Lenovo IdeaPad U160
- Thin and light chassis
- Nice feeling, curved keys
- Speedy Core i7 performance
- Less than five hours of battery life
- Gets extremely warm
- More expensive than other ultraportables
Look and feel
In terms of build quality, the U160's plastic chassis feels quite a bit more solid than Acer's 11.6-inch Aspire One 721. However, we noticed on our unit that the keyboard deck was a bit loose – Lenovo tells us it may just be our early production unit. Port-wise, the U160 has two USB jacks, an USB / eSATA connector as well as sockets for HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, microphone and headphone sockets. It also has a four-in-one card reader. Not surprisingly, there's no optical drive onboard.
Keyboard, touchpad and screen
On the same vein, the touchpad is quite small. Measuring by 2.4 by 1.5 inches, it's a bit odd that Lenovo also didn't take advantage of more of the horizontal space on the palmrest and widen it a bit. The pad is still smooth, though the two mouse buttons are a slightly mushy. Still, it's much better than being stuck with a stiff single bar like that on the Eee PC 1018P.
We're starting to think Lenovo has as big of an issue picking up decent LCDs as Acer and ASUS. Just like we saw on the IdeaPad S10-3t, the vertical viewing of the 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 resolution display was horrific at some angles. For instance, we tilted the screen back when watching a clip of Tosh.0 and we could barely make out any colors or see where his face started and ended. When looking at the screen head on, however, it was sufficiently bright, and the ambient light sensor adjusted the brightness to our liking. The speakers on the bottom were comparable to other laptops of its size – they're loud enough for listening to some tunes on Pandora, but not going to be the life of any party.
Performance and battery life
On the graphics side of things, the rig's Intel GMA HM55 HD was nimble enough to handle both 720p and 1080p video (local and streaming). It also managed to plow through World of Warcraft at a decent 27fps. However, as the 3DMark06 score below shows, the integrated GPU isn't quite as fast as AMD's integrated ATI Radeon HD 4225, which has been coming standard on other 11.6-inch laptops like the Acer Aspire One 721 and HP Pavilion dm1.
The U160 is certainly marketed as a multimedia machine and it can handle HD content, but it's not exactly the coolest machine on the market for those sorts of activities. And yes, we mean that literally. The entire chassis of the laptop – including its keyboard and touchpad – felt like it had been baking in the sun when streaming video. Even when we used the system to write this review and listen to some music, it got tepid and the bottom of the laptop got hot enough that we removed it from our lap to set it on the table.
So, while the i7 processor may not be as powerful as a standard Core i3 CPU, it draws less power and must result in better battery life, right? Not quite. On our video rundown test, which loops the same standard definition video at 65 brightness, the 48Wh battery managed to keep the system afloat for only 3 hours and 10 minutes. A glance at the chart below shows that both the Core i3-powered Acer TimelineX and Toshiba Portege R705 lasted an hour longer than that. Yeah, it's pretty horrendous for a laptop of this size, and even the AMD-powered Aspire One 721 lasted an extra 20 minutes.
We can't help but feel torn on Lenovo's decision to power the U160 with an ultra-low voltage Core i7 CPU. While it surely adds a lot of extra horsepower, we're left wondering who actually needs all of that in a smaller laptop, especially when other (cheaper) laptops on the market can handle HD content and basic games just as well, not to mention last longer on a charge and run much cooler.
|Lenovo IdeaPad U160||3863||1175||3:10|
|Acer Aspire One 721||
|Toshiba Portege R705 (Core i3-350M)||5024||1759||4:25|
|Acer TimelineX 4820T (Core i3-350M)||4926||1724||5:04|
|Dell Vostro V13 (Core 2 Duo SU7300)||2687||556||2:39|
|ASUS UL50Vf (Core 2 Duo SU7300)||3724||827/3438||6:10|