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Lenovo G530 Notebook Review
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Date: Jun 15, 2009
Section:Mobile
Author: Shawn Oliver
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Introduction and Specifications

Lenovo is a company that offers a wide range of notebooks. From multimedia notebooks, to gaming notebooks, to value notebooks to netbooks, Lenovo has their bases adequately covered. We've spent some time with a few of the company's prior offerings, but we've never quite seen a product like this. The simplistic G530 is a computer that's easily overlooked. It's not flashy, the model name isn't memorable and the specification sheet has nothing on it that will immediately grab your attention. But what this machine lacks in pizzazz it makes up for in value, so it follows logic that the G530 is a critical pillar in the somewhat undercover Value '3000' notebook line at Lenovo.



With our test model priced at just $499 (the G530 starts at $429), this is easily one of the least expensive new full-size notebooks to come our way. In fact, we've seen netbooks priced higher than this with worse specifications. For sure, it's easy to be skeptical about what sort of laptop can be constructed for under $500, and while one may assume that this is nothing more than a poor man's notebook, we found the reality to be starkly opposite to that notion. Take a look at the largely middle-of-the-road specifications list below, and join us in the coming pages as we dissect the intricacies of one of Lenovo's best kept secrets.

Lenovo G530
Specifications and Features (as tested)

"Lenovo announced the Lenovo G530 that offers enhanced productivity to SMB customers at a very affordable price tag. It is a reliable product with features to enhance productivity:
  • Rescue and Recovery – To minimize the downtime in event of system crashes
  • Access connection – To reduce wait times for connection switching and to reduce and often eliminate costly support calls
  • 6 cell battery – For productivity while on the move
The G530 is an excellent combination of features (when compared to Netbooks) at an attractive price (when compared to Thinkpad SL series)." - Lenovo

  • Intel Pentium T3400 Dual-Core Processor @ 2.16GHz, 1MB L2 cache, 667MHz FSB
  • 3GB of PC2-5300 667MHz DDR2 Memory
  • 15.4 inch VibrantView (glossy) LCD (1280 x 800 resolution); CCFL backlight, 200 nits brightness, 400:1 contrast ratio
  • Intel Mobile GL40 Express Chipset
  • Intel GMA 4500M integrated graphics
  • Western Digital Blue Scorpio WD2500BEVT 250 GB 5400RPM SATA2 8 MB 2.5-Inch Hard Drive
  • 802.11b/g Wi-Fi
  • Dual-layer DVD burner
  • 0.3 megapixel webcam with VeriFace face recognition software
  • 56k V.92 modem
  • ExpressCard slot
  • VGA Output
  • USB 2.0 x 4
  • RJ-45 (Ethernet 10/100)
  • Headphone / Mic Input Jacks
  • Twin speakers
  • Full-size keyboard
  • Touch-sensitive volume control panel with one user defined button
  • Two-button touch pad with scroll feature (no TrackPoint)
  • 65-watt AC adapter
  • Wi-Fi on/off switch
  • 5.95 Pounds (with Battery Installed)
  • 6 Cell Li-ion Battery (Up To 4.5 Hours of Computing)
  • 14.1" x 10.1" x 1.22"-to-1.46"
  • Windows Vista Home Basic Edition (32-bit)
  • Color Options: Black
  • 1-year limited warranty

 

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Design and Build Quality
Before we delve deep into this section, let us remind you of this: the G530 starts at $429. That's around $30 more than the lower-powered, smaller and less capable Eee PC 1000HE netbook. Of course, one would obviously expect a $429 machine aimed at budget-minded business-people to be built about like a Mattel toy; we're here to proclaim that Lenovo's G530 is far from toy-like. In fact, it's one of the more solid 15.4" notebooks that we've had the pleasure of touching. From edge to edge, the build quality is top notch. The chassis is rigid, stiff and designed to handle the normal abuse of traversing between the home and the office. The only shortfall is the top LCD lid, which -- as with most notebooks -- could stand to be just a bit more rigid to prevent flex in the middle.


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The entire exterior of the notebook is exceedingly classy. It's matte black all around, and while it's definitely simple, it's far from "plain." The smooth lines, chrome Lenovo lid logo and the overall no-nonsense approach was perfectly adequate for a machine that's priced below $500 and aimed squarely at the all-business crowd. After you open up the lid, however, things do seem a bit vanilla. The keyboard is eerily similar to those found on your average ThinkPad, and the textured, all-black palm rests could definitely stand to be accented. Of course, for the market Lenovo is targeting, we'd say it still works. Just know that you won't be seeing anything fancy under the hood.


