With its boxy case and a square, standard-aspect display, the Lenovo 3000 C200 isn't likely to turn any heads at the local Starbucks. But for those who can live without the wide screen, the C200 offers strong performance (outpacing a similarly configured N100, also from the Lenovo 3000 line) and a decent mix of features for typical business tasks. The biggest appeal of the Lenovo 3000 C200 may be its price, which starts at $649; our review unit costs a still-palatable $999 and includes a CPU from Intel's latest Core 2 Duo line. For such a low price, Lenovo forgoes high-end security features and a lengthy warranty--buyers who want a meatier business laptop--and can afford to pay a bit more for it--should look to Lenovo's own ThinkPad T60 or the corporate-friendly Dell Latitude D520. For individual buyers and small businesses who want a dirt-cheap yet still capable laptop, though, the Lenovo 3000 C200 gets the job done.
The Lenovo 3000 C2100 doesn't feel quite as sturdy as its ThinkPad cousins, but its case--silver on the outside, dark gray on the inside--features metal hinges and an overall solid construction. Measuring 13.3 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 1.5 inches thick, it is smaller than wide-screen competitors, such as the Fujitsu LifeBook A6010, but about the same size as the Dell Latitude D520, which also features a standard-aspect display. The heaviest of the three Lenovo 3000 laptops (its siblings include the N100 and the V100), the C200 weighs an even 6 pounds--the same as the LifeBook A6010 and 0.2 pound lighter than the Latitude D520. With its compact AC adapter, the C200 hits the road at 6.7 pounds--light enough for frequent trips to the local coffee house or occasional business travel.
As with all Lenovo laptops, the C200's keyboard is roomy and comfortable. Its compact (3 inches diagonal) touch pad is useable, though its mouse buttons don't give as much as we'd like, making us wonder whether we'd effectively pressed them. We appreciate the handy port labels along both sides of the keyboard deck, which help you quickly find where to plug in peripherals. The C200 lacks the fingerprint reader found on higher-end Lenovo 3000 models, such as the N100. Three volume controls above the keyboard constitute the extent of the C200's media controls, not surprising given that Lenovo targets small businesses with the C200 and the rest of the Lenovo 3000 line (the company's ThinkPad brand that it inherited from IBM is marketed to larger enterprises).
Next to the volume control is a button to summon the useful Lenovo Care system-management and help utility, which comes preloaded on the C200 in an acknowledgement that the typical Lenovo 3000 buyer isn't likely to have an IT department or loaner systems at the ready. Based on the company's robust ThinkVantage suite for ThinkPads, Lenovo Care helps users quickly access support information, set up network access, schedule backups and system maintenance, and configure data security.
The display is probably one of our least favorite of the Lenovo 3000 C200's features. The 15-inch standard-aspect screen, with a typical 1,024x768 native resolution, feels almost retro in this age of supersharp, wide-screen displays. While it feels a bit unfair to ding the ultralow-cost C200 for lacking a high-end display, we can't help but notice that Lenovo's own N100 models, many of which cost the same or less than the C200, come with wide screens. Nevertheless, the C200's display should prove adequate for those who use their laptops for Web surfing, e-mail, and typing documents. Like most budget-minded business laptops, the C200's speakers produce typically tinny sound; you'll need headphones if you want to rock out while you work.
Like other members of the Lenovo 3000 series, the C200 offers a solid assortment of ports and connections for the price. You get a generous four USB 2.0 ports (though three of them are clumped together on the right edge, which can make it difficult to use them all at once), one four-pin FireWire port, headphone and microphone jacks, a slot for a Type II PC Card (as would be expected from such a low-priced laptop, the C200 doesn't recognize the latest ExpressCards), a 4-in-1 media-card reader, as well as VGA and S-Video outputs. Networking connections include a 10/100 Ethernet modem (most business systems these days offer Gigabit Ethernet) , your choice of Lenovo or Intel Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth; a handy switch on the front edge turns all wireless radios on and off. In a nice touch, our unit came configured with a DVD burner--an upgrade over the standard CD-RW drive.
Our Lenovo 3000 C200 test unit cost $999 and was configured with the low end of the latest generation of components, including a 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5500 processor, 1GB of fast 667MHz RAM, integrated Intel Mobile Express 945GM graphics, and an 80GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm. A similarly configured Lenovo 3000 N100, which includes a wide-screen display but half the RAM, costs the same, while a $1,369 Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 is built on the same processor but has more RAM and a larger hard drive--though we don't think these component upgrades are worth paying such a higher price. On CNET Labs' performance benchmarks, the C200 bested the N100 and trailed just a bit behind the LifeBook A6010 and the Asus W7J, both of which included some higher-end components. We think the Lenovo 3000 C200 has plenty of oomph for the typical budget-minded buyer who wants a laptