Critics’ Report: Lenovo IdeaPad U260 Notebook Computer

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Lenovo, known for computers that fall into the realm of solid-and-businesslike rather than sleek-and-sexy, has pleasantly surprised tech industry reviewers with the 12.5-inch-screen IdeaPad U260. This ultra-mobile small business notebook lists for about $1,000 (but at the time of writing is available for $900).

This is a notebook computer for busy, on-the-go small business owners and road warrior executives, not for power users. It’s main virtues are portability and good looks, which are definitely important if you carry your laptop everywhere and routinely use it in client meetings.

But a small business notebook with good looks and portability may not be enough for some people — or this panel of reviewers.

Vital Small Business Notebook Statistics

Before we get into what the various reviewers have to report, let’s start with what’s under the U260’s hood. Here’s a rundown of its crucial specifications:

  • Processor: 1.33GHz Intel Core i5 U470
  • Screen: 12.5 in. diagonal (1366 x 768 pixels)
  • Memory: 4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM
  • Hard drive: 320GB (5,400rpm)
  • Graphics: Intel GMA HD
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Dimensions: 12.5 x 8.0 x 0.7 in.
  • Weight (with AC adapter): 3.5 lbs.
  • Battery: 4-cell Li-Polymer (4 hours)

Small Business Notebook Reviews: Group Consensus

Our reviewers are unanimous on a couple of points: the U260 looks fabulous, but blows it on battery life. Most of them also praised the small business notebook’s ergonomics.

Some reviewers are less enthusiastic about performance, although an ultraportable is not the type of small business computer you expect to be a hot machine. All of the experts condemn the IdeaPad U260’s short battery life.

A Beautiful Design in a Small Business Notebook

Everybody is ecstatic about the magnesium-aluminum alloy top and base, in mocha brown or clementine orange (the chassis includes some plastic too). They also love the leather-like palm rest, the smooth, glass touchpad, and the super-thin styling and detailing that gives the U260 the look and feel of a leather portfolio.

“We mean this with no disrespect to Lenovo, but when you first lay eyes (or hands) on the incredibly attractive IdeaPad U260, it’s pretty hard to believe that it was made by the company,” said Engadget’s Joanna Stern, alluding to Lenovo’s reputation for clunky-looking designs. She even admits to having “a real crush on the U260’s bronzish, mocha exterior…”

 Lenovo IdeaPad U260; small business notebook
Five tech journalists weigh in on the Lenovo IdeaPad U260 small business notebook.
(Click for larger image)

Laptop magazine’s reviewer sounds a similar note. “The IdeaPad U260 has the kind of flair we wish ThinkPads had,” Kenneth Butler says, referring to Lenovo’s mainstream business laptop line. Butler adds that the design “lends the notebook a sense of smooth, minimal professionalism…”

Lenovo receives a backhanded compliment on the U260’s looks from ZDNet reviewer James Kendrick. “It’s not often you can call a notebook ‘sexy,’and never one by Lenovo,” he writes. “But it’s an adequate description of the IdeaPad U260. The U260 is the thinnest and lightest Windows notebook I have used, and the bronze casing looks and feels nice.”

CNet’s Scott Stein makes the inevitable comparison to Apple’s MacBook Air, but implies that the Lenovo notebook holds its own, being “thin, light, and very easy on the eye…” He also praises the U260 for “beautifully textured surfaces, a great keyboard, and other quality finishing touches…”

“There are two kinds of laptops,” writes MobileTechReviewer editor Lisa Gade, “Those dedicated to function and those dedicated to form (rarer). The Lenovo IdeaPad U260 is in the latter camp… To see it is to love it, much like Apple’s notebooks.”

Rating Laptop Ergonomics

Some reviewers aren’t quite as crazy about the ergonomics — keyboard, touchpad, screen, etc. — although CNet’s Stein judges the keyboard-touchpad combination “better than any other ultraportable outside of the MacBook Air,” and Gade says they are “ergonomic delights.”

Kendrick, at ZDNet, referred to the keyboard as “a typically good Lenovo keyboard…,” also noting that it’s spill resistant and that it “breathes,” letting air in to the chassis to help with cooling. “The U260 doesn’t run hot as a result, even being so thin.” (Others commend the U260’s relatively cool running temperatures as well.)

Kendrick also praises the touchpad, and adds, “Working with the U260 is simply a delight, it feels great in the hand and the light weight makes it the notebook to grab for quick sessions.”

Engadget’s Stern likes the feel of the keyboard but complains about undersize Shift, Tabs and Caps Lock keys that slows touch typing. She likes the touchpad better, noting it “receives our highest stamp of approval. The smooth surface, which feels similar to a piece of sea glass, was incredibly soft on our index finger and just let the cursor glide along.”

Laptop’s Butler also dislikes the too-small special keys, but writes, “…we still found them easy to find by feel.” He too likes the touchpad, but notes that “…multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom felt somewhat sluggish.”

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