Following up on last year's N100, Lenovo has released the unsurprisingly named N200, continuing to bring style to the well known boxiness of Lenovo's designs, while retaining its world famous strength.
The chassis has remained unchanged from the N100. The silver, aerodynamic external casing is pleasing to the eye, while the matte black interior imparts a sense of ruggedness while still managing to banish the 'tank' feeling that accompanies the Thinkpad range.
In terms of thermal management, hot air is expelled from the left hand side of the machine rather than to the back, so left handed mouse users might feel a little toasted at times.
Our review sample came with a 15.4", 1280x800 'VibrantView' screen, which simply means high gloss. While this supposedly gives richer colours and requires less backlight power compared to a matte screen, it also means it reflects mercilessly, ceiling lights often obscuring vision as a result.
The hinges that hold the screen to the base are strong enough to happily swing the notebook around by the screen itself, and it takes a fair amount of flex before the image starts distorting as well. The screen grows rapidly light or dark if you change your viewing height, and while this doesn't cause too much trouble we found ourselves wishing that the screen would fold back further, so it would be easier to see while standing up.
The touchpad is sensitive and one of the nicer surfaces we've used, although there's no markings for where the scroll panel is. While this didn't bother us, newer users may miss out on this feature simply by not knowing it's there. Lenovo's keyboard is still a pleasure to use, though.
At the top right of the keyboard are the custom media buttons, including those for controlling volume -- unfortunately the buttons need to be pressed repeatedly to adjust the volume more than one notch, you can't just hold one down to reach the desired level.
The guts of the N200 have been upgraded to an Intel PM965 board, meaning a faster system overall through access to newer and better processors. This comes with a GeForce Go 7300, so while it's not crash-hot graphics it's certainly fine for Vista and everyday use.
There are still four USB ports, one Firewire port and a 5-in-1 (SD/MMC/XD/MS/MS Pro) card reader, headphone and microphone jack and fingerprint security. An Express Card slot has taken the place of the PCMCIA, keeping things nicely up to date. A 1.3MP webcam sits at the top of the monitor.
Video outputs are disappointing, with the ancient VGA and S-Video outputs revealing why Apple still reigns in the multimedia field.