Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Ultrabook Review

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It's easy to understand why the fledgling ultrabook market is exploding with new offerings from virtually all of the major players.  The new class of notebooks, seemingly reinvented by Intel's vision (and a $300 million dollar marketing fund) are designed to offer robust performance for everyday tasks and multimedia, in a wafer-thin and feather-weight footprint.  These are MacBook Air competitors from the PC side of the fence, driven by Windows 7 and at least the goal of dropping in under the $1000 mark.  Unfortunately, we haven't seen many ultrabooks hit that mark, save perhaps for a slightly lower-end Toshiba model we looked at recently, but there are many machines dropping in at Apple's MacBook Air $999 price point, offering all the build quality performance and even a few more features versus the svelte Mac machine.

In fact, with Dell's XPS 13 and the Asus UX21 that we tested recently, we felt you definitely get what you pay for, but we all know the up-sell to an ultrabook, versus a standard 13 or 12-inch notebook, would be a lot easier if we could dance closer to that $800 mark.  Unfortunately the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s that we'll be looking at today doesn't get us any closer to clearing that magic $799 psychological MSRP hurdle, but like its brethren that we've put through their paces thus far, this ultrabook is a premium product through and through.
Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Ultrabook
Specifications & Features
Processor Options Intel® Core i5 2677M (1.80GHz w/ Turbo Boost to 2.90GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
Intel® Core i7 2457M Dual Core (1.60GHz w/ Turbo Boost to 2.1GHz, 3MB L3 cache)
Chipset Intel® QS67
Dimensions Height: 0.58" / Width: 12.75" / Depth 8.5"
Starting at Weight Starting at 2.9lbs (with 4 cell battery)
Display 13.3" HD WLED (1366x768)
Construction Machined aluminum shell, cool-touch palm rest, breathable keyboard, integrated touchpad
System Memory 4GB dual channel DDR3* 1333MHz; on board
Graphics Intel® HD 3000 graphics
Battery 54WHr battery; 4-Cell Li-Polymer (built-in) Up to 8 hours battery life claimed
AC Adapter 45W AC adaptor
Hard Drive Options 128GB or 256GB SSD drive option
Wireless Connectivity Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N 6230 802.11 a/g/n with Intel® Smart Connect Technology + Bluetooth 3.0, Intel® Wireless Display ready*
Sound High Definition Audio + Waves MaxxAudio® 4 1.5W x2 = 3W total
Webcam 1.3MP webcam
Ports and Connectors USB 3.0 (1)+ USB 2.0 with PowerShare (1); HDMI (1); mic; Headset Jack (1)
Productivity & Entertainment Software Microsoft Security Essentials2.0, CyberLink YouCam3.0, Ifliter (only for JP, backup to C:\ only), IdeaLife with LeSIE 2.4 (only for PRC-SC), Adobe Reader(Only Backup to D:), Google Chrome and iGoogle for Notebook (Except for PRC), Lenovo EE Boot Optimizer Rapid Driver(for SSD+HDD sku , ww ship), Device Active for FastBoot, Intel Rapid Start Technology (For SSD only sku), IE9.0 (by Critical update), Microsoft Office 2010, Windows Live Essentials 2011
*Software may vary by region.
Operating System Options Windows® 7 Home Premium
Pricing:
$1495 as tested - Core i7-2677M, 4GB DDR3, 256GB SSD
$999 - 128GB SSD, Core i5-2457M

We ended up receiving the $1495 top-of-the-line model from Lenovo, configured with an Intel Core i7-2677M dual-core Sandy Bridge processor that will Turbo Boost up to 2.9GHz and has 4MB of L3 cache.  Our U300s also has a 256GB SSD to round out the premium package.  Make no mistake, that SSD is what makes most ultrabooks feel "ultra" we can assure you.


In fact, it's surprising more premium notebooks don't have options for SSD configurations.  No other component upgrade currently will offer a better, more noticeable performance and responsiveness increases than an SSD.

In addition to that SSD, Lenovo's IdeaPad U300s is similarly configured versus the other ultrabooks we've looked at thus far,  with a pair of USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0 capable) a headphone jack and Lenovo's OneKey Rescue System button. The OneKey Software and button combination feature is a nice touch for quick recovery from non-operational Windows crashes etc.  More on this later.  For now, let's get a better look at the U300s from a hardware design point of view.

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So, I guess the new generation portable pc has no DVD/CD drive huh? Makes sense. Would it stand against a MacBook Pro on thgraphics aspects? Sure would like to know.

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scrEaMingmANgo, The 13-inch MacBook Pro has a very similar processor with integrated graphics. So, yes, this machine would compete relatively well versus the Apple product.

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Are there enough benchmarks that would run on both Macs and Ultrabooks that you could start to include the Mac in these comparisons, since that's the whole point of Ultrabooks to begin with?

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In previous laptop models I found 8GB of memory to be important and yet this Ultrabooks category seems to be 4GB. Is there something that is making 8GB unnecessary?

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Technically, 8GB has always been unnecessary. 4GB in the average notebook these days is fairly robust for most usage models, especially an ultralight like this. If you're working with large amounts of HD video or other heavy workloads, it might come in handy but for the most part, 4GB is enough for many usage models.

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. So, yes, this machine would compete relatively well versus the Apple product.

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8GB has always been unnecessary? As a computer programmer, I must completely disagree! To proclaim that, because the masses don't need it, it must be "always unnecessary" is completely false.

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We tested the 13.3" 6GB RAM version that is being in sold in India. Check out our review at: http://www.haplessgeek.com/2012/04/analyzed-lenovo-ideapad-u300s-ultrabook.html

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A lot of people over 40 wish they could buy one of these, but the high screen resolution makes everything too small for their eyes. This unit has a PPI (pixels/inch) of 117.83.   With reading glasses optimized for computer use, I still can't use a notebook over 100 PPI.

The ZOOM feature in browsers and MS Office helps but ZOOM does not help with system objects such as Menus.

The custom DPI setting in Windows helps, but this settings causes the fonts in many applications to spill out of their menu boxes or form fields.

I know that many readers can't relate to this issue, but notebook makers are shutting out 30% of their potential market by only offering Ultra-High res wide screens.

This PPI calculator may be helpful for those who are shopping with screen resoltuion as a primary criteria.

PPI Calculator:
http://baylake.net/ppi

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