When we reviewed the small-business focused Lenovo 3000 V100 almost a year ago, it was among the first of a group of laptops we came to describe as "bulky ultraportables"--laptops that sought to incorporate the hefty feature set of a thin-and-light in a case bordering on ultraportable in size. Since then, the field has become a bit more crowded, with not only the entertainment-oriented Dell XPS M1210 but also the Toshiba Satellite U205 offering a comparable set of features in a similar design. But the Lenovo 3000 V100's $999 starting price still makes it one of the least expensive models in its class. And the fact that Lenovo has updated the V100 line with the latest Core 2 Duo processors, larger hard drives, and the option for Windows Vista warranted a second look. Based on our $1,699 review unit, we'd say that the Lenovo 3000 V100 has kept pace with the times, continuing to provide all the features you'll need for work (and some play) in a highly portable package.
The V100 is the smallest Lenovo 3000 laptop available; like its siblings, the C200 and the N100, the V100 is silver on the outside and dark gray on the inside. Its steel hinges and relatively sturdy construction reflect its ThinkPad heritage, though it doesn't have the ThinkPad's drain holes, shock-mounted hard drive, or keyboard light. The V100 weighs 4.5 pounds (with the optional six-cell battery, which extends about a half inch from the back of the laptop) and measures 9 inches deep, 12 inches wide, and 1.1 inches thick, so it's a bit larger than both the Toshiba Satellite U205 and the Dell XPS M1210. Total travel weight with the V100's modest A/C adapter is 5.1 pounds, striding the line between ultraportable and thin-and-light. There are certainly lighter laptops on the market, including Lenovo's own ThinkPad X60s, but the V100 is reasonably portable for regular travel.
Because Lenovo doesn't currently offer a wide-screen ultraportable ThinkPad, the Lenovo 3000 V100 fills an important role in the company's laptop lineup. Like the XPS M1210 and the Satellite U205, the V100 features a 12.1-inch wide-screen display with a sharp 1,280x800 native resolution and a glossy finish that's great for watching movies but can become distractingly reflective in bright environments (unfortunately there's no option for a matte-finish display). An optional 1.3-megapixel Webcam is built into the display bezel, making it useful for Web videoconferencing from the road.
Corresponding to the V100's wide-aspect display is a wide, comfortable keyboard that harkens back to the laptop's ThinkPad lineage. Like all Lenovo 3000 laptops, the V100's trackpad feels a bit small, and the trackpad buttons don't provide as much travel as we'd like. Next to the trackpad sits a tiny fingerprint reader, which lets you securely log on to your computer, network, and favorite Web sites with just a swipe of a finger. Above the keyboard are three handy external volume controls and a button to launch Lenovo's MediaNow application (the extent of the V100's dedicated multimedia controls), plus a button that summons the useful Lenovo Care system-management and help utility. Along the front edge, two speakers emit hollow but passable sound, while the right edge of the case holds a handy hardware on/off switch for the system's built-in Wi-Fi radio.
In part because of its bulky size, the Lenovo 3000 V100 includes a few more ports and connections than you'd find on a typical ultraportable. There are VGA, four-pin FireWire, and three USB 2.0 ports (thankfully spread out around the case to prevent cable crowding), plus headphone and microphone jacks. In addition to an ExpressCard/54 slot, you'll find a five-in-one media-card slot that supports Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, and xD formats. Networking connections include modem, Ethernet, and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi; our test unit's price includes an optional Bluetooth radio. WWAN is not available, even as an option. Unlike many ultraportables that jettison the optical drive to save weight, the V100 incorporates an optical drive; ours included a DVD burner. For the sake of comparison, the $2,329 XPS M1210 has all of that plus one more USB port, an S-video connector, an extra headphone jack, and WWAN connectivity, making it a bit more well-rounded than the Lenovo when it comes to entertainment features. But the Dell is targeted toward high-end home users, while the Lenovo focuses on--and succeeds at--meeting the needs of small business users.