Lenovo 3000 V100
At a Glance
Lenovo 3000 V100 Notebook
Stellar performance and solid specs--including ExpressCard and instant-on multimedia--but the mouse buttons are too stiff.
Lenovo's latest ultraportable, the 3000 V100, offers good performance, light weight, and plentiful multimedia features for a reasonable $1599 (as of 6/26/2006). Though I found much to like, its disappointing keyboard is a reminder that this is not a ThinkPad.
The V100 weighs a fairly light 4.4 pounds. Equipped with Intel's 2-GHz Core Duo T2500 processor plus 1GB of main memory, it turned in strong performance results in our tests, with a WorldBench 5 score of 93. The battery lasted just over 4 hours, also a good showing.
The overall design is not bad, but it's not superb, either. Although the ThinkPad T series, about the same weight at 4.5 pounds, offers a bigger, 14.1-inch screen, the V100's 12.1-inch WXGA screen is crisp and easy to read. The machine also features a fingerprint reader for biometric security, and a dual-layer DVD burner.
The V100 sports three handy volume buttons--raise, lower, and mute--atop the keyboard, just like the ThinkPad; next to these is the Lenovo Care button, which, to its credit, launches a help system and Acrobat manual very similar to the ThinkPad's. Although this manual lacks animation, a feature that makes ThinkPad manuals uniquely helpful, the illustrations are useful, and Lenovo Care is very thorough and well organized overall; for example, all the recovery options are grouped together for quickly rectifying problems.
The V100's five-in-one media card reader is far more versatile than the ThinkPad's SD-only slot. The three USB ports, the FireWire port, and the ExpressCard slot are also handy features for the price. For consumers, the V100 offers two popular items found on a lot of multimedia notebooks these days: a built-in 1.3-megapixel Webcam, and an instant-on multimedia button. Neither are top-shelf implementations, though: Unlike some Webcams that swivel and come with extra options, the V100's is a fixed USB device paired with the bare-bones Bisoncam software.
The notebook's instant-on button--which launches DVDs, CDs, videos and photo slide shows without requiring the notebook to be turned on first--is a nice convenience that saves battery power. But navigation is clunky--you must employ keyboard shortcuts; other notebooks with an instant-on feature let you use the mouse.
However, these minor complaints pale next to the V100's uninviting keyboard and touchpad. I could live with the hard keystroke (versus the ThinkPad keyboard's comfortable, smooth action). But the touchpad buttons on my review unit were so stiff and unresponsive that I had trouble using them. They had to be pressed so hard that even simple operations such as selecting text were difficult, if not impossible, to complete. In the end, I finally gave up and attached a USB mouse.
The V100 is a nice ultraportable with plenty of get up and go, but other notebooks in the same weight and price range have better keyboards.