With a starting price of $949, the small-business-focused Lenovo 3000 N200 line is one of the best deals going if you want to buy a laptop built on Intel's latest processors and the new Centrino Duo platform. Even our N200 review unit, which included a number of upgrades to bring its price to $1,599, costs less than a similarly configured HP Pavilion dv6500t, Gateway E-475M, and Toshiba Tecra A9. Figuring there had to be a catch, we expected the lower-priced Lenovo 3000 N200 to drag behind those more expensive systems on our performance benchmarks--but it largely held its own against the competition, with the exception of our 3D gaming benchmark, and it posted a lengthy battery life. Lest home users be enticed by the N200's performance, we should point out that it lacks the full speakers, media controls, and other consumer-friendly features found on the HP and the Gateway, offering instead a fingerprint reader and a suite of support utilities designed to help business users maintain their systems. But for small businesses that need a well-stocked yet low-priced portable, the Lenovo 3000 N200 will fit the bill.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$1,599 / $949|
|Processor||2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500|
|Memory||2GB of 667MHz|
|Hard drive||160GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce Go 7300 (256MB)|
|Chipset||Intel Mobile 965 Express|
|Operating system||Vista Ultimate|
|Dimensions (wide x deep x thick)||14.2 x 10.5 x 1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.5 / 7.4 pounds|
The Lenovo 3000 N200 doesn't feel quite as tanklike as its ThinkPad cousins, but its case (silver on the outside, dark gray on the inside) features sturdy metal hinges and an overall solid construction. As a category, midsize laptops are generally a bit bulky, and the N200's 1.5-inch thickness is chunky even for a midsize laptop. Otherwise, its size is similar to that of the Gateway E-475M and Toshiba Tecra A8.
As with all Lenovo laptops, the Lenovo 3000 N200 features a roomy, comfortable keyboard reminiscent of the board found on higher-end ThinkPads. Its touch pad is passable, though there were times when we wished it was a bit bigger. Three volume controls above the keyboard constitute the extent of the N200's media controls, not surprising given that Lenovo targets small business with the N200 and the rest of the Lenovo 3000 line (the company's ThinkPad brand is marketed to larger enterprises by including features such as shock-mounted hard drives and high-level data security, among others). Next to the volume control is a button to summon the useful Lenovo Care system management and help utility (more on that below). A fingerprint reader below the keyboard frees you from typing in passwords. We like that the N200 includes handy port labels along both sides of the keyboard deck to help you immediately find where to plug in peripherals.
The Lenovo 3000 N200 can be configured with either a 14.1-inch or 15.4-inch wide-aspect display. Our test unit featured the 15.4-inch wide screen with a sharp 1,680x1,050 (WSXGA) native resolution. We couldn't get over how expansive the screen seemed, providing adequate room for working in spreadsheets and word processor documents as well as a beautiful canvas for movies. While buyers can opt for an antiglare finish on the 14.1-inch version of the N200, all 15.4-inch models include a glossy, video-friendly finish; fortunately, we had no trouble with annoying reflections in our typical office environment. Though the N200's lovely display had us itching to watch movies during work breaks, we found ourselves reaching for headphones to do so--the laptops' weak stereo speakers deliver tinny, soft sound. Regular Web conferencers will delight in the optional Webcam built into the N200's display bezel.
Because the Lenovo 3000 line is aimed at small-business users who aren't likely to have an IT department or loaner systems at their disposal, the company preloads the N200 with a helpful suite of utilities called Lenovo Care. Based on the company's robust ThinkVantage suite for ThinkPads, Lenovo Care helps users quickly access support information, set up network access, schedule backups and system maintenance, and configure data security.
|Lenovo 3000 N200||Average for midsize category|
|Video||VGA-out, S-Video||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||Four USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and a multiformat memory card reader||Four USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and a multiformat memory card reader|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
As indicated in the chart above, the Lenovo 3000 N200 includes a fairly average selection of ports and connections. Worth noting: three of the four USB ports are lined up in a row on the laptop's right side, which can get pretty crowded if you use a lot of USB peripherals. Also, the N200's wireless card supports the 802.11n standard, though of course you'll need a Draft N router to take advantage of this feature.
Our $1,599 Lenovo 3000 N200 test unit was configured with a 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500 processor, which is on the higher end of Intel's latest-generation processor line. But don't call it Centrino Duo: the N200 doesn't include Intel's integrated graphics solution, opting instead for the bottom tier of Nvidia's mobile graphics cards, the GeForce Go 7300. That's a competitive price for those components; a similarly configured Gateway E-475M with a faster hard drive costs $2,186, while an HP Pavilion dv6500t with a slower hard drive costs $1,769.
On CNET Labs' benchmarks, the N200 fell between those two systems on our Multimedia multitasking module and scored within our 5 percent margin of error on the Photoshop and Office Productivity tests. It even stayed on pace with the more expensive ThinkPad R61, which included a faster hard drive. The only test where the N200 fell far behind its competition was our Quake 4 gaming test, where it posted a lousy 10.5 frames per second at 1,024x768 resolution--not surprising, given that its graphics card is one step up from integrated. With these results, it's safe to say the Lenovo 3000 N200 packs enough power to tackle most office and personal productivity tasks, including heavy multitasking. But if your work or play is graphics-intensive (e.g., extensive photo editing), you should consider a system with a higher-end graphics card, such as the HP Pavilion dv6500t.
The Lenovo 3000 N200's 6-cell standard battery lasted just over three hours on our DVD battery drain test--impressive for a midsize laptop, and 27 minutes longer than the comparably sized battery on the Gateway E-475M. Our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect even longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.