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On the right side, we've got a 56k modem (talk about a blast from the past!), two USB 2.0 ports in a side-by-side configuration, a dual-layer DVD writer and an AC adapter input. Across the back, there are no ports whatsoever.

    
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On the left side, we've got a ventilation port, an Ethernet jack, VGA output, two more USB 2.0 ports in the same side-by-side layout and an ExpressCard slot. In the front, there's a headphone jack (3.5mm), audio input (3.5mm) and a Wi-Fi on/off toggle switch.

    
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Within, you'll find a decently sized trackpad, left/right click buttons, a full-size standard keyboard, status indicator lights on both sides, four touch-sensitive buttons atop the keyboard, a 0.3MP webcam and a CCFL-backlit 15.4" LCD. The panel is of the glossy variety, and as with any other notebook with a glossy screen, it's pretty difficult to use outside. To us, this is an odd choice on a business machine. Today's business-person is apt to be out and about quite frequently, and particularly if he/she is using a portable (such as the G530) to handle their work, they are apt to find themselves outside. To that end, we can't help but wish Lenovo had selected a matte display here; it would've made it entirely more attractive to professionals on the move.

    
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To be fair, the display is stunning when under controlled lighting. The colors are vivid and sharp, and frankly, we were impressed with the panel quality given the low MSRP. Viewing angles were superb, the refresh rate seemed plenty fast, and watching 720p media clips was a real joy. We do wish the screen resolution was a touch higher than WXGA, as it's sort of a waste to have 15.4" but only 1280 x 800 pixels. Granted, bumping that up a notch would undoubtedly increase the price, so we understand the reasoning behind the decision. We should also point out that this machine has a 4-in-1 card reader but lacks a Bluetooth module; design wise, those were the biggest corners we saw cut on an otherwise well appointed budget notebook. At 5.95 pounds (with battery installed), it's definitely on the hefty side too. Thankfully, the weight is fairly well spread out over the body, but it's certainly no lightweight.

    
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Software and Accessories
As for accessories, Lenovo provides the bare minimum. Within the G530's simple packaging, you'll find an AC adapter cable, a power brick, a few setup guides and a 6-cell battery. That's it. Thankfully, things are a bit more robust over on the software front, but we're not so sure everything that Lenovo tosses in is beneficial.


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Obviously, the machine comes loaded with Windows Vista, but you'll also receive Lenovo OneKey Recovery, Lenovo ReadyComm, Norton Internet Security (90 days of free protection), Adobe Reader, Windows Live Toolbar, Easy Capture, VeriFace Facial Recognition software, Energy Management applications and Cyberlink Power2Go burning software.

    
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Call us old fashioned, but we prefer selecting our own antivirus software. The Norton screen that intrudes upon you as you boot up your machine for the first time is remarkably annoying, and the only way to nix it is to either succumb to its request to scan your perfectly clean hard drive or to force it to quit via the Task Manager. Here's a tip, Lenovo: this type of immediate intrusion is not consumer-friendly. We understand you're trying to help, but don't be so forthright with it.


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Also, we have a serious bone to pick with Lenovo's own ReadyComm software. Honestly, we question why it is even included when Vista handles similar functions perfectly fine by itself. Just so you know, ReadyComm is basically a Wi-Fi management tool, but it's leaps and bounds more confusing than Vista's built-in network manager. We spent a solid half hour attempting to get ReadyComm or Vista to connect to our own router, and finally we simply removed ReadyComm altogether. The result? Vista picked up the connection perfectly.

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User Experience
When it comes down to it, the G530 is tough to dislike. It's classy, it's affordable and it's portable. We would've preferred a more lightweight operating system such as Windows XP, but with Windows 7 just around the bend, there's nothing stopping you from snagging Windows 7 RC1 for the moment and upgrading later. Still, the T3400 CPU and 3GB of RAM handled most of Vista's basic tasks with ease, with the machine delivering a low-but-respectable 3.5 Vista Experience rating. Notice that the lowest points are dealing with graphical performance; no doubt, the integrated GMA 4500M is no GPU powerhouse, but if you're not too concerned with 3D gaming or intense multimedia playback, it's of little concern.


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Basic tasks -- Word processing, opening Firefox tabs, checking email, listening to music, etc. -- were all handled with poise. The machine was plenty powerful and had plenty of memory to multitask with basic chores, and for the average business-person or student on a budget, it's very satisfactory. You won't really notice any serious strain unless you attempt to game (which, trust us, you don't want to attempt on this machine) or watch high-def content. Oh, and if you expected the fans in this machine to kick up when handling a heavy workload, think again. This was easily one of the coolest, quietest notebooks we've used to date. Lenovo's choice of components and cooling solution managed to keep this machine cool under pressure, and we definitely wish more notebooks/netbooks would follow suit.


