Lenovo, the company that bought IBM's ThinkPad business last year, has developed an alternative brand of desktop PCs and laptops designed to "address the needs of small-business customers" at a cheaper starting price point than most ThinkPad models. The first two laptop offerings under the Lenovo 3000 umbrella include the superbudget C100 (starting at $599) and the slightly higher-end (starting at $999).
Our $749 C100 test unit delivered an average combination of components but solid performance for the price. The battery life was excellent, though the C100 isn't the most portable laptop around. That said, if we had $800 to spend on a laptop, we'd opt for a comparably configured , which offers superior multimedia capabilities and a 15.4-inch wide-screen display; you'd get even more bang for your buck with the Intel Core Solo-based , which lists for $949 but can be found for $749. If you're set on a Lenovo 3000 laptop and have a few hundred dollars to spare, we recommend the N100: a $999 configuration includes a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo processor, while our $1,399 test unit's 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo processor delivered considerably more power than the C100, though far less battery time.
Silver on the outside, dark gray on the inside, the C100 is less sleek and a bit boxier than the N100. Depending on how you configure it, the C100 weighs about 6.2 pounds and runs almost 11 inches deep, slightly more than 13 inches wide, and 1.5 inches thick; its very small AC adapter brings the total weight to 6.9 pounds. Like the N100, it strides the line between thin-and-light and midsize; many laptops are around that are more portable than either of these Lenovo systems, but the C100 is light enough for occasional travel and movement around the home or the office. The Inspiron E1505 also weighs 6.2 pounds and the Pavilion dv4000 a few ounces more; both are a bit wider to accommodate their respective wider displays.
ThinkPad laptops generally have excellent keyboards. The C100 isn't a ThinkPad, and it doesn't have a ThinkPad keyboard, but what it does have is pretty good. The keyboard is a bit more cramped than those on comparable systems, such as the Pavilion dv4000, but the keys are firm, wide, and very comfortable to type on. The touch pad is a bit small, though, and the touch-pad buttons don't give as much as we'd like; alas, it lacks the ThinkPad's red, eraser-head pointing stick. Above the keyboard sits a lonely mute button--the extent of the C100's dedicated multimedia controls--and one other button, which summons Lenovo's useful system-management and help utility. Both the Inspiron E1505 and the Pavilion dv4000 have dedicated multimedia buttons and full external volume controls.
Our C100 test unit's 15-inch standard-aspect display, featuring a 1,024x768 XGA native resolution, looked unremarkable; we much prefer the wide-aspect displays that are found on many laptops, including the Pavilion dv4000 and the Inspiron E1505. The C100's stereo speakers are poor, delivering exceedingly tinny and soft audio.
When it comes to ports and connections, the C100 offers a standard assortment for the price. You get four USB 2.0 ports; one four-pin FireWire port; headphone and microphone jacks; a slot for a Type II PC Card; a 3-in-1 media-card reader; and VGA and S-Video outputs. Networking connections include 10/100 Ethernet, modem, 802.11a/b/g wireless, and optional Bluetooth; a handy switch on the left edge turns all wireless radios on and off. Our unit came configured with CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive. About the only entry-level connection missing is an ExpressCard slot, which is included on both the Pavilion dv4000 and the Inspiron E1505; the C100 also lacks those systems' capacity to play CDs, DVDs, and other digital media without booting Windows first. The C100's software bundle includes Microsoft Windows XP Professional, with 90 days of updates, a few disc-burning apps, and a number of homegrown connectivity and backup utilities.
Our $749 test unit, the midrange configuration of the C100, was equipped with a basic set of components, including a 1.5GHz Intel Celeron processor, 512MB of 266MHz RAM, integrated Intel graphics, and an 80GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm. A Pavilion dv4000 configured similarly runs about $50 more; we built a similarly configured Inspiron E1505 for about $200 more, though that included a latest-generation Intel Core Solo processor. The C100 turned in a decent score on CNET Labs' benchmarks, performing as well as other laptops with similar Celeron processors. Our C100 test unit shipped with a standard, 8-cell battery that lasted more than 5 hours in our drain tests--very respectable and considerably ahead of other Celeron-configured systems we've seen.
Lenovo backs the C100 with a one-year warranty, which is two years shy of the industry standard for business laptops but equal to that of most consumer laptops. You must carry your system to an authorized repair center, though upgrades for longer terms and onsite repairs are reasonably priced. The company's support Web site includes a handful of troubleshooting topics, as well as the expected driver downloads; the site lacks interactive features such as customer forums or the chance to chat in real time with a technician.
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|BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes|
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Windows XP Pro; 1.4GHz Celeron M-360; 512MB PC2700 DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 82852/82855 64MB; Hitachi Travelstar 80GN 60GB 4,200rpm
Lenovo 3000 C100
Windows XP Pro; 1.5GHz Celeron M 370; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 915GM/GMS, 910GML Express 128MB; Seagate Momentus 5400.2 80GB 5,400rpm
Toshiba Satellite M45-S165
Windows XP Home; 1.5GHz Celeron M-370; 512MB DDR-SDRAM PC2700 333MHz; ATI Radeon Xpress 200M 64MB; Toshiba MK8026GAX 80GB 5,400rpm