Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) review – can it disrupt the budget gaming market?

Pretty much every manufacturer is trying to bring the power of gaming to the masses. Ultimately, there are two ways to do that. Either you make one of your existing notebooks less powerful, and cheaper to make, or you make an entirely new product. In the case of Lenovo, they chose the second option two years ago, and they have ever since tried to perfect their product.

Now, it is available in both Intel and AMD configurations, with the former being designated by an “i” inside of the name. Hence, the laptop for review today is the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021). It is the result of marrying the Legion brand with the IdeaPad name, and last year, we saw a big improvement. However, some things needed to be changed, and today we hope we can see them.

First of all, let’s mention the display options of this device. If you want the barebones spec, you will get a 60Hz 1080p IPS panel. However, you can upscale this by going for the 120Hz or even the 165Hz display, which uses the same technology, and the same resolution, as the base option.

On the other hand, there is one weird thing we found. Although the AMD version of the device can be configured with up to the Ryzen 7 5800H, which is one of the most capable mobile processors out there, the Intel iteration is a bit crippled. Instead of the 45W Tiger Lake processors, you only get the 35W ones. And the problem is not in the power limits, but in the core count, as every CPU from this lineup features only 4 cores and 8 threads.

As with the display options, there are three graphics cards available – the GTX 1650, as well as the RTX 3050 and RTX 3050 Ti. Thankfully, they are using a generous 90W TGP, which will allow for a quite good performance. Well, provided that the cooling is capable enough to handle it.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/lenovo-ideapad-gaming-3i-15-2021/

Contents


Specs Sheet

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) review – can it disrupt the budget gaming market? - Specs

  • LEN156FHD (LEN9052)
  • Color accuracy  5.3  4.1
  • HDD/SSD
  • up to 2000GB SSD + up to 2000GB HDD
  • M.2 Slot
  • 1x 2242 M.2 PCIe x4 + 1x 2280 M.2 PCIe x4  See photo
  • RAM
  • up to 32GB
  • OS
  • Windows 11 Home, Windows 10 Home, Windows 11 Pro, Windows 10 Pro
  • Battery
  • 45Wh, 3-cell
  • Body material
  • Plastic / Polycarbonate
  • Dimensions
  • 359.6 x 251.9 x 24.2 mm (14.16" x 9.92" x 0.95")
  • Weight
  • 2.25 kg (5 lbs)
  • Ports and connectivity
  • 2x USB Type-A
  • 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
  • 1x USB Type-C
  • 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
  • HDMI
  • 2.0
  • Card reader
  • Ethernet LAN
  • 10, 100, 1000 Mbit/s
  • Wi-Fi
  • 802.11ax
  • Bluetooth
  • 5.0
  • Audio jack
  • 3.5mm Combo Jack
  • Features
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Web camera
  • HD
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Microphone
  • Dual Array Microphone
  • Speakers
  • 2x 2W, Nahimic Audio
  • Optical drive
  • Security Lock slot

All Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) configurations

#CommissionsEarned

What’s in the box?

Inside the package, we found some paper manuals, a 135W power adapter, as well as 2.5-inch SATA mounting accessories plus the connector.


Design and construction

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the design of this notebook is largely unchanged from last year. It uses only plastic for its body panels, which are neither matte nor glossy. However, they are huge fingerprint magnets and are not very easy to clean. In terms of measurements, the IdeaPad Gamin 3i (15″, 2021) weighs 2.25 kg and has a profile of 24.2mm. It is not exactly the most portable gaming laptop out there, but its advantage is that it is significantly lighter than the Dell G15 5515. Respectively, the structural integrity of the device is okay – the base barely flexes when twisted, although, the lid is pretty playful in this aspect.

Thankfully, the lid can be opened with a single hand, however, there is a bit of play in the hinges, when you push it. Here, you can see that the side bezels are pretty thin, while the top and bottom ones are significantly larger than them. On the bright side, the top one houses an HD Web camera with a privacy shutter on top.

Probably one of the best features of this device. It is borrowed straight out of the Legion 5 series and offers long key travel, clicky feedback, and huge Arrow keys. Additionally, it features a NumberPad section, as well as a backlight. The latter comes in two variations – it shines either in White, or you get 4-zone RGB. Ultimately, there is a little keyboard deck flex, but it’s not too big of a concern.

Further down below, you get the touchpad. It is quite big, has a Mylar surface, and lacks dedicated buttons. Additionally, its click travel is not long, but there is no dead zone, which is good. Also, it’s worth mentioning that you can click about 90% of the surface.

When you flip the notebook upside down, you will find the speaker cutouts, as well as the distinctive ventilation grill. As for the hot air, it exits the machine from four vents – two in between the lid and the base, and one on each side.


Ports

On the left side, there is the power plug, an RJ-45 connector, an HDMI 2.0 connector, and a USB Type-C 3.2 (Gen. 1) port. Then, on the right, you get two USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 1) ports and an аudio jack.


Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance

To access this laptop’s internals, you need to undo 10 Phillips-head screws. Once you do that, pry the bottom panel with a plastic tool and remove it from the chassis.

Inside, you will find a battery with a 45Wh capacity. Before you continue, unplug the battery connector from the motherboard.

To access the memory, remove the metal cover. There are two SODIMM slots, and the chipset supports up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM. Storage-wise, there is one 42mm M.2 slot. Additionally, you get an 80mm M.2 slot, as well as a 2.5-inch SATA drive bay. However, you can only fit one of the latter two, because they share the same space. Thankfully, Lenovo offers the mounting bracket and the SATA connector inside the retail box.

As for the cooling, there is one heat pipe common for the CPU and the GPU, as well as one more for each of them. Interestingly, there are four heat sinks, which should boost the thermal capacity of the system.


Display quality

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) in our configuration is equipped with a Full HD IPS panel with a model number LEN156FHD (LEN9052). Its diagonal is 15.6″ (39.62 cm), and the resolution is 1920 х 1080 pixels. The screen ratio is 16:9, and we are looking at a pixel density of – 142 ppi, and a pitch of 0.18 х 0.18 mm. The screen turns into Retina when viewed at distance equal to or greater than 60cm (24″) (from this distance one’s eye stops differentiating the separate pixels, and it is normal for looking at a laptop).

Viewing angles are excellent. We offer images at 45° to evaluate image quality.

Also, a video with locked focus and exposure.

The measured maximum brightness of 276 nits in the middle of the screen and 261 nits as an average for the whole area, with a maximum deviation of 11%. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen is 6490K – virtually matching the sRGB standard of 6500K.

In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from a uniformity perspective. In other words, the leakage of light from the light source.

Values of dE2000 over 4.0 should not occur, and this parameter is one of the first you should check if you intend to use the laptop for color-sensitive work. The contrast ratio is good – 1160:1.

To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.

Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people on HDTV and the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.

Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.

The yellow dotted line shows Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)’s color gamut coverage.

Its display covers 51% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976.

Our “Design and Gaming” profile delivers optimal color temperature (6500K) at 140 cd/m2 luminance and sRGB gamma mode.

We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.

Below you can compare the scores of Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) with the default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile (right).

The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.

The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale, and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle, and the surrounding light conditions.


Response time (Gaming capabilities)

We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and vice versa.

We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 30 ms.

After that, we test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “Gray-to-Gray” method from 50% White to 80% White and vice versa between 10% and 90% of the amplitude.


PWM (Screen flickering)

Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)’s display doesn’t use PWM to adjust its brightness levels at any point. This makes it comfortable for use during long work periods, without harming your eyes in this aspect.


Blue light emissions

Installing our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.

Buy our profiles

Since our profiles are tailored for each display model, this article and its respective profile package are meant for Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) configurations with 15.6″ FHD IPS LEN156FHD (LEN9052).

*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]

Read more about the profiles HERE.

In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.

Office Work

Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.

Design and Gaming

This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.

Health-Guard

Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.

Get all 3 profiles with 33% discount


Sound

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)’s speakers produce a sound of good quality. Its low, mid, and high tones are clear of deviations, but the maximum volume is not that loud.


Drivers

All of the drivers and utilities for this notebook can be found here: https://pcsupport.lenovo.com/us/en/products/laptops-and-netbooks/3-series/ideapad-gaming-3-15ihu6/downloads/driver-list

Battery

Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. This laptop’s 45Wh battery pack delivers 7 hours and 3 minutes of Web browsing, and 5 hours and a half of video playback.

In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.


CPU options

Currently, there are four processors you can choose from – Core i5-11300H, Core i5-11320H, Core i7-11370H, and Core i7-11390H. All of them are quad-core CPUs from the Tiger Lake-H35 architecture. This means, that the TDP is 35W.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15", 2021) CPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the CPUs that can be found in the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15", 2021) models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15", 2021) model is the best bang for your buck.

Note: The chart shows the cheapest different CPU configurations so you should check what the other specifications of these laptops are by clicking on the laptop’s name / CPU.


GPU options

And for the graphics, there are three options – GTX 1650 Ti, RTX 3050, and RTX 3050 Ti. All of them come with 4GB of GDDR6 VRAM, and the latter two have a TGP of 90W.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15", 2021) GPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the GPUs that can be found in the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15", 2021) models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15", 2021) model is the best bang for your buck.

Note: The chart shows the cheapest different GPU configurations so you should check what the other specifications of these laptops are by clicking on the laptop’s name / GPU.


Gaming tests

Far Cry 5 Full HD, Normal (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Ultra (Check settings)
Average fps 59 fps 57 fps 55 fps

rise-of-the-tomb-raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016) Full HD, Lowest (Check settings) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings)
Average fps 93 fps 80 fps 55 fps

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Full HD, Lowest (Check settings) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings)
Average fps 60 fps 53 fps 44 fps

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings)
Average fps 55 fps 52 fps 46 fps

Temperatures and comfort

Max CPU load

In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.

