Dell decided to make a point of highlighting the display in the XPS 13
ultrabook with edge-to-edge glass, while Lenovo takes a more traditional approach here, with a thin metal trimmed bezel. That said, the IdeaPad U300's display easily measures-up from an image quality standpoint and we were appreciative of its slightly wider opening hinge. It really helps when you're standing over the machine when set on a counter top, for example. Also, the display seemed to have slightly brighter output and modestly better viewing angles. There's more bezel here, sure, and as a result it's a slightly wider machine by a little over a quarter of an inch. Right, not much, and we were okay with that.
Ahh but here's where the rubber meets the road for Lenovo's U300s, it's the keyboard. If there's another area almost as critically important as a notebook's display, the keyboard would have to be it and Lenovo delivered in spades. If the U300s' keyboard was backlit, we would have been overcome with geek joy. The keyboard on this machine is really that nice. In fact, I took the machine in hand specifically to write a good portion of this review, just because the learning curve was non-existent for me and that's coming from a high quality Deck
mechanical desktop model. Lenovo offers just the right amount of key travel and the key caps seem to almost cradle your finger tips. Typing on this machine was a real pleasure, so much so that I almost wouldn't need the backlight at all.
The U300s' touchpad supports gestures and has a clean tactile feel when actuating its two button controls. Gesture support was also surprisingly fluid. Pinch and zoom controls in a web browser were actually somewhat useful, not something we can say for so many notebooks that just can't seem to pull this off for some reason.
The U300s' main body construction is a straight-up aluminum slab that is machined with very few separate pieces. Venting on the side of the system emits a very faint whine under load that is completely dismissible. Under less workload, this ultrabook is virtually silent. Part of the reason for the U300s' low audible profile is its breathable keyboard area. The palm rest also remains completely cool under extended use as well. However, keep in mind, a breathable keyboard obviously isn't air-tight, so it's certainly not water-tight. In other words, don't accidentally tip that happy hour special in its general vicinity, if you catch our drift.
At .58 inches thick, the U300s is without a doubt a razor thin machine. Regardless, Lenovo was able to squeeze not only a USB 3.0 port but also a full-sized HDMI port into this machine, in addition to a standard USB port; but alas, no SD card slot. We have yet to see an SD card slot in an ultrabook actually and it's perplexing.