Lenovo's IdeaPad U150 joins a crowded market filled with low-cost, low-voltage 11.6-inch consumer notebooks and netbooks. At $749, this somewhat pricey machine stands out by virtue of its snazzy design and above-average battery life. Drawbacks like a mushy keyboard and warm temperatures keep it from leading the pack, but the U150 is one of the better ultraportables in its class.
At 11.4 x 7.5 x 1.4 and 3.2 pounds, the IdeaPad U150 is larger than the 11.6-inch Acer Aspire Timeline 1810T (11.2 x 8.0 x 1.2 inches; 3.2-pounds), but lighter than both the Toshiba Satellite T115 (11.3 x 8.3 x 1.4 inches; 3.4 pounds) and the Dell Inspiron 11z (11.5 x 8.4 x 0.9 inches; 3.4 pounds). Only 0.5-inches at its thinnest point, the U150's six-cell battery juts out of the bottom, causing the chassis to stand at an angle and the thickness of the backside to balloon up to 1.4 inches.
The IdeaPad U150's subtle design has some unique and attractive elements. The lid, which comes in either black or red, features a hard matte surface with subtle lines and a web pattern that reminds us of a DNA strand or series of atoms. The same pattern is etched into the plastic deck. The keyboard (excluding the top row) and textured touchpad share the same silver color, and the touchpad is covered with a layer of dots.
The exterior of the IdeaPad U150 can get unpleasantly warm. After running a full-screen video on Hulu for 15 minutes, the touchpad registered a toasty 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the left front of the bottom reached an uncomfortable 114 degrees. We consider anything above 95 degrees to be unacceptably hot. Fortunately, the keyboard stayed cool at 92 degrees.
Keyboard and Touchpad
No one would confuse the IdeaPad U150's lackluster keyboard for a ThinkPad's. While the keys are large enough for adult fingers, they feel mushy and unresponsive. The middle of the keyboard also exhibited some flex. Using the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test, we achieved a below-average score of 74 words per minute with a two-percent error rate on our first try. After getting used to the keyboard, that score increased to 80 words per minute with a one-percent error rate, which is our average performance. However, throughout our testing we were constantly struck by how uncomfortable the keys felt, both in comparison to other IdeaPads and to other 11.6-inch competitors like the Acer Aspire Timeline 1810T.
The textured touchpad is highly accurate, but a little narrow. Thanks to its multitouch support, we were able to pinch to zoom in and out on photos and Web pages, rotate pictures by turning our fingers, or scroll up and down by swiping two fingers. The dual mouse buttons are neither too hard nor too soft.
Display and Audio
The glossy 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel LED backlit display on the IdeaPad U150 provided sharp, slightly muted images. Colors remained true at 45 degrees, but started to wash out at wider viewing angles.
The combination of the IdeaPad U150's 1.3-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 CPU and its integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics video chip deliver strong high-definition video playback. Both a 720p streaming episode of Fringe from Fox.com and a downloaded 1080p file from the Microsoft WMV HD Content Showcase appeared completely smooth and sharp, with no noise or distortion.
However, we wouldn't recommend using the IdeaPad U150 for rocking out; its speakers produce horribly tinny sound. When listening to both a rock track (Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It") and a jazz tune (Spyro Gyra's "Morning Dance") streamed from Napster, we were irritated by the harsh bass. On the bright side, the speakers do get fairly loud.
Ports and Webcam
The IdeaPad U150 offers a reasonable selection of ports, including VGA, HDMI, eSATA/USB, Ethernet, headphone, mic, and a Kensington lock slot. There are three USB ports, one of which is shared with the eSATA connection. For transferring photos and videos, the front lip of the chassis has a 4-in-1 memory card reader.
The 1.3-megapixel webcam produced sharp images, even in low-light situations. Motion was smooth both when talking on Skype and when using the bundled Lenovo EasyCapture webcam software, and fine details like the pores of our skin were clearly visible.
The IdeaPad U150's 1.3-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 CPU, 4GB of RAM, Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics, and 5,400-rpm hard drive deliver capable but unremarkable performance. On every task we attempted, from navigating the globe in Google Earth to playing high-def videos, the notebook was highly responsive.
On PCMark Vantage, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the U150 notched a score of 2,773. That showing is slightly above the ultraportable category average of 2,739, is a bit faster than the Dell Inspiron 11z (2,442), and miles ahead of the Toshiba Satellite T115 (1,453). However, it's also slightly behind the Acer Aspire Timeline 1810T (2,938).
