This AMD Laptop may be TOO GOOD to Sell – Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Review
Table of contents
This review is going to start with a little bit of a rant, because this is one product that has really tested our patience despite actually being quite good. The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 – also known as the Yoga Slim 7 in some of regions – sports a Ryzen 4000U series processor and it’s actually one of the best AMD thin-and-light notebooks anyone at the office has seen so far. It sounds good, right? Well that is where the problem starts. You see our sample comes with the Ryzen 7 4800U, which features 8 cores and 16 threads all crammed into a super-efficient package. Now AMD announced this processor back at CES this year, but unfortunately due to delays it only started rolling out into devices in the last month or two. Not only that, but Lenovo oddly never planned to offer that CPU in this notebook in North America, ever. The only variants that they offered were the Ryzen 7 4700U, which is a 6-core/12-thread processor. Un some regions you were also able to get the Ryzen 5 processor as well. And I’m okay with that because those two CPUs are still great, and when you pack that into such an efficient notebook it’s perfect.
However, it’s still not that simple, because it’s like this AMD model has never existed on the Lenovo site. If you do a web search for it what pops up on Lenovo’s website is notice that this model is not sold out, not back-ordered, but straight up no longer available at all. And this happens just as AMD starts shipping the new 4000U series in higher volumes. Now you might be wondering what this model is being replaced with? Well an Intel model supporting the Ice Lake CPUs, which basically cost more for less performance and shorter battery life. I just don’t get it. In the end, it’s ultimately the buyers who are being screwed by these companies who are offering less options for more money and less performance. It just absolutely frustrates me. I’m just hoping that this is a temporary thing, and I really, really hope that Lenovo brings this model back. Either way, we are going to go ahead and publish this review for folks who can actually buy the Yoga Slim 7 in other regions.
Specs & Price
Before I get into the specs, I do want to reiterate one more time that this laptop has two different names and it all depends on which region you are in. In North America it’s called the IdeaPad Slim 7 while in other regions it’s the Yoga Slim 7. Now let’s go over the specs, the starting config comes with a Ryzen 5 4500U 6-core processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB NVMe SSD. The sample that I have over here provided by AMD comes with a Ryzen 7 4800U with 8 cores and 16 threads, 16GB of wicked fast LPDDR4x-4266, and storage remains the same. When it comes to pricing supposedly it was starting at $850 USD and you can spec this thing all the way up to $1100 USD, but I can’t really confirm that because this notebook isn’t available here in North America at the moment.
I really like what Lenovo has done with the design of the Slim 7. It comes in the sandstone grey finish – which I really like – and it’s an all-metal build. I honestly can’t complain about build quality because this is by far the best AMD-based ultrabook that I have ever looked at. There is very little keyboard flex, the hinge is very smooth to open and close, but the screen does get a bit wobbly. There is a little lip at the top to make it easier for users to open the laptop, but in my case I just had difficulty doing that. I have to really give it a little bit of force or a lot of force to open this thing, so that was really frustrating. Also, the screen can be open all the way to 180 degrees flat, but I’m not really sure who would take advantage of this orientation.
Size & Weight
For those of you wondering about the size of the Slim 7 it’s only 14.9mm thick and it only weighs about 3.08 lbs/1.40 kg. If you want to take this thing to school or coffee shops or business meetings this notebook will perfectly fit that criteria. It’s very light and I really like the form factor. The keys are spaced appropriately and the secondary functions are laid out really well within the function keys. By default they are primary, but you can change that to secondary keys through Lenovo’s Vantage software. The power button is actually located on the edge by the I/O and it’s pretty easy to reach.
Keyboard & Trackpad
The keys themselves are pretty good overall. The only thing is that if you’re coming from something like a proper ThinkPad series notebook you are not going to like the shorter travel distance. It’s a very limited amount of travel, but on the positive side there is much less key wobble and I think you get used to it over time. The trackpad is nice, it is a glass surface with support for Windows Precision drivers. The only thing is that I did find the responsiveness to be a little bit behind the competition. It’s pretty good, fine for most people, but I have tried a lot of different notebooks featuring really good glass trackpads and they were definitely more responsive. The primary left and right buttons are integrated, and interestingly enough I did notice a little bit of a rattling sound when I was clicking the left button. I’m not exactly sure if this is just our sample, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
Webcam / Mic / Speakers / Ports
This is what the webcam looks like on the Slim 7. The quality is not that great, but it’s passable for a laptop at this price point. However, I am surprised by the microphone, it’s actually pretty good. I have a refrigerator running in the background and it does a pretty good job actually isolating that so you can actually hear me properly. For business meetings or Skype conversations this thing passes. The speakers on the Slim 7 are front-facing and I appreciate Lenovo for going with this orientation because the sound projection is excellent. There is good clarity with the vocals, so if you’re listening to music that is heavily vocal emphasized you are going to have a really good time with this notebook. The only thing is that the bass response is very low, so that is something to keep in mind for casual music listening and just content consumption. It’s obviously not as good as something like the XPS 13 and some premium notebooks, but for the price point it’s good.
Port selection is respectable on the Slim 7. On the left-hand side you get a USB-C PD port which is what you use to charge the laptop and it only supports that standard. You also get a full-sized HDMI port and another Type-C port, but this one is multi-functions and works as a USB 3.2 Gen2 port, a DisplayPort for video output, and it also supports PD 3.0 charging. Thankfully you also get a 3.5mm audio jack. Switching to the right-hand side, you get two USB Type-A Gen1 ports and a microSD card reader.
