Hey gang, Valkor here. And this is an exciting day for TOV as we’ve been given the chance to review our first laptop er… Ultrabook. This one goes out to the folks at Lenovo, who really know how to put together a fine machine. The first two devices to enter the Val-Cave scored very well, with Digispa giving the B520 IdeaCentre a 4.5 and I took apart the Q180 HTPC scoring it at 4.5 as well. Now the IdeaPad U310 Ultrabook is in the cave and it’s looking to be an impressive piece of hardware, check it out!
Ultrabooks aren’t exactly netbooks and not quite full size laptops, yet they embrace the best of both worlds giving you size and power of the two aforementioned devices into one “ultra” device. I’ve gotten a sneak peek at my share of Ultrabooks, so you can imagine my joy in having to test one out. From the outside, the U310 isn’t the thinnest Ultrabook I’ve laid eyes on, but it’s definitely not a fatty. The body is still very thin, very sleek with nice, rounded edges and the lid protruding ever slightly from the base, making it easier to open. When closed, the U310 measures in at 0.7 inches and weighs in at 3lbs. On the left side of the device you have the “OneKey Recovery Button” (more on that feature in a bit), a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI out, and two USB 3.0 ports. On the right side you have one USB 2.0 port, headphone jack, and power port. Finally at the front of the device you have the power/battery indicator lights, and a multicard card slot.
Upon opening the device, you have a 13.3” HD monitor with a resolution of 1366X768 and contrast ratio of 16:9 with integrated HD webcam. Below that you have your full on QWERTY keyboard, power button and an intelligent touchpad. Why intelligent? Because you can use five finger gestures; this works perfectly if you’re using Windows 8 tablet interface in that way you can do the swipes, the pinches to zoom in and out, plus other gestures.
Back to that OneKey Recovery Button; I had no idea what the hell it was when I first saw it. The symbol kinda looked like a headphone, so I thought “cool! They cover the headphone port. I’m not gonna hate”. But when you press it, it actually activates Cyberlink’s recovery and backup software, which gives you three options – System Backup, System Recovery, and Create Recovery Disc. This is a nifty feature for anyone who’s too lazy to get into system recovery, restoration, and backing up; now you have access to these features at the press of a button.
Internally, the U310 is customizable to your specifications. The one TOV received came loaded with Windows 7 (64Bit) Premium Home Edition, powered by Intel’s dual-core 1.7GHz Ivy Bridge processor, 4GBs of RAM, 500GB hard drive, Centrino Wireless-N 2200, and Intel HD 4000 graphics engine, plus integrated stereo speakers with Dolby Theater V4.
If you decide to pick up one of these bad boys, not only do you get to customize the insides, but you get to choose amongst three colors for the outside – Cherry Blossom, Graphite Grey, and Aqua Blue. And after spending some quality time with the U310, I’m ready to give my verdict in the TOV Breakdown.
First and foremost, I was actually surprised at how easy it was for me to adjust to the smaller screen of the U310, which doesn’t appear all that small considering its 13.3” diagonal dimensions; I’m so used to 15 – 17” displays, I thought no way is this little laptop gonna work. And oh boy does it ever! Startup hit Solid State Drive numbers at 30 seconds, with the system being fully loaded with software. And this is all thanks to Lenovo’s “Rapidboot” technology, which allows for faster start up on a standard HDD and quicker load times when opening up programs. Believe me, this baby can fly. I put it to the test running multiple programs (Office, Adobe Dreamweaver, Google Chrome, and Winamp – yes I still use Winamp), and I didn’t notice any serious drag. So, right away, the U310 is a solid performer. Next, I gotta give it up to the keyboard, which is a dream; the keys are a decent size, soft on the touch while typing, and are spaced apart just right, rarely would I end up hitting a button I didn’t intended to. As for the touchpad – I’m never a fan. I’m not against them; I usually end up attaching a wireless mouse to the set-up for accuracy sake. But because this is an “intelligent pad”, I had to give it a go. Again, very smooth, very responsive, and the finger gestures actually work perfectly. For the most part I mainly did the pinching, which would zoom a web page in and out, I didn’t expect it to work at all, but imagine my surprise when it did. Plus the two finger scrolling performs beautifully. But in the end, I’m sticking with the mouse. Again, not against the pad - Val simply likes what he likes. Moving on, the 13.3” screen is crisp and clear, though you may have to adjust the angle for optimum viewing. I didn’t have a problem once my angle was set and I could also hit the spot whenever I returned to the U310. Finally there’s battery life – and this is the clincher. Battery life is strong with this one. As I wrote this review, I was in my kitchen typing it up and constantly checking the battery meter and after four hours of typing, it was time for a recharge, yet the U310 drains it slow enough that I didn't have to make a mad dash for an outlet. This works great for a student who’s taking notes in class or a journalist who needs to write up a quick piece; you can get a good run on 4 hours of battery, so long as you’re not doing anything too intense. You still have to mind your surroundings as you don't want to be too far away from an outlet... just in case. Overall, the U310 is aces in Val-Cave testing and a solid entry in field of Ultrabooks. Great job Lenovo!
First up – the speakers. OK, laptop speakers are never, ever good; that’s why we have headphones and external speakers. Actually audio quality is clearer than most laptop speakers I’ve had to deal with, but I need bass, which the internal speakers lack. And if its too loud, the audio starts to distort. Next is the brightness on the default settings, which is just too high. The screen isn’t blindly bright, but it gave me a headache after awhile. Adjusting it helps, but you can’t go too low or else everything looks too murky.
I’m not ashamed to say it, Lenovo’s IdeaPad U310 Ultrabook is quite the bad ass; though it has a few flaws, I found the U310 to be a solid performer that’s quick on its feet, great to look at, excellent battery life, and a joy overall. You certainly can’t go wrong with this one, which receives a 4.5 out of TOV 5 stars. And the U310 has been Valkor tested, TOV Approved.