At this time of year, many parents are shopping around for laptops for their offspring, as they prepare for university in the autumn. Such a machine needs to have a decent-sized screen and a good keyboard, but remain reasonably portable. It also needs to be a good all-round performer, with enough graphics horsepower to run entertainment apps as well as mainstream productivity software. Long battery life is nice to have, but not top of the wish-list, given that mains power will usually be available in lecture theatres, halls of residence and libraries. Budget is more important, and the maximum price will usually be in the region of £500.
One contender we've recently been examining is Lenovo's IdeaPad Z575, a 15.6in. AMD A6-powered system with a good mix of features and a price — in our review sample's case — of £479.99 (inc. VAT; £399.99 ex. VAT) from PC World.
The IdeaPad Z575 is a sizeable system measuring 37.6cm wide by 25cm deep by 3.55cm thick and weighing 2.6kg. However, it'll fit in most decent-sized laptop bags, and those dimensions do accommodate a 15.6in. LED-backlit screen with a resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels. The screen is glossy, but we didn't find the reflectivity too distracting, even in a brightly-lit office. The AccuType keyboard uses isolated chiclet-style keys, and there's room for a separate number pad, which should prove useful in many student disciplines. The keyboard's layout is sensible, and it's comfortable to type on — there's little flex, which is something that can beset the wider keyboard. The large multitouch touchpad works well, too, although we prefer separate left and right buttons to the single large rocker that's present here.
Despite its size, the Z575 looks quite sleek, with a pleasing metal finish and understated branding. Dotted around the sides are a reasonable set of ports and connectors: VGA, HDMI, eSATA/USB 2.0 combo and USB 2.0 on the left; a pair of audio jacks, two more USB 2.0 ports and an Ethernet connector on the right, along with a multiformat DVD drive (Blu-ray is an option). The back is taken up by the 48Wh 6-cell battery, while the front has a card reader for SD- and Memory Stick-compatible media and an on/off switch for the 802.11n Wi-Fi module. A 720p webcam sits in the usual location in the middle of the top screen bezel. Noticeable by their absence are USB 3.0 and Bluetooth.
The processor behind the IdeaPad Z575 is AMD's quad-core A6-3420M APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) running at a base speed of 1.5GHz that's automatically overclockable to 2.4GHz via TurboCore. This is supported by a generous 8GB of RAM in two DIMM slots. The graphics subsystem is well specified too, being a Dual Graphics setup comprising integrated Radeon HD 6520G and discrete HD Radeon 6650M GPUs. Storage comes in the form of a capacious 750GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm.
All this results in good performance across the board, as shown by the system's Windows Experience Index (the IdeaPad runs 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium):
The standout subsystem, performance-wise, is Memory (RAM) with 7.2 out of 7.9; also impressive are Gaming graphics and Processor with 6.6 and 6.5 respectively. Nothing lets the system down, though, making the IdeaPad Z575 a very good performer for the price.
Add in SRS Premium Sound to enhance any gaming or video watching, and a typically useful Lenovo software bundle, and you're looking at a good student-friendly laptop for an attractive price.