Lenovo IdeaPad 730S review: Thinner, lighter MacBook Air alternative

Unless you're married to MacOS, there's good reason consider the 730S over Apple's pricier portable.

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
3 min read
Sarah Tew/CNET

At 2.4 pounds (1.1 kg) and 11.9 mm thick (0.5 inch), the 13.3-inch Lenovo IdeaPad 730S is lighter and thinner than the current MacBook Air. Its quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, faster 2,400MHz memory and speedy Samsung PCIe solid-state drive give it better performance than the Air, too. Plus, it's less expensive, starting at $825, although the configuration reviewed here is just $770 at the moment

I know what you're thinking, though: There's no alternative to a MacBook Air (or any Apple computer for that matter) because the others don't run MacOS . That is certainly true, so if you're looking for an apples-to-apples alternative -- no pun intended -- this won't do the trick. Nor will any other Windows laptop, really. 

However, if you're not tied to MacOS for one reason or another, the IdeaPad 730S with  Windows 10  is one of the best alternatives to a MacBook Air you'll find. 

Lenovo IdeaPad 730S

Lenovo IdeaPad 730S (81JB0004US)
Price as reviewed $999
Display size/resolution 13.3-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel display
CPU 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8265U
PC memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 128MB Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage 256GB PCIe SSD
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless; Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Lenovo IdeaPad 730S is a premium ultraportable for less

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Clean and simple

The IdeaPad 730S started life back at IFA 2018 as the Yoga S730 as part of Lenovo switching its Yoga brand from strictly convertibles to being its premium line and adding an S and C to the names for "slim" clamshells and "convertible" two-in-ones. In fact, in the UK it's still the Yoga S730 and starts at £899. It's not currently available under either name in Australia.

That's the long way of saying the 730S has a more premium look and feel than Lenovo's entry-level IdeaPads. The iron-gray aluminum body is understated, as is the Lenovo branding, which is reduced to nothing more than a small tag on the lid's edge and a barely visible stamp at the bottom left of the bright and colorful full-HD display. 

Watch this: Lenovo unleashes lots of laptops for the fall

The keyboard is comfortable with a nice pop to the keys (and I doubt a little dust will shut it down). The silky-smooth touchpad is responsive as well without sending your cursor skittering across the screen from an errant palm. Even the speakers sound more full than you'll find on competing ultraportables due in part to the Dolby Atmos audio tuning. And despite the thin bezels around the display's top and sides, the webcam is above the display. 


 The 730S keyboard has two levels of backlighting.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's all dongles these days

Like a lot of superslim laptops, the 730S only has a combo headphone jack and USB-C ports: two USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (one with always-on charging) and one USB-C 3.1 Gen 1. Unfortunately that means you'll need to buy dongles or a dock if you need a USB-A port, a memory card reader, an external display or whatever else. 

On the upside, you can charge the laptop through any of the USB-C ports. You can also enable Lenovo's Rapid Charge feature to get your battery up to 80 percent in an hour, which works and it's great. Battery life is overall good, too, coming in at 8 hours and 8 minutes in our streaming video test. This is where the Air comes out ahead, running for 10 hours and 46 minutes in the same test. But that comes at the cost of a less powerful processor. 

Video playback battery drain test (streaming minutes)

Dell XPS 13 (2018) 738Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 671Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 646Acer Swift 7 561Lenovo IdeaPad 730S 488
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Highly portable productivity

Sarah Tew/CNET

The IdeaPad 730S isn't built for extreme performance and doesn't necessarily have the speed to handle everything. For everyday use for work and school, though, it doesn't disappoint for the price. 

The 730S works fine for day-to-day tasks like web browsing, word processing and streaming video. Basic photo and video editing? Sure, no problem, but anything more demanding and you'll want discrete graphics, a faster processor and something with a more efficient cooling system. 

To get this laptop so thin, Lenovo designed the cooling fan to pull air in through the keyboard. Under continued heavy load it struggled to stay cool even with the fan going full blast. But again, for basic use that's not really an issue and overall the design choice pays off. 

The Lenovo IdeaPad 730S proves you don't need to spend more than $1,000 to get some of the benefits of an upscale ultraportable. Especially one that's light enough and small enough that you'll forget it's even in your bag. 

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

Lenovo IdeaPad 730S 12,905Dell XPS 13 (2018) 12,855Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 11,983Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 7,870Acer Swift 7 6,027
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

Dell XPS 13 (2018) 629Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 589Lenovo IdeaPad 730S 537Acer Swift 7 263Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 253
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Lenovo IdeaPad 730S Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8265U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) Apple MacOS Mojave 10.14; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8210Y; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 1,536MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 617; 256GB SSD
Dell XPS 13 (2018) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Acer Swift 7 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-7Y75; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 615; 256GB SSD