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Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Review

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Lenovo is no newcomer to the thin and light notebook segment, but despite the experience in business notebooks it took several versions before the company could deliver an Ultrabook that met the needs and wants of consumers.

The Lenovo U310 Ultrabook isn’t perfect, but small improvements address many of our earlier complaints and with coupons routinely dropping the price down to $750 it deserves a new look. The model Lenovo sent for review retails for $799 and includes a 32GB flash and 500GB hybrid hard drive.

The IdeaPad U310 is the Ultrabook regular users have waited for. Lenovo delivers a great mix of performance and features at the right price.

Lenovo also sells non-Ultrabook IdeaPad U310 models with traditional hard drives for a discounted price, starting at $699 after online savings.

Pros

  • Attractive price
  • Great design and port selection.
  • Excellent Glass touchpad
  • Hybrid hard drive
Cons

  • Keyboard layout
  • Below average battery life
  • Dim display

Lenovo U310 Review - angle

Lenovo U310 Ultrabook in Aqua Blue.

Lenovo IdeaPad U310 | $799 | Ultrabook

The Competition

Who is the IdeaPad U310 for?

The IdeaPad U310 Ultrabook is a perfect for students, travelers and home users who want a thin, portable system that won’t break the bank. The integrated graphics aren’t going to cut it for professional photo and video editing, but will handle home user needs just fine and the system can even handle gaming.

Design

The IdeaPad U310 Ultrabook shares the overall design with the rest of the IdeaPad U series notebooks.

Lenovo U310 Review - design

The Lenovo U310 uses the U shape, or book design of the U series.

Lenovo’s thin design does not taper like many Ultrabooks, but remains a uniform thickness throughout, with a book-like shape. The edges of the notebook are recessed slightly from the top and bottom cover to complete the book-like look.

While it would be easy to overdo this style decision the U310 pulls it off and looks as good open and in use as it does closed on a desk.

The U310 I am reviewing has a limited edition aqua finish with a bright white interior. I’m normally not a fan of white gadgets, but the contrasting colors make for a nice look.

Lenovo U310 Review

The Lenovo U310 is available in a number of aluminum finishes, including Aqua.

The  notebook opens wide enough to accommodate almost any viewing angle, though users will struggle to find a place to use this notebook outdoors.

Lenovo finally includes an SD card reader on the IdeaPad U310, which completes the good collection of ports. Lenovo includes a HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports and a full size Ethernet port on the left and a USB 2.0 port and combo mic and headphone jack on the right. It’s worth noting that there is no VGA port.

The U310 weighs in at 3.75 pounds and is .71-inches thick, which makes it suitable for taking almost anywhere.

Keyboard and Touchpad

While the IdeaPad notebooks don’t match the ThinkPad notebooks in terms of keyboard performance, the keys on the U310 are pretty good. While they are fairly flat, there is a good amount of space between the keys.

Lenovo U310 Review - keyboard

The Lenovo U310 keyboard offers good travel and spacing, but odd layout choices.

Key travel, the amount of distance a key needs to move when pressed is also better than average for an Ultrabook. The area around the S, D and F keys is prone to movement during fast and heavy typing, but doesn’t detract from the overall typing experience.

No matter how many times I try to adjust to the layout of keys on IdeaPad notebooks I cannot adapt to the odd rightmost keys and Lenovo’s decision to shrink the Backspace, Enter and shift keys to accommodate less used keys.

Countless errors occurred while typing this review thanks to errant pressing of the Up key or pressing Home instead of backspace.

The IdeaPad U310 uses a larger glass touchpad, like those found on more expensive notebooks.

Lenovo U310 Review - Touchpad

The Lenovo IdeaPad U310 has a large glass touchpad.

The glass touchpad supports up to five-finger gestures and is optimized for Windows 8. The  gestures are recognized well in Windows 7, and scrolling is smoother than on notebooks with traditional touchpads, but we won’t see the full benefits of this new touchpad until Windows 8 releases in October.

The touchpad offers a left and right mouse button click zone at the bottom of the trackpad, but users can also tap on any of the upper portion with one finger for a left click and tap with two fingers for a right mouse click.

