Lenovo IdeaPad U300s

Eric Ernest 2011-12-12
85 Very Good
Price: Rs 67,900

Full Review

The IdeaPad U300s is Lenovo's entry in the new Ultrabook range of laptops that have been released recently. Sporting a very elegant look and being highly portable, lets check whether this ultrabook is worthy of being a potential purchase for customers looking to get a portable yet powerful system.

The Lenovo IdeaPad U300s ultrabook has a unibody matte aluminium finish - you won't find any screws on this unit - that provides for an overall sturdy build quality - the whole unit is smooth to the touch. The unit we received came in the Graphite Gray finish - the base and the backlid has a colouring that is a few levels darker than the gray found on the rest of the chassis. There is a Lenovo logo at the top left corner of the backlid, with other logos such as Win 7 and Intel interestingly being sketched at the base of the ultrabook - as opposed to appearing as stickers located on the top chassis. The IdeaPad logo is imprinted on the bottom right corner of the palmrest area.

The screen is held in place by a singular hinge that was for the most part sturdy.

As I had mentioned after my first hands-on with the U300s at it's launch, this ultrabook's design is very unique - the base and back-lid covers slightly jut out at the edges from the rest of the chassis body, giving the ultrabook, in its closed form, a very apt book-like shape. I was quite pleased too see that Lenovo didn’t blindly decide to go the Apple MacBook Air way and adopt a tapered design - and considering that that's the path a number of other manufacturers did take, kudos to Lenovo for trying something new on the design front. 

The U300s is generally well rounded and smooth at its edges and corners - as mentioned earlier the backlid and base edges jut out slightly from the rest of the body, and this jutting outline does have a comparatively sharp feel to it, although its nothing to particularly fret about. The entire unit measures 14.99 mm (0.59-inches) thick and weighs in at 1.34 kg - the 11.1-inch MacBook Air weighed in at 1.08 kg, while the 13.3-inch Macbook Air weighed 1.35 kg. 

There is a 1.3 MP webcam located at the top central section of the screen bezel. This ultrabook's speakers are located underneath the 'breathable' keyboard. There is a power button located at the top left hand corner of the chassis, with the Lenovo OneKey Recovery button located at the left side of the chassis, to the left of the exhaust vent. This unit also features a non-removable battery - this is pretty much the singular downside I could find about with respect to the U300s's unibody design.

There are two LED light indicators at the front side of the chassis - the left light indicates whether the laptop is powered on or in sleep mode, while the light on the right indicates the amount of battery charge remaining when the unit is not connected to a power outlet.

While you can open the lid without having the rest of the laptop rise with it, it has to be noted that the screen lid did tend to wobble a bit when opened.

The ultrabook features four protruding square shaped rubber stands at its base.

The 13.3-inch glossy screen has a native resolution of 1366x768 and provides for a sufficiently bright display - the glossy nature of the screen can be an irritant under certain lighting conditions. Overall, the viewing angles are decent: the bottom and top vertical viewing angle produces a colour distortion in the picture when seen from an angle other than a centrally positioned one; the horizontal (left and right) viewing angles are comparatively better, with only a slight colour distortion of the picture occurring when viewing the screen from it's extremities. The IdeaPad ultrabook's screen can be tilted to almost 130 degrees backward - aiding you to a certain extent in choosing the ideal viewing position relative to the screen.

Keyboard Usability
The Lenovo U300s features a chiclet keyboard - without a dedicated numpad - with black coloured keys that provide for a good contrast against the grey finish of the rest of the laptop.  The 'breathable' keyboard is placed in an area that is slightly lowered when compared with the rest of the surrounding palmrest area.

The alternate functionality of the Function keys - such as muting/unmuting audio, increasing/decreasing brightness/contrast, can be accessed by pressing on the respective 'Function' buttons themselves - the main functionality of the 'Function' keys can be accessed by first pressing the 'Fn' button and then pressing the corresponding function key.

The keys - 85 in total - are more or less flat on their top surfaces and are well spaced, allowing for a typing experience that is comfortable. The keys provide for a good tactile feedback that is neither too hard nor too soft to the touch.

It was rather unfortunate that Lenovo didn’t include a backlighting feature for this keyboard - not exactly a downside, but having such a feature would have been nonetheless come in very handy for U300s owners. The breathable keyboard concept of allowing airflow through the keyboard, thereby having to do without any air vents at the base of the laptop is a handy feature, at least in theory, as you can use the ultrabook from your lap without having to worry about the excess heat being dissipated against your legs.

The multitouch glass touchpad - the right and left mouse buttons are integrated into it - has a smooth texture and its responsiveness level is good. This touchpad supports multi touch gestures such as two finger scrolling - for scrolling horizontally and vertically across a web page, pinch inward and pinch outward for zooming in and zooming out respectively, and three finger scrolling for flipping between items such as pictures and songs. The U300s also features a unique four finger swiping mechanism, which will bring up a notepad like app when swiped to the screen's left, with the action of swiping towards the right bringing up a picture library - you can change the screen wallpaper from this window.

