Lenovo’s ultrabook got a refresh from the last time we reviewed it. We posted our review of the Lenovo U300s back in March and the new IdeaPad U310 breaks in with the latest Ivy Bridge CPU, larger storage and more affordable price.
Lenovo ideapad U310 specs:
Display: 13.3″ 1366×768 LED back-lit LCD display
OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
CPU: Intel Core i5 1.70GHz dual-core (Ivy Bridge, 22nm)
RAM: 4GB single-channel DDR3 1333MHz
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000
Hard Drive: 500GB Hybrid Hard Drive (SATA)
I/O: 1X HDMI, 1X Audio In/Out, 1X USB 2.0, 2X USB 3.0/2.0, SD/MMC card slot, 1X Ethernet.
Radio: WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP support, Intel WiDi (Wireless Display) support
Webcam: 1MP 720p HD recording capable
Design and Build
The first thing we’ve noticed about the U310 was how solid it felt when we first held it, it was like holding a somewhat thinner version of the 13″ Macbook Pro. The matte, dark-brown, aluminum shell which covered both the lid and underside of the laptop felt great to the touch. Lifting the lid surprised us even further, we had to ominously check the back of the display twice to make sure there wasn’t an Apple logo embossed on it.
The U310’s interior looks just as expensive as the outside. The Chiclet-style keyboard, glass multi-touch trackpad, glowing aluminum power button and the glossy black bezel that’s surrounding the display all work together to evoke a premium feel and Lenovo did a great job at doing just that. The ‘Macbok’–er Lenovo U310 is one of the best looking Windows-running PC we’ve ever used.
We have no complaints regarding the keyboard or the oversized glass trackpad since both input devices were well thought out worked splendidly, except for one little kink: drivers. We were just browsing videos on YouTube the other day and suddenly the trackpad stopped responding to our touches, to add up to the frustration, we didn’t have a spare mouse to use. Even after a couple of restarts it still wasn’t working.
Eventually we were able to revive the trackpad by uninstalling the Synaptics driver (yes by just using the keyboard and struggling with Speech Recognition) and reinstalling a newer version. This is a well-known issue on several other laptops [from different manufacturers] by the way, It’s not a U310-specific problem.
It’s worth noting though that PC users who are used to touch pads with the left and right buttons will take some time to get used to the U310’s clickable trackpad, the left and right buttons [virtual] are still there but you have press on the trackpad itself, it can be annoying/finnicky at times but it isn’t something that’ll bother users really.
This thing isn’t meant to be used for gaming so we did not include any benchmark tests here, either way, the U310’s overall performance is satisfactory for us while it can be more than enough to some people.
The experience index scores seem to lean towards the low side given that this is powered by an ultra-low voltage processor but those numbers really shouldn’t bother you as it’s real-world performance that’ll concern you the most. And we’re telling you, this thing is very fast, cold boot ups never exceed the 28-second mark and we were able to launch Chrome instantaneously, we reckon it’s due to the hybrid hard drive working silently in the background, smartly caching the boot data frequently used by the OS.
Speaking of the HHD, opening apps that you don’t use often such as, say… the Adobe Reader or Windows Live may take a few seconds longer than usual since HHD’s would normally have to spin up the platters when an information required by the OS is not found within the drive’s flash memory, thus, increasing seek times. You really won’t notice this as much as we do but you can certainly tell when an application is launched from the drive’s cache or accessed from the conventional hard drive. You don’t have to do much to improve loading times, just use your laptop as you normally would and all the hard work will be done by the drive itself.
Jumping from an application to another was definitely smooth, window animations were buttery and full HD videos played smoothly, both on the laptop’s built in display or to an external one (HDTV via HDMI). No problems with the HDMI output whatsoever.
Microsoft games, tons of tabs in Chrome, Skype, playing a movie and applications being downloaded in the background — all while writing this review on IE and listening to music via iTunes without a single hiccup tells a lot about how this thing can handle multi-tasking. Opening all those applications consumed about 3/4 of the available system ram (4GB) and the processor cores still kept on ticking happily under the hood.
You probably wouldn’t do those crazy things all at the same time so it’s safe to say that this laptop will be able to pave through anything you throw at it — just make sure it’s not a game like Crysis 2 or anything similar otherwise you’ll make this thing cripple down on its knees.
The webcam quality is decent for a laptop but it’s nowhere near the caliber of Apple’s Facetime HD cameras, it offered an ample amount of brightness even while Skyping in dimly-lit situations though. The microphone worked alright but there are times when the people we talked to would tell us that they’re having a hard time trying to understand us so we had to result into using a Bluetooth headset. (since the U310 does not have a separate audio/mic input jack)
Display, Audio and Battery Life
We’ve been pretty happy with the U310’s zippy performance but how about the display? Well, there’s nothing fancy about the U310’s screen. The 1366×768 resolution is a pretty standard affair, no IPS tech or any fancy abbreviations come with it and it suffers from unpleasant color/contrast shifting with even the slightest degree of head movement — something most of us laptop owners are familiar with.
The display is adequately bright and colors are accurate when backlight is set to max but setting it lower than 50% made the whites look yellowish. The glossiness certainly makes it hard for us to see when it’s being used outdoors (i.e. midday, outside Starbucks) as well and the piano-black bezel is nothing short of a fingerprint magnet.
We’d love to have go on the built-in Intel WiDi [wireless display] functionality but we don’t have any device that can take advantage of it, unfortunately.
Audio output from the U310’s built-in speakers is surprisingly loud. It can easily fill a decent-sized room with music when the volume is maxed out but bass is certainly absent and mids suffer from distortion like in most laptops which we’re all used to. At least you can still use it as a substitute when your MiniMax runs out of juice.
Battery life is pretty average for the most part, it consisntently lasted us somewhere between 3 hours and 45 mins to about 4 1/2 hours depending on our usage (from 100% down to 5%). The run times were achieved by setting the brightness to about 7 bars, power plan set to power saving and display set to turn off after a minute of inactivity. This thing will stay alive for about two full-length movies or a third of a day’s worth of paperwork and internet browsing.
We’re pretty satisfied with the U310’s general usability, It looks great, the keyboard is comfortable to use, tactile and easy to clean and we love the fact that Lenovo has configured the system shortcut keys to work the same way Macs do (pressing Fn keys will let you use the Function keys instead). The track pad is smooth and accurate, it boots/wakes up swiftly and runs admirably well… don’t be deceived by the low-clocked 1.7GHz Core i5 processor, not everything is about clock speed/frequency, Intel has done a lot of tweaks on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture and you can surely feel the performance improvements on the U310.
The absence of the DVD drive didn’t bother us since most of our files are stored in external hard drives or the cloud. Maybe some of you may get put off by this so that’s something to keep in mind.
All in all, the U310 is something we’d definitely buy. Ultrabooks are still kind of expensive right now and the U310’s Php39,995 (our unit’s configuration) price tag is no exception, we know that for the same price you can be able to buy something better (whilst bigger and heavier) or setup a powerful mid-range gaming rig, but it really depends on an individual’s needs. This ultrabook is best for people like us, people who are always on the go and need to stay connected to the web all the time.
If you’re planning on purchasing a stylish, durable, easy to use and fast ultrabook, we definitely recommend you consider the Lenovo U310.