Moving on to the display, this is a 14-inch 1080P IPS panel with a refresh rate of 60Hz. Now my first impressions were really good, the colours looked nice and there were good viewing angles. As you can see it covers 99% sRGB, 74% Adobe RGB, and 77% DCI-P3, so for content consumption and maybe a little bit of photo editing this should get the job done. The thing is I usually do my display analysis test on notebooks when they are plugged in, but as soon as I unplugged this laptop the contrast ratio was just way off. Videos looked super washed out, the highlights were just blown out, it just didn’t do it any justice. I did perform a display analysis test when it was running in battery mode and there were some variances with the contrast ratios as well. It’s such a weird thing to experience when you are on battery and when you are not on battery. Lenovo claims that this panel can get as bright as 300 nits, but for my analysis it was only able to hit 275 nits, and when you pair that with a super glossy display outdoor visibility is completely out of question. So if you spend a lot of time outdoors this is certainly not for you.
Upgradability / SSD / Battery Life
Upgradability is not that flexible with the Slim 7. As you can see, the SSD is the only component that is user upgradable, the memory soldered onto the PCB, and that is pretty much it. The drive speeds are fast, in fact it’s one of the fastest SSDs we have come across. The battery is huge at 61Wh, and in our light load test it did really well by surpassing the XPS 13 by a long shot by lasting for about 16 hours. It’s not quite close to the ASUS ZenBook 14, but that is to be expected because it’s that model has a bigger battery and a more efficient 4700U processor. Under heavy load the Slim 7 did okay, lasting for about 2 hours and 40 minutes. I did expect this because the 4800U 8-core/16-thread CPU is more power hungry than the rest of the lineup.
At this point I really want to move on to how the Slim 7 performs, but before I should mention that there were some pretty odd behavior from it in different power modes. You see Lenovo offers three modes in their Vantage software, there is Battery Saver, Intelligent Cooling, and Extreme Performance. Remember the Ryzen 7 4000U is rated to operate at a default TDP of 15W, but it can be configured between 10W and 25W. All three performance modes offer very different profiles with Intelligent Cooling spiking to about 22W for about one minute before it goes to under 15W for the rest of our all-core load. The battery saver mode seems to be set to between 10W and 12W, but it’s the Extreme Performance mode that I really wanted to talk about. It pushes power consumption above AMD’s spec to the point where the 4800U is sucking down about 30W and it actually peaks higher than 40W. I mean TDP or thermal design power and actual power consumption are two different metrics, but that is still a lot of heat for a thin-and-light notebook to manage.
You can actually see that the Extreme Performance mode is smashing the IdeaPad’s cooling solution right in the face. It actually peaks around 108°C before Lenovo’s algorithm started fluctuating input power to cool things off. This is actually above AMD’s 105°C max temperature rating, which is a bit concerning, but luckily it doesn’t stay at that temperature for long. Meanwhile the other two settings ended up being really well behaved by staying below 75°C most of the time. Now that leads to some really high all-core frequencies in Extreme Performance mode, while Intelligent Cooling and Battery Saver end up a lot lower.
It’s also important to understand what will happen to performance because of those frequency spikes right at the beginning. They will inflates scores for shorter synthetic benchmarks like Cinebench, while longer loads like rendering in Blender or video transcoding will show more of a realistic behavior. You can see that exactly in Cinebench R15 since it’s a short test. There is a huge impact by moving from Extreme to other modes, the same goes for something like Microsoft word, which doesn’t load the CPU all that much. However, when moving on to longer tests there is a pretty significant performance penalty by moving away from the highest setting. This is something that you will need to take into consideration as we go through the benchmarks together. We always test in the highest performance mode, and in this case that translates to about 30W of input power, while other laptops in this category usually top out at a maximum of 25W.
We use Cinebench as a basic comparison, but as you will see all of our other tests have moved to actual use cases to give you a better idea of where a laptop stands in real-life situations. With 16 threads chewing through multithreaded apps, it’s pretty obvious that the Slim 7 would be way faster than anything else in the thin-and-light laptop market. These numbers actually put it in competition with Intel’s H-series rather than anything they have in the ultra-low wattage category. However, as we move on to more lightly threaded the applications, the AMD notebook starts struggling to keep up. At times the 4800U is still pretty competitive, but it can lose pretty significantly against something like Ice Lake-equipped XPS 13 in Microsoft Office applications. Then again, it’s a pretty good option whenever an app needs more than a few cores.
Normally you wouldn’t use a thin-and-light for a lot of gaming, but the IdeaPad 7 gets by pretty well at 1080P if you keep the details to low. This is also another area where Intel’s Ice Lake platform just falls flat on its face. Remember what I said at the beginning about Lenovo switching to just Intel for the Slim 7? Well by this point it’s pretty obvious that that was a mistake from a raw performance standpoint.
Surface temperatures do get quite warm, especially when you use this thing in the Extreme Performance setting. It does get quite toasty but that is to be expected considering that you have an 8-core/16-thread 4800U jammed into a thin-and-light package. A 4800U that is being pumped full of wattage too!
That pretty much wraps up this review, and honestly I’m really impressed with what Lenovo has done with the Yoga Slim 7 / IdeaPad Slim 7. The only issue that I have with this laptop is the fact that you actually can’t buy it, even with the 4700U processor. And to me the most frustrating thing about it the fact that they switched to Intel CPUs, which is just unfathomable. From a performance standpoint you’re paying more but getting less and it just makes no sense. If we can find one of these in-stock it’s a gem, buy it. The performance, the package, the build quality, the keyboard, all of it makes it a solid device, minus the small display issue that I had with the plug-in versus the battery mode but that could easily be fixed with a firmware update.