A few months before leaving Thailand I made the decision to buy a new laptop to replace my ageing Compaq CQ61 (a trusty warhorse that went through a lot with me!). Having made a lot of purchasing decisions on laptops on behalf of other people, I decided to work out what I wanted from my next machine.

My requirements

  • It has to be well built – I expect this machine to last for at least 4 years like my previous Compaq did (in fact it’s still going at the school in Thailand as far as I’m aware)
  • It has to be future proof – technology is like a flowing river, you have to join it sometime, but I don’t want to get left behind within a few months!
  • It had to be able to play games – I didn’t want to have to build a gaming rig as well as this machine, so something capable of gaming as well as normal duties was pretty important
  • It had to look fairly good – the least important thing to me, but if you’re going to have something for the next 4 years it might as well look nice!

My choices

There are 2 main stores in Koh Samui for buying laptops – those being ComSeven’s Banana IT and J.I.B. Computers. Both stores had a pretty good range of laptops available, however, you have to factor in the cost of the operating system when buying as very few if any come pre-installed (the guys at the counter will nearly always offer a copy to be installed though – this is Thailand we’re talking about).

I had set myself a maximum budget of about 25000THB for my purchase, including OS and any accessories. For this money, I could either buy a Dell Inspiron 15 with an i5 processor or get the Lenovo Z500 IdeaPad with Intel i7-3612QM CPU (2.10GHz), 4GB of RAM, GeForce GT740M 2GB GPU and 1TB 5400rpm HDD. The spec. on this for the price of about 440GBP was pretty staggering. It came in white and the only let down was the screen, which is a standard 1366×768 shiny panel. I decided to go for this as it would spend most of its time plugged into a monitor in our home office, but if you get the choice, go for the ‘matte’ screen version as the shininess reflects EVERYTHING!

Upgrades

Sadly, the amount of memory the machine comes with as standard is pretty pitiful. I bought 2 x 8GB sticks of DDR3 RAM at the time of purchase to upgrade immediately. Typically the stores will do this for you, but they discovered the Z500 is a sealed unit, you’re not even allowed to replace the battery without invalidating the warranty! Never one to be daunted by this, I took the memory home with me and installed the RAM, it’s not the easiest of units to get open, but the key part is popping the keyboard off by poking a long thin screwdriver or similar from the bottom cover plate, once this is done the rest of disassembly is pretty straightforward. This would be necessary for you to replace the battery in the future, which is likely as the i7 CPU is going to give it a hammering if you use it for CPU intensive stuff.

Performance – The graphics perform well enough for my rudimentary PC gaming needs – it’s never going to replace a dedicated gaming rig, but for someone like me who dabbles in gaming (Skyrim, Kerbal Space Program, Half Life2 etc.) and likes to do a bit of PhotoShop and video editing, this machine is way more than capable. My girlfriend has an i5 Macbook Pro and this is considerably faster in general work – so bang for buck seems very good.

Reliability/Longevity

So far the unit has lasted travelling halfway around the world, multiple visits to work shortly before I left Thailand and being moved from one home to another in the UK. It’s taken a bit of a bashing here and there with a few accidental knocks and it has held up well. The outer plastic casing in white appears to be pretty scratch resistant, but the same cannot be said for the trackpad and the keyboard surround. Both have scratches now and the metallic finish on the trackpad has simply worn off – possibly just from the sweat from my fingertips as I can’t think of anything else that’s touched that! Also, the lid casing appears to have flexed a bit and doesn’t quite sit flush when closed, although this is probably only noticeable to me, but it does ruin the premium look a bit! One last niggle with it is the keyboard has left marks on the LCD screen itself, easily cleaned off, but it appears to be a slight flaw in the design rather than an engineering problem, and there is considerable flex from the keyboard which can be quite infuriating when you’re trying to type fast.

Would I buy again?

Yes! I most definitely would, and I’d recommend one or any of Lenovo’s products to my friends,family and acquaintances. Their build quality is very good, and the price-point their hardware comes in at makes them hard to ignore. There’s a certain amount of smugness I take from the thought of the specs of this system for the price when I look at other (much) more expensive laptops which cannot compete.

Well, for more detailed information on the different versions of the Lenovo Z500, take a look at the official datasheet here.

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Posted in: Reviews.
Last Modified: March 18, 2014