The Lenovo IdeaPad U310 ($799.99 direct) updates Lenovo's consumer ultrabook line with Intel's third-generation processors and a splash of color. Lenovo has a well-earned reputation for quality products—and sometimes premium pricing—but the IdeaPad U310 $749.95 at B&H Photo-Video offers a solid ultrabook for less than its pricey competitors.
You'd be forgiven for mistaking the IdeaPad U310 for the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (Mid 2012) ($1,499 direct, 4 stars). There's a striking resemblance between the two, with bare metal aluminum and black square tile keys. Lenovo does add some color with an anodized lid, available in graphite grey, aqua blue, or cherry blossom pink. The 13.3-inch display offers 1,366-by-768 resolution, which is standard for 13-inch ultrabooks, though you will see a few with higher resolutions, like the Dell XPS 14 (Summer 2012) ($1,499 direct, 3.5 stars) and Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (Mid 2012) ($1,199 direct, 4 stars). Measuring 0.7 by 13.1 by 8.8 inches (HWD) and weighing 3.75 pounds, the IdeaPad U310 is actually smaller and lighter than the MacBook Pro, but the similarities are still pretty glaring.
The keyboard—Lenovo's AccuType—is very good, and though the shallow travel of the keys is similar to other ultrabooks, the overall feel is smoother. The only problem I had with the keyboard was a bit of flexing as I typed, but that's nothing unusual in the ultrabook category. The glass-surfaced clickpad is smooth and touchable, and, more importantly, accurate, with none of the false positive troubles seen with other clickpads.
I tested the audio with some streaming music (the Japandroids album Celebration Rock) and found the speakers to be clear, but quiet. You won't get much bass out of these speakers, and at low volumes you'll occasionally find it too quiet to hear. For better sound, try the HP Envy 4-1043cl ($1,034.99 direct, 4 stars), which offers Beats Audio and an integrated subwoofer.
The IdeaPad U310 is outfitted with an Ethernet port, full size HDMI output, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, a combination headphone and microphone jack, and an built-in card reader (SD, MMC). A webcam above the display captures 720p video for Skype and video conferencing, plus VeriFace facial-recognition, which lets you log on with just a glance. Internally, the IdeaPad U310 is also equipped with 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, and Intel's Wireless Display technology (WiDi 2.0), which lets you stream HD video through an adapter, like the Netgear Push2TV ($99 list).
Lenovo packs the IdeaPad U310 with both a 500GB, 5400rpm hard drive for storage space, and a 32GB solid-state cache to provide the zippiness needed for the near-instant start and wake times of RapidBoot and speedy performance. While you'll find a few programs preinstalled on the U310, like Absolute Reminder, Google Chrome, Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office 2010, Oovoo messenger, and McAfee Emerald AntiVirus, you'll also get several useful add-ons from Lenovo, like One-Key Rescue for easy system recovery, and Lenovo Enhanced Experience boot optimizer. Lenovo also covers the IdeaPad U310 with a one-year warranty, but warranty upgrades are available.
With a third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U (1.7GHz) processor—the same dual-core processor seen in the HP Envy 4-1043cl —and 4GB of RAM, the IdeaPad U310 easily bested the PCMark 7 scores of several top performing ultrabooks that utilized older Core i5 and Core i7 processors. The IdeaPad U310 scored 3,570 points, beating both the Editors' Choice HP Folio 13-1020us ($899.99 list, 4 stars) (3,150 points) and the Core i7-equipped Lenovo IdeaPad U300s ($1,495 list, 4 stars) (3,394 points). In Cinebench R11.5, the IdeaPad U310 scored 2.39 points, only beaten by the Dell XPS 14 (Summer 2012) , which scored 2.79 points with a third-generation Core i7.
The IdeaPad U310 also performed well in Handbrake and Photoshop CS5, our multimedia benchmark tests. In Handbrake, the IdeaPad U310 completed transcoding our test video file in 2 minutes 3 seconds, faster than both the HP Folio 13-1020us $835.99 at Amazon.com (2:29) and the U300s $1,250.00 at Amazon Marketplace (2:39), but behind the HP Envy 4-1043cl (1:59) and the Dell XPS 14 (1:48). The IdeaPad U310 completed our Photoshop CS5 test in 4 minutes 40 seconds, but still fell behind competitors—the Dell XPS 14 (4:05), Lenovo U300s (4:25), and HP Envy 4-1043cl (4:34) all had slightly faster times. Regardless, you'll find that for light video and photo editing, the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 still provides pretty quick performance.
The Lenovo IdeaPad U310 takes advantage of Intel's integrated graphics solution (Intel HD Graphics 4000) to do all of the heavy lifting when rendering images and video. In 3DMark 2006, the IdeaPad U310 scored 4,978 points at 1,024 by 768 resolution with anti-aliasing turned off. With resolution bumped up to the native 1,366 by 768 and 4x anti-aliasing, the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 scored 2,672 points. The only comparable systems with better graphics scores were the HP Envy 4-1043cl (5,942 points at 1,024-by-768, 3,299 points at native and 4x anti-aliasing), which got better results by pairing the same processor with more RAM, and the Dell XPS 14 (3,720 medium, 1,911 high) with a discrete Nvidia GPU. Intel's integrated graphics don't have the horsepower for gaming—in both Crysis and Lost Planet 2 the IdeaPad U310 produced less than playable scores, even with the resolution and detail settings dialed down.
With a 3-cell, 46Wh battery sealed in the chassis, the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 lasted 6 hours 44 minutes in Mobile Mark. While competitors stretch battery life to nearly 10 hours (Dell XPS 14 9:37), the Lenovo U310 still provides enough battery life to get you through the day.
In the past, Lenovo's ultrabook offerings were designed to compete on quality rather than price, but the IdeaPad U310 brings all of the quality without the inflated price tag, offering a solid ultrabook competitor for hundreds of dollars less than premium competitors, like the $1,499 Dell XPS 14 (Summer 2012). While the HP Folio 13-1020us holds on as the current Editors' Choice for ultrabooks for its lighter weight and longer battery life, the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 holds its own as a smart alternative.
|Type General Purpose, Ultraportable, Ultrabook|
|Processor Name Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Processor Speed 1.7 GHz|
|RAM 4 GB|
|Weight 3.75 lb|
|Screen Size 13.3 inches|
|Screen Size Type Widescreen|
|Native Resolution 1366 x 768|
|Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested) 500 + 32 GB|
|Rotation Speed 5400 rpm, SSD|
|Networking Options 802.11n|
|Primary Optical Drive External|
|Wireless Display Capability (WiDi) Yes|
|Battery Type 46 Whr (Watt hours)|
|Tech Support 1 year.|
|MobileMark 2007 – Standard Battery Productivity Load (hrs:min) 6:44|
|3-D BENCHMARK TESTS - 3DMark06 - 1,024 x 768 - Default 4978|
|3-D BENCHMARK TESTS - 3DMark06 - Native – 0X/4X 2672|
|Crysis - Medium quality - 1,024 x 768 - AA/AF=Off/Off 19|
|Lost Planet 2 (DX9) - Middle quality - 1,024 x 768- AA/AF=Off/Off 16|
|Lost Planet 2 (DX9) - High quality - Native - AA/AF= 0X/4X 7|
|MULTIMEDIA TESTS - Handbrake 2:03 min:sec|
|MULTIMEDIA TESTS - PhotoShop CS5 4:40 min:sec|
|MULTIMEDIA TESTS - CineBench 11.5 2.39|