Lenovo India recently launched the IdeaPad U300S Ultrabook at a press meet up in Bangalore. This Ultrabook is among the first wave of new Intel-based ultraportable laptops that have made their way into the market - the other Ultrabook that has been released in India is the Acer Aspire S3.
The Lenovo unit will go on sale, as per Lenovo officials, sometime around Tuesday, November 29, in all Lenovo Exclusive Stores (LES) and select Large Format Retailers (LFR) and will have a starting price of INR 67,990(plus taxes).
The entire U300S unit has a thickness of just 0.6-inches (14.9mm), and is built from a single-piece aluminium shell weighing in at less than three pounds (around 1.32 kg). This Lenovo Ultrabook has the following features: a 13.3" 16:9 widescreen HD display; up to 2nd generation Intel Core i5 processor (Lenovo officials mentioned that the core i7 versions of the U300S will be released in a few months from now); Intel GMA HD 3000 graphics; 4GB DDR3 memory (it is upwardly customizable, but the Lenovo folks have yet to inform us on the higher limit); up to 128 GB of SSD storage (while there is an option for 256GB SSD, this alternative won't be available to users in India, atleast not for the time being anyway); Integrated Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity; Integrated 1.3M (720p HD) webcam. The U300S units will come pre-installed with 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium OS and have a warranty period of 3 years - the battery is covered for a period of one year.
Ever since the announcement of the new Ultrabook type of laptops at the IDF 2011, I have been looking forward to getting my hands on the device. And Lenovo, despite not being the first manufacturer to launch Ultrabooks, was the first to provide us with a working unit. I tried out the unit for some time and here are my first impressions.
Design: Ultrabooks are like the PC's answer to the Apple MacBook Air. So we wouldn’t be too surprised if some of the Ultrabooks imitated the tapered body design of the Macbook Air - and this is infact what some of the other manufacturers have done. Fortunately, Lenovo has not gone down that path, and instead has come out with a refreshingly distinct look for its U300S.
The entire laptop body is made of a one piece aluminium shell, and is available in 2 colours Graphite Gray or Clementine Orange - luckily, the unit I checked sported this colour, with it covering the backlid and base, while the rest of the U300S body had a black matte finish. During the initial phase of selling the U300s, Lenovo officials said that only the graphite gray colour option will be available in India - users wanting to opt for the orange colour will have to be more patient.
The single-piece aluminum shell construction of the ultraboook lends itself for a very sturdy design - I was not able to find any sort of flex on any part of the body. Overall the U300S has a very solid build quality, and the texture of the entire body was smooth to the touch.
The base and backlid protrude slightly from the rest of the body, giving the U300s a book-like appearance. The unit is very thin, with a uniform thickness of 0.6-inches, as opposed to the Macbook Air which has a tapered design with the front being much less thicker than its rear end. Kudos to Lenovo for coming out with a new attractive design.
Laptop Keyboard and Trackpad: TheU300s features a chiclet keyboard - doesn’t have a dedicated numpad - with the keys that have a slight depression on the top side. The keys are comfortable to type on and the tactile response was good - some folks might find the response from pressing the keys to be a tad bit too hard. The audio output is also placed just below the keyboard.
Moreover, the keyboard is what Lenovo calls a "Breathable Keyboard", a feature that reportedly allows air to flow in through the keyboard and out of the sides and rear hinge - there are no vents located on the base of the U300S. I had enquired with Lenovo officials whether this keyboard was also spill resistant as well, to which they replied that it did indeed posses this characteristic - I was unfortunately unable to verify this particular aspect, so we will just have to take the Lenovo official at his word, for now.
Although not a downside per se, I was disappointed that Lenovo didn’t feature a back lighting option for the keyboard. While Lenovo officials were not too forthcoming on why this option was not featured, they did suggest that it might have had something to do with the conflict with implementing a backlighting feature along with the breathable keyboard feature.
The U300S also features a glass trackpad, and has dedicated buttons for handling the left and right click mouse functions - unlike the buttonless trackpad design seen on the MAcBook Air. The trackpad supports multi touch functionality - including three finger swiping that can be used for viewing the next/previous picture in a slideshow.
Features: While Lenovo has gone for a minimalist design, they have, fortunately, not gone down that same route for the hardware and connectivity options available on the U300S. The biggest plus point for the U300s is that it has an HMDI and USB 3.0 port - two ports that were missing on the MacBook Air. These two ports are located on the right side of the U300s, alongside a headphone jack, and power outlet. At the left side, a USB 2.0 port, air vent and one key recovery button are located.
Display: The 13.3-inch glossy screen has a native resolution of 1366x768. Its glossy nature lends itself to attracting a lot of fingerprints, not to mention the rather irritating reflections that will be seen when viewing images or video on it. The viewing angles were decent, with the horizontal viewing angles better than the vertical ones. The screen can be tilted backwards to an angle of 120 degrees, respective to the base.
My overall impression of the U300S was that it was a well built Ultrabook with a distinct yet appealing design. While I was unable to verify aspects such as the claimed battery life of 8 hours on this unit or its fast boot up times, I look forward to testing this unit and measuring it's performance in our benchmarks and real world tests. Watch this space for my full review of the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S Ultrabook.