Lenovo B50-30, First Take: A Windows notebook at a Chromebook price point

Summary:If you're envious of the affordability of Chrome OS laptops, but need to run Windows applications, Lenovo's 15.6-inch B50-30 has much to recommend it.

Low-cost business notebooks don't get much less expensive than the Lenovo B50-30, which starts at £190.83 (ex. VAT, £229 inc. VAT). Aimed at the small business market, the 15.6-inch B50-30 is a basic but functional Windows notebook that'll handle everyday workloads such as email, web browsing and low-level document/spreadsheet work.

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Lenovo's B50-30 is an affordable 15.6-inch Windows notebook aimed at small businesses. Image: Lenovo

The Lenovo B50-30 is powered by Intel's 2.16/2.41GHz dual-core Celeron N2830 processor and is supported by 4GB of RAM (expandable to a maximum of 8GB). It's not an especially speedy combination, and we noticed pauses for applications to open and websites to resolve during the review period. How you perceive the B50-30's performance will depend on how demanding your favourite apps are, how much you multitask and your patience.

Build quality is very solid as far as the chassis is concerned, and if you don't mind lugging 2.15kg (or 2.32kg with the optional optical drive), this notebook should survive in transit without a protective case. The keyboard is another matter: as a light-touch typist, I found it comfortable to use — but when I started bashing the keys there was a significant degree of flex in the keyboard that heavier-handed typists may find unacceptable.

The keyboard layout is rather good. The 38cm by 26.2cm by 2.47cm chassis means there's space for a slightly reduced-size number pad and a long row above the number keys comprising no fewer than 20 keys, including the 12 Fn keys. The touchpad, which has a pair of physical buttons, is responsive and functional but does not support multitouch gestures.

The large 15.6-inch screen has a matte finish, as befits a business-focused notebook. It's bright enough for everyday use, but low resolution at 1,366 by 768 pixels. There's no touchscreen option.

A big laptop like this has room for an optical drive. There are also three USB ports, although only one of them is USB 3.0. You also get an Ethernet (RJ-45) port plus VGA and HDMI connectors. There's a headset/microphone combo jack and an SD card reader too.

The 320GB hard drive should be large enough for most needs. For wireless connectivity there's 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n, with Bluetooth 4.0 optional. Lenovo claims up to six hours' battery life for the B50-30.

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Lenovo's extensive software bundle includes a nice Settings utility. Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Windows 8.1 is accompanied by quite a lot of extra Lenovo software, including face-recognition login via Lenovo VeriFace Pro and the 720p webcam that sits above the screen, McAfee LiveSafe Internet Security and various other apps including a rather nice Lenovo Settings utility that lets you manage various system features and settings.

You can't expect a notebook that starts at £190.83 (ex. VAT, £229 inc. VAT) to be brimming with bells and whistles, but you have every right to expect a solid workhorse. Although it's a moderate performer and only has one USB 3.0 port, the Lenovo B50-30 is an excellent option for those seeking a low-cost Windows laptop.

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Topics: Laptops, Lenovo, Mobility, Reviews

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