Display

Lenovo chose to go with a 13.3-inch display and 1366 x 768 resolution on the U310. This is an average resolution, but not out of line for a $800 notebook. The specs list this as a HD Glare display, which is a perfect description of what I saw while trying to use the notebook outside on a sunny day.

Lenovo U310 Review - display

The IdeaPad U310 sports a 13.3-inch display with 1366 x 768 resolution.

Indoors the display is satisfactory, though a higher brightness level would be appreciated. On the top of the display is an HD webcam which looks good for video chatting and can be used to unlock the notebook with Lenovo Veriface technology.

Features

Lenovo uses the flash portion of the hard drive to deliver faster boot times, but installing many programs over time can increase boot times dramatically. To prevent long boot times in the future, Lenovo includes Boot Shield, a feature that will keep boot times in check for the long run.

The IdeaPad U310 also features InstantResume, which users will enjoy more than a fast boot time. This allows the U310 to resume from sleep in seconds. In my testing the U310 was ready to go as fast as I was.

The Intel HD 4000 graphics pack in Intel WiDi for wirelessly streaming HD content to an HDTV or projector with a $99 Wireless Display adapter connected.

Performance and Graphics

The IdeaPad U310 features a third generation Intel Core i5 processor, which is Intel’s latest. The notebook also features the new Intel HD 4000 graphics and 4GB RAM. The notebook also features a 500GB hard drive with a small 32GB flash partition to speed up booting and access to commonly used programs.

Lenovo U310 gaming

The Lenovo U310 delivers the power needed for gaming with settings dialed down.

While the IdeaPad U310 is not a gaming notebook it is capable of playing some games on medium settings. I played through the start of Batman Arkham City using the integrated graphics and was surprised by the smooth gameplay and overall looks. Hardcore gamers won’t see the same level of detail as on a gaming notebook, but for casual gamers who want a diversion from work, the U310 has the power needed.

During my standard use of watching videos, opening multiple tabs and accessing various applications I never experienced lags or slow downs.

The base of the notebook will get hot during gaming and heavy use, so I recommend a table for any gaming session. The fan is quiet when it does kick on, which means it won’t interrupt watching TV or videos on the notebook.

Lenovo U310 Review - bottom

The base of the IdeaPad U310 includes vents in the middle to help dissipate heat.

Audio is above average thanks to the Dolby Home Theater v4 which provides presets for gaming, movies and music. The in game audio for Batman Arkham City added to the gameplay and music streamed from Pandora delivered good sounding audio.

Battery Life

Using the Laptop Magazine battery test, which simulates web browsing with the display at 40% brightness, the IdeaPad U310 lasted 5 hours and 27 minutes.

Lenovo U310 Review - power adapter battery life

The IdeaPad U310 battery life is just over 5 hours, but thankfully the power adapter is portable.

This is respectable for a thin notebook, but falls short of all day performance. Thankfully the charger is small enough to stay mobile with users.

The Bottom Line

The IdeaPad U310 Ultrabook delivers a lot of value at a nice price. The keyboard layout is still a major sticking point, but the inclusion of an SD card slot and powerful internals go a long way in making this Ultrabook the only notebook a user needs.

Lenovo U310 Review - closed angle

The Lenovo IdeaPad U310 offers the features consumers want at an attractive price.

Users should be sure to look for deals at Lenovo.com where models drop as low as $749 at the time of this review. The non, Ultrabook models can be found for $699 with discounts.

Gallery

Specs

OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Display (size/res) 13.3-inches, 1366 x 768
CPU 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-(3rd gen)
RAM 4GB
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000
Storage 500GB 5400RPM HDD w 32GB NAND Flash
Optical Drive None
Wireless Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Ports 2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, HDMI, Ethernet, SD/MMC card slot, headphone/mic
Size  13.1×8.8×0.7 inches
Weight 3.75 pounds

Josh Smith is a longtime mobile tech user, currently using a Droid as his primary smartphone. Josh is also an editor at Notebooks.com where he reviews notebooks and other mobile tech. Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh_Smith or email him Josh@Notebooks.com.

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