Laptop design: IdeaPad U110 vs. ThinkPad X300

The IdeaPad U110 and ThinkPad X300 are Lenovo's top two ultraportables. How do they differ when it comes to design?

IdeaPad U110 and ThinkPad X300
How do Lenovo's two ultraportables stack up? Michelle Thatcher

Lenovo has really been stepping up its ultraportable game this year, releasing first the unbelievably thin ThinkPad X300 and then the stunningly beautiful IdeaPad U110. They're both so well designed, we thought we'd put them head to head to determine which has the best design. The short version: the IdeaPad U110 is gorgeous, but is best used as a highly mobile complement to your deskop computer; the ThinkPad X300 may not be as eye-catching, but it has design elements that let it conceivably be your only computer. Full details of the comparison are after the jump.

Size-wise, the differences are obvious: the IdeaPad U110 is just a bit bigger than a trade paperback, while the ThinkPad X300's footprint more closely resembles a letter-size notepad. Both laptops measure just 0.7 inch thick, meaning both match the MacBook Air when it comes to fitting inside a manila envelope. At 2.4 pounds, the IdeaPad U110 is definitely the lighter of the two, though the ThinkPad X300's 3.4-pound weight is nothing to sneeze at.

Of course, the IdeaPad U110's smaller size and weight are attributable to its smaller, 11.1-inch screen, which is adequate for working on the plane but certainly seems small when you're at your desk. (We recommend plugging in an external monitor when you're not on the move.) Lenovo also jettisoned the optical drive in order to keep the weight down; the IdeaPad U110's external DVD burner isn't likely to leave your desk. For its extra pound and a few more cubic inches of bag space, the ThinkPad X300 is a reasonable choice for a primary computer, with a 13.3-inch screen that's big enough to work on without an external monitor as well as a built-in optical drive.

One thing the two designs have in common is a comfortable keyboard. The ThinkPad X300 features the venerable ThinkPad keyboard, still the most comfortable laptop keyboard available. But the IdeaPad U110's keyboard, though glossy and compact, seems to have benefited from the ThinkPad design; in several days of working on the laptop, my typing has been comfortable and error-free. Both ultraportables also share the same minor design flaw: their small cases dictate that the touch pad is located uncomfortably close to the laptop's front edge. To the ThinkPad's credit, it also incorporates the familiar TrackPoint pointing stick, so you don't have to hold your wrist in an awkward position to navigate.

When it comes to pure appearance, though, the IdeaPad U110 takes the cake. Its delicately etched metallic lid, in red and black, will definitely catch some envious glances at the security checkpoint or the cafe. Inside, the frameless screen and piano-finish keyboard deck maintain the luxe look. Though the surfaces are easily smudged with fingerprints, an included chamois helps you keep the IdeaPad U110 in drool-worthy condition. The ThinkPad X300 has a appealing design but adheres closely to the familiar black-box aesthetic that's not likely to draw many glances.

In the end, I love carrying around the IdeaPad, but realistically would probably value the larger screen on the ThinkPad. Which design do you favor?

About the author

    Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.

     

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