The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 is a prime example of what you can expect from an entry-level gaming laptop under $700. It’s just enough to get you going with its midrange AMD processor and a slightly better-than-basic Nvidia graphics chip. It also has a fair amount of ports so you can easily connect to an external display and a keyboard and mouse for desktop gaming. The IdeaPad Gaming 3 is a fine choice for the money, whether this is your first gaming laptop or you’re a casual gamer looking to play undemanding games in between doing office or school work.
As with all laptops, however, the more you can invest in components up front, the better off you’ll be in the long run. Increasing your budget to $1,000 can get you a lot more gaming performance for your dollar, especially if you can hit the right deal. But not everyone has the extra money, in which case the IdeaPad Gaming 3 at least gives you a solid starting point with room for more storage and memory.
For a newer gaming laptop, $660 is not a lot to spend. Gaming requires a higher level of processing and graphics performance than average productivity tasks. Those components also require better cooling and more power to operate at their peak, too, and all of that adds up. The GeForce RTX 3050 is a notch above the usual low-end graphics chip found at this price, the GeForce GTX 1650. It’s paired with a midrange AMD processor that can outperform Intel’s equivalent Core i5 processor. The combo lands the IdeaPad Gaming 3 in the middle of the pack of other budget-friendly gaming laptops under $1,000.
Where Lenovo and others typically dial back is on memory and storage. This laptop’s 8GB of RAM is basically the bare minimum; look for 16GB instead if you can afford a bit more. The same goes for the 256GB solid-state drive for storage. Download more than a couple of large games, and you won’t have room for much else. Go with at least a 512GB SSD to avoid regularly deleting games to fit new ones on.
Performance and battery life
With all that said, if you’re playing older or undemanding titles like Stardew Valley, Among Us, Minecraft, Borderlands 2 and Cuphead, the graphics chip’s memory will help with the heavy lifting and those games don’t take up much space, either. Plus, there’s an open slot to bring the IdeaPad Gaming 3 up to 16GB of RAM, and you can replace its SSD with a larger capacity one if the 256GB does feel cramped after a while. Also, I was able to play a couple of more demanding titles including Deathloop, which has high system requirements and was once known to be buggy on PCs. Although video quality and effects had to all be set to low, the gameplay was relatively smooth with only an occasional stutter.
Still, there’s a difference between merely playable and enjoyably playable, and the more demanding the game with the IdeaPad Gaming 3, the more you veer toward the former. The display does help pick up some slack, though. The 15.6-inch 1080p LCD has a refresh rate of 120Hz that makes games played at faster frame rates look smoother and can help improve your reaction time for games such as CS:GO, Fortnite and Overwatch 2 where accuracy is crucial. On the other hand, the display’s color is a bit dull, and it has a max brightness of only 266 nits (but I measured it as low as 210 in places on the screen). This likely helped it hit a reasonably high (for a budget gaming laptop) 8 hours, 8 minutes on our video streaming battery drain test. Don’t expect to get anywhere near this while gaming, though.
Design and features
The rest of the laptop’s features and design are a mixed bag. For example, Lenovo includes a physical privacy shutter to block the webcam, but it’s a 720p-resolution camera that needs a lot of light to deliver a good picture. The keyboard is comfortable for typing and gaming, but its backlight is only bright white – no color-changing RGB lights here. The touchpad works well enough and is smooth to the touch. The speakers sound decent, too, and didn’t send me scrambling for my headset.
To appeal to gamers who also need to use their laptop for work or school, manufacturers are making more entry-level gaming laptops look less gamer-y. Looking from the top down onto the IdeaPad Gaming 3 – open or closed – it doesn’t seem too different from other Lenovo IdeaPads: dark gray with a small Lenovo logo at the top left side. Lenovo did clip the front corners to give it an angular look, and if you look around the sides or in the back, you’ll find bright light blue accents and heatsink fins tucked inside accentuated fan vents.
Between the rear vents are the majority of its ports: power, Ethernet, HDMI 2.0 and a USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 that’s just for data transfers. You’ll also find two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 split between the sides and a combo headset jack on the left.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 is a model entry-level gaming laptop for less than $700. It has good performance and features for the money, but you can also see where things could be better. Fortunately, the overall performance can be given a nudge upward with more RAM and a higher-capacity SSD for storage. And if your gaming needs are basic, you won’t immediately need to change those things, making this IdeaPad Gaming 3 a good place to start.