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Speaking of, we found that the G530 handled most 720p material fine. It was stressed, sure, but it managed to play the content back without frame drops and stutters. As expected, a 1080p movie trailer really put it in a bind. Of note, the machine had a much tougher time with our sample 720p H.264/MPEG4 clip than the 720p WMVHD clip, though both were "viewable."


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As for the trackpad and keyboard, we were definitely pleased with both, though a little less so with the former. The pad is roomy enough, but the lack of multi-touch is a real bummer. As we've stated before, with Asus' sub-$400 Eee PC 1000HE possessing a multi-touch trackpad, there's really no excuse for this functionality to be left off of even basic, value notebooks.  The left/right click buttons were a touch stiff, and the travel beneath was a touch short. Nothing that would be a deal-breaker, but certainly not top-notch. The keyboard will please those who adore ThinkPad keyboards, and with one glaring exception, we found it to be a joy to type on. The only gripe we had was the awful placement of the "Fn" (function) key; it's to the left of the left "Ctrl" (control) key. The same key you'll hit lots and lots during the day to handle copy, cut, paste and select-all commands. Until you adjust, you'll find yourself hitting Fn instead of Ctrl quite frequently, which is definitely annoying. A top row Function key or one to the right of CTRL would've made much more sense and would have allowed some of the more critical keys to retain their usual size.


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PCMark Vantage and 3DMark Benchmarks


 Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Memories, TV & Movies, Music, Productivity, HDD, Gaming and Communications

PCMark Vantage is a PC benchmark suite designed for Windows Vista offering one-click simplicity for casual users and detailed, professional grade testing for industry, press and enthusiasts.

A PCMark score is a measure of your computer’s performance across a variety of common tasks such as viewing and editing photos, video, music and other media, gaming, communications, productivity and security.


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Based on the PCMark Vantage scores, we can see that Lenovo's bargain priced G530 actually stacks up quite well against far more expensive machines. The multimedia-centric IdeaPad Y530 only mustered an overall score of 2992, proving that the G530 is quite capable of hanging with the big boys on everyday tasks. And again, for just $499 (as tested), we're seriously impressed with the G530's ability to measure up.



 Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06
 Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/

The Futuremark 3DMark06 benchmark consists of tests that use the CPU to render 3D scenes, rather than the GPU. It runs several threads simultaneously and is designed to utilize multiple processor cores.


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The integrated GMA 4500M graphics solution is easily the weakest internal link within the G530. Put simply, it just can't handle advanced 3D graphics. A 3DMark score of just 670 is rather poor, but again, Lenovo isn't marketing this machine as a gaming rig. In fact, we'd say that Lenovo never expects you to even try. Still, we figured we'd benchmark it just to prove how underpowered it is in the gaming department, though the inbuilt GPU is plenty powerful for desktop graphics and light-duty media viewing.
 
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Benchmarks (cont.)

SiSoftware Sandra
CPU, HDD, Memory

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software.


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The Intel T3400 (2.16GHz) held its own in Sandra's CPU-specific test. As we've mentioned, it exhibited plenty of power for basic multitasking and light-duty multimedia playback, but it's certainly not potent enough to push any serious pixels in 3D gaming. Overall, results here were as expected.


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In the CPU multimedia testing, it managed to line up well with similar alternatives. It definitely didn't shock us with its multimedia prowess, but we were rather impressed with its ability to handle 720p content. For a $499 business notebook, that's a serious bonus. After all, even the Type-A among us can't survive without a break every now and then, right?


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Memory bandwidth was a bit lacking. Of course, it's not as if Lenovo's really aiming for speed here, but still, we expected a touch more from this test. That said, for $499, we're happy to forget all about the memory's lack of speed due to the sheer quantity of RAM available. 3GB is practically a necessity for Vista to run smoothly, so we're happy that Lenovo didn't attempt to cut any corners here.


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For a 5400RPM hard drive, the 250GB WD unit in our test rig held up quite well. It was outpaced here by a Samsung SSD, but barely. We were certainly impressed with the unit in real-world use as well, with no noticable lag in application loading stemming from a sluggish HDD.
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Power Consumption and Battery Life
Our $499 test rig came with a 6-cell battery, which Lenovo rates at around 4.5 hours. Evidently that's when testing in a "best case scenario," as our real-world testing found a lifespan far shorter. With Wi-Fi active, screen at 80% brightness and us spinning a few tracks, penning a few emails and generally working as we normally do, we witnessed 1 hour and 41 minutes of battery life before it refused to soldier on.

