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Lenovo IdeaPad U300s: Light, luxurious

Jon L. Jacobi | Nov. 16, 2011
If there's a laptop that deserves the moniker "Ultrabook"--a term that Intel introduced (and trademarked) earlier this year for a class of very slim and light laptops--it's the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s. Not because it's faster or beefier than the competition (it's not), but because it actually looks like a thin coffee-table book when closed. It's also the Ultrabook that many in our labs gravitated toward due to its luxuriously minimalist styling and superior input ergonomics. At least they did until they heard it cost $1595, a price tag that reflects the expense of the U300s's large (256GB) solid-state drive, or SSD.

Depending on your needs, you might find the port selection on the U300s lacking. It has a USB 3.0 port for quick data transfers and backup, an HDMI one for video output, plus an additional USB 2.0 port, but that's about it. There's no VGA for older displays, no SD/MMC card slot, no eSATA, and--probably most surprising--no ethernet. The lack of eSATA isn't remediable, but is ameliorated by the presence of USB 3.0. For VGA, SD, and ethernet you'll need USB adapters. Connectivity consists of 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0, as well as WiDi for wireless display.

The U300s is the first laptop I've handled that ships with Microsoft's free Security Essentials in lieu of a trial of pay security software. MSE is just as effective for most users, but stays out of your way unless there's an issue, unlike most pay options. There's no array of junk software either; just Cyberlink's YouCam utility for the 1280 by 720 webcam, a free subscription to Absolute Data Protect for encrypting data and remote disabling of the laptop, Google Chrome, and Cyberlink's OneKey recovery for backing up your system. The latter works in conjunction with a button on the left rear of the U300s that initiates recovery if the bundled Windows 7 Professional operating system stops booting correctly.

No matter which way you cut it, the U300s is a pricey laptop, though only moderately more so than the similarly configured competition. It's available in a slower, less capacious configuration with a Core i5-2457M CPU and a 128GB SSD for $1195, and Lenovo's U260 and its recently released U400 are only slightly thicker and heavier, with cheaper configurations. The missing ports are a bit of puzzler, but otherwise the U300s delivers a very satisfying Ultrabook experience.


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