[In-Depth Comparison] Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022) vs IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021) – Can Lenovo fix its mistake from last year

The IdeaPad Gaming series has been one of the best additions to the budget gaming laptop market that we’ve seen in recent years. However, they have made mistakes in the past, which is unlike Lenovo. The 2021 model, which we enjoyed because of its design and good hardware selection.

However, the small battery paired with a 135W power brick meant that the battery quickly discharged when the laptop was doing intensive work, as there wasn’t enough power supplied to the CPU and GPU. Recently, we came across the 2022 model, which comes with a revised design, and new processors from the Alder Lake family.

Today we’re here to compare the two and see if Lenovo has learned from last year’s mistake, and should you go ahead and spend your money elsewhere entirely (looking at you Nitro 5).

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022): Full Specs / In-depth Review

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021): Full Specs / In-depth Review

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022) configurations:

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021) configurations:

Contents


Design and construction

Both laptops are still made from 100% plastic, however, the 2022 model is redesigned and might as well be branded as a Legion device. The extended base, the grey chassis, and the blue accents make for a pretty nice gamer aesthetic that is far enough away from the Black + Red time of old. The durability is okay, with the lid being surprisingly bendy. The base on the other hand is a lot sturdier.

The 2021 IdeaPad looks very similar to the traditional, non-gaming IdeaPads, which is nice for people who don’t want any gaming characteristics in their laptop’s design. However, it can also come off as a bit bland. Contrary to the 2022 version, both the lid and the base here could be tougher, as the keyboard deck is a bit bendy.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)

Keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard hasn’t been changed for the new laptop, which we are totally fine with. The unit is fantastic, with long key travel and clicky feedback. The keycaps are large and the arrow keys are well separated from the rest, which even some more expensive notebooks don’t do. We also have to mention the 4-zone RGB backlight. The touchpad also stays the same, with a Mylar surface that is as smooth as ever.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)

Ports

The 2022 Gaming 3i has two USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 1) ports, one Thunderbolt 4 port, a 3.5 mm audio jack, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a LAN port.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)

Last year’s model looks to have much of the same, with the only difference being that the Thunderbolt 4 is swapped for a traditional USB Type-C 3.2 (Gen. 1) port, due to the use of AMD hardware.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)


Disassembly, upgrade options

Both laptops offer plenty of upgradeability, including two SODIMM RAM slots and two M.2 PCIe x4 slots. The 2021 model goes one step further, with space and mounting hardware for a 2.5-inch SATA SSD.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)

Specs sheet


Display quality

The 2022 notebook offers a 120Hz FHD IPS display out of the gate, with two additional IPS panels with a 165Hz refresh rate and either FHD or QHD resolution. The older laptop doesn’t have the QHD option, with its base model coming with a 60Hz FHD IPS display. Both laptops that we reviewed came with the same exact display with a model number of LEN156FHD (LEN9059). The panel has a pixel density of 142 PPI, a pitch of 0.18 x 0.18 mm, and a Retina distance of 60 cm or 24 inches.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)

The displays come with comfortable viewing angles. Here are images at 45 degrees to evaluate quality.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)

What is a bit weird is that the new 2022 display has a slightly higher peak brightness of 306 nits in the middle of the screen and 293 nits as an average for the whole area, with a maximum deviation of 10%. However, it has a lower contrast ratio of 1040:1.

The 2021 version of the IdeaPad Gaming 3 has a max brightness of 296 nits in the middle of the screen and 287 nits as an average for the whole area, with a maximum deviation of 9%. The contrast ratio calculates to 1230:1.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)

Color coverage

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 on 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 the color coverage of both Lenovo laptops, which cover 50% of the sRGB color gamut.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)

Color accuracy

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 in factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.

Below you can check the results from the test of both laptops, with both the factory settings (left) and with our “Design and Gaming” profile applied (right).

Both devices don’t reach a low enough dE value to be considered accurate.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)


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.

Despite using the same panel, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2022) takes the win with a Fall + Rise time of 16 ms.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)

Health impact / PWM (Blue light)

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 by 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.

Both laptops use no PWM across all brightness levels, meaning that the displays are comfortable to use, without presenting any excessive eye strain in this aspect.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)

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

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022) 15.6″ FHD IPS LEN156FHD (LEN9059) – Buy our profiles

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021) 15.6″ FHD IPS LEN156FHD (LEN9059) – Buy our profiles

Battery

Both laptops rely on a 45Wh battery pack. Due to the more efficient CPU inside the older 2021 model, it lasts for 2 hours and 54 minutes more in Web browsing, and 1 hour and 56 minutes more in Video playback. Now, we conduct the battery tests with the 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.

Brightness: 180 nits; HDR: Off
Time to Full Discharge: Higher is Better

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


Performance

The 2022 model has four total Alder Lake-H processors, with up to a Core i7-12700H. On the other hand, last year’s notebook relies on Zen 3, with the Ryzen 5 5600H and the Ryzen 7 5800H. Both laptops share the same GPU options, with the RTX 3050, RTX 3050 Ti, and RTX 3060.

CPU benchmarks

We tested two mid-range CPUs, which really showcase the jump in performance that Intel has made. The Core i5-12500H is a really powerful 12-core CPU that scores 38% higher in 3D Rendering and is more than a second quicker in Photoshop.