Average core frequency (base frequency + X); CPU temp.

Intel Core i5-11300H (35W TDP) 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) 3.99 GHz @ 84°C @ 59W 3.99 GHz @ 92°C @ 60W 3.87 GHz @ 94°C @ 56W
Acer Swift 3 (SF316-51) 3.38 GHz @ 94°C @ 38W 3.22 GHz @ 93°C @ 35W 3.00 GHz @ 93°C @ 30W

It’s good to see the Core i5-11300H with a proper cooling solution. Here, we can see a frequency 870 MHz higher during long runs, compared to the Acer Swift 3 (SF316-51).

Real-life gaming

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (Max Fan)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021) 2004 MHz @ 82°C @ 88W 1991 MHz @ 86°C @ 88W
Acer Swift X (SFX14-41G) 1182 MHz @ 63°C @ 37W 1167 MHz @ 69°C @ 38W
MSI Katana GF66 1675 MHz @ 73°C @ 60W 1660 MHz @ 78°C @ 60W 1699 MHz @ 67°C @ 60W

This device has the option to automatically overclock the GPU. This happens through the Vantage app, and it offers a 100MHz boost to the clock speed. In order to do that, you need to use the Performance mode. Unfortunately, the cooling doesn’t seem to like that, as the temperatures rise to about 86°C, and the hot spot gets in the margins of 92-95°C. On the other hand, 2.00 GHz is quite a milestone.

Gaming comfort

Weirdly enough, the warmest place on the keyboard was around the Arrow keys. Also, you will definitely hear the fans spinning, when you are in Performance mode.


Verdict

Okay, here’s one for you. How can a 135W charger supply power to a 90W GPU, 35W CPU and still have enough juice for the rest of the components? Well, it doesn’t. In order to keep up with the power demand, it drains the battery, which may be the reason for the weird hotspot (it is right over the battery connector).

This raises two questions – first, is this going to harm your device in the long run? And if it will, should you use the Performance mode and its OC function… and if you shouldn’t, why does this laptop even come with such an underpowered power adapter (or offer OC with it). Nevertheless, we don’t think it’s such a drama – it is just a bit weird, that’s all.

On the other hand, the cooling solution also struggles a bit with the 90W TGP of the graphics card. We saw the RTX 3050 run at about 85°C, which is definitely too much for an entry-level RTX GPU.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021)’s IPS panel (LEN156FHD (LEN9052)) has a Full HD resolution, comfortable viewing angles, a good contrast ratio, and a non-flickering backlight. Unfortunately, it covers only 51% of the sRGB color gamut, and the 60Hz refresh rate of the panel results in rather slow pixel response times.

On the other hand, you get decent upgrade options – you get up to 64GB of dual-channel RAM via two SODIMM slots, as well as two M.2 PCIe x4 connectors. Respectively, you can sacrifice the 80mm slot for a 2.5-inch SATA drive bay.

This leads us to the most impressive feature of this laptop, and it is the keyboard. Lenovo has basically taken the unit out of the Legion 5 series and slapped it inside of the IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2021). There is nothing bad about that, especially, when we talk about one of the best gaming keyboards on the market.

Where comes praise, there goes disappointment. We don’t know who said that, but we are pretty sure it was the turtle from Kung Fu Panda. In contrast to the great keyboard, you get an I/O that is a bit unimpressive. It lacks an SD card reader, and there is no Thunderbolt connectivity, although the chipset supports it.

It was beyond all hopes that this laptop would not be a compromise. However, you will be better off going for the AMD version, due to the significantly more powerful processors. Also, make sure you get the 170W charger to be able to extract the maximum out of your notebook.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/lenovo-ideapad-gaming-3i-15-2021/

Pros

  • Great price/performance ratio
  • Sleek design and lid, which is easy to open
  • Great keyboard with an optional RGB backlight
  • Two M.2 slots (or one M.2 + 2.5-inch SATA)
  • The display doesn’t flicker at any brightness level (LEN156FHD (LEN9052))
  • 2.5-inch SATA drive mounting accessories inside the box


Cons

  • Lacks an SD card reader and Thunderbolt support
  • Covers only 53% of sRGB (LEN156FHD (LEN9052))
  • GPU gets quite toasty
  • Battery discharges during gaming in Performance mode

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Floreen
Floreen
9 months ago

Why does the Idepad Gaming 3i perform so much worse than the Ideapad 5 Pro, considering they have the same GPU but the former has a TGP of 90W and the latter only 55W? In the gaming tests, the Ideapad 5 Pro is easily 20%-30% faster. Is this only due to the slower 4-core CPU?

Floreen
Floreen
9 months ago
Reply to  Alex Iliev

Sounds good, looking forward to it!

Fabian
Fabian
6 months ago
Reply to  Floreen

Any updates? Alex Iliev?

Last edited 6 months ago by Fabian

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