After a week passed, sitting down in the middle of a forest, I was using the Lenovo U310 ultrabook and thought, “you know, it’s not the best laptop I’ve ever used, but for the price, it’s okay”. Now, I think about that thought and realize that the U310 has a design akin to another laptop, to the point where Lenovo’s creativity could be questioned, but that isn’t per say a reason to be hostile towards the U310.
It’s an inexpensive sub-$1000 — depending on the configuration — ultrabook, perfect for the back-to-school season, and it has a decent display, processor, and even 6 hour+ battery life. And for all of that, you get a decent package.
Price as Reviewed: $799.99 at Lenovo
It’s supposed to be made of plastics, aluminum, and — that’s about it. The lid is actually the most attractive thing about the U310, followed by its palm rest, mouse, and underside. In out tests and time with the IdeaPad U310, we never found the design to be something so amazing that it got us excited, nor was it incredibly dull and vapid. It just was there – I guess that’s not really exciting is it?
The display is not the best we’ve seen on an ultrabook either: it has rather mediocre viewing angles and is at a lackluster resolution of 1366 x 768. To make it worse, the display is actually a plastic, so the represenation of colors is further dulled. To top it all off, maximum brightness is your only option when outside; it’s a convenation of glare.
On a side note: the Lenovo U310 has speakers squeezed between the display and hinge that produces loud sound, but without depth or bass; it’s average and useful only for a short video or music session, so stick to headphones.
While it may be bland in the design department, it is a worthwhile effort because if you take a short moment to analyze Lenovo’s design department, you’ll notice they are responsible for the professional yet repetitive black designs for the Thinkpads. So, function over beauty is sort of their forte.
Specs — What It Can Do
The U310 compensates just about everything to jump into the ultrabook category, a marketing term Intel is using to back major PC manufacturers to produce powerful, high-end material laptops with thin profiles and quiet fan systems. The U310 parts away from most of those characteristics — it does have an aluminum body (with an incredibly cheap plastic display bezel), a multitouch touchpad with palm rejection, and one of the new Intel Ivy Bridge processors, which in a GeekBench test, received a rather decent score of 4102, ranking it a little on the low side with other ultrabooks, and for gaming, highly unsuitable.
Let’s run some numbers: the processor is an Ivy Bridge generation 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U, there’s 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive, Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics, a 3-cell 46Wh battery, 13.3-inch 1336 x768 display, 2 USB 3.0 ports and 1 USB 2.0 port, with HDMI, SD card reader, and a LAN port. It has support for Microsoft’s Windows 8 and currently uses Windows 7 64-bit.
So now, to the conclusions!
What It’s Great At Doing
With the technicalities and aesthetics out of the way, it’s time to simply talk about what the IdeaPad U310 is good for.
- It’s a cheap budget machine.
- It has modest performance.
- The battery can get you by for at least 5 to 7 hours, depending on how you use the U310, plus the brightness, power modes, etc.
- It could make a nice back-to-school laptop (but we’d go for something with a little more power)
What’s It’s Bad At Doing
Being the stylish laptop on campus/the block/cafe/tech writer’s office.
Gaming. Forget about it. If you can even edge out Minecraft on this, let me know.
The display is kind of boring and sucks to use outdoors where glare can become a serious problem.
The Lenovo IdeaPad U310 is a humble little ultrabook, but it doesn’t have the greatness seen in Lenovo’s Thinkpads. It also has a less-than-decent display, but to cope for it, a decent price for some current-generation technology. It’s the first back-to-school laptop I’d suggest — if I were under the hypothesis that the student in question was low on cash, wouldn’t want a more versatile gadget like a tablet, and whom I disliked. In all seriousness, the IdeaPad U310 is only great if you want to spend $800 on an ultrabook, but plant to upgrade to something nicer in the future. A placebo, if you will.