5400rpm
Dell Inspiron 15z
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 500GB HD + 32GB SSD