After giving the new IdeaPad U110 its 15 minutes of fame in front of the camera, we got down to business. The 11.1-inch ultraportable is built like a tank -- a really, really lightweight tank. The uniquely-designed lid and (overly) glossy motif is a welcome change for Lenovo, but after a good bit of use, it's easy to see this one won't appeal to the masses. Click on for the full rundown of impressions and notes (and a video, too).
We'll go ahead and get this out of the way: the U110 is no powerhouse (full specifications are listed here). Sure, it may posses a Core 2 Duo processor (rather than, say, a VIA), but it's not going to shatter any records in the speed department. Then again, the machine's purpose isn't to be exceptionally quick, only exceptionally nimble. At that, it succeeds. It handled basic tasks within Vista Home Premium (web browsing, Office work, dialing up a direct link to the International Space Station, etc.) with ease, though we won't say we didn't grow frustrated by the multi-second wait times as Word opened, Media Center launched and the ungodly amount of bloatware loaded when firing the lappie up for the first time. Here's a laundry list of impressions for those of you on the fence about dropping $1,899 / $1,999 on this wee machine:
All in all, it's fairly sexy. Definitely sexy for a Lenovo.
Too much gloss. It's overkill in its finest form, though some may enjoy it.
It's a fingerprint magnet (shocking, we know) -- practically every square centimeter of this thing's insides grabs prints: the keys, the screen, even the palm rests.
Extraordinarily sturdy. We really can't emphasize enough how solidly this thing is built.
Appreciated accents -- the "floral swirl" motif flows from the top lid to the underside, all the way to the smattering of touch controls that sit sneakily above the row of Function keys.
Very respectable port selection for its size.
Sleek from one corner to the other, thoughtful bottom bumpers ensure a firm grip on your lap / table.
LED-backlit display is gorgeous, sharp and bright. 'Tis a shame you see yourself and everything behind you entirely too much thanks to the ultra-glossy coating.
Remarkable viewing angles -- if you can't see the on-screen action, you're not looking hard enough.
Really dig the amount of recline available here. Sure wish the MacBook Pro's display could lean this far back.
1,366 x 768 resolution is outstanding for fitting a surprising amount of material onto an 11.1-inch panel.
There's no latch present here to keep it clamped down. You simply pull the display away from the bottom casing to open it up. There's two tiny rubber bumpers on each side of the trackpad to keep it from slamming down when you shut it. Not a bother to us, though it may cause concern for others.
Keyboard / trackpad
We'll be honest: we're not a fan of the keyboard. The entire thing is covered in a hard plastic coating, which gives the keys a (gasp!) plasticky feel. They simply feel too slick to the touch, and there's definitely a clicky tactility -- can't say we're shocked that we felt the same way about the Optimus Maximus.
We found our fingers sliding over to keys accidentally on a number of occasions. We're nitpicking, yes, but in cramped environments with this thing on your lap, you want a keyboard you can touch type on easily.
The truncated Tab and Backspace keys in particular took some serious getting used to.
We really like the dedicated Page Up / Page Down keys, though we wish the trackpad supported finger scrolling and multi-touch gestures.
As is customary on Lenovo machines, the Function key is placed where the Control key is on many other rigs -- yeah, you can remap them if you so choose, but otherwise you'll be forced to rewire your mind for those copy / paste commands.
The trackpad is understandably small, but it's definitely one of the best we've ever used. Great feel to the fingertips, very responsive.
Right / left clicks are on the small side, thus they take some getting used to. Once you've adjusted, however, they're quite satisfactory.
No need to double take, there's no Trackpoint here. Sorry, nipple fans! Personally, we're not bothered by this one iota, but we definitely understand that it will be a deal-breaker for others.
Just to reiterate, this ain't the quickest whip on the block. It'll plow through basic chores, but you could easily find yourself frustrated with application launch times.
Considering its ultraportable nature, however, we'd say it's no more sluggish than its most similar rivals. Just don't expect this to replace your XPS m1330.
The GMA X3100 graphics set is fine for everyday tasks and watching back the occasional video clip / DVD. Just don't try to fire up Crysis.
It's no lap-burner, but the U110 gets pretty toasty in extended use. Nothing out of the ordinary, though.
You won't hear this thing hissing and purring much at all, it manages to stay wonderfully quiet the vast majority of the time. Really taxing it may get the wind a-blowin', but otherwise you'll barely notice that it's on.
Bundled DVD burner worked like a charm, was just mildly noisy when reading a disc. We can't help but wish it was somehow stuffed within the frame (à la the X300), though.
Built-in stereo speakers are shockingly loud. That being said, there's no attempt made to even hit the mids and lows. You're stuck with two high-powered (and very clear / crisp) tweeters, unfortunately.
The 4-cell battery reported 1 hour, 45 minutes of life left upon unplugging the U110 at full charge.
31 minutes later, it showed 50% life left (and estimated 39 minutes before forced hibernation).
Exactly one hour after it was initially unplugged, it went into hibernation with 3% left.
Notes on those results: a playlist of MP3s were on half of the time, display brightness was maxed, the optical drive was used to transfer 300MB over to the HDD and then unattached, and we were surfing the web via WiFi the entire time.
You could easily stretch that one hour into nearly two by dimming the display and turning your jams off -- we just wanted to stress it a bit and see how it held up.
With light use, expecting 3.5 - 4.5 hours out of the 7-cell Li-ion isn't unreasonable, though really hammering it could drop you well below the 3 hour mark.
Although the 4-cell pack is mildly disappointing, the longevous 7-cell unit that's bundled in is greatly appreciated. However, we get the idea it wasn't a freebie judging by the machine's cost.
So, did Lenovo hit a home run with the IdeaPad U110? All things considered, we might have to say no. Granted, that's based primarily on the dreadful keyboard and slightly underpowered feel. You just can't make an ultraportable that's tough to type on -- this class of machine, more than any other, requires the quality of the keys to be top-shelf. Unfortunately, we weren't able to adapt to the annoyingly slick coating, and we found ourselves frustrated by the inability to type for even short periods of time without accidentally inputting characters that we didn't intend to.
That being said, the U110 is otherwise still a solid machine. If the keys felt half as good as the trackpad, we'd feel totally different about the entire thing. Additionally, the absurdly glossy display doesn't help matters, as it's next to impossible to avoid seeing those ever-present reflections. We really dig the design and overall build quality, but at $1,899 (or $1,999 for the 3GB RAM model), it's a stretch to recommend it without qualifications. If you really, really like what you're seeing, we would suggest finding one and giving those keys a go on your own; for those not bothered by the coating, it's entirely more inviting.