Monday, May 28, 2012

Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Ultrabook Review

Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Ultrabook Review

Way back in 2008 (technology moves fast!), Apple released its first ultrabook, the MacBook Air. At the time, it was one of the world’s thinnest laptops. The MacBook Air was not a totally polished product then, being somewhat underpowered and very expensive. However, in the spring of 2011, the Air was refreshed with better specs and a lower price. Soon, Windows computer manufacturers took notice. Before we knew it, almost every major laptop maker had its version of the ultrabook.

Today we’ll take a look at Lenovo’s answer to the the ultrabook trend, the IdeaPad U300s. Let’s see how well it works, and just as important, how it stacks up to the competition.


Like Apple’s Air, the U300s is made from one sheet of aluminum. However, Lenovo decided to create their own body design. When closed, the U300s takes the shape of a hard cover book , unlike Apple’s wedge-shaped design.

The laptop, as a whole, has an understated feel to it. On the cover, Lenovo’s logo is embossed in a corner. Open the U300s, and you'll see the small power button, the keyboard and the word “ideapad” engraved in the corner. Unlike most laptops that have Windows 7, processor, and manufacturer name stickers plastered on the palm rest, Lenovo has painted the Win7 and Intel logos on the bottom.

The U300s' main feature is its supreme portability. It weighs 2.95 lbs. and measures less than half an inch thick. Is that “ultra”-enough for you? Its measurements are right on par with the competition.

In spite of its weight, or lack thereof, the Lenovo U300s is very solidly built throughout. The screen does not wobble at all when I set the laptop down, and the hinge operates smoothly. No issues here.
Top picture is right side of laptop, bottom picture is left side


One of this laptop’s pitfalls is the lack of common ports. On the right side, a charging socket, a HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port, and a headphone jack reside. On the left, only a USB 2.0 port is present. Unfortunately, this may not be enough for most people. Personally, I need a SD card slot, which the Macbook Air, Toshiba Portege Z830, HP Folio 13, and Asus Zenbook UX31 all provide.


Like almost all other ultrabooks, the U300s has a low screen resolution. (A high resolution screen shows sharper details and images appear smaller than a low resolution screen.) This display also is very glossy, so I found myself cranking up the screen brightness on a very bright day to combat reflection.


The Lenovo’s speakers are average. Most laptops speakers are bass-deficient, and this IdeaPad’s speakers are no exception. It is fine for everyday work, but if you care about sound quality, grab a good pair of headphones.


Overall, the glass trackpad is very ergonomic to use, but is not without a few quirks. To right-click, I have to click the trackpad way down in the right corner; moving my finger up just a little bit will register as a left-click. I also found that the trackpad occasionally thought that my palm was a finger, making it accidentally zoom in. It doesn’t happen often, though.

Two finger scrolling worked beautifully with only the brush of your fingertips. Pinch-to-zoom gestures worked moderately well, although it seemed a bit jumpy. I mainly attribute that to the program I was running at the time because the jumpiness is much less in other programs.


After typing this review of about a thousand words, the keyboard still feels quite comfortable. The keys are well spaced and adequately sized. They also have just enough travel. However, the U300s lacks backlight or illuminated keys so you can type in the dark, unlike the Air, Toshiba’s Z853, and HP’s Folio which have this feature. 

Specs and Performance

The unit I tested has a peppy Intel Core i7 dual-core processor, 4 GB of memory, an Intel GMA HD 3000 graphics card , and a 256 GB solid state hard drive. The U300s is a very quick machine. With about eight tabs running in IE9, a flash video, a word document, and a video file playing, the U300s only turned the fan up a notch. It did not slow down or get hot. This is due to the “breathable” keyboard that allows air to flow into the inside of the laptop.

The U300s boots up very quickly since it uses Lenovo’s rapid boot SSD technology. Lenovo’s press release says that it starts up in as little as ten seconds. My amateurish test says that it boots up in 13 seconds, but my laptop is not configured the same as the laptop used in the test. (But hey, inquiring minds need to know, right? : )

Battery Life

According to Lenovo’s statistics, the U300s can deliver up to eight hours of productive usage on one charge. During my normal routine of typing this review, watching videos, web browsing with a zillion tabs open at the same time, and checking twitter, I got just about six hours battery life. Compared to the current selection of ultrabooks, it has middle-of-the road endurance. Definitely not bad, but not stellar either.


The U300s does not come with tons of extra software pre-installed. My review unit only has these programs pre-installed: Google Chrome, the web browser; OneKey Recovery, Lenovo’s back-up software; and Lenovo YouCam software, which allows you to use special effects with your webcam.

Conclusion and Competition

The Lenovo IdeaPad U300s is worthy ultrabook contender. It has a good keyboard, good battery life, and extreme portability. However, Toshiba’s Portege Z830 and HP’s Folio may provide more value for your money. They are getting the best reviews right now, and have more ports, backlit keyboards, and lower price tags. With the Consumer Electronics Show’s barrage of new ultrabooks from major brands like Samsung and Dell, you can also wait to see how the latest attempts at ultrabook greatness pan out.

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