Lenovo offers two versions of its Essential line of lower-priced laptops. The B series is described as "budget laptops for working at home or at the office," while the G series is pitched as "everyday laptops at a great price." What that means in practical terms isn't entirely clear, as the B and G Essential laptops we've checked out use the same Intel Core i5 2410M processor and have the same amount of RAM and hard-drive capacity, they just have different screen sizes and some design differences. Here we'll focus on the Essential G570.
Once you get into the $600-to-$800 range, the field gets very crowded, especially for midsize laptops. Lenovo's pitch for this line, that you can get the company's legendary quality for less than usual, falls a bit flat because these Essential systems definitely feel lower-quality without having dramatically lower prices.
The biggest selling point of the Essential G570 is that it's currently $579 (allegedly discounted from $749). A roughly comparable 15-inch ThinkPad is $869, while a 15-inch Core i5 IdeaPad is $699. That is a significant discount, but we'd be inclined to pay the extra $100 to move up to the excellent IdeaPad line. Still, note that a similar basic Core i5 laptop from Dell or Hewlett-Packard starts at around $700, making the Essential line one of the least expensive options for an entry-level Core i5 midsize laptop.
|Price as reviewed||$579|
|Processor||2.3GHz Intel Core i5 2410M|
|Memory||4GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.4x9.1 inches|
|Height||0.7 inch - 1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.3 pounds / 6.0 pounds|
Lenovo probably puts as much into laptop-design research and development as any company, if not more. So, we've come to expect a lot from the company's laptops in terms of look, feel, and usability. For the most part IdeaPad and ThinkPad laptops are made of the best materials, and rarely, if ever, have any glaring physical flaws or construction issues.
The Essential G570 doesn't exactly feel like a true Lenovo laptop, but it also isn't entirely unrelated to the family. The plastic body is solid enough, but it's marred by a garishly glossy lid that attracts fingerprints more than anything we've seen in a long time. The chassis itself is thick and blocky--it's not going to get many stares (at least not the good kind) at your local coffee shop.
The interior view is a bit better, with a sunken keyboard tray and thin chrome accent around the touch pad. The keyboard is in line with recent IdeaPad models, using a variation on the popular island-style keyboard, instead of the older tapered-key style typically seen in ThinkPads. In the Lenovo version of the island-style keyboard, the flat-topped, widely spaced keys bow out slightly at the bottom, making it easier for those of us who are not perfect touch typists to catch the bottom edges of the keys. Our one complaint was that a few of the letter keys squeaked a bit while we were typing.
The touch pad is a good size for a 15-inch laptop, with a matte, textured finish that makes navigation easy. Basic multitouch gestures such as two-finger scrolling do work, but fitfully, which is true for virtually all Windows laptops. The large, separate left and right mouse buttons felt loose and clacky on the model we tested.
Several free software applications are preloaded, including Lenovo's VeriFace facial recognition log-in software and OneKey Recovery 7.0 for system backups. Also included, however, are promotional shortcuts for services such as the OoVoo video chat app and the Lenovo Games Console, which is just a branded online game store.
The 15.6-inch display has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is what we'd expect from a midsize laptop in this price range. The screen was bright and clear, and had surprisingly good off-axis viewing for a budget laptop. The speakers, which fire from the front edge of the system, were thin and underpowered even by budget laptop standards. There's little point in playing music through them, but they'll work for simple spoken-word content, as long as you don't need the volume to be too loud.
|Lenovo Essential G570||Average for category [midsize]|
|Video||VGA plus HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA combo, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
While we appreciate the sub-$600 price Lenovo has set for its Intel Core i5 laptops, it offers even less expensive versions. You can trade down to a version with an Intel Pentium Dual Core B940M CPU for $499, which seems like a terrible deal when the Core i5 is just $79 more. Keeping the same Core i5 processor and adding a larger hard drive, more RAM, and a Blu-ray optical drive brings the price up to a whopping $899, which is an equally bad deal. As with many PC makers, Lenovo's prices for different configurations of the same system can be confusing and seemingly arbitrary, so check the available options carefully.
Not surprisingly, this laptop performed on par with other recent Intel Core i5 systems, including several more expensive ones, such as Dell's new Inspiron 14z. The 14-inch Gateway ID47H02u performed a bit better in nearly all of our tests, but costs about $100 more. We do consider the Lenovo Essential G570 a better deal in terms of performance. In anecdotal use, the system felt speedy and responsive, and the Intel Core i5 2410M CPU is going to be more than powerful enough for anything a mainstream user would throw at it.
|Lenovo Essential G570||Average watts per hour|
|Raw kWh number||35.61|
|Annual power consumption cost||$4.04|
Budget laptops are traditionally battery-life disappointments, although with the current generation of Intel Core i-series CPUs, we've seen solid improvements across the board in 2011. The Lenovo G570 is at the low end of recent midsize laptops as far as battery life goes, but it still lasted 4 hours and 5 minutes in our video-playback test, which is more than acceptable for a low-cost 15-inch laptop. The previously mentioned Gateway ID47H02u lasted 6 hours in the same test.
Lenovo includes a standard one-year parts and labor mail-in warranty with the Essential G570. Adding one year of in-home service is an extra $29, which seems like a smart investment. A three-year mail-in extension is $74, or $111 for three years of in-home service. These particular prices are listed as limited-time discounts, so the rates may change. Lenovo's online support resources are typically well-organized and easy to navigate, and the company's support phone lines are open 24-7.
Find out more about how we test laptops.
Lenovo Essential G570
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm
Dell Inspiron N411Z
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 750GB Western Digital 7,200rpm
Toshiba Satellite E305-S1990X
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm
Lenovo Essential B470
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 410M; 500GB Seagate 5,400rpm