Ultrabook Showdown: Lenovo IdeaPad U300s vs. Toshiba Portege Z830

Summary:Thin, stylish, energy efficient and powerful sub-$1000 Ultrabooks are finally hitting the market, with the 13.3" Lenovo IdeaPad U300s and Toshiba Portege Z830 both due this November.

Today seems to be the unofficial "Ultrabook Day" as both Lenovo and Toshiba unveil new models with second-generation Intel 'Sandy Bridge' Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) processors at similar price points, all poised for this November. Ultrabooks are touted as full computers that are thinner/lighter, faster (at boot up) and more energy efficient, with a sub-$1000 price tag, at least that's Intel's goal when it introduced the category earlier this year. Lenovo's U Series offers three different Ultrabooks with the the U300s being the most portable at 13.3-inch, while the Toshiba Portege Z830 series will be offering two variants with one for the consumer and the other for the enterprise/business market. So how does Lenovo's IdeaPad U300s stack up against Toshiba's Portege Z830? Read on to find out.

Size

Both the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s and Toshiba Portege Z830 are 13.3-inch laptops though they differ in weight and thickness. While U300s takes the cake for being the thinnest Ultrabook to date at just 14.9 mm (the Z830 is 15.9 mm), it is a bit heavier at 2.91 pounds, compared to the lighter 2.45 pound Toshiba.

Hardware

Although Toshiba has not specified processors for its Z830 series, its rep assured me the computers will use the second-generation Intel 'Sandy Bridge' ULV chips, with the Core i3 likely geared for the more price-conscious consumer model. Lenovo's U300s will be powered by the ULV Core i7-2677M (1.8G, turbo up to 2.9G, L3 4MB), which may explain its higher price tag (see below).

Neither includes an optical drive and only has the option for a solid state drive -- the U300s comes with a 256 GB SSD (which contributes to its 10-second boot up) while the Z830 offers a minimum 128 GB SSD (for a 10 to 20-second full boot up).

Neither machines are meant for gaming as they both use integrated graphics (Intel GMA HD 3000 in the Lenovo), but both share the same display at 1366 X 768 resolution, with 16:9 aspect ratio for 720p HD playback.

Design

Ultrabooks are as big on industrial design as they are thin and light so I don't think either the U300s or the Z830 has the edge here. If you're more daring, the Lenovo could be a good choice as it comes in a head-turning Clementine Orange or a more low-key Graphite Gray, crafted from a single sheet of aluminum with rounded corners and edges and a glass touchpad. The Toshiba goes for sharp -- sharp lines and corners -- that gives it an a serious, industrial, all-business feel in a magnesium alloy chassis (though it looks like brushed aluminum).

To keep this powerful machine cool yet quiet, both Lenovo and Toshiba redesigned the cooling system in a similar way: to suck in air through the keyboard and disperse hot air through the side vents rather than ventilate through just the bottom.

Following in the tradition of other Lenovo keyboards, the U300s one is also spill resistant and feature expertly curved AccuType chiclet keys, while the Z830 offers a LED back-lit spill resistant keyboard.

Battery Life

It's tough to compare the two when Toshiba is still testing its battery performance, but I was told by a rep that the Z830 will use an internal, 8 cell Prismatic Battery that users will not be able to swap out on their own but enables the bottom of the laptop to be one flat surface. Lenovo's press materials is listing the U300s' 4 cell battery is good for 8 hours of continuous usage or 30 days in standby mode.

Other Perks

Toshiba's Z830 may not offer the best CPU or largest SSD compared to Lenovo's U300s but is the more well-rounded machine with its plethora of ports (Ethernet for reliable Internet connection, RGB for projectors, HDMI, headphone, mic, SD slot, 2 X USB 2.0 and 1 X USB 3.0) and multimedia enhancements (Resolution Plus and Maxx Audio). The U300s by comparison only offers a single USB 2.0 and 3.0 port, HDMI, headphone and mic jacks, as well as a SRS Premium Surround Sound, but it is a thinner and more powerful than the Toshiba. I personally appreciate the Ethernet port on the Z830 because Wi-Fi signal alone is not always strong enough for serious work/productivity.

Price & Availability

The Lenovo U300s' better performance specs do come at a cost: the flagship 13.3-inch Ultrabook is approximately $1200, while Toshiba's less powerful consumer model Z830 starts at under-$1000 (the company's rep would only say the price won't be $999 but comfortably below $1000, a customized version will of course cost more). The U300s will launch globally on November 13, with the first shipment coming to select regions by the end of October; Toshiba's Z830 is also slated to land in retail stores in November. So if you're shopping for an Ultrabook this holiday, you should wait till November to comparison shop.

I can't wait to see how the Asus UX21 and other Ultrabooks coming down the pipe. What about you? Which Ultrabook are you most interested in so far?

[Source: Lenovo press release, Toshiba press release, CPU World]

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Topics: Lenovo, Toshiba

About

Gloria Sin is a New York-based freelance journalist who writes about the tech toys that you can't live without for ZDNet. She has little patience for poorly designed user experiences, and is not afraid of opening the guts of her own machines for repair or hacking her gadgets for new uses.She has written for FastCompany.com, Popular Scienc... Full Bio

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