Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Ultrabook Review

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Introduction and Specifications

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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