Skip to main content

4 New Notebooks: NVIDIA Ion Included

Lenovo IdeaPad U350

The Display

Aside from the light sensor, which increases or decreases the level of the backlighting to suit the ambient light, this display’s configuration is very classic. And that’s not good news. Once again we have a glossy, poor-quality TN panel. There’s a colorimetric shift towards blue, the viewing angles are very narrow (if you don’t look directly into the screen, the image is altered), the reactivity is only average, and the contrast weak. We measured it at 192:1 (white at 123 nits and black at 0.64 nits). Unfortunately, results like that are the norm for notebooks, and the U350 is no exception. To make the most of this display, don’t forget that we make calibrated colorimetric profiles available for downloading on Focus-Numerique. Don’t hesitate to install it!

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.”

      

First impressions, design


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

The light sensor is in the centerSD, 2 mini-jack, 2 USB

VGA, HDMI, RJ45, USBWebcam

Features





Processor
Core 2 Solo SU3500 1.4 GHzHard Disk
320 GB

Graphic Chipset
Intel GMA4500M HDOptical Drive
NO

Memory
4 GB
Dimensions


Display
13.3” (1366x768)Weight
328 x 228 x 24.9mm (12.9" x 9" x .9")


Processing power
Vista Index: 3.2. Detail: Processor 3.6 - RAM 5.1 - Graphics 3.,2 - Game Graphics 3.3 - Main hard disk 5.4.

Notebooks using Intel CULV processors have low power consumption (between 17 and 20 Watts on average here). However, their performance is significantly below that of traditional portables. Compared to the index of 100 assigned to the Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Xi3640 (Intel T9400), the IdeaPad U350 scored 31. Read that to mean it’s an average of three times slower running the same tasks.

Another “problem” is that the processor is single-core. In practice, that means that switching from one application to another is slower if the second app is running as a background task. More generally, latency is higher when multitasking – launching two applications, Web browsing and video encoding for example, simultaneously.

It’s possible to play HD video (1078)with software that can use the graphics chip to do the decoding (Power DVD, for example). Otherwise the processor is too weak to handle the task and playback is afflicted with stuttering.

Games



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.

Audio


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.

PROS
CONS
- Good looks- Light- Good build quality - Can play heavy HD video with the right software - Sharp Webcam- CPU Performance - Poor display - Constant background noise - Distorted Webcam image - Sound in headphones disturbed by disk accesses

Falling somewhere between a netbook and a "traditional" notebook, the IdeaPad U350 is a competition to the MSI X340 and Acer 5810T – notebooks suitable mostly for office applications and occasional photo retouching or video editing if you aren’t in too much of a hurry.