Lenovo IdeaPad U260: A Stylish Ultralight Notebook

User Experience

Overall, we enjoyed using the Lenovo U260. One thing we toyed with, was its slate of Lenovo applications. The unit includes the following custom applications: VeriFace, DirectShare, OneKey Rescue button system/Lenovo Security Suite, Lenov Smile Dock, and Cyberlink YouCam.

The unit also ships with 30-day trial version of McAfee antivirus software that boots up automatically, cannot be easily turned off and whose sole purpose is to pester you every 20 minutes to get you to upgrade, warning "Your computer is unsafe." It shows up in your browser, too. Although McAfee is a fine product, we are annoyed that Lenovo has integrated so tightly on one particular vendor. Notebook buyers should have a choice, perhaps even opting to use Microsoft's free basic anti-virus software, Microsoft Security Essentials.

VeriFace, which Lenovo bills as a "fun" way to log into your machine was more like a combination of fun and frustrating. It took two tries to get it to properly scan a face and it only worked when the face was well lit . As we tend to prefer to have the sun not shining directly into our eyes, but beyond our back, lighting our work space, using it required picking the notebook up and swiveling face to window. Once we did that, we found that it worked fine every time. It didn't get confused by a look-alike either (such as a daughter, who at 18 is the spittin' image of Mom at that age). We liked that it added a layer of protection against intruders who might try to get into the machine.

We can't, however, say that using it was easier than typing in a password. It wasn't. And if we held on the notebook much longer, we wouldn't have bothered with this gadget and would have typed our password every time.

DirectShare is an application that let's you sync your files with other PCs also on your local network. It doesn't use the Internet but your Wi-Fi connection. The downside is that the included app only works with other Windows machines (XP or up). It allows you to download the app to a USB device and install it on another Windows machine. It syncs photos, music and other files and it worked well. But its restriction to Windows made it far less useful than other sync and file sharing apps that free for the asking (with an Internet connection). It was a non-starter for syncing/sharing the a large music collection, stored on a Mac, for example.

Cyberlink YouCam is an application for operating the Webcam for taking videos and snapshops, adding special effects and uploading them to YouTube or Facebook (or e-mailing them). It is not a desktop videoconferencing tool. One nice feature it has is "desktop capture" that allows you to film a process on U260 desktop instead of filming your face on the Webcam.

We skulked in the shadows to focus attention on Lenovo's YouCam and Smile Doc apps.

Perhaps the most useful tool in the bunch is the OneKey Rescue button system for backup and restoring. It is used in conjunction with the Lenovo Security Suite and together they partition a portion of your hard drive to backup your data. In the event of a system crash, by pressing the OneKey button on the keyboard, your data is restored. The OneKey button requires the use of a pen or other small pointed object, so it can't be accidentally bumped. It doesn't, however, perform a hard reboot for you (we discovered first hand). It only works after the disaster occurs and the system is capable of being rebooted. 

By far the most useless tool in the bunch is the "Lenovo Smile Dock" which does nothing but try to sell you stuff and make ads pop up on your screen. It links to a shopping site, a site that showcases Lenovo items on sale and it even allows Lenovo to e-mail ads to you.

The U260 comes with an industry standard multi-touch touchpad. It supports two-finger pinch and zoom, swipe to scroll, and other multi-touch commands. We found the touchpad to be a little sluggish and easily confused. The multi-touch was easily activated, but getting it to perform the commands often took two or three tries. The touchpad often lagged a little when asking it to perform as a normal pointer, too. As we used the machine more, we adapted to its quirks and handled it better.  Overall, the multi-touch capabilities do enhance functionality and don't detract from the user experience too much.

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The final usability feature worth calling out is the U260's keyboard and rest pad. Lenovo bills it as a "Breathable Keyboard." It uses an Intel Advanced Cooling design that allows the PC to run cooler while still protect itself from the occasional light splash of coffee. The keys are nicely spaced for comfortable typing and the surrounding cushiony rest-pad was also quite comfortable; perfect for working on that novel while hanging at your favorite coffee shop.

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