Lenovo IdeaPad U300s review: Lenovo IdeaPad U300s

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.2
  • Design: 9.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Battery life: 8.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Lenovo's IdeaPad U300s is the coolest-looking of the new generation of Ultrabook laptops, and packs in a large SSD drive, USB 3.0, and more.

The Bad Our more expensive configuration offers no discount from a comparable MacBook Air, and leaves out some basic ports and connections.

The Bottom Line Lenovo's stylish U300s Ultrabook is one of the best-looking Windows laptops we've seen and matches Apple's MacBook Air nearly spec for spec. The entry-level version is $100 less than Apple's, but that discount vanishes on the higher-end model.

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Much has been made (certainly by us) of Intel's plans to promote a new "Ultrabook" laptop designation, which refers to something along the lines of an 11- to 13-inch laptop, less than 18 millimeters thick, with SSD storage, and running on current-gen Core i-series processors. Of all the Ultrabook laptops we've seen so far, the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s is the most eye-catching, with its completely flat design, booklike profile, and muted orange color (basic silver/gray is also available).

This flagship of the IdeaPad U series has a 13.3-inch display, up to a Core i7 processor (ULV), and up to a 256GB SSD, but is just 0.6 inch thick. The less expensive of two available configurations matches up with the low-end MacBook Air, with a 128GB SSD and Intel Core i5 CPU, but the Lenovo is about $100 less, at $1,195 versus $1,299. Our review unit is the higher-end model, which has a Core i7 CPU and 256GB SSD. This version is $1,595, and is virtually the same as a comparable $1,599 MacBook Air.

With the $100 discount, plus extras the MacBook lacks, such as HDMI and USB 3.0, the less-expensive U300s makes a very compelling case, especially when you factor in the excellent build quality and unbeatable keyboard. Our higher-end model is a tougher sell, and unless you're specifically tied to Windows (and don't want to dual-boot with OS X), we'd still probably recommend going with the elegant 256GB version of the MacBook Air if you have $1,600 to spend. But if you are spending top dollar on a native Windows superslim laptop right now, the IdeaPad U300s is easily one of the best.

Price as reviewed / starting price $1,595 / $1,195
Processor 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-2677M
Memory 4GB, 1,333MHz DDR3
Hard drive 256GB SSD
Chipset Intel UM67
Graphics Intel HD3000
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 12.8x8.5 inches
Height 0.6 inch
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 2.9 pounds / 3.5 pounds
Category 13-inch

This is a sharp-looking system with a bit more of a buttoned-down look, even in orange, than some of the more colorful plastic IdeaPad laptops we've seen. The body is made from a single sandblasted sheet of aluminum, and the top and bottom lips stick out a tiny bit, creating a booklike silhouette when the laptop is closed. The U300s interestingly has no bottom vents, instead pushing heat out through the hinge vents, as well as through what Lenovo calls a "breathable keyboard."

The orange version is offset with a matte black interior; the gray model is monochromatic throughout, except for the black key faces. The keyboard sits in a slightly indented keyboard tray area, which we always think is a nice upscale touch. It's similar to what you'd find in other recent IdeaPad models, a variation on the popular island-style keyboard. The difference in the Lenovo version is that instead of perfectly square keys, these bow out slightly at the bottom, making it easier to catch the bottom edge of the key for those of us who are not perfect typists. The touch pad is a large glass type, much like you'd find on a MacBook, with the left and right mouse buttons integrated into the pad itself.

A handful of interesting software apps come preinstalled, including Lenovo OneKey Recovery, which works with a small, hard-to-notice button on the left edge of the system. If your laptop won't boot into Windows, and you've made a backup, hitting this button will attempt to restore from the backup, which could prove very useful if you find yourself frozen out of your machine. You also get Computrace LoJack for Laptops, which in the era of Apple's Find My iPhone iOS app seems like much less of an extravagance (a limited-time subscription is included).

The 13.3-inch display has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is typical of a 13-inch laptop. But, for $1,600, we're not wrong in expecting a little more. Many more-expensive 13-inch laptops have 1,600x900-pixel displays, and even Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air has a 1,440x900-pixel resolution (although that's only because Apple stubbornly sticks with a 16:10 aspect ratio for almost all its laptop displays, while everyone else has moved to 16:9). The screen itself was excellent, with good horizontal off-axis viewing angles, although an edge-to-edge glass overlay would have been a nice extra touch.

Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Average for category [13-inch]
Video HDMI VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive None DVD burner

One clear advantage that the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s has over the MacBook Air is its selection of ports and connections, which include both USB 3.0 and an HDMI output, neither of which you'll find on any Apple laptop. You do miss out on a few features, however, including a separate mic input, VGA output, and even an SD card slot. All of these are achievable with USB external devices, but make sure you're not going to need one of these missing features on a daily basis before committing to this system.

You do get Intel's Wireless Display technology, which sends the laptop's video output to a sold-separately receiver box that can hook to your television or another external monitor via HDMI. It's great for sharing videos or presentations, for example.

We tested the higher-end $1,595 U300s configuration, which has an Intel Core i7-2677M CPU and a 256GB SSD; the $1,195 version has a Core i5-2457M and only a 128GB SSD. In our benchmark tests, the U300s was a strong performer, faster than the Acer Aspire S3 and Samsung Series 9 (both ultrathin Intel Core i5 laptops), but falling behind the Core i5 MacBook Air and the Toshiba R835, a non-ultrathin 13-inch laptop. The trade-up to a Core i7 CPU hardly seems worth it for everyday tasks, as this is a low-voltage version of the CPU, but we'd consider paying for the upgraded model just to get the huge 256GB SSD.

Juice box
Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Avg watts/hour
Off (60%) 0.7
Sleep (10%) 0.86
Idle (25%) 6.53
Load (05%) 32.63
Raw kWh number 33.03
Annual energy cost $3.75

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Where to Buy

Lenovo IdeaPad U300s

Part Number: CNET-IdeaPad-U300s

MSRP: $1,195.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Resolution 1366 x 768 ( HD )
  • Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Edition
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Color graphite gray
  • Weight 2.9 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • CPU Intel Core i5 (2nd Gen) 2467M / 1.6 GHz