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Lenovo IdeaPad U310
What's hot: Unique design with excellent materials, good keyboard and trackpad.
What's not: Average display, no full SSD option.
Reviewed August 12, 2012 by Lisa Gade, Editor
in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)
And here's the 2012 sequel: the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 is the company's second generation Ultrabook (third if you count the pre-Ultrabook IdeaPad U260) refreshed with Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs. The 13.3" U310 follows the attractive and more expensive 2011 IdeaPad U300s. The IdeaPad U310 features Lenovo's book or journal design with a lid and bottom that look like a journal's covers, while the sides are finished in contrasting white to look like a book's pages. The unibody casing is aluminum and it's available in a pale blue, pale pink (called Cherry Blossom) and gray. Despite the cliche gender oriented color options, we'd pick the blue or pink over the gray because they're more interesting and striking. Don't worry: the colors are subtle.
The laptop has a 1366 x 768 glossy display, Intel HD 4000 graphics and an Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz CPU, a staple of the Ultrabook world. The U310 is also available with a Core i3 for less money, but we recommend the Core i5 for its better performance and Turbo Boost. The Lenovo has 4 gigs of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, and a 500 gig 5400 RPM hard drive with a 32 gig SSD drive for caching. The notebook has single band Intel WiFi 2200BGN with WiDi and a 10/100 Ethernet jack but no Bluetooth (c'mon Lenovo!). A webcam, 3 USB ports (2 USB 3.0), full size HDMI, 3.5mm audio and an SD card slot round up the feature list.
Design and Ergonomics
The Lenovo IdeaPad U310 is a unique, attractive and solid machine with excellent build quality. All parts fit together well with no gaps or creaks and it feels robust. The U310 has a white interior that's attractive and it sets off both the display and black Chiclet keyboard keys nicely. The wrist rest area is deep enough for medium size hands and the edges are soft enough to avoid wrist pinch. The roomy Synaptics glass trackpad performs very well for single and multi-touch actions. The trackpad has good palm rejection and supports up to 5 finger gestures (if you can remember all those gestures!). Lenovo says it's enhanced to support Windows 8's new gestures.
The Lenovo's stereo speakers are decently loud though not wildly full. Dolby Home Theater v4 handles EQ and stereo effects. Sound through the headphone jack is moderately loud and much more full and rich than the speakers' audio.
As Ultrabooks go, the IdeaPad U310's AccuType keyboard is better than the average keyboard, but it has travel is less than you'd find on Lenovo's thicker and larger notebooks. The sculpted keys are roomy and tactile enough for a good typing experience, but we wish for backlighting. The shift, enter and backspace keys are oversized (not by much on the right side) and dedicated page navigation keys line the right side.
The laptop has a single USB 2.0 port, an SD card slot and a 3.5mm combo audio jack on the right as well and two USB 3.0 ports, a full size HDMI port and a 10/100 Ethernet jack on the left. We applaud the Ethernet jack! There's no need to take up a USB port with a USB Ethernet adapter. The barrel style charging port is on the right and the OneKey Recovery 7.0 button is on the left. The Lenovo has a long row of air vents in the hinge area and a single row across the center of the notebook's bottom.
The 720p webcam delivers bright video and it works with Lenovo's included VeriFace 4.0 facial recognition software for biometric security. At 3.75 pounds, the U310 is one of the heaviest 13.3" Ultrabooks on the market, but it's still significantly lighter than standard size notebooks.