Lenovo’s Legion series includes some of the best high-performance gaming laptops, but if you want something more economical, there is the IdeaPad Gaming range to explore. Catering to the budget and mid-range segments, the range includes laptops powered by either Intel or AMD CPUs paired with Nvidia GeForce graphics.
Sitting at the top of the lineup is the latest 7th-generation IdeaPad Gaming 3i, where ‘i’ indicates Intel, available in either 15-inch or 16-inch screen options. The highest configuration features Intel’s Core i7-12700H with 16GB of RAM, a 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 laptop GPU with a 16-inch WQHD+ display. But is it actually good enough? Here’s an inside look…
Design and build
Compared to the older generation, like the one we reviewed a couple of years ago, the 2022 model has an updated design. It takes inspiration from the more expensive Legion series having limited ports on the sides with the rest placed at the back. I personally appreciate this approach, especially when it comes to gaming notebooks. There is also sufficient ventilation with exhaust vents on the sides and back as well as a perforated section at the bottom to pull in fresh air.
The laptop is predominantly covered in plastic with a dark grey finish that the company calls Onyx Grey, with blue-coloured air vents. I found the chassis to be fairly solid even though it does flex in places, including the lid and the keyboard deck. Even the screen wobbles a bit which is noticeable while typing, but the shakes are minimised when using the laptop on a sturdy desk. The laptop sports minimalistic branding with only the Lenovo logo on the corner of the lid and IdeaPad Gaming embossed on the edge of the lid. In terms of weight and dimensions, it weighs 2.4kgs with a thickness of almost 21mm which is something that is expected from a large 16-inch gaming laptop.
Coming to I/O, on the left there is a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port and a headphone combo jack. On the right, there is a single USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port and the rear is home to HDMI 2.0, RJ45 Ethernet, Lenovo’s proprietary charging port and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port with support for Thunderbolt 4. Do note that only the model with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060 GPU comes with Thunderbolt, while the other models have a standard USB Type-C port that supports USB 3.2 Gen 2 speeds. The laptop also features a wireless network card with support for Wi-Fi 6 along with Bluetooth 5.0.
Getting to the internals is tricky and it is recommended to go through the manual as the screws at the bottom need to be removed in a certain order. Once you get in, you can see the 71WHr battery, the cooling fans that are connected with two heat pipes and the rest of the components. The dual-channel SODIMMs are hidden under a casing and are easy to remove. There are certain models of this laptop that come with single-channel memory, and I’d recommend that you go for dual-channel for the best performance. Other than that, there is an M.2 NVMe PCIe Gen 4 SSD, but it comes in the 2242 size and not the standard 2280. However, there is a longer secondary M.2 slot to add additional storage which is limited to PCIe Gen 3. You can additionally swap/upgrade the Wi-Fi card.
The 16-inch 16:10 IPS display on the IdeaPad Gaming 3i is well-suited for gaming purposes. The screen comes with a WQHD+ (2,560 x 1,600 pixels) resolution that is rated to go up to 500-nits of brightness with 165Hz refresh rate and 100 percent coverage of the sRGB colour space. It has a matte finish that helps in cutting reflections. The bezels are thinner on the sides than they are on the top and bottom, but they don’t really look out of place.
The panel itself performs really well. I found the colours to be vibrant and accurate with great viewing angles and good sharpness thanks to the WQHD+ resolution. I wasn’t fully satisfied with the brightness and contrast though. In my opinion, the brightness felt lower than the advertised 500 nits, but bright enough to be used both indoors and outdoors. As for the response times, it is quite fast and a pleasure to game on, especially if you are into fast-paced action shooters.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard is much like the ones seen on other Lenovo gaming notebooks. The layout includes a dedicated numpad as well, which is nice to see despite the keys being slightly smaller than the rest. Also, the arrow keys are placed lower to offer more room. There is RGB backlighting with the option of various patterns, colours and brightness levels. Typing feels good and you get a decent travel distance, but apart from that, there is nothing out of the ordinary.
The trackpad has a plastic finish which is not as smooth as some of the more premium lap that have a glass finish. Having said that, it felt responsive and comfortable to use, and even the size feels apt. It isn’t the largest one I’ve seen, especially on a 16-inch laptop, but it gets the job done.
Performance and software
The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i is powered by the 12th-gen Intel Core i7-12700H processor that comes with six performance cores and eight efficiency cores along with 24M cache. Having a base clock speed of 3.5GHz, it can boost up to 4.7GHz with a maximum TDP of 115W. For graphics there is the Intel Iris Xe integrated solution and a discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 mobile GPU with 6GB of GDDR6 memory that is rated for a maximum TDP of 105W.
Lenovo also sells the laptop with Intel’s Core i5-12450H, i5-12500H and i7-12650H CPUs with the option of Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3050, RTX 3050 Ti or even Intel’s Arc A370M mobile GPU.
The unit that was sent to me also included 16GB of DDR4 memory in dual channel running at 3200MHz. For storage there is a 1TB M.2 PCIe Gen 4 SSD and, as mentioned before, you can add a secondary M.2 PCIe Gen 3 SSD.
