Ultra-fashionable design; Solid battery life; Sleek, responsive touch controls; Impressive frameless LED-backlit display
External optical drive; Glossy design picks up smudges quickly; Keyboard a bit slippery; Weak speakers
A gorgeous ultraportable that backs up its good looks with long battery life and a brilliant display.
If ever a laptop were to be on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Lenovo IdeaPad U110 would be it. The luxurious 2.9-pound, cherry-colored ultraportable (priced at $1,899), aimed at fashion-conscious consumers, sports a distinct but subtle flowing Tendril pattern, and a glossy, piano-like keyboard. But style is only half the story: A bright LED-backlit display, long battery life, and built-in facial recognition make this system more than just a looker.
The U110 could go head-to-head with such systems as the $2,699 ASUS U2E in the most fashionable notebook contest. The Tendril pattern etched into the red, aluminum lid (the system is also available in black) is reminiscent of an engraving on antique china. The artistic motif extends to the underside of the system. The fan vents are styled after the Greek key pattern. The luxury feast continues under the lid to the system's black, piano key-inspired keyboard and palm rests. However, both get smeared with fingerprints easily. Lenovo includes a microfiber cloth for wiping down the system, but we don't see road warriors remembering to tote this accessory.
Keyboard and Touch-Sensitive Controls
For its size, the keyboard is spacious and comfortable. However, the glossy keys initially felt slippery and take some getting used to. Atypical of Lenovo ThinkPad keyboards, the layout was flat, and requires a slight learning curve, even for touch-typists. Likewise, the touchpad is slippery but has enough room for two fingers, and the mouse buttons provided sufficient tactile feedback. We had no problem connecting a Bluetooth mouse for a long working stint.
Located above the right-hand side of the keyboard is a strip of hidden touch-sensitive controls that are illuminated only when you slide the area with a finger. Four reddish-orange LED controls intertwined with the Tendril pattern appear for the Dolby control, two user-defined shortcut buttons, and volume control. We programmed both of the user-defined buttons, one to launch Firefox and the other to launch Microsoft Word. The buttons, including the volume toggle, were extremely responsive.
Glossy, Frameless LED Display
The 1366 x 768-pixel panel was crisp, and colors were extremely vivid. Streaming The Girl Next Door on Hulu.com looked quite good; colors were bright, and we saw no motion blur. Vertical viewing angles seemed to suffer, however. Moving off-axis caused a slight reflection change.
Dolby in Name Only
Speedy Facial Recognition
Employing the same software we were so impressed with in the IdeaPad Y510, the U110 uses Lenovo's VeriFace facial recognition to log users on with their face rather than with a character-based password. After registering our mug with the system, we were blown away by how quickly it was able to recognize us. When a person of a different sex sat down at the keyboard and attempted to log in, access was denied. Especially useful is that the system records the face of anyone who tries to access your system in a log of saved pictures.
Slow to Boot, But Fine After That
Off the bat, we were a bit disappointed by the U110's sluggish boot time of 1 minute and 20 seconds, which we attribute to its 4,200-rpm hard drive. During our use of the system we didn't encounter any issues loading programs; Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player all loaded in 2 seconds. The 1.6-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L7500 processor, combined with 2GB of RAM, managed a score of 134 on MobileMark 2007, which is 37 points higher than our current average for ultraportables. The ASUS U2E, with its 1.06-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7500, managed only 96 on MobileMark 2007.
Likewise, the U110 impressed us with a 3DMark03 score of 1,723 on 3DMark03--364 points above the average, thanks to its relatively modest Intel X3100 graphics card. Streaming video of a 30 Rock episode was smooth even when we were performing other tasks in the background. In addition, when we booted up the graphics-heavy game Second Life, we saw no pauses.
Our configuration came with a 120GB hard drive. Lenovo expects to release an SSD version of the U110 in the coming months, but its Active Protection System and included accelerometer on our system does well for protection.
Strong Battery Life and Wi-Fi
The U110's Wi-Fi speeds of 19.1 Mbps at 15 feet and 14.2 Mpbs at 50 feet are above average for the ultraportable category. The notebook doesn't have an integrated mobile broadband option, but you can easily plug a modem card into the 34mm ExpressCard slot.
Software and Warranty
The U110 comes preinstalled with Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Live Portal, and a 90-day trial of Norton AntiVirus 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007. The system is also packaged with CyberLink's Power2Go ($39.95) all-media disc-burning package and Lenovo's one-stop media Shuttle Center. Lenovo backs the IdeaPad U110 with a one-year hardware and battery warranty and 24/7 tech support.
Lenovo IdeaPad U110 Verdict
The IdeaPad U110 has much more going for it than its artistic style and good looks, as its performance indicates. However, its closest competitor--the ASUS U2E (starting at $1,999)--features a built-in optical drive, a genuine leather casing, and a solid state drive option. Nevertheless, the U110's fashion-forward design, along with its long battery life and bright LED-backlit display, make it one of our favorite ultraportables.
|CPU||1.6-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L7500|
|Operating System||MS Windows Vista Home Premium|
|RAM Upgradable to||4GB|
|Hard Drive Size||120GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||4,200rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Graphics Card||Intel GMA X3100|
|Ports (excluding USB)||VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Microphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Firewire|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Ethernet|
|Card Slots||6-1 card reader|
|Warranty/Support||One-year parts and labor/24/7 phone|
|Size||10.8 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches|
|Weight||2.9 pounds (2.4 pounds with four-cell battery)|