Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i Review 2022
Electronics,  Technology

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i Review 2022

The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i is Lenovo’s more budget-friendly gaming laptop option compared to their higher-tier Legion series, but just how well does it perform in games? We’ve tested 14 games and compared them against other laptops to find out! My IdeaPad has Intel’s Core i7-12650H CPU, Nvidia‘s RTX 3050 Ti graphics, 16 gigs of memory and a 15.6″ 1080p 165Hz screen, but there’s also a larger 16-inch version too.

Specification

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i Hardware specs

  • CPU : Intel core i7 12650H (10C/16T)
  • GPU : Nvidia RTX 3050Ti 85W
  • MEMORY : 16GB DDR4 3200
  • STORAGE : 512GB NVME M.2 SSD
  • SCREEN : 15.6″ 1080P 165Hz
  • BATTERY : 45WH

Single Channel RAM

Unfortunately, my Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i laptop came to me with one stick of DDR4 memory installed, so single channel memory. From what I can tell, this seems to be how Lenovo ships this laptop by default, but it could vary by region. As using two sticks of memory in the dual channel is an easy way to significantly boost gaming performance, we’ve tested games both with the stock memory and the memory upgrade to see the differences.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i GPU Power Limit

Gaming performance also depends on the power limit of our RTX 3050 Ti GPU, though. Although Nvidia’s spec sheet lists the 3050 Ti with a power limit range of 35 to 80 watts, I found that the one in the IdeaPad would always run at 85 watts, even with the CPU fully loaded up at the same time as the GPU.

Screen Response Time

The screen that came in mine is also pretty great, considering that’s what you will be staring at while playing games. The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i allows us to enable panel overdrive mode through the Lenovo Vantage software, and it’s on by default. This lowers the screen’s response time to 4.74ms, which is quite a great result and close to much higher-end laptops. Other gaming laptops I’d consider to be in the same category as the IdeaPad typically have much slower screens.

Now it’s worth keeping in mind that this only applies to the 165Hz panel I’ve got here. I’d expect lower results with that cheaper 120Hz option. But you can customize the screen and see the price differences with the video link below. The total system latency is the time between a mouse click and when a gunshot fire appears on the screen in CS: GO. The result isn’t as impressive despite the relatively fast screen.

MUX Switch?

Which I suspect is due to this laptop not having a MUX switch, as being able to turn off Optimus and bypass the integrated graphics generally lowers latency. Don’t worry, though. We will also be connecting an external monitor to the HDMI port to bypass Optimus and see what sort of a speed boost this gets us. But first, let’s see how the IdeaPad actually compares against other laptops in games.

IdeaPad vs Other Laptops in 3 Games

Cyberpunk 2077 was tested the same on all laptops, and I’ve got the IdeaPad highlighted in red, one for the stock memory and another with the upgraded memory. The upgraded RAM gives us a 38% higher average FPS than the stock RAM, which is a crazy difference for such a simple change. I know this is a more budget-friendly gaming laptop, but I think most people would be happy to pay a little more to get such a good gain. Another stick of memory is what, less than $50 or so? Sounds worth it to me.

With the upgraded memory, the 3050 Ti performs closely to the GTX 1660 Ti from a few years ago, which matches exactly with what I found when I previously compared those two GPUs in depth. Red Dead Redemption 2 was tested with the games benchmark tool. The memory upgrade was giving us a 20% higher average FPS now, so not quite as much as in Cyberpunk, but still a nice boost. The IdeaPad with stock RAM performs the same as a 13-inch tablet with the same GPU with half the power limit, so it’s not exactly getting the most from the hardware with single channel memory.

With the upgraded memory, it’s closer to an RTX 2060 from the last generation and the best result I’ve seen from any RTX 3050 Ti gaming laptop. Control is a GPU-heavy game, and I’ve found that the difference between single channel and dual channel memory doesn’t affect this one, so we’re getting the same performance with either memory configuration. It just goes to show that the memory upgrade isn’t always that important, but I still think it’s worth doing for the games that benefit.

You can check out the memory I upgraded with the video link below. It’s not the best 3050 Ti result recorded, but it’s close. This game and the others covered so far also have DLSS support, so we could use this to further boost frame rates even higher than this, and we’ll check that in a moment. Cool, so upgrading the RAM can help in some games, but what about connecting an external screen?.

Boost Performance with External Screen

The IdeaPad does not have a MUX switch, so the integrated graphics can bottleneck it. Although the frames for our games get rendered on the RTX 3050 Ti graphics, it sends them through the Intel integrated graphics on their way to the screen, and that iGPU can act as a bottleneck. Connecting an external screen to the rear HDMI port solves this problem because it goes straight to the Nvidia graphics and bypasses the integrated graphics.

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, using the stock RAM with the laptop’s screen was the lowest result at 69 FPS, which is not so nice in this case. Simply connecting a monitor to the HDMI port boosted average FPS by 7%, not bad for such a simple change. A larger 15% boost to average FPS is possible if we instead upgrade the RAM, a bigger difference. Interestingly, using an external monitor with the upgraded RAM didn’t give a further performance boost in this game, so upgrading the memory is still the best move.