The hardware sounds very promising and I was satisfied with the overall performance. As an everyday Windows machine, it can easily take on productivity tasks. I had no issues running over 20 Chrome tabs, playing high-fidelity audio files and editing RAW images in Photoshop, all at the same time. The laptop comes with Windows 11 pre-installed and there are a few pre-installed apps. Probably the most annoying one was the McAfee LiveSafe antivirus, which kept popping notifications at random intervals. Like all of Lenovo’s gaming laptops, this one also features the Vantage control center app. It can be used to tune the system performance by switching between the three thermal modes, enable or disable fast battery charging, set keyboard macros, play around with the Nahimic audio settings, control the keyboard RGB lighting, and more. Additionally, switching between the thermal modes and the keyboard lighting can be controlled using the dedicated key combos. The three thermal modes available on the laptop include Silent, Balanced and Performance, all of which work as intended. Of course, the performance mode can only be enabled with the laptop plugged in.
I also played my regular set of games and found the results to be pretty much at par with most laptops featuring the RTX 3060 GPU with a 105W TDP. Starting with Rise of the Tomb Raider, with the highest ultra graphics settings enabled at 1600p resolution the average frame rate was around 68FPS which jumped to 83FPS by enabling DLSS Quality mode. In Cyberpunk 2077, the hardware struggled to keep up with only 38FPS, but with some fine-tuning and DLSS enabled, I was able to run the game around the 70FPS mark without losing any details. Apex Legends, which is a fast-paced shooter, ran at a comfortable 85FPS with all the settings cranked up to the highest while lowering some of the textures pushed it to over 110FPS. If you don’t mind lowering the resolution to 1,920 x 1,200 pixels, you can see a boost in frames ranging from 10-25 percent.
|GAMES AT 1600p||MEDIUM||HIGH|
|Horizon Zero Dawn||77FPS||67FPS||64FPS|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider||92FPS||87FPS||68FPS|
|Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition||43FPS||35FPS||22FPS|
(All testing done with DLSS disabled)
Moving to synthetic benchmarks, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i churned out a score of 18630 points on 3DMark Firestrike and 8153 points on Timespy. Cinebench R23 multi-core test resulted in 13790 points and 1659 in the single-core test. Lenovo’s Vantage software includes the option of boosting the GPU clock speed by enabling the GPU Overclock setting. However, I was getting mixed results where some of the benchmark tests resulted in a lower score when compared to the GPU Overclock setting turned off. The PCIe Gen 4 SSD was not as fast as I had hoped with peak sequential read speeds hitting close to 3,000MBps and write speeds around 1,500MBps. It is not slow by any means for day-to-day operations, but I’ve seen much faster PCIe Gen 4 SSDs.
The Core i7-12700H has been tuned to draw a maximum power of 65W. Under extreme stress, it does manage to peak at 105°C with all of the performance cores throttling at one instance or the other. However, average temperatures are actually quite good and the keyboard deck always remained comfortable to use. Notably, the GPU comes with a bit of headroom as I recorded a peak power draw spike of 121W, much higher than the advertised 105W.
The laptop comes with down-firing stereo speakers backed by Nahimic. The audio quality is mediocre with almost no bass and even the volume is not very loud. There are various presets that you can try under the Nahimic audio settings in the Vantage app, but none of them seemed to make a huge difference. The webcam is actually not that bad since it supports 1080p video, which means you are going to look slightly better in your Zoom calls. There is also a privacy shutter for the webcam which is a nice touch.
The battery on the IdeaPad Gaming 3i is rated at 71WHr, which is said to last for about seven hours. It can also charge from zero to 50 percent in just 30 minutes. While the charging speed claims hold true, the battery life doesn’t.
On average you are not going to get more than four and a half to five hours of battery life, which can extend to six hours if you lower the screen brightness, resolution and refresh rate along with the thermal mode switched to Silent. The 230W charging brick is definitely chunky and heavy to carry around, but necessary to deliver enough juice for the CPU and GPU. Additionally, the laptop can charge via USB Type-C, but have to compromise on performance.
A fine mid-range gaming machine, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i should live up to your expectations. It has a good CPU and GPU combo and the screen looks sharp and responsive for all sorts of games. The laptop is also quite excellent for everyday usage and should serve well to students as well as for your office needs.
My only concern is that the top-tier variant of the IdeaPad Gaming 3i, which is the one that I have reviewed here, is priced awfully close to the base model of the Legion 5i Pro. Not only do you get a more premium chassis if you opt for the Legion, you also get faster DDR5 memory, a slightly larger battery and more configuration options.
Essentially, this particular configuration seems a bit expensive for a mid-range gaming notebook, and I would suggest checking out the lower-spec models of the IdeaPad Gaming, if you don’t require so much power. On the other hand, if you do have a budget of Rs 1,50,000 it is better to add some more and go for either of the Legion-branded gaming notebooks.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Sharp and bright WQHD+ display
- Solid performance
- Good thermal performance
- Top-end variant is not good value
- No biometric authentication