Results are from the Cinebench R23 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)

Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)


GPU benchmarks

Both laptops carry the RTX 3050, which has a TGP of 85W. The laptops perform evenly, with the 2022 IdeaPad Gaming 3i edging out slightly, scoring 4% and 1% higher in 3DMark Fire Strike and Unigine Superposition, respectively.

Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)


Gaming tests

Metro ExodusFull HD, Low (Check settings)Full HD, High (Check settings)Full HD, Extreme (Check settings)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022) – RTX 3050 (85W)103 fps (+4%)46 fps (+2%)22 fps
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021) – RTX 3050 (85W)99 fps45 fps22 fps

Borderlands 3Full HD, Medium (Check settings)Full HD, High (Check settings)Full HD, Badass (Check settings)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022) – RTX 3050 (85W)92 fps (+6%)63 fps (+5%)48 fps (+7%)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021) – RTX 3050 (85W)87 fps60 fps45 fps

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018)Full HD, Lowest (Check settings)Full HD, Medium (Check settings)Full HD, High (Check settings)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022) – RTX 3050 (85W)139 fps (+7%)85 fps (+2%)75 fps (+3%)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021) – RTX 3050 (85W)130 fps83 fps73 fps

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon WildlandsFull HD, Medium (Check settings)Full HD, High (Check settings)Full HD, Very High (Check settings)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022) – RTX 3050 (85W)82 fps (+11%)75 fps (+10%)65 fps (+8%)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021) – RTX 3050 (85W)74 fps68 fps60 fps

Temperatures and comfort

Both laptops have similar cooling setups with three heat pipes, which are very long and curve around the fan casings, a trick that leads to more heat dissipation.


Max CPU load

Intel Core i5-12500H (45W TDP)0:02 – 0:10 sec0:15 – 0:30 sec10:00 – 15:00 min
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)3.88 GHz @ 3.03 GHz @ 75°C @ 104W3.76 GHz @ 2.93 GHz @ 80°C @ 94W3.16 GHz @ 2.37 GHz @ 70°C @ 66W

The CPU drops wattage through the stress test, which is followed by drops in clock speeds. However, the temperatures are really

AMD Ryzen 5 5600H (45W TDP)0:02 – 0:10 sec0:15 – 0:30 sec10:00 – 15:00 min
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)3.85 GHz (B+17%) @ 82°C3.85 GHz (B+17%) @ 92°C3.84 GHz (B+16%) @ 98°C

The Ryzen 5 heats up, however, it also maintains an equal clock speed through the whole 15 minutes of testing.

Real-life gaming

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min)GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min)GPU frequency/ Core temp (Max Fan)
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)1910 MHz @ 73°C @ 82W1912 MHz @ 71°C @ 82W
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)1885 MHz @ 76°C @ 85W1866 MHz @ 82°C @ 85W

The new laptop’s GPU has slightly higher clock speeds in the stress test, while also running cooler, by a margin of around 10°C.

Gaming comfort

The laptops had decent external temperatures, which shouldn’t cause any discomfort while gaming. The 2022 notebook’s fans resulted in louder noise, so you might need to put on a pair of headphones when gaming. The new Alder Lake-powered model is also 2 degrees hotter on the outside, but it fixes the battery drainage issue from last year, so overall we’re pretty happy.


Verdict

While the new 2022 IdeaPad Gaming 3i takes care of the battery drainage issue from last year, using a bigger 170W power brick, it introduces a new flaw, once again concerning the battery. The laptop lasts nearly twice as less, due to its processor, which drains way more than its advertised 45W of power. The chassis on the new laptop is still plasticky, but it looks much better. Sadly, Lenovo couldn’t put some of their ThinkPad ingenuity and create a more durable product, as the lid wobbles massively.

The input devices and I/O stay the same for both notebooks and are pretty good, both for gaming and typing, while the port selection offers a lot of connectivity. The older laptop actually gets better upgradeability, offering everything that the 2022 device does, plus additional space for a 2.5-inch drive, and while NVMe SSDs are the more popular option nowadays, you can get large capacity SATA drives for bulk storage for affordable prices.

The display selection is also the same, and the laptops use the exact same display panel, which is a bit brighter on the newer device, while the 2021 version has a higher contrast ratio. Still, these are negligible differences, as color coverage and accuracy are still pretty poor.

In terms of performance, the new notebook creates a fantastic platform with the Core i5-12500H and the RTX 3050 Ti, which offers a decent 1080p gaming experience. The Core i5 is much faster than the Ryzen, which is expected with the advancements that Alder Lake has made. On the GPU front, the laptops have the same selection, since there hasn’t really been any movement in the space.

Equipped with the same cooling setup, the laptops extract good performance from their hardware, keeping decent clock speeds on the CPU and GPU. All in all, the 2022 notebook is the one to go for if you had to choose between the two, however, there are options outside the Lenovo family that deliver much more value. Of course, we’re talking about the Acer Nitro 5, which also got a makeover for 2022.


Why choose the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022)?

  • + Better design
  • + More performance thanks to Alder Lake
  • + Slight edge in gaming


Why choose the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021)?

  • + Longer battery life

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022): Full Specs / In-depth Review

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (15″, 2021): Full Specs / In-depth Review

All Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (15″, 2022) configurations:


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

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Iwan
Iwan
1 year ago

i think 2022 is not differ so much to 2021 in terms of performance, 2022 version only has more battery but still looks more bulky design and $100 more expensive compared to 2021, so i will stick to 2021 instead.