If you’re a college student then you’re probably dreading the decision to choose your next laptop. I’ve been there and done that and it is not an easy decision to make. Almost a decade back, the choice was somewhat limited. In 2019, however, the choice for a great back-to-college laptop is seemingly endless. Be it Lenovo, HP, Dell or Asus, they all have something for every laptop buyer. Even Apple updated its MacBook lineup, making it a bit cheaper for back-to-school season. The choice always boils down to what kind of an ecosystem you want to get into. When I was in college, my need centered around a Windows laptop since college only offered Windows compatible software.
If you’re looking at a Windows laptop, then the choice can be even more daunting. It is not just about OEMs, but also a wide array of form factors that Windows OEMs offer these days. While the traditional clamshell design has ruled over the industry, it might be time to look at convertibles. When it comes to convertible design then Lenovo is no stranger. While Yoga series has always been about convertibles, Lenovo is extending that design to IdeaPad as well. The new Lenovo IdeaPad C340 is aimed directly at college students who would need a traditional laptop and might appreciate the flexibility of a tablet at times. It is available starting at Rs 52,490 and here is my review.
Design and Display
If you have seen Lenovo’s Yoga-branded laptop then there is a fair chance that you would mistake the IdeaPad C340 for a Yoga device. That is obviously the appeal of Yoga and success it has brought to the convertible form factor. The IdeaPad C340 builds on the design language seen with the Yoga 500 series. It features an aluminum unibody construction with a hinge that connects the display to the keyboard area. The hinge allows for the device to effectively switch from laptop mode to tent mode or tablet mode.
The Lenovo IdeaPad C340 features a 14-inch display with Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The display has considerably thin bezels surrounding it. However, it is not as thin as the one seen on Asus’ ZenBook series. The lower bezel, in particular, looks huge for a 2019 design and its purpose remains unknown since Lenovo did not even bother to put its logo there. The hinge itself is two pieces of metal elements that rotate around their circumference.
After using Lenovo IdeaPad C340 for two weeks, I really see the advantage of having a convertible form factor for all kinds of laptop price point. However, the hinge itself is not as sturdy as the one seen on the Yoga series. If you hold the keyboard area of the laptop and hold it in air then there is a possibility the display will retract. That’s one of the disadvantages of convertible design but on IdeaPad C340, it can get irritating. If you work with the laptop on a desk then it is a non-issue but if you are like me, who works from the bed, it can be a real pain.
The switching between laptop mode, stand mode or tablet mode is effortless. Most consumers complain how it is a task to switch between form factors. With IdeaPad C340, it is really easy. Since it weighs only 1.65Kg, you don’t feel any bulk while holding the laptop and switching form factors. One complaint that I do have is the tablet mode. In tablet mode, the keyboard sits behind the display. I often found myself pressing those keys. One day while watching a YouTube video, I was pressing those keys so often that my sister had to shout to make me stop. This may not be a problem and depending on your love for keyboard, you can decide.
Our review unit came in Platinum finish but Lenovo also offers the C340 in blue and black colors. There is a Lenovo branding on the lid and a smaller branding on the palm rest. The laptop also carries branding for Intel chipset, Nvidia graphics and one for eSupport. There are two USB 3.1 ports on the right side alongside a card reader, power button and Novo button. On the left, there is a DC-in jack, HDMI, USB Type-C port and headphone jack. Interestingly, one of the USB Type-A ports is always-on, meaning it can devices even when it is shutdown. This turns the IdeaPad C340 into a huge and portable power bank.
The display is a Full HD panel with 16:9 aspect ratio and has a brightness equivalent to 250 nits. I found the display to have good contrast and offer vivid colors but it works like any other glossy panel. In my bright office setting, I had difficulty looking at the display when the light reflected directly from the surface. While it is rated at 250 nits of brightness, I found it not so pleasant when you set the brightness to less than 50 percent. Since it’s been raining in Mumbai, I really could not see how this display looks under direct sunlight. My guess is that it would be hard to see anything on the display. If you are never going to use the laptop in a brightly lit area then this display won’t be an issue.
Performance and Battery Life
Lenovo offers the IdeaPad C340 with option for 8th generation Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 mobile processor. Our review unit came with Intel Core i5-8265U, which is a quad-core processor with base frequency of 1.8GHz and max turbo frequency up to 3.9GHz. The processor is fabricated using 14nm process and 6MB Smartcache. Our review unit also came with 8GB of RAM, 512GB SSD storage and NVIDIA GeForce MX230 graphics card. This particular configuration is priced at Rs 77,790 and is a step-up from the base Core i3 model.
The first and most obvious thing you would notice is how fast it is to boot. The Lenovo IdeaPad C340 starts in flat 12 seconds thanks to its PCIe SSD storage. For comparison, my work laptop takes 15 minutes to start and load all the policies and startup applications. The boot sequence is also aided by a Windows installation that is almost free of any kind of bloatware. In terms of performance, the IdeaPad C340 is almost perfect for most basic uses. Whether you are using it for mail or writing a project or compiling it on LaTeX, the laptop can handle these tasks without breaking a sweat.
