Lenovo’s U300s marks the official launch of Ultrabooks in India. A new segment coined by Intel, Ultrabooks can be thought of as a more powerful and portable version of a netbook. Apple first made inroads with this segment when they first announced the MacBook Air, a stunningly slim notebook designed for someone who simply wanted ultra-portability and basic computing needs, a perfect companion for the jet-set businessman. Now, with tablets eating their way into the netbook space, Intel had to create another niche where they could be the dominant suppliers of processors and here we are today.
Right now, we just have a handful of Ultrabooks launched. Apart from Lenovo, we have Asus’s UX31 and Acer’s Aspire S3 in this space. Something tells me we are going to see a lot more at CES, next month. Coming back to the U300s, is it really worth the premium? Does spending more than 50K on a high- powered netbook vs a regular notebook make sense? Let’s find out.
Design and Build
The U300s is crafted from a single piece of aluminum, which lends it an extremely classy look. Dressed in graphite grey, instead of silver, the U300s avoids being classified as yet another MacBook Air clone. Having said that, it does bear a striking resemblance to the Air from it’s tapering design and unibody finish. There aren’t any screws or any other eyesores visible, just the plain smooth aluminium finish, which Lenovo have managed to pull off very well.
Slim and sexy
The ports on the side are limited to two USB ports, one of them being 3.0, a headphone and mic combo, HDMI and a one-touch backup button. Notice the lack of a LAN jack or a memory card reader. There is a sizable exhaust vent on the side whereas the intake vents are moved in front of the hinge, so you can place it wherever without the worry of blocking the intake vents.
The Ultrabook stays cool for the most part
The U300s is fitted with a 13.3-inch LED backlit display with a slight glossy finish making images rich and vibrant. There’s a rubber lining all round the edge of the bezel to seal off the notebook when closed, so that no dirt and grime can get in. The best part about this Ultrabook is the keyboard, which is very well laid out with a giant trackpad sitting smack center. The chiclet-styled keyboard is very comfortable and the keys have a good feedback when pressed. The trackpad is reminiscent of the ones used on MacBooks, except that this is not glass. The surface is smooth, however allowing you to easily perform two-finger scrolling or pinch-to-zoom. The Cypress trackpad software also lets you use the entire surface for scrolling instead of just the sides, but for mouse clicks, you’ll have to perform these in the designated areas.
Beautifully large trackpad with good multi-touch gestures
There’s more MacBook emulation with a 3-finger and 4-finger gestures built-in. Swiping four fingers upwards takes you to the desktop, whereas downwards takes you to the Alt + Tab screen showing you the open applications. I have to say, it works well, but it does lack the finesse of the trackpads in the MacBook. Even the scrolling action is a bit jerky most of the times as it's not smooth and effortless as Apple’s devices.
Overall, we are mighty impressed with the build and finish of the U300s. It looks and feels like a premium product (which it is) and Lenovo has done a great job with the aesthetics and ergonomics of the Ultrabook, so kudos to them on that.
Intel has sort of set guidelines to what components can be used, for a notebook to be classified as an Ultrabook. Three phases have been planned keeping in mind the upcoming Ivy Bridge CPUs as well. All current Ultrabooks are in phase one, which means they should be less than 20mm thick, weigh less than 1.4kg, should use flash-based storage and the CPU would be any Core i5 or Core i7 from their new CULV range. This is something similar to what Microsoft did with WP7, they made sure manufacturers stuck with a pre-determined set of components, so the experience is even. The U300s falls well within these guidelines with a thickness of just 14.9mm and weight of 1.36kg.
Very neatly designed power and battery status lights
Powering the U300s is the Core i5 2467M CPU, running at 1.6GHz with a Turbo frequency of up to 2.3GHz. This is based on the same Sandy Bridge architecture and feature HyperThreading with a low TDP of 17W. Other components include 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 128GB SSD for storage. Lenovo bundles the Ultrabook with Windows 7 Home Premium along with Google Chrome and a trial version of Office 2010. Thankfully, they’ve kept the bloatware to a bare minimum this time and haven’t installed any silly anti-virus software or other unwanted junkware. There’s just the program for the One Key recovery button and YouCam, which is a software for the webcam.