Lenovo IdeaPad U400 Notebook Review - HotHardware

Lenovo IdeaPad U400 Notebook Review

6 thumbs up
The thin-and-light market is seriously heating up, and with CES 2012 just around the corner, Lenovo's hoping to sneak some sales in during the last few weeks of the 2011 holiday season. The IdeaPad U400 is a sleek, sexy machine, understated from top to bottom and aimed at mid-range buyers who have never had so many options. You can't really call this an Ultrabook (you'll need to ogle at Lenovo's IdeaPad U300s for that honor), but it's still super slick. And in its roomier 14-inch weight class, you actually have fewer options to pick from.  We're happy to see Lenovo continuing to serve this in-between market actually.

The U400 is machined from a single slab of aluminum. This unibody approach has become more and more popular in recent years, but Lenovo has truly exceeded in producing a stunner in design. As far as PC notebooks go, there may be none more stunning than this on the market. As for internals, it offers mid-to-high range specifications, utilizing Intel's latest line of Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, up to 8GB of DDR3 memory and an optional AMD Radeon HD6470M GPU. Speaking of specifications, here's a look at what's inside our test machine:

Lenovo's 14" IdeaPad U400
Specifications and Features (as tested)
  • Intel Core i5-2430M @ 2.40GHz
  • 6GB of DDR3 RAM at 1333MHz
  • 14.0" LCD (1366x768); LED backlight, glossy
  • AMD Radeon HD6470M (1GB) + Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • Western Digital 750GB (7200RPM) Hard Drive
  • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • 8x CD/DVD Burner
  • 1.3MP webcam
  • HDMI output
  • USB 3.0 x 1
  • USB 2.0 x 2
  • Bluetooth
  • Intel WiDi
  • RJ-45 (Ethernet 10/100/1000)
  • Headphone / Mic Input Jacks
  • Chiclet Keyboard
  • Stereo Speakers
  • 4.36 Pounds
  • Non-Removable 4-Cell Li-ion Battery (54WHr)
  • 340x230x22.6mm (Dimensions)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Price (as tested): $879.99
  • Price (starting): $879.99
  • 1-Year Warranty

Perhaps most interesting here is just how premium the U400 looks and feels. It's surprising actually, that this notebook is priced and specified like a mid-range machine. In a way, we wish Lenovo offered this very hardware with higher-end specs, a higher-res display, etc. But on the other hand, we're just happy to see Lenovo is taking design seriously, integrating a premium fit and finish into a machine that's squarely aimed at mid-range buyers. Of course, looks are only half of the story; is the entire package worthy of consideration this holiday season? Let's dig in and find out.

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Although I'm a big fan of Lenovo, U400 has many drawbacks. I'm really dissapointed with poor keyboard on the U400 and absense of SD card reader. It looks like cheap copy of macbook pro.

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I've seen the machine and worked with it myself and can tell you it's definitely not a cheap copy and has design quality/features of its own merit as well.

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That's reassuring dave. i have a few skeptical points, first of all there was no listed price point, not a good sign, second the specs were good but not fantastic, but the only thing selling this computer is the price and the mention in the same breath as the ultrabook. That is not really a good basis to be on.

However i am sure this is an awesome product. lenovo does great work, and i don't doubt they have a cult of die hard supporters.

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Thanks for the great review, Ray. I only wish that an AMD A6 or A8 platform had also been included in the benchmarks for comparison purposes!

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I second that, Please include A6 and A8 machines.

Secondly, how is mid-range defined? To me entry/budget is under $500, mid is $5-800, high end $800-1200, and performance/ boutique above that. Having said that, while the aluminum body is nice, at this price point I expect a card reader, 7200 rpm drive, and at least the option of a hi res screen. Pretty only does so much for me : ).

Keep up the good work Ray!

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To all who are considering ordering from Lenovo directly --- DO NOT!! You have been warned. I originally ordered a Z570 i5 on June 18th. It wasn't until July 10th (after many phone calls, emails and LIES FROM LENOVO REPS) that I finally found out that the configuration I ordered had sold out and they wouldn't be making any more of them. I was then offered two substitute laptops (both with inferior specs -- one even had "Better graphics" where the graphics card information should have been). I refused both offers and finally said that I would like to upgrade to the U400 i7 for the same cost or I was going to cancel the order. I was told that would be fine and that it would be put on "the priority list". The back and forth with the foreign reps ate up another few days. By this time the ship date on the website for the U400 said July 18th. I said fine and was given a new order number. Checking the order status a couple days later showed a ship date of the 19th. One more day, no big deal. The 19th comes and goes, then the ship date changes to the 23rd. Now I am being told the 3rd of August due to LCD supply issues. So almost 2 months to even get a laptop to ship. Its not worth the hassle having to deal with Lenovo directly. I have loved their products for many years (starting back when they were IBM products) and have been a loyal customer. No longer. Sad for them. I own a technical services/consulting company and have also recommended their products to my clients, family and friends. I can easily account for hundreds if not thousands of sales through my company and my customers. All that good faith gone in a matter of weeks. I am going to wait until the 3rd of August to see if my laptop actually ships. But only because I am getting it for about 60% off. If it ships then MAYBE Lenovo could still retain a portion of my business (but only through other 3rd party suppliers).

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