The Bottom Line
Jun 22 2012 - Lenovo's IdeaPad U310 makes for an extremely affordable option for those looking at a second generation ultrabook platform that doesn't skimp on storage or performance. It retains the same overall look at the past U300 series model as well as its excellent keyboard and trackpad. The changes made to make this laptop affordable do have their drawbacks. This includes it being one of the heavier 13-inch ultrabooks on the market. The hard drive design also greatly reduces the overall running time compared to solid state equipped models.
- Larger Storage Capacity From Hard Drive and SSD Caching Combo
- Excellent Keryboard And Trackpad
- Larger And Heavier Than Most Ultrabooks
- Below Average Battery Life
- Keyboard Isn't Backlit
- Intel Core i5-3317U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive With 8GB Solid State Drive Cache
- 13.3" WXGA (1366x768) Display With 1.0 Megapxel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless
- Two USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, HDMI, SD Card Slot
- 13.1" x 8.5" x .7" @ 3.8 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter, McAfee AntiVirus+
Review - Lenovo IdeaPad U310
Jun 22 2012 - Lenovo's second version of their IdeaPad U series ultrabook makes some minor and some significant changes from their first attempt with the IdeaPad U300s. The big change here is the introduction of the Ivy Bridge based Intel Core i5-3317U dual core processor. This new processor offers improved power management and performance increases over the past Sandy Bridge models. Performance from this ultra low voltage processor offers some smooth computing even with some demanding tasks. Of course, it still will struggle with more demanding tasks such as desktop video as it does run much slower than traditional wattage laptop processors. In addition, it comes with just 4GB of DDR3 memory standard.
The storage features on the IdeaPad U310 differ from most ultrabooks. Rather than using a strict solid state drive option, they have elected to use a combination of a 500GB hard drive along with a smaller 8GB solid state drive. To the user, it appears as a single drive as the SSD is used to cache data from the drive for the system per Intel's Ultrabook specifications. This has the benefit of allowing the system to have much more storage space for applications, data and media files while giving the speed benefits of an SSD. Boot speeds are quite speedy at just eighteen seconds and waking from sleep in under three. The downside is that many other tasks such as writing data or accessing less frequent files won't be as snappy. External storage options are quite good thanks to two USB 3.0 ports. Lenovo also corrected one of the bit mistakes of the original U300s by installing an SD card slot to the front of the laptop and it nicely is mostly flush when a card is plugged in.
The display is unchanged on the Ideapad U310 from the past U300s. It is a typical 13.3-inch display with a 1366x768 display that is found in just about any 13-inch ultraportable laptop. There are a few 13-inch ultrathin laptops that offer higher resolution such as the MacBook Air 13 but more are planned to come out later this year. It also uses a reflective coating that helps bring out color and contrasts but has the downside of making it more difficult to use in certain lighting conditions. The graphics rely on the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that is built into the Core i5 processor. This is a significant improvement over the past HD Graphics 3000. It still lacks 3D performance for playing many modern 3D games but some will run at lower resolutions and detail levels but this is a common situation for this class of laptop. The graphics also have the ability to accelerate media encoding thanks to the support for Quick Sync video with compatible applications.
At just over three and three quarters pounds, the IdeaPad U310 is certainly among the heavier of the ultrabooks on the market. The closest configuration would be from the Acer Aspire S3 which also uses a hard drive with a 13.3-inch display but comes in just over three pounds and thus is much lighter. It is even heavier than the HP Folio 13 but that features a much larger battery. On the other hand, Lenovo certainly builds their laptops with a much greater level of quality and durability. There is still flex in the overall chassis but the keyboard flex is tolerable.
Speaking of the keyboard, Lenovo continues to use their excellent keyboard design on the IdeaPad U310. It has the traditional isolated key layout used in past models that offers a comfortable and accurate experience. Like the past models, there is no backlight for the keyboard which can make it more difficult to use in dark conditions. The trackpad is sizable with multitouch features and is fairly accurate. It does is the integrated buttons that at times had problems registering a right click rather than a left click.
For its size and weight, one would assume that there is a pretty sizable battery pack within the IdeaPad U310. It comes with a three cell internal battery pack that is rated at 46Whr. This is slightly below most of the competition that is using 50Whr batteries but offers a similar capacity to the Dell XPS 13. In my video playback test, the Ideapad U310 offered a fairly disappointing three and a half hours of running time before shutting down. This puts it well below the previous Ideapad U300s and is likely the result of the hard drive and its additional power requirements over a solid state equipped ultrabook. This puts it on par with the Acer Aspire S3 which also comes with a hard drive but well behind the HP Folio 13 with its larger than average battery that runs for over six hours in a similar test.
Pricing is also a major factor in the Ideapad U310. The U300s was often cited for having some above average pricing. Lenovo has addressed these concerns here with pricing of roughly $799 for this configuration and specials that often bring the price lower. This puts it similar to the Acer Aspire S3 and the Toshiba Portege Z835/. This is great for those looking at a lower cost ultraportable option that doesn't sacrifice performance but you do sacrifice some of that portability here.