It is also great for media consumption and that stand or tent mode will come in handy in the dorm room. While it has a Nvidia GeForce MX230, the laptop is not suited for gaming, not even casual gaming. Since you will have to set the games to lowest of resolution, the fun in gaming gets ruined even before you start. The laptop is best suited for web-based activities, writing, project work and media consumption. That assessment is only backed by Cinebench where the CPU score is only marginally better than third-generation Intel Core i5 CPU which has a higher clock frequency. If there is one deal breaker then it is the 8GB RAM where one of the 4GB RAM modules is soldered to the motherboard. It means you only have one slot for upgrading the RAM, which is still better than having none.
In my tests, I noticed that single-core applications worked relatively well while multi-core applications performed fine. With demanding applications, you really feel like pushing the processor to its edge via the fan noise. My work day, which involves a number of browser tabs spread across Chrome and Edge, Spotify and Slack running in the background. I got a battery life equivalent to around four and a half and five hours with brightness set to maximum. When I switched entirely to Edge Chromium beta, I managed to squeeze another half hour of battery life. While it is not as great as the claimed eight hours, it is respectable for this segment. The laptop also charges rather quickly via the bundled 65W adaptor. I only wish Lenovo had used USB Type-C instead of DC-in for charging. Even the power brick is huge for a device supposed to mobile.
Keyboard, Trackpad and Stylus
Input devices plays a pivotal role in the making or breaking of a computing device. With that in mind, Lenovo has also added stylus support in addition to standard input methods. I want to say this straight away: the trackpad is bad. It struggles with the most basic of gestures. For instance, if you try to move windows, it would end up minimizing them. It would be a good idea to use a wireless mouse instead with the IdeaPad C340. It does seem to support Windows Precision drivers but the response is not the smoothest.
While the trackpad is a disappointment, the keyboard is a pleasant experience. The keys are well laid out and have enough travel to ensure positive feedback. I could type easily on this keyboard and even saw a marginal gain in my typing speed after few days. The keyboard also supports two stage backlit, which would come in handy when you want to type with the lights turned off. If there is one thing to dislike then it is the dual role of function keys. For instance, pressing ALT+F4 won’t immediately offer you the option to turn off the laptop. It rather turns off the microphone on the laptop. Some might like it while others would prefer full function keys instead.
The IdeaPad C340 also comes with a stylus support. The stylus works similar to the way it does on other pen supported Lenovo laptops. It is pressure sensitive enough to do sketching on the digital canvas. You can even tilt and sketch on the device. It is ideal for note taking since there is almost no lag while inputting text or numbers. The same cannot be said while drawing or sketching. The feature is a neat addition to a laptop that does not cost north of a lakh rupees in India.
Software and TrueBlock Privacy
Above the display, the Lenovo IdeaPad C340 features a shutter button that can block the webcam. Called TrueBlock Privacy Shutter, it works similar to ThinkShutter on ThinkPad models. As someone who attends multiple conference calls, there have been occasions when I have accidentally enabled the camera. Remember that Facebook live video where Mark Zuckerberg had put a sticker on the webcam. You can avoid that sticker since the shutter works like a switch. It is an easy way to enable or disable the webcam and I had it disabled for most part.
The IdeaPad C340 runs Windows 10 version 1809, also called as October 2018 update. The update had a troubled roll out but the version on IdeaPad covers all the fixes. This update finally brings dark mode to explorer and a shortcut tool for snip and sketch. One of the big features is the revamped start menu search upgrade. The update now shows several tabs that categorize the search results. Microsoft has also updated the Your Phone companion app to better function with Android smartphone. Windows 10 has improved greatly since its initial release. While Microsoft has faced issues with bugs, it has also been quick to address them.
Verdict: Should you buy?
With the IdeaPad C340, Lenovo is targeting an audience that would be looking for a back-to-school kind of a machine. Here the need is for reliable performance, solid build quality and a price that is not far fetched. Lenovo seems to be checking on all of those boxes. The laptop has great build quality and the convertible form factor makes it versatile. The ability to watch a movie after a busy school day in tent mode is something you cannot get with a clamshell. It is important to note that the IdeaPad C340 is by no means perfect.
The fingerprint sensor does not always recognize the registered finger. This means you will have to clean the sensor or your finger before trying again. The webcam is good but most would prefer doing video call on their smartphone. There is a USB Type-C port but it is not used for charging and it also does not support fast charging other devices. The speaker sounds tinny and is placed in an area which gets covered in tablet mode It is also not short of competition. There is Lenovo ThinkBook 13s and Dell Inspiron 5482 in the same price segment. Lenovo wins for its neat privacy feature and overall package.