capsule review

Lenovo IdeaPad U110 Ultraportable Laptop

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At a Glance
  • Lenovo IdeaPad U110

Lenovo's supersvelte IdeaPad U110 is about as flashy as ultraportable laptops get. Somewhere between the fire-engine red, laser-etched lid and the rugged rubbery base coating, the U110 establishe itself as a bonafide MacBook Air rival.

This IdeaPad weighs 2.9 pounds with the seven-cell battery in place. It measures 10.8 inches by 7.7 inches by 0.72 inch, and for an ultraportable it packs a reasonable amount of power under the hood: A 1.6-GHz Intel L7500 Core 2 Duo CPU and 2GB of RAM help the U110 run a little faster than Apple's Air. In our WorldBench tests, the U110 scored in the middle of the pack with a score of 65 versus the thin-and-light MacBook's slower 57.

The U110's reasonably roomy 120GB hard drive spins at a pokey 4200RPM, but the notebookit had a respectable battery life of 4 hours, 38 minutes on a single charge.

Lenovo's business-class ThinkPad X300 beat the Air by the same margin in our performance tests. But unlike the U110 (and the Air), it squeezes in optical and solid-state drives (for a higher price, of course).

The rugged, rubberized IdeaPad matches the durability and design of its stablemate, with three USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, PC Express and SD card slots, an ethernet jack, and VGA out.

On a laptop with an 11.1-inch screen at 1366 by 768 resolution, a scrunched-up keyboard with inhumanly small buttons would hardly seem out of place. But the U110's buttons are huge by ultraportable standards. Though the wide, flat keys took a little getting used to, I had no trouble tapping out this review on it.

One negative: The U110 is a fingerprint magnet. Its glossy coating renders the four shortcut keys almost unnoticeable. Run your fingers along the top of the keyboard for the faintly lit, stylized buttons to appear. Good luck seeing them in broad daylight, though.

As on the IdeaPad Y510, Lenovo's glossy treatment creates an annoying amount of glare, even with the brightness control set all the way up. At least you'll be fine indoors.

The software included with ThinkPads is vastly superior to what included you get with an IdeaPad. Exhibit A: the ThinkPad's smartly executed ThinkVantage Suite versus the U110's Shuttle Center II entertainment hub, which borders on being useless bloatware. 

Despite its flaws, the IdeaPad U110 is an intriguing laptop. But considering how hard the screen is to see in some lighting conditions, make sure that it's worth the $1900 (as of May 30, 2008) asking price.

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At a Glance
  • Lenovo's consumer-y ultraportable is rugged -- and different -- enough to earn a loyal following


    • Gorgeous, slim and sturdy design
    • Good-sized keyboard


    • Overly reflective display
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