Lenovo IdeaPad Z560 review
15.6 in 1,366x768 display, 2.6kg, 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-460M, 6.00GB RAM, 640GB disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Lenovo has a long-standing pedigree with its ThinkPad range of business laptops, but the more consumer-focused Ideapad range is often overlooked. The Z560 is one of the newest models in the series and features the same solid build quality in a well-designed body.
The 15in Z560 has an Intel Core i5-450M processor that runs at 2.4GHz, and supports Turbo Boost for increased performance in single-threaded programs. While there are faster mobile Core i5 chips, this should still be enough power for almost any application. There’s also a mammoth 6GB of RAM, so only the most extreme amounts of multi-tasking should slow it down. Lenovo has sensibly used the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium to make the most of the extra memory, which was reflected in our benchmarks. A score of 112 in the image-editing test is great and an overall score of 93 is also impressive.
There’s a dedicated graphics card in the shape of an Nvidia GeForce 310M. It’s a strange choice, as it's not really much faster than the processor’s integrated graphics chip. Both chips can play 720p video smoothly on the laptop's screen, or Full HD content on an external display via HDMI. The GeForce chip has 512MB of dedicated memory, but with 6GB on-board, you'd hardly notice if the integrated chip borrowed this amount of RAM from main memory.
The dedicated chip managed a score of 17fps in our Call of Duty 4 test, which is a few frames per second quicker than the on-board graphics, but still not fast enough to be playable. Older games should run reasonably well, but there are far better choices at this price if gaming is a priority.
A stainless steel wrist rest gives the Z560 a premium look, with all the fittings and hinges feeling sturdy. The keyboard has odd keys that are best described as shield-shaped; they curve slightly at the top and bottom which reduces the overall size, making it occasionally difficult to type on. The keys are all very close together in order to squeeze in a number pad, which is less than full size. While it’s a useful inclusion, we would have preferred a larger alphabetical keyboard. There’s hardly any flex in the keyboard tray and there was good tactile feedback, so given a few hours to adapt it’s actually a very good keyboard.
The ridged touchpad is fairly responsive, but there are no multi-touch gestures and it’s slightly too small to span the screen in one movement. The touchpad buttons felt slightly loose, which is the only part of the laptop with questionable build quality.
The 15in screen has a 1,366x768 resolution that’s large enough to have two documents side-by-side, but not enough for 1080p video. Unusually, a hot-key changes between three preset colour modes, but the differences between them were minimal. Colours were accurate and contrast was high, even at low brightness levels. The pair of speakers above the keyboard produced average quality audio, but they were far from the worst we’ve heard from a laptop.
Almost five hours of battery life is very reasonable given the powerful components, and the 640GB hard disk is generous. As with most laptops, though, the Z560 comes in a range of different configurations, and this is one of the more expensive versions. Given that you can buy a Core i3-equipped version with 2GB of RAM and a 320GB disk for under £500, this particular model looks over-priced. Unless you plan on using programs that need the extra memory, there's little reason to buy this particular incarnation of the Z560.