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Lenovo IdeaPad U110: First thoughts

Initial review of the Lenovo IdeaPad U110; look for the full review tomorrow.

IdeaPad U110 and ThinkPad X300
For comparison's sake: the IdeaPad U110 next to Lenovo's other ultraportable laptop, the ThinkPad X300. Michelle Thatcher/CNET Networks

When the much-awaited Lenovo IdeaPad U110 arrived in our offices on Monday, it went straight to the Labs for benchmark testing (the typical order of operations for a laptop review). I finally got my hands on the review unit this morning, and I've spent the day putting it through my own usage tests to see how this little laptop stands up to the demands of everyday computing.

One of my key questions was whether the keyboard, which is slightly compact, would be usable. The unusual key design added to my concern: the keys themselves are made of the same glossy material as the keyboard deck, they look flat (though closer inspection reveals a slightly concave surface), and there's no space between them. The keyboard did take some time to get used to, but less time than I thought. I've typed a day's worth of work on it, including this post, with few keyboard-induced errors.

IdeaPad U110 batteries
The four-cell battery (left) and seven-cell battery (right) for the Lenovo IdeaPad U110. Michelle Thatcher/CNET Networks

My other concern rests with the IdeaPad U110's battery. The sleek package that inspires oohs and aahs among even CNET editors depends in part on a tiny four-cell battery. It's been just more than an hour since I unplugged the fully charged laptop, and the battery indicator is warning me that I have six minutes' worth of juice left--and all I've done is type some documents and surf the Web. It's tough to accept that such a mobile design needs to be tethered to a wall so frequently.

That said, the IdeaPad U110's power brick is the smallest I've ever seen for a laptop--almost identical in size and thickness to my fourth-generation iPod--so it won't take up too much room in your bag. And Lenovo smartly ships a larger seven-cell battery with the IdeaPad U110, though using it adds to the laptop's weight and detracts from its sleek appearance. We tested both batteries in the Labs, so expect the official battery numbers--and the full IdeaPad U110 review--tomorrow.