The best Lenovo laptops for students, gamers, and business pros - 12 minutes read
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Whether you're a student looking for a simple Chromebook, or you need a laptop that's a little more flexible for your varied needs (looking at you, Yoga), these are the best Lenovo laptops to fit the bill.
From students and business professionals to gamers and content creators, everyone needs a reliable laptop to help them get things done or make their downtime that much more enjoyable. After all, the last thing you need is for your laptop to crap out on you because it can't handle your high level of multitasking on a busy morning. Or, possibly even worse, it can't handle the latest, greatest video game that you've been dying to play all week when you finally get one free afternoon to yourself.
We rely so much on our tech devices these days that it's barely dramatic to go into full meltdown mode when they can't handle what we need them to do. (We've all been there, right? Especially since working from home has become so prevalent.) So if this sounds all too familiar and you're in the market for a more dependable laptop, just know that we've got your back. Lenovo, in particular, makes some mighty fine laptops to fit a variety of needs and budgets, and we're about to dive into what makes them so great and which models suit a selection of the most common users.
First, let's decode the different Lenovo laptop models.
Lenovo is a major tech company and has been making some of the best laptops in recent years. Their lineup runs the gamut from simple, affordable Chromebooks all the way up to heavy-duty mobile workstations fit for the most demanding creative professionals. But if you're not sure about which line of Lenovo laptops is fit for your needs (and your budget), it can get a little confusing to find your best option. Fortunately, we've got your back with a quick breakdown of the different types of the best Lenovo laptops to help you figure out which one may be right for you.
ThinkPad: These are Lenovo's business laptops, and you can typically spot them at a glance by their matte black finish. They tend to have great keyboards and long battery life, so they're definitely made for getting things done. They also include a lot of IT-friendly features that make them a popular choice for companies or schools that provide their employees or students with laptops, but that doesn't mean they're too stuffy for the common person to buy on their own. Within this line, there are subclasses noted by letter, including: the elite ThinkPad X and X1 series, the environmentally friendly ThinkPad L series, and the ThinkPad P series of mobile workstations. Plus, there's also the Lenovo ThinkBook, a separate line of laptops that are more budget-minded. IdeaPad: This is Lenovo's line of laptops aimed directly at the common consumer, as opposed to the ThinkPad’s role as a business laptop. The selection of Lenovo IdeaPads ranges from simple and affordable to high-end Ultrabooks. This line also includes a number of Lenovo IdeaPad Chromebooks for those seeking a budget-friendly solution for their laptop needs. They run Google's simplified Chrome OS which is primarily web-based, so they don't have a lot of power to run big programs. However, they're a great option for kids and students of all ages who need a lightweight companion for taking notes, writing papers, doing homework, and researching on the web. Yoga: These are Lenovo's hybrid laptops, offering convertible functionality. Technically, they're known as 2-in-1 laptops, but they can really handle a great number of different configurations thanks to their sturdy 360-degree hinge. You can use it in the standard laptop position while working and browsing; put it in tablet mode for a full touchscreen experience, or for drawing or note-taking; fold it like a tent for a better view of streaming content; or place it in stand mode to play games or show off presentations without the keyboard getting in the way. No matter which mode you use them in, you can depend on the Lenovo Yoga lineup to offer strong battery life and impressive displays. You may also see the Lenovo Flex line of laptops, which is a less expensive convertible laptop that still offers a lot of the same features as the Lenovo Yoga lineup. Legion: This is Lenovo's line of dedicated gaming laptops. They offer solid performance to handle even the most demanding video games at their highest settings, and they're offered in a range of affordable prices. All of the Lenovo gaming laptops used to live under the IdeaPad line, but moved over to their own dedicated line in the past few years. They definitely stand up strong to their competitors' gaming laptops in terms of performance, but some users might find that their style is a little plain in comparison.
Overall, Lenovo isn’t quite as good as other laptop brands (namely Dell) when it comes to naming their products clearly so that potential customers can find the exact size and pricing tier they want with just a simple glance. Lenovo’s naming conventions have evolved many times over the years, and appear to change on a whim. So while you may not be able to simply look at the numbering of a Lenovo laptop model and know exactly what it offers, you can still trust that the distinct ThinkPad, IdeaPad, Yoga, and Legion lineups will point you in the general direction you want as you begin your laptop search.
As you figure out which line of Lenovo laptop is the best choice for you, you'll also want to consider all the inner workings that make a laptop function at peak performance. Depending on your needs, upgrading certain components could be overkill (and quite costly, at that), so it's key to understand what each part does before you go topping up all the specs on a custom build. That said, let's break down all the different technical aspects that can vary — and often be customized — to help your laptop run the way you need it.