The mouse keys are also responsive, and pressing on them produces a click sound.

This Ultrabook is supposed to combine portability and power, and in terms of its specs, the U300s doesn’t disappoint. It features an Intel second generation Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5-2467M processor (1.60 GHz), 4GB DDR3 RAM, a 128GB SSD and for graphics processing, you have the Intel HD 3000 graphics.

The U300s, as I mentioned earlier, has a good design, but more importantly, one which doesn’t compromise on the functionality aspect. It comes with a good collection of ports - such as USB 3.0 and HDMI ports which were sorely missing from the Apple MacBook Air unit. On it's left side, the U300s has an exhaust vent and a USB 2.0 port. Located on its right side, you will find the power socket, an HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port, and a combined headphone-cum-microphone jack. While there are a good variety of ports included in the U300, Lenovo could have really done with a multi card reader on this U300s.

More details can be seen on this review's "Specifications" page.

The Lenovo IdeaPad U300s comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Home Premium Edition. The ultrabook is relatively free of bloatware, and the Windows installation is for the most part very clean. In terms of the installed software on this laptop, you will find the generic Lenovo software such asLenovo OneKey Recovery, Lenovo YouCam, Lenovo and Power management options.

Also included in the pre-installed software set are the Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Edition, Microsoft Security Essentials and Intel WiDi.

The Lenovo IdeaPad U300s recorded a score of 109 on the Worldbench 6 benchmark - a very good score that is just two points below what the Apple MacBook Air scored. Consequently the U300s should be able to cope well with executing most processor and memory intensive processes - the only exception being contemporary gaming, and this is not a downside in any way as this unit wasn’t intended to be used for such purposes. During synthetic testing, the ultraportable's hard disk recorded an average read speed of 186.3 MB/s and the laptop recorded a PC Vantage score of 8525.

You should have no problems watching both 720p and 1080p HD videos. The audio output is relatively above-average - the volume levels are appropriately loud for a small to mid-sized room, and is very clear, although, not surprisingly, the bass is rather lacking.  As always, listening through a headphone would be the best option.

This Lenovo ultraportable does heat up under prolonged and intense use - you will notice the heat at the base of the laptop, towards the top central areas that are close to the hinge. Fortunately, you don’t feel this heat on the palmrest area - the top section of the main chassis, next to the hinge, does heat up to an extent. On the plus side, if you are doing some regular tasks like browsing or listening to music or editing documents, the U300s stays quite cool. On another positive note, the laptop gave a good account of itself in the system noise levels area - it was barely audible during operation.

The ultrabook's four-cell battery lasted for two hours and five minutes through one of our battery tests, at high performance mode, and having the wireless internet mode enabled. For an ultraportable having the technical specs as this unit does, this is a pretty standard result. Having said that, you should be able to extract around 4-to-5 plus hours out of the U300s's battery - at a conservative power scheme - for doing lighter every-day work such as browsing the web and listening to music.

As I mentioned earlier, there are no screws on this unit, and as such tasks like upgrading or repairing the unit are best left in the hands of  Lenovo personnel.

Bottom Line

Back when I had reviewed the Apple MacBook Air, I had mentioned how Apple's ultraportable unit had pretty much set the standard that new ultrabooks had to meet and hopefully exceed. Well, after testing this unit, I can say that these expectations have been met and in certain instances, they have been exceeded.

The usual detractors will be found who will disingenuously state that for the price of this ultrabook, you could go out and get yourself a very good mainstream laptop. But this is quite beside the point as the U360s is supposed to cater to the needs of people who want a highly portable yet powerful machine for meeting their computing needs, and are willing to pay for it. Keeping in mind that the ultrabook range of laptops are just entering the market, it will be more realistic to expect ultrabook prices to come down in the near future.

In terms of performance, this ultrabook is almost on par with the scores that the MacBook Air notched up. Compared to the Air, the U300s doesn’t come with a backlit keyboard or a multi-card reader, but it more than makes up for this by having a very unique design and solid build quality that rivals that of the MacBook Air, not to mention the USB 3.0 and HDMI ports. At the same time, customers have to keep in mind that this Ultrabook, just like the MacBook Air, doesnt come with features such as Ethernet port, and this has to be kept in mind when opting to buy this unit. 

If we were to look at some of the things we would have liked to see on this ultrabook, it would be a brighter and better screen and maybe some more ports: and this might be pushing it, but maybe even a discrete graphcis option as well? 

While this is not the ideal ultrabook - it will take some time for an ultrabook to combine not only portability and performance but also be affordable for the masses - its overall good showing in terms of design, portability, and performance surely bode well for the future of this new line of Intel inspired ultraportables. If you're looking to get buy an ultrabook, the Lenovo U300s is a good choice to opt for.

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