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Lenovo IdeaPad U110

>> Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Lenovo IdeaPad U110 is imperceptibly smaller than one of our favorite 11.1 inch ultra portables, the Sony VAIO TZ150. It gives up 2 inches in screen size to the 13.3 inch MacBook Air, but the U110 weighs a full pound less (when using its four cell battery). Toshiba's Portege R500, on the other hand, weighs less just 1.7 pounds and gives you an extra inch with its 12 inch screen.

Aside from its diminutive size and stunning design, the IdeaPad U110 is remarkable in its sturdy construction, thanks to an aluminum cover and magnesium aluminum case. The sturdy construction seems to owe something to Lenovo's business focused ThinkPad line. But the IdeaPad U110 is considerably different from the company's other flagship ultra portable, the $2,476 ThinkPad X300.

The latter maintains the familiar ThinkPad DNA rectangular black case, great keyboard, and such corporate friendly features as WWAN and a Trusted Platform Module while still allowing for innovation in design and cutting edge components. The IdeaPad U110, on the other hand, is focused on the consumer market, and as such gives Lenovo more freedom to experiment with design while still incorporating new technologies.

Speaking more concretely, the 11.1 inch, 2.4 pound IdeaPad U110 is considerably smaller than the 13.3 inch, 3.4 pound ThinkPad X300. The entire keyboard deck on the IdeaPad U110 including the keyboard, touch pad, mouse buttons, and quick launch keys is one flush surface, all in a glossy piano finish. At first the flatness of the keys, and the lack of space between them, had us worried about typing comfort.

But closer inspection revealed that the keys have a slightly concave surface, and while the keyboard did feel noticeably less than full size, typing was remarkably comfortable and error free. Part of the reason Lenovo extended the keyboard quite nearly to the edges of the system, similar to the HP 2133 Mini Note, to accommodate larger keys than would ordinarily be found on such a compact laptop.

Unfortunately a concession had to be made when it came to the touch pad the IdeaPad U110's narrow depth means the touch pad sits uncomfortably low on the keyboard deck, and its mouse buttons are part of the laptop's front edge. We were able to complete a day's work with this setup, but would likely want to pack a travel mouse for better ergonomics on lengthy trips. Also, the meticulous among us might be put off by the shiny interior, which easily picks up fingerprints. (Lenovo does include a chamois cloth to help you keep the IdeaPad U110 looking sharp.)

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