Lenovo’s refreshed U-series ultrabook is an improvement over last year’s model, and it’s much cheaper, too. Photo by Peter McCollough/Wired
Barely seven months ago, Lenovo released its excellent IdeaPad U300s, the company’s consumer-friendly entry to the ultrabook market. Now Lenovo is back with an update, the U310.
To the casual eye, not a lot appears to have changed. It’s still a 13.3-inch aluminum slab of a laptop with a 1366×768-pixel resolution screen. The island keyboard still offers a great layout and good action (though the keys now feel a touch small in comparison to some recently reviewed machines), and the huge clickpad has finally had the kinks worked out of it.
The biggest switch under the hood is the move to Ivy Bridge, with Lenovo subbing in a 1.7GHz third-generation Core i5 for the old 1.7GHz second-generation Core i7. There’s a substantially better port selection now, too, with an extra USB port (bringing the total up to three, two 3.0 and one 2.0), wired Ethernet, and an SD slot. The HDMI port from the U300s stays as-is.
Surprisingly, the U310 I reviewed performed almost identically in benchmark tests to the U300s I reviewed in November. That’s interesting, because the prior machine featured a 256GB SSD, and the U310 features a slow, 5400rpm 500GB traditional hard drive. It seems the faster CPU and slower hard drive manage to cancel each other out in the end. At about 4 hours, 20 minutes of video playback, even battery life is almost the same as it was last time around. But there is a catch: At just $800, today’s U310 is a whopping $700 cheaper than the U300s.
Lenovo has worked the kinks out of the IdeaPad’s trackpad and the keyboard. Photo by Peter McCollough/Wired
The U310 isn’t without some drawbacks, though, the biggest of which is some apparent binging that now has the laptop topping the scales at a beastly 3.6 pounds, versus 2.9 pounds for the U300s. (The switch from SSD to HDD is responsible for only a tiny fraction of that.) Once a competitor on the weight front, the U310 is suddenly one of the heaviest 13.3-inch ultrabooks on the market. And while the metal shell makes it impressively sturdy on the whole, I was far from thrilled with the plastic bezel surrounding the LCD. A fingernail will easily pry this flimsy piece up, and I’m concerned that these bezels coming off will eventually be a big problem for U310 owners.
As a budget consumer ultrabook, the weight issue isn’t likely to be a deal-killer for the target buyer Lenovo has in mind. And I’m happy enough with the rest of the package to still give it a solid recommendation.
WIRED Awesome value, with solid performance. Trackpad problems resolved. Screen bezel notwithstanding, remarkably sturdy. Now available in pink.
TIRED IdeaPad got fat. LCD remains dim, with washed out colors if you aren’t viewing head on. Still no keyboard backlighting.
It’s gotten a little bulkier, but it’s sturdier, too. Photo by Peter McCollough/Wired