Keyboard and Screen
If you plan on doing any amount of typing on your laptop, you must have a keyboard that doesn't slow you down. The U310 keyboard is a pleasure to use and provides a comfortable alternative to any full-sized layout. One key difference is the need for a two-handed approach to access any of the function keys. While this shouldn't be a big issue for most people, there are some applications that make full use of function keys in the normal course of operation.
You'll like the placement of the arrow and PgUp / PgDn keys if you use your laptop for reading or Web browsing. With the function keys requiring a second (Fn) key press, you have direct access to a range of utility features such as sound volume, screen brightness, and various toggle functions to enable or disable things like the touchpad, microphone, camera and more.
Figure 2: Lenovo's IdeaPad U310 Ultraboo.
ou'll find a front-facing 720p-capable HD camera at the top center of the screen, which makes for easy video conferencing, and the package includes Veriface software if you want to try the facial recognition tool.
While the U310 touts a 3-cell, 46 watt-hour battery, you probably won't get a full day of typical use on a single charge. The advertised specifications suggest "up to" seven hours of productive use, but this greatly depends on a multitude of settings and usage.
The default power profile is set to "Balanced," which will not give you the power savings of automatic screen brightness and dimming control. Expect to get more like 5 hours of normal use, which is definitely an improvement over most laptops.
The Ultrabook's external port layout is very functional with two USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet and HDMI port on the left-hand side plus a USB 2.0, headphone and power jack along the right-hand side. There's an SD card slot on the front-right edge, along with two small LEDs indicating battery state and power. The battery LED turns amber when you have less than 20 percent of your capacity remaining, and it turns red when you get below 10 percent.
Windows 8 Ready
You may not have an upgrade to Windows 8 on your list of small business IT requirements, but if you do this unit is ready. If you can't wait for the official release in October, you'll need to accomplish one step before you can install Windows 8 on the U310.
When you first power on the U310, you should see a line of text along the bottom of the screen showing "Press <Fn+F2> to enter Setup, <Fn+F12> to enter MultiBoot Menu." Press Fn-F2 (two separate keys) to bring up the BIOS menu and then on the Configuration tab, change the SATA controller type from RAID to Compatible. This will allow the Windows 8 install disk to recognize the hard disk and proceed to completion. You will also need to use the USB install media method or an external DVD drive.
As a sleek and capable Ultrabook, the IdeaPad U310 should meet most small business needs. Battery life should last most of a working business day if you're not using it continuously. The keyboard's nice placement of keys works well for both reading and writing. With a retail price as reviewed of $799, you'll be hard pressed to find similarly configured Ultrabooks.
Paul Ferrill has a BS and MS in electrical engineering and has been writing about computers for more than 25 years. Publications he's written for include PC Magazine, PC Computing, InfoWorld, Computer World, Network World, Network Computing and Information Week.
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