What We Think
The Lenovo U300 is a beautiful looking machine and at only 14mm thick and with a second generation i5 processor, it’s a lovely Ultrabook. However, though a good attempt there are more complete machines, that offer more power, or a slightly better experience.
Lenovo is well renowned for producing some fantastic business laptops, and has really built up a mark for safe and comprehensive machines. The Ideapad U300s certainly offers an element of this and isn’t just as glossy as some of the ‘shining lights, of the ultrabook world.
This machine has decorum, from the understated monochrome brushed metal, to the fact it is a taper less 15mm from back to front. Lenovo has created a machine that doesn’t want to be gaped at – just respected. Priced around £900, it’s putting itself up against the likes of ASUS’s Zenbook and Toshiba’s z830-10T.
The little laptop is served by Intel’s i5 2467M processor and has a clock speed of 1.6GHz, as well as 4GB of RAM, all very exciting considering its diminutive size and weight of 1.3kg.
The machine offers excellent solidity and the brushed metal, which is a consistent 15mm throughout, really is lovely and sturdy, yet remains very slim. The lack of a taper, is something not seen in most ultrabooks, though, the Lenovo utilises this thickness in a way that gives it added strength.
Its lightness means it is no heavier than many text books and so easy to slip into a satchel, or bag to carry around. Of course, you’ll be happy lifting it out again, as the Lenovo, like most ultrabooks, is a very attractive piece of kit. There is a certain element of the MacBook Air in the Lenovo and this is distinctly seen in the full-size isolated keyboard. Fortunately, it feels just as good as the little Mac in quality terms and the nice short throw of the keys was very satisfying. The machine also comes with a number of function keys, and all the buttons are ventilated. This means Lenovo uses the small areas around the keys to let the fan’s heat out. Saying that the machine still has a vent at the side, making this technology seem a little redundant.
The touchpad sits centrally, and below the keyboard. It’s of the smooth variety and comes with integrated buttons, which look great, but you do often question whether they’ve pressed as there isn’t a large amount of travel. The SRS Premium Surround Sound speakers on the Lenovo are of the slightly average variety, though as you would expect there is little bass, due to the slimness of the machine. The 1.3mp web cam is better, and we found it to be very detailed, and understood the light sensor to pickup excellent detail. Lenovo has also included a number of fun apps, via its YouCam software to add a little fun on screen, and the camera can in addition be used for security purposes if your laptop get misplaced.
The screen really works at its best when viewed straight on. The 720p display of 13.3inches offers in-depth detail. Like most ultrabooks, there is a certain area you must find for visual comfort, with a drop in quality outside of that – saying that the Lenovo is one of the best screens we came across in these minuscule laptops.
Colours were nice and vibrant, and we found black levels and shadow details to be among the best of the ultrabooks. The screen isn’t just as bright as the ASUS Zenbooks and its glossy overlay was a little annoying in outdoor conditions, though a change of angle sufficed in most cases. We do dream of 1080p on these machines though, then again, they need the performance to handle that quality of video.
We do expect Intel’s i5 processor to handle such visual tasks. The 1.6GHz processor comes with its own inbuilt graphics hardware Intel Graphics HD 3000, as well as hyper threading capabilities and if needs be Turbo Boost technology, which brings the clock speed of the processor up to 2.3GHz Lenovo has placed 4GB of RAM into the machine and a 128GB solid state drive.The Lenovo does lag behind the ASUS Zenbook in processing terms, as the aforementioned has a i7 chip, though it’s no slouch, it does lag behind the Zenbook in both 3D graphics tests and Cinebench tests, scoring 3,394 in the former and 7,244 in the latter. In short, this means the laptop is of little use with new games at high settings.Boot up time from cold is fast thanks to the SSD, and it managed to do so in 25 seconds falling behind the Zenbook takes 29 and the MacBook Air at only 18seconds. This is still half the time required to be seen as an ultrabook. Wake from sleep took only four seconds, though the Zenbook in contrast manages this in just two seconds. Lenovo has added two USBs to the U300S, one of which is a USB 3.0, HDMI also exists, as do a headphone jack and a 802.11n Wi-Fi adaptor. However, Lenovo has omitted VGA, eSATA and a card reader, which we would deem lacking.
Our Battery Eater test showed the Lenovo lasting 232 minutes, which is 20 minutes less than we got from the ASUS on the same test. That said, a full day of work is far from out of bounds, and the Lenovo is a great portable machine.
Wrapping up, we couldn’t say we don’t like the Lenovo U300s, it’s a very well engineered ultrabook, with a good screen, strong body and plenty going for it. It mightn’t be just as powerful as some of the i7 powered notebooks, such as the ASUS Zenbook, but it certainly deserves its place.
The keyboard and touchpad are among the best in the ultrabook class, and though it’s not astoundingly well connected, we would still see it up with the top ultrabooks in existence and certainly one to consider.