The Good Decent keyboard;. Bright screen;. Good battery life.
The Bad Only has enough power for basic computing tasks;. Limited range of ports.
The Bottom Line The 15.6-inch Lenovo B550 laptop has an attractively low price, but its specification is basic and its design uninspiring.
Visit for details.
Lenovois probably best known for its business laptops, especially the ThinkPad range it bought from IBM, when Big Blue decided to stop making laptops back in 2005. The company also produces some more consumer-focused models, however. The Lenovo B550 fallsinto this category and, although it has quite a basic spec, its price reflectsthis. Our review model was provided by Laptops Direct, where you can buy the B550 for the relatively modest sum of £382.
Cheap and chunky
Perhapsnot unexpectedly for such a cheap machine, the B550 is rather large and chunky.It measures a considerable 245 by 36 by 381mm and is relatively heavy, too, at2.75kg. The chassis looks a little plasticky — apart from a silver Lenovologo on the lid, it’s clad head to toe in matte black plastic. To be fair, Lenovohas tried to add a little spice to the design by using a slightly ridged pattern onthe lid and wrist rest, but overall, the styling is pretty uninspiring.
Thekeyboard is quite traditional and uses standard tapered keys. Aside from the rather odd decision to transpose the position of the ‘Ctrl’ and’Fn’ keys, the layout is rather good. The company has even managedto squeeze in a half-sized numerical keypad on the right-hand side. The keyboardfeels solid and the keys have a springy action, so it’s easy to tap outemails at a decent speed. We also like the trackpad’s matte finish and largishsize. Unlike many of its rival models, the B550’s trackpad doesn’t support multi-touch,so you can’t, for example, use multi-touch gestures to zoom or rotate picturesin Windows Photo Gallery.
TheB550’s 15.6-inch screen has a fairly pedestrian resolution of 1366×768 pixels, butit uses LED backlighting and has a glossy coating — both of which help itscolours to look quite punchy. Also, unlike most glossy displays, it isn’t all that reflective, so you can comfortably use it indoors underbright lights. That said, its horizontal viewing angles are a little limited, but this is a common complaint with budget laptops, and only reallybecomes an issue if you’re trying to share a movie with a friend sitting beside you.
Ample storage, deprived of ports
Lenovo certainly hasn’t skimped when it comesto the laptop’s storage. It’s kitted the B550 out with a fairly generous500GB hard drive that provides plenty of room for work documents as well as mediafiles. The DVD writer will also come in handy if you want to burn music ormovies to CDs and DVDs. The laptop’s line-up of ports, on the other hand, is very limited.There are just three USB ports, a VGA connector and an Ethernet socket. Youdon’t get the niceties of an eSata port, HDMI port or ExpressCard slot.
The B550 runs the 32-bit version of Windows 7Home Premium and has just 2GB of RAM, which is basically the least you canget away with when running this operating system. Lenovo has gone with an entry-level IntelT4400 processor. It’s a dual-core chip that’s clocked at 2.2GHz, but it haspretty modest performance compared to even Intel’s budget i3 processors. It’shardly surprising, then, that the B550 scored a lowly 3,634 in PCMark05. As aresult, it’s not really suited to CPU-intensive tasks like video editing, butwill be fine for more lightweight fare like emailing and Web browsing.
Thelaptop’s graphics capabilities are also very basic. It uses integrated IntelGMA 4500M graphics and only managed to score 775 in 3DMark06. It won’t handlethe demands of modern first-person shooters, but is sufficient enough to run older, less complicated 3D games at a decent frame rate.
The low power appetite of the B550’sprocessor and graphics chip does have a beneficial effect on its battery life.In our Battery Eater test, it lasted for an hour and 21 minutes before it neededto be topped up with juice, which is fairly impressive by 15-inch laptopstandards. This test is extremely intensive, so you’re likely to get a much longer life out of it with normal daily use.
The Lenovo B550 is a very basic machine. Essentially, it represents the next step up on the computing ladder from a netbook. It’s priced to reflect this, and if your computing needs are relativelystraightforward, its low price tag and sturdy build quality make it acheap, if a tad uninspiring, option. More demanding users, however, would bebest to look elsewhere.
Edited by Emma Bayly