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 New notebook from Lenovo, IdeaPad U350

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PostSubject: New notebook from Lenovo, IdeaPad U350   Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:18 pm

The number of notebooks with Intel low-power processors is growing. Lenovo sent us one of their models, the U350. With a 13-inch display and without a DVD player, it’s aimed at a mobile clientele. The manufacturer’s slogan is “Outside it's slim. Inside, it's packed.”

The U350’s shell is a mixture of several styles. It has imitation brushed aluminum around the keyboard, a gloss-black screen bezel, and a matte-black diamond pattern on the lid. It’s hard to assign a clear identity to these design choices, but as a whole we liked its looks and build quality.

The Function (Fn) and Ctrl keys on the lower left are inverted on this model, as on all Lenovo models. This is a keyboard configuration detail that we just can’t see the point of. Lenovo explains it by the existence of keyboard shortcuts that use the “Fn” key. But we feel that the inversion generates a lot of errors for people who type without looking at the keyboard. For example, “Ctrl + C” (Copy) becomes “Fn + C,” which doesn’t do anything. There’s no backlighting and no number pad (but that’s to be expected on a 13”). The keys are firm and responsive. But the keyboard does tend to flex slightly in the middle.

The touchpad (which is multipoint) is good-sized. Its matte, grainy surface gives it a nice feel. But the click buttons below it are too mushy, and they’re noisy to boot.

The Webcam handles colorimetry well with faces if lighting conditions aren’t too bright (otherwise, the brightest Zoomparts of the image burn). There’s a problem with proportion that we’ve already noticed with other Lenovo notebooks – in MSN, faces are vertically distorted. We still have no explanation for this odd phenomenon. And as for the sound, it’s a disaster. You have to yell into the microphone to be heard.

The machine is noisy. The noise level, even at idle, is never below perceptible. There’s a constant background noise from the fans. It doesn’t get a lot noisier during intensive use, but it’s always there.

The connectors are arranged along the edges of the notebook. On the right are 2 USB ports, 2 mini-jacks, and an SD card reader. On the left: 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 RJ45 (network), and 1 additional USB (for a total of 3). There’s no e-SATA, FireWire, or ExpressCard port. There is a switch on the left that activates Wi-Fi.

Under the computer, a lot of the space is taken up by the battery. The remaining area is used for a large access cover under which are the RAM (2 GB, Samsung) and hard disk.


Core 2 Solo SU3500 1.4 GHz

Hard Disk
320 GB

Graphic Chipset
Intel GMA4500M HD

Optical Drive

4 GB

13.3” (1366x768)

If you stick to Flash and 2D games, you’ll have no problems. But don’t expect to play Crysis or other resource-hungry 3D games.

The IdeaPad has a lot of ideas about audio, but as is often true they’re not applied well. The effects offered adulterate the sound more than anything else. The sound from the headphone jack is particularly susceptible to noise from hard-disk access.

Mobility, Battery life
Since it weighs 300 grams more than its direct competitor, the MSI X340, and has a battery capacity specified at 41Wh (31.82 Wh for the MSI), we’re entitled to expect better battery life from the U350. We clocked 3 hours of continuous video play (display set to 100 nits, Wi-Fi disabled and headphones plugged in). That’s a very good result, on a par with the Dell XPS 13.

Source: http://www.tomsguide.com/
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