Lenovo IdeaPad U350 review

It's light and inexpensive, but Lenovo's consumer ultraportable lacks power, stamina and finesse

3
Price when reviewed 
542

Page 1 of 2 Lenovo IdeaPad U350 review

The ThinkPad range is synonymous with high-quality business laptops, but Lenovo has so far struggled to make an impact in the consumer market. This month we sneak an exclusive first look at Lenovo’s slick new arrival, the IdeaPad U350.

Marking Lenovo's first take on Intel’s Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage platform, the IdeaPad U350 is a major departure from the workmanlike ThinkPad. We’ve already seen CULV notebooks in the guise of Acer’s superb Aspire Timeline 4810T, but to sum it up in simple terms, Intel’s CULV means one thing: ultraportable notebooks at sub-£1,000 prices.

The U350 certainly has the credentials to make a superbly affordable travelling partner. Pop it on the scales and it weighs in at just 1.64kg, while the lack of an optical drive allows it to be just 29mm thick.

Dressing in the dark

Looks, however, aren’t really the IdeaPad’s strong point. The lid is finished in an odd, textured brown check; the keyboard surround in a silvery gold that’s intended to resemble brushed metal, and the screen bezel in gloss black. It’s not quite the white socks and sandals style disaster it could have been, but a less haphazard palette would certainly have made more of the U350’s petite figure.

Lenovo U350 back

Politely ignore the visual deficiencies, though, and prodding it reveals build quality that, while not up to ThinkPad standards, is almost on a par with the Acer. Building an ultraportable is all about compromise, and while there’s a little flex in the base and the lid, the U350 feels solid enough to survive. The wide wristrest is firm and squish-free, and the keyboard above it is a good example; despite a very slightly bouncy feel, it proved a pleasure to use for long stretches of typing.

The trackpad isn’t half bad either, with its dimpled finish feeling pleasant under the finger. There are horizontal and vertical scroll zones and even basic multi-touch functions. Multi-touch is probably too grand a description, though; zooming in and out of pictures with a pinch of the fingers is as fancy as it gets.

The IdeaPad's glossy 13.3in display, meanwhile, opts for the increasingly popular 1,366 x 768 resolution. That makes for a spacious desktop, especially so when compared to less well-endowed netbooks, and quality is good. There’s plenty of brightness and colour reproduction is up to par, too. What it isn’t, however, is exceptional. Compared directly against the Acer Timeline, it lacks the sheer punch and vibrancy that its rival manages to impart to images, both still and moving.

Page 1 of 2 Lenovo IdeaPad U350 review

Price when reviewed 
542(£471 exc VAT)

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 329 x 229 x 29mm (WDH)
Weight 1.640kg
Travelling weight 2.1kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500
Motherboard chipset Intel GS45
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 4500M
Graphics card RAM 128MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 298GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Seagate
Optical disc technology n/a
Optical drive N/A
Battery capacity 2,700mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Conexant HD Audio
Speaker location Base
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 4hr 30min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 26min
Overall application benchmark score 0.45
Office application benchmark score 0.37
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.56
Encoding application benchmark score 0.54
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.30
3D performance (crysis) low settings 0fps
3D performance setting Fail

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
OS family Windows Vista
Recovery method Recovery Partition

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