REVIEW: IdeaPad Gaming 3i is a no-frills, work-from-home workhorse

Dec 3, 2020

IT WAS the night of the second Fiba Esports Open, and, so far, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i wasn’t letting me down.

To take notes, snap screenshots, and quickly churn out an article within minutes after the final (digital) whistle, I hooked up this new test laptop to an external monitor and opened multiple windows.

First, there was the livestream itself, the scrappy, never-say-die spirit of E-Gilas on display in windowed mode as I tracked comments and mentions in another browser tab.

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Then, on the main laptop screen, I had Photoshop open to quickly crop and resize screencaps, plus a Google Doc to write down notes and the finished article itself. Of course, running in the background, minimized out of sight in my taskbar, were the usual Chrome tab suspects: social media, messenger apps in case my boss had questions, Google Analytics to keep an eye on numbers, plus maybe a half dozen others I’d forgotten to close.

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Throughout this workflow — just another weekend in the work-from-home grind — the IdeaPad Gaming 3i didn’t even break a sweat. It hummed along quietly, silently, with none of the fan noise you’d expect from a heavy load of Chrome tabs. There was no lag, no slowdown, no jitters as I moved from watching to typing to Photoshopping.

And then, when the article was filed, I rewarded myself with a very, very satisfying round of Doom Eternal.

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It was only then that the laptop made a little whir. If you concentrated enough beyond the cracks and pops and gunfire of good ol’ demon slaying, you’d hear the spinning fans as the graphics card hunkered down and got to work. But it was easy enough to ignore. Best of all, the keyboard only slightly warmed up all throughout the hour-long gaming session.

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Solid state

While Lenovo has a dedicated gaming sub-brand called Legion, this laptop (despite the “gaming” in its name) remains firmly in the main Lenovo family. It’s positioned as a sort of middle ground between the blue neon of Legion and the more business-oriented designs of the rest of the Lenovo family.

Looks-wise, it doesn’t have much of an identity. It’s an unassuming hunk of very large, very durable plastic, with corners shorn off to give it a slight “edginess.” When closed, there’s no logo or branding throughout the glossy surface except for a discreet silver Lenovo tag.

It’s a laptop that isn’t going to be turning any heads, that’s for sure. But that could be an advantage. Its bland exterior means you can bring it anywhere — the office, an al fresco resto, your relative’s house — and it will just blend in.

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Inside, though, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i has a beefy roster of specs. In the configuration we reviewed, it packed an 10th generation Intel Core i7, 8 GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, and an NVidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti (with 4GB of video memory).

As we described above, that’s enough juice to handle most workflows, and run most popular games at decent settings. It had no problem handling Doom Eternal at 1080p, with the game running at a buttery 60 frames per second.

Another important spec for productivity junkies? It’s got a full-sized keyboard, complete with a numpad — perfect for marathon spreadsheet sessions.

One thing I had a problem with, at least for our test unit, was the battery life.

In our two weeks with the machine, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i didn’t last long under its own power. The laptop could only last two to two and a half hours (at full brightness) before I needed to plug it into an outlet.

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Gaming ate up that 45Wh battery even quicker. Once, I loaded up Doom Eternal at 52 percent battery, and the laptop was already on energy saver mode in just 20 minutes, throttling the GPU, fan speed, and frame rate as it tried to conserve batt.

However, other reports showed a decent five hours screen time for this laptop, and no other complaints about battery. So it could just be a problem with the unit we had for review.

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In any case, the massive 135 watt power brick can charge up the laptop at a decent clip. In just one hour, you can recover up to 70 percent of your battery. Just watch out: With both the laptop and the power brick stuffed in, your backpack’s going to be heavy. The laptop alone weighs 4.4 pounds, so be careful when you lift it one-handed.

The verdict

If you’re looking for a no-frills work-from-home machine that can also run games, the IdeaPad Gaming 3i makes a solid case for itself.

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Seriously, at P59,995, you’ll be hard pressed to find machines with a 10th gen Intel i7 chip. While the graphics card could use a little more punch, it can hold its own among other laptops in this price range. And while I personally experienced some battery problems, it doesn’t seem to be a widespread complaint.

When it counted the most, this laptop delivered. And that light gaming session after? A perfect work-from-home reward.

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