Battery Info & Performance
Testing with BatteryEater Pro



Granted, we were working the machine 100% of the time here, so we suspect you could probably squeeze 2.5 or 3 hours out under the right conditions. Still, 4.5 hours seems more like a pipe dream, and we wouldn't honestly expect to see that from this machine under any real circumstances. The non-ULV processor isn't the most energy efficient, and 15.4 inches of LCD is a lot to light up. Still, ~2 hours should be plenty for most scenarios, and again, we keep coming back to the $499 price tag. For business users on a budget, we'd surmise that 2 hours of life is plenty for the price. Even the majority of netbooks can't survive over 3.5 hours with a charge, so the G530 really isn't that far off from its competition.

    
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Would we have preferred it lasting longer? Sure. Would we be willing to pay $50 or so more for another half hour? Probably not. We're glad Lenovo kept the unit as-is, and for those who really will need more than 2 hours of life in one sitting, we hear those "extra batteries" can be procured with relative ease. Also, we struggled to find similar machines to compare the G530 to. Price wise, it's nearest competition is the average netbook. Specification/size wise, there are oodles of similar 15" notebooks to compare it to, but generally speaking, they all cost quite a bit more due to fancy extras, a stylish design or a discrete GPU. As you can tell, it measured up to none of our benchmark machines, but for $499, we think it had a solid showing.
 
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Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: In Futuremark's PCMark Vantage test suite, the Lenovo G530 performed admirably in comparison to the more powerful (and far more expensive) systems. In the 3DMark benchmark, the G530 just barely completed the test. We wouldn't expect much more from the underpowered GMA 4500M graphics, though. In the SiSoftware Sandra suite of tests, the machine not only held its own, but handled itself well. For $499, we were surprised by how well it kept up with rival equipment.



All told, we think you'll be hard pressed to find a more well-rounded, solid machine for under $500. We see the target market for the G530 as twofold. First off, it's aimed at business-people looking for a no-nonsense notebook to handle basic tasks without breaking the bank. Then, there's the crowd who is thinking about a netbook, but are worried over the underwhelming Atom N270/N280 CPU and the tiny display. Indeed, Lenovo's G530 starts well below the MSRP of some of today's hottest netbooks.


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To us, there are only two disadvantages for choosing the G530 over a netbook: 1) battery life and 2) weight. If mobility is of the utmost importance, you probably won't want a 15.4" machine that weighs almost six pounds. Also, the ~2 hour battery life isn't quite as good as what most netbooks average. If those two aspects aren't critical for you, however, we'd recommend this over one of those minuscule alternatives. The display on this machine is far nicer to gawk at, it can actually handle 720p multimedia files, and the full-size keyboard is a real joy to type on. Without a doubt, the G530 offers a fuller, more robust computing experience than a netbook, which cuts notable corners to get 90% of a computing environment into a chassis that's far smaller than conventional machines. Then there's the issue of heat -- or the lack thereof, really. We were pleased at how cool and quiet the G530 was even when strained. You could use this on your lap for hours without any discomfort whatsoever.


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As for the business crowd, the G530 has everything you need to handle Office tasks, email and basic multimedia. You won't be gaming (outside of a few obligatory games of Solitaire) on your work notebook, and you've got no need for flashiness when showing off a new sales presentation. Lenovo made sure to include all the right things (a 2.16GHz CPU, 3GB of RAM, a roomy 250GB hard drive) and cut the things that most folks can live without (Bluetooth, DVI/HDMI outputs, eSATA and a multi-card reader). For $499 (or as low as $429), it would be a really challenge to find a nicer looking, more capable machine that is built to these standards.


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The G530 isn't without its quirks, however. The display should definitely be matte, the trackpad buttons are lackluster, the inside styling is decidedly plain and the battery life is nothing to write home about. None of those gripes add up to a deal-breaker in our mind though, and the smooth overall experience makes it a lot easier to overlook the negatives. Plus, Windows 7 is just around the bend, which should make for an even more efficient environment. If you don't expect the aforementioned issues to really be a bother to you, we'd certainly recommend giving the G530 serious consideration.



  • Classy Design
  • Beautiful Display
  • Full-size Keyboard
  • Excellent Value
  • 3GB of RAM
  • Quiet and Cool

 

  • Gaming Performance
  • Subpar Battery Life
  • Annoying Lenovo Software
  • Plain Inside
  • Glossy Panel

 




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