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Lenovo IdeaPad U310 review

Laptops & PCsReviews
8/10
by Brian Westover, 20 Jul 2012Reviews
Lenovo IdeaPad U310 review

The Lenovo IdeaPad U310 updates Lenovo's consumer ultrabook line with Intel's third-generation processors and a splash of colour. Lenovo has a well-earned reputation for quality products – and sometimes premium pricing – but the IdeaPad U310 offers a solid ultrabook for less than its pricey competitors, with the machine costing £650.

Design

You'd be forgiven for mistaking the IdeaPad U310 for the recently refreshed Apple MacBook Pro 13in. There's a striking resemblance between the two, between the bare metal aluminium and black square tile keys. Lenovo does add some colour with an anodised lid, available in graphite grey, aqua blue, or cherry blossom pink.

The 13.3in display offers a resolution of 1,366 x 768, which is standard for 13in ultrabooks, though you will see a few with higher resolutions, like the MacBook Air 13in. Measuring 332 x 223 x 18mm (WxDxH), and weighing 1.7kg, the IdeaPad U310 is actually smaller and lighter than the MacBook Pro, but the similarities are still glaringly obvious.

The keyboard – Lenovo's AccuType – is very good, and though the shallow travel of the keys is similar to other ultrabooks, the overall feel is smoother. The only problem I had with the keyboard was a bit of flexing as I typed, but that's nothing unusual in the ultrabook category. The glass-surfaced clickpad is smooth and touchable, and most importantly it’s accurate, with none of the false positive troubles seen with other clickpads.

I tested the audio with some streaming music (the Japandroids album Celebration Rock) and found the speakers to be clear, but quiet. You won't get much bass out of them, and at low volumes you'll occasionally find the speakers are too quiet to hear, which is a little disappointing.

Features

The IdeaPad U310 is outfitted with an Ethernet port, HDMI output, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, a combination headphone and microphone jack, and a built-in card reader (SD, MMC). A webcam above the display captures 720p video for Skype and video conferencing, and boasts VeriFace facial recognition, which lets you log on with just a glance. Internally, the IdeaPad U310 is also equipped with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0.

Lenovo packs the IdeaPad U310 with both a 500GB, 5400rpm hard drive for storage space, and a 32GB SSD cache to provide the zippiness needed for the near-instant start and wake times of RapidBoot, along with speedy general performance. While you'll find a few programs preinstalled on the U310, there are also several useful add-ons from Lenovo, like One-Key Rescue for easy post-disaster system recovery, and Lenovo Enhanced Experience boot optimiser. Lenovo also covers the IdeaPad U310 with a one-year warranty.

Performance

With a third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U dual-core processor running at 1.7GHz, and 4GB of RAM, the IdeaPad U310 easily bested the PCMark 7 scores of several top performing ultrabooks that utilised older Core i5 and Core i7 processors. The IdeaPad U310 scored 3,570 points, beating out the likes of the HP Folio 13, which hit 3,150 points, and the Core i7-equipped Lenovo IdeaPad U300s which mustered 3,394. In Cinebench R11.5, the IdeaPad U310 scored 2.39 points, again an impressive achievement for this class of notebook.

The IdeaPad U310 also performed well in Handbrake and Photoshop CS5, our multimedia benchmark tests. In Handbrake, the U310 completed transcoding our test video file in 2 minutes 3 seconds, faster than both the HP Folio 13’s 2 minute 29 seconds, and the IdeaPad U300s which took 2 minutes 39 seconds. Indeed, the U310 was pretty close to some of the best times we’ve seen among its competitor models. The U310 wasn’t quite as fast in Photoshop, though, taking 4 minutes 40 seconds to complete the test. In this case, the IdeaPad U300s pipped it with a time of 4 minutes 25 seconds, but there’s not much in it there. All in all, you'll find that for light video and photo editing, the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 provides pretty impressive performance levels.

This laptop also takes advantage of Intel's integrated graphics solution (Intel HD Graphics 4000) to do all of the heavy lifting when rendering images and video. In 3DMark 2006, the IdeaPad U310 scored 4,978 points at 1,024 x 768 resolution with anti-aliasing turned off. With the resolution bumped up to the native 1,366 x 768 of the display, and 4x anti-aliasing turned on, the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 scored 2,672 points.

Again, those are good scores, but don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll be running around playing first-person shooters with smooth frame rates on this machine. Intel's integrated graphics solution still doesn’t have the horsepower for gaming – in both Crysis and Lost Planet 2, the IdeaPad U310 produced less than playable scores, even with the resolution and detail settings turned down.

With a 3-cell battery sealed in the chassis, Lenovo’s U310 lasted 6 hours 44 minutes in Mobile Mark. While competitors stretch battery life to nearly 10 hours in some cases, the U310 still provides enough battery life to get you through the day.

Verdict

In the past, Lenovo's ultrabook products were designed to compete on quality rather than price, but the IdeaPad U310 brings all of the quality without the inflated price tag, offering a solid ultrabook competitor for considerably less than premium competitors. This machine is a strong performer, and a smart choice overall, with some nice added perks such as a well-designed keyboard.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Lenovo IdeaPad U310

Type 

 General Purpose, Ultraportable, Ultrabook

Processor Name

 Intel Core i5-3317U

Operating System

 Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium

Processor Speed

 1.7GHz

RAM

 4GB

Weight

 1.7kg

Screen Size

 13.3in

Screen Size Type

 Widescreen

Native Resolution

 1,366 x 768

Graphics Card

 Intel HD Graphics 4000

Storage Capacity (as Tested)

 500GB + 32GB

Rotation Speed

 5,400 rpm, SSD

Networking Options

 802.11n

Primary Optical Drive

 External

Wireless Display Capability (WiDi)

 Yes

WiMax

 No

Battery Type

 46 Whr (Watt hours)

Tech Support

 1 year

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