CPU: Officially known as the central processing unit, this is basically the brain of the computer as it communicates with all of the other working parts inside to keep things running smooth as can be. You'll need a pretty heavy-duty processor if you plan to run demanding applications, such as video-editing software, design programs, and video games. If you don't, the programs are likely to lag or even crash as they overpower your machine. However, if you'll mostly just be reading emails, browsing the web, and typing up some documents, you can definitely get away with a less powerful processor, like an Intel Core i5 or even an i3. GPU: If the CPU is the brains, the GPU is the beauty. The graphics card essentially determines how well the visuals on your laptop are rendered, which is absolutely key for gamers and those working in creative fields. If you want to run demanding software and play video games at their highest settings, you'll need an impressive graphics card, such as those offered by Nvidia. Basic tasks and even some light streaming, however, will be served just fine by a standard Intel graphics card. RAM: This is basically your system's short-term memory and it helps to determine how many things your laptop can do at once without becoming overwhelmed and completely crapping out on you. If you like to do a lot of multitasking (we see you, with your 40 open tabs, three Excel spreadsheets, and Spotify running in the background), then you'll probably want to opt for "random-access memory" of 8GB. To allow heavy-duty software and video games to run smoothly and efficiently, you'll want to amp things up to 16GB of RAM. However, if you're mostly completing simple, web-based tasks on your Lenovo laptop, 4GB of RAM should serve you just fine. Storage: These days, the vast options for cloud storage has made the demand for seemingly excessive amounts of on-board storage almost obsolete for many laptop users. Unless you're saving huge files, have lots of photos and videos, or need to install and run large programs or games that need to save a lot of data to your hard drive, you probably will never even come close to reaching the 1TB threshold on some higher-end laptops. Instead, save some cash by going for a lower storage tier, like 512GB or 256GB. Display: The things you look at on your laptop — from photos on websites to streaming content to video games — will really only look as good as your display will allow, regardless of how great other components, such as the GPU, may be. You really don't want to dip below 1080p resolution (also known as Full HD, or FHD) unless, of course, you enjoy the primitive aesthetic of grainy images and text. Gamers and creatives may want to step things up to a 2K or even 4K display to get the most out of their visuals. Many of the best Lenovo laptops also come equipped with Dolby Vision, another name for high dynamic range (HDR) which allows for enhanced contrast, sharpness, depth, and detail.
Lenovo actually set the bar when it comes to 2-in-1 laptops. Other brands like HP and Dell only jumped on the bandwagon after they debuted the then-radical rotating screens of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga in the early 2010s. Not only are these touchscreen laptops fun, but their convertibility makes them super functional, too. The sturdy 360-degree hinges of these convertible laptops allow them to rotate from closed laptop to flat tablet mode in a flash, with the ability to stop anywhere in between for optimum productivity for the task at hand. Use your Lenovo Yoga as a conventional laptop, as a tablet for reading or art, in tent mode for touch-based gaming, or in stand mode for prime video viewing.
Today, Lenovo convertible laptops live primarily within their Yoga line, but some do fall into a class of ThinkPad Yogas. This merged line indicates Lenovo Yoga convertibility, but in the form of a business laptop for a more professional user base. And though Lenovo was one of the first to ever do it, tons of other brands have now put together some of the on the market, in case you’re looking for some more variety in your choice.
Lenovo was a little late to the game, only debuting its line of laptops specifically dedicated to gaming in 2017. Previously, Lenovo's gaming laptops fell into the IdeaPad line, but it wasn't easy for consumers to tell which laptops were actually made for gaming. Thus, the Legion family was born to differentiate these powerful behemoths from the standard, everyday laptop for general users.
You can build your own Lenovo Legion with top specifications to create a truly mighty laptop, including an insanely powerful Intel Core i9 processor, a top-tier Nvidia GeForce graphics card, and an intense amount of storage space well above 1TB. This will allow you to play the most demanding video games on the market at their highest settings. (You know, the way they were meant to be played.) This type of premium laptop build will come at a premium price, of course, so you can certainly step down the tech specs a little for a better price with little compromise in performance.
Despite their intense power and outstanding performance, picky gamers might be disappointed to find that Legion gaming laptops aren't necessarily as sleek and attractive on the outside as some other brands, so you may want to consider the from a variety of different brands to find the one that looks as good outside as it functions inside.
Depending on your intended usage, you'll want to keep an eye on a certain set of technical specs to ensure that the laptop will fit your needs without costing you lots of extra money for components you'll never use.
Heavy-duty gamers and creative professionals should seek high-end GPU and CPU, as well as RAM upwards of 16GB. This will ensure that your software will run smoothly and you'll get to appreciate every detail of your work or play.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, users who just need a simple laptop for mostly web-based tasks can get away with a lower-spec processor and graphics card, and 4GB of RAM should do just fine. If this sounds like you, trust that there's no need to splurge on higher tech specs. A more affordable Lenovo laptop will still offer great quality without being overkill for your needs (or your pockets). But, if you’re looking for more options, the on the market today run the gamut across all the laptop brands, not just Lenovo.
Another aspect you may want to consider when choosing your laptop is less about what's on the inside, and more about how it can connect to things on the outside. The availability of ports on a laptop is key if you plan to plug in thumb drives, a mouse, a microphone, or even an SD card for easy transfer of media files.
Beyond that, finding the best Lenovo laptop is really all about how you need to use it. So, we picked out a bunch of our favorites for a variety of different wants and needs below. Whether you're a business professional, a gamer, a content creator, a student, or a little mix-and-match of them all, one of these Lenovo laptops should fit the bill.
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