Lenovo's 13.3in. IdeaPad U300s is one of a growing number of ultrabooks characterised by a thin and light design and a minimalist look. As usual, there's no optical drive, and the price hovers around £800 (inc. VAT).
For that you get a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, plus Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. We were sent a graphite-grey version to review, although braver souls might go for the bright orange option. Either way, the outer shell is wonderfully sleek and minimalist, and the same can be said for the interior.
The IdeaPad U300s weighs just 1.3kg and is, of course, tiny. At 32.4cm wide by 21.6cm deep by 1.49cm thick, it's barely larger than an A4 pad and hardly noticeable in a travel bag. The magnets that hold the lid and base together don't feel quite as solid as we'd like, though, and a sleeve of some kind is recommended.
There's no tapering front here, as we've seen on other netbooks and ultrabooks. Instead the relatively blocky design incorporates a tiny lip on the front edge that makes it easy to lift the lid.
The aluminium unibody chassis isn't quite as solid as we'd like. The lid, in particular, is quite flexible — a bit too flexible for us in fact. The lack of an SD card slot is irritating — SD card expansion really is a standard feature these days.
During testing we came across another annoyance: the keyboard, a nice chiclet design, lacks a backlight. Backlighting isn't essential, but would be appreciated on what's positioned as a premium product. While we're grumbling about the keyboard, the relatively small Enter key also caught us out once or twice — it's standard rather than double height, and we found it easy to miss at first.
Lenovo says the keyboard is 'breathable', which means it helps with heat dissipation — assisting the vents on the left edge of the chassis and on the back, nestled under the screen hinge. We did notice a certain warmth to the keyboard with a palm down flat on it, but it's not noticeable when you're typing.
The large touchpad is responsive to multitouch gestures, and the flat, embedded left and right mouse buttons depress nicely under the fingers. The touchpad is easy to disable, which is useful as it's easy to brush with the wrist while typing.
Battery life seems pretty good. Lenovo says you can get up to eight hours, and while we didn't manage that we found we were just about able to get through a normal day without needing to recharge. As usual with an ultrabook, you can't remove the battery, which is locked down under the single-sheet baseplate.
The missing SD card and keyboard backlight aren't the only irritations with the IdeaPad U300s. We found the 13.3in. 1,366-by-768-pixel screen's viewing angles less than satisfactory — particularly on the vertical plane. The sceen's shiny screen surface also hampers viewing in brightly lit conditions. Sound output is a little on the tinny side — and is not improved by headphones.
It's nice to see a webcam and nicer still to see WiDi present, but ports and connectors are limited. There are two USB ports (one 2.0 one 3.0), HDMI and a headphone/microphone combo jack — and that’s your lot.
Although the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s is likeable in the looks department, it does have a few failings. The screen's viewing angles and absence of an SD card reader are the most irritating, but the amount of flex in the lid is a worry too.