The 5,400-rpm, 320GB hard drive booted to Windows 7 Home Premium in 57 seconds. This is a little faster than the category average of 61 seconds, as well as the 67 seconds provided by the Acer Aspire 1810T and the 65 seconds offered by the Dell Inspiron 11z. All of these systems were way ahead of the Toshiba Satellite T115's glacial 105-second boot time.
The hard drive completed the LAPTOP Transfer Test, in which we copy a 4.97GB folder of mixed media files, in 3 minutes and 53 seconds, for a rate of 21.8 MBps. That's a tad faster than the 21.0 MBps category average, and on a par with the 21.9 MBps offered by the Dell Inspiron 11z. The Acer Timeline 1810T is a little bit faster at 23.1 MBps.
When we used HandBrake to transcode a 114MB MPEG-4 to AVI format, the IdeaPad U150 finished in 15 minutes and 32 seconds, which is a bit slower than the category average of 13 minutes and 34 seconds and way behind the Acer Aspire Timeline 1810T's time of 11 minutes and 24 seconds. However, when using Oxelon Media Converter, an application that uses both CPU cores, the U150 took a brief 1 minute and 50 seconds, over a minute faster than the category average of 2 minutes and 57 seconds.
The IdeaPad's integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics chip was more than competent when it came to playing high-definition video. We were also able to zoom around the globe in Google Earth without a hiccup.
On 3DMark06, a benchmark test that measures overall graphics prowess, the IdeaPad U150 scored 590. This is below the ultraportable category average of 852, but on a par with competitors like the Acer Aspire 1810T (594), the Dell Inspiron 11z (551), and the Toshiba Satellite T115 (635).
Despite its otherwise competent graphics performance, you can forget about playing games on the IdeaPad U150. With resolution set to 1024 x 768, the system managed only 18 frames per second in World of Warcraft, which is far below the category average of 33 fps and isn't fast enough to make the game playable. At 1366 x 768, that rate dropped to a slideshow-like 5 fps. Poor as these numbers are, they're comparable to competitors like the Dell Inspiron 11z (18/5 fps) and Toshiba Satellite T115 (22/6 fps).
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
With its six-cell battery and low-voltage Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor, the IdeaPad U150 lasted 6 hours and 32 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi. This runtime is just under an hour longer than the ultraportable category average of 5 hours and 33 minutes, and over an hour and a half longer than the Dell Inspiron 11z (4:56). However, both the Acer Aspire Timeline 1810T (8:45) and the Toshiba Satellite T115 (7:08) lasted longer.
The IdeaPad U150's 802.11a/b/g/n Intel 5100 wireless radio managed a transfer rate of 20.2 Mbps at a distance of 15 feet from the router, which is comparable to the category average of 20.5 Mbps. At 50 feet, the notebook returned a transfer rate of 18.8 Mbps, which is a little better than the category average of 17.2 Mbps.
The Lenovo Ideapad U150 took 1 hour and 56 minutes to charge to 80 percent, and another hour to completely recharge its battery. During that time, it used an average of 36.8 watts. Its LAPTOP Battery Efficiency rating of 16.5 is 3 points better than the ultraportable category average of 19.6. The U150 has an EPEAT Gold rating of 21 (out of 28).
Our $749 review unit of the IdeaPad U150 came with 4GB of RAM, a 5,400-rpm, 320GB hard drive, and a 1.3-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 CPU. For $100 less, you can get a configuration with a slightly slower 1.3-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU4100 CPU, 3GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, and a Broadcom 802.11b/g wireless radio. These more modest specs probably won't impact performance to an extreme degree.
Software and Warranty
The IdeaPad U150 comes with a full suite of Lenovo utilities, including VeriFace facial recognition for easier logins, OneKey Recovery for backup, Energy Management for adjusting power settings, and ReadyComm for managing wireless connections. The most interesting of these options is the Lenovo EasyCapture software that lets you take photos and film videos using the embedded webcam. The software comes preloaded with a number of backgrounds and filters you can apply to photos.
Like other IdeaPads, the U150 comes standard with a limited one-year warranty and 24/7 toll-free tech support. Click here to see how Lenovo fared in our Tech Support Showdown.
The IdeaPad U150 combines good performance, strong battery life, and an appealing design to create a lightweight ultraportable package. While it outperforms, outclasses, and outlasts 11.6-inch competitors like the Toshiba Satellite T115 and Dell Inspiron 11z, the Acer Aspire Timeline 1810T lasts over two hours longer on a charge, has a more responsive keyboard, and lists for only $599. Still, if you're looking for a classy consumer ultraportable, the IdeaPad U150 is a compelling choice.