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Lenovo Ideapad U330
The juggernaut of Netbook releases this year has in many ways, affected the 13.3 inch market which has seen very few significant releases. This segment has faced an eroding market share and this trend does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. Given their relative power-user/enthusiast levels pricing and the general slump in economies worldwide has also not aided this segment's cause. However, this has not stopped companies like Lenovo from releasing some updated models with good feature upgrades. One such release is the Ideapad U330 and this is the laptop we are reviewing today.
In a good step forward, Lenovo has decided to go with a very no-nonsense slim design for the U330. With its dimensions of 12.5" x 9.3" x 0.9" – 1.1" it's very evenly proportioned, offering a slim backlit LED panel on a very solidly built frame which did not offer any flex anywhere on the main body of the laptop. The laptop's finish, however, left a bit to be desired with a high-gloss finish on the lid, which will get dirty very easily, and the lack of choice in colors with the entire laptop sporting a basic black finish.
There was another slight disappointment — the hinges were a bit squeaky and were rather thin, giving rise to the doubts of their long term durability.
The keyboard area of the U330 is vintage Lenovo. It sports a nice matte finish on toughened plastic, with small grooves on it that act as an sweat deterrent. The evenly sized keys are liberally borrowed from their business range and offer the same level of typing comfort in regards to their feedback and positioning. The only downside was that, at times, we experienced keyboard lag while typing (even when writing this review), which would require a reboot to fix.
This problem popped up a few times leading us to wonder if this was a problem with our test piece and not a segment-wide problem with the model. Thankfully a careful search revealed the problem to be rather generic, which we were able to fix with a reinstall and a new series of updated drivers that we found via Windows Update. Moving on we found the touchpad of the U330 is fairly well designed. It offers a decent working area for a touchpad on a 13.3 inch model, has sufficient traction for precise mouse control and two nice 'deep-click' mouse buttons that are very responsive.
In a move borrowed out of Apple’s repertoire, Lenovo has gone with a “zero-frame” in regards to its LED panel. Traditional laptops sport a bezel around the LED panel, which encases the panel itself and gives its sense of stability. The method that Apple and now Lenovo has adapted, instead opts for a toughened glass piece that holds the LED panel in place and gives the appearance of the LED panel being larger and sporting more working area than it actually is — zero-frame. While this is a great move, there are two downsides to this method.
Firstly the glass sheet on the LED panel is very glossy and so reflective, that working in a brightly lit area becomes an act in frustration. Secondly the glossy nature of the sheet, also results in poor viewing angles from the sides. Had there been a normal bezel in place, the viewing angles would not have been a problem. The LED panel by itself, however is top notch. Since it's backlit, it offers significantly enhanced color, contrast and brightness levels. Text was rich and crisp and movie watching was actually a joy with great sharpness and zero lag present at the native resolution of 1280x800.
Being a 13.3 inch model, the U330 comes with an average variety of connectivity options. Though it sports only 2 USB ports, it makes up by offering an HDMI/VGA display slots, Firewire 400 and a 6-in-1 card reader along with the token dual-layer DVD-RW. Wireless connectivity included 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.0 EDR.
The U330 test piece we received, had a good specification overall in regards to other laptops in this range. It sported a C2D P8600 processor which runs on a 1066 FSB and a clock speed of 2.4 GHz, 2 GB of RAM, ATI Radeon 3450 chipset and a 320 GB SATA HDD. Our first performance test on the laptop was PCMark Vantage. As you can see from the scores above, the laptop performed exceedingly well, in its weighted averages in various sections and achieved segment leading scores overall. Our next test was 3DMark Vantage, which unfortunately was a no-show. Despite several reinstalls, 3DMark would keep crashing and no amount of coaxing made it work.
The U330 at its pricing of Rs. 67,000 is an excellent laptop. It offers very good performance levels, a beautifully designed keyboard, great AV experience in the form of a great LED panel and surprisingly good sound. There is virtually no ‘sticking’ bad point about this laptop and we found this to be a huge bonus, as we recommend this laptop without any reservation to anyone looking for a slim laptop that offers excellent VFM.