14 Games Tested – All Setting Levels

Now that we know where the IdeaPad fits in compared to other laptops let’s see how it performs in more games. We’ve tested 14 games at all available setting presets to get a good idea of what the RTX 3050 Ti is capable of. And although we know that both upgrading the memory and using an external screen can boost the performance of this laptop, all testing here has been done with the stock memory and the laptop’s screen, as the point of this upcoming testing is to show you what you’d expect if you were to go out and by this same machine.

And that’s why we’ve also used features like DLSS and FSR in the upcoming games because they’re both great features that give a nice performance boost. Apex Legends was tested in the latest Season 13 on the World’s Edge map. This game doesn’t have any built-in setting presets, so I’ve tested it with all settings maxed out or at minimum. It was still playing well even at max settings, surpassing 100 FPS, and I’d expect games like this which can hit high FPS, to see nice boosts with dual channel memory or an external screen to bypass Optimus.

Call of Duty Warzone was also tested at either maximum or minimum setting levels for the same reason – no built-in setting presets. But this game has DLSS, so we’ve tested it on quality mode. Max settings were around 100 FPS here too, but there’s a smaller performance increase with lower settings compared to Apex. Fortnite does well even at max settings, too, as eSports-focused games are generally easier to run without needing high-end hardware.

The 3050 Ti could still get us above 80 FPS at epic settings with DLSS on quality mode. Forza Horizon 5 was tested with the game’s benchmark. Extreme and ultra-setting preset isn’t a good time, but high settings were doing quite well at above 80 FPS while also looking quite nice. I don’t think anyone expected the 3050 Ti to give us good FPS at max settings in modern games, but now you can see what it’s capable of. God of war was a bit low at ultra settings even with DLSS enabled, but high settings were still above 60 FPS.

You could lower the DLSS quality level to something balanced to further improve FPS but at the expense of visual quality. We choose to test 1080p with DLSS on quality mode so that things still look good, and this is also the option Nvidia suggests at 1080p. Dying Light 2 was also tested with DLSS enabled, but even with it on, the two ray tracing presets up the top wasn’t doing that well. Although technically, the 3050 Ti is capable of running games with RT, honestly, from the performance I’ve seen, I wouldn’t recommend it in most games. Somewhere between medium and high settings can still get you around 60 FPS, thanks to DLSS.

Microsoft Flight Simulator doesn’t need a high frame rate to play, so high-end settings wouldn’t be too bad, though medium can get you above 60 FPS if you’re fine with sacrificing a little visual quality. Far Cry 6 was tested with FSR enabled. We usually test this one with HD textures, but it wasn’t possible due to the 3050 Ti not having enough VRAM, so its four gigs are a limit. Without HD textures, it’s still possible to get close to 60 FPS at high settings, so not a bad result, just don’t expect the best graphics with a low to mid-tier GPU. I also need to note that at higher setting presets, occasionally, the game ran much lower than what’s shown here. It got more inconsistent at higher levels.

Speaking of low VRAM, four gigs wasn’t enough for Watch Dogs Legion at higher setting presets. Again as long as you set your expectations by understanding what the 3050 Ti is capable of, you can still have a good time playing at high settings or below with DLSS on, which is around the 60 FPS sweet spot. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a game that I’ve seen hit VRAM limits with just 4 gigs at higher settings, too, but again given this isn’t a higher-end GPU like a 3060, 3070 or 3080, just set your expectations a bit lower and drop the setting levels down as needed to run with smoother frame rates.

Rainbow Six Siege runs on a potato, so there are no problems running this older title. Low settings finally get us close to the screen’s 165Hz refresh rate for the first time. The screen has a decent response time, but to take full advantage of it with higher FPS can be a bit of a challenge with the 3050 Ti, even at lower setting levels. Red Dead Redemption 2 was tested earlier in the comparison section, but now you can see how the different presets perform and what DLSS adds.

Ultra settings can’t be set due to the four gig VRAM limit, but based on what we’ve seen in most other games already, the 3050 Ti isn’t exactly made for gaming at max settings anyway, so that’s not a problem, but it’s why there’s no data point there. Control was also compared earlier, but now we’ve got ray tracing in the green bars. RT wasn’t doing too badly here, still around 60 FPS at medium settings with DLSS on, and honestly, I think medium settings still look pretty good in this game even without RT.

Again you don’t need max settings to have a good time. Cyberpunk 2077 was also tested earlier, but we’ve got some ray tracing results. Like Dying Light 2 earlier, the RT presets aren’t looking great even with DLSS on. Only low settings get us above 60 FPS with DLSS enabled, so if you want higher setting levels, you might need to consider lowering the DLSS quality level to boost the frame rate.

Is RTX 3050 Ti good enough for lenovo ideapad gaming 3i?

So while the RTX 3050 Ti can run games at low to high settings depending on the game, honestly, if you can save up a little extra money, I’d strongly recommend getting the higher-tier RTX 3060 graphics. I think it’s worth it for all the reasons covered in this article. So read that one before buying a laptop with an RTX 3050 Ti. If you want to compare lenovo ideapad gaming 3i with MSI GS77, click here

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