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New fragility vs used solidity: Part 1 – Lenovo U110 review

Oh the netbook craze! I’ve been through a few of them and they’ve all been great. It goes without saying that they have their limitations though and are challenged by anything requiring decent horsepower, like playing HD video.  The new Intel ULV powered ultra-portables in the $500-700 range are a step up, but even they aren’t powerhouses if you create media as much as you consume it.  They’re also sometimes a little fragile compared to some premium offerings.

So I’m going show you two full power premium ultraportables at ULV prices when purchased used.  It goes without saying that if you do choose a used laptop then ensure it is in good working order before you hand over your hard earned cash.

This will be a two part article; in this first part we’ll look at the award winning Lenovo Ideapad U110.

What’s awesome: Fast Intel 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo flies along; stunning design won Best of CES Computers & Hardware award in 2008; feels as solid as a Lenovo ThinkPad.

What blows: It shipped with a slow 4200rpm hard drive which can be replaced with reasonably priced solid state drive; integrated X3100 graphics are the same as the first-gen MacBook Air – there’s a reason the second-gen Air got the Nvidia 9400.

Original retail price: $1,899 (now discontinued)

eBay refurb or good condition: Approx. $600-700

This beautiful ultralight wowed onlookers at its CES 2008 launch with it’s elegant lid design and powerful features. Lenovo achieved a major coup by getting a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo (a la MacBook Air) into a tiny chassis weighing half a pound less than its Apple competitor when fitted with its four cell battery.

Speaking of accessories the U110 actually shipped with two batteries, a featherweight four cell giving the overall package a weight of just 2.4lbs and a larger seven cell which gave around four hours of usage in my tests of balanced usage with WiFi on.  The U110 also shipped with an external DVD rewriter drive, which is rare for a modern ultralight.

Of course Lenovo knows a thing or two about making laptops having taken over IBM’s ThinkPad division a few years ago.  The resulting U110 is a quality mashup of design, power and solidity in a small frame. The 11.1 inch screen is fine for traveling and lap use and it handles Flash video well. The confidence-inspiring feel of the U110 also gives the impression that a well looked after used unit would still have a healthy life ahead of it.

The U110 also does an amazing job of heat dissipation given its shallow depth. The base of the computer remained remarkably cool during my usage with hot air being vented out the side, even at 80% CPU load.

On the downside, like so many modern laptops it has a glossy screen, which causes distractions as lights bounce annoyingly off its surface.

Similar to the first-gen MacBook Air the Lenovo has a slow 4200rpm hard drive and Intel’s previous generation X3100 integrated graphics. Neither of these are showstoppers as the processor is so quick, but they’re worth bearing in mind in case your primary purpose is to edit HD video (in which case you might want to consider something with a bigger screen anyway).

Overall the U110 smacks of solidity, quality and design prowess, which it should do given its original $1,899 price tag. There are also still some new units out there as the U110 was only recently discontinued.  At current eBay prices it’s a unique, individual choice if its fits your requirements.

Neil Berman


Feb 3, 2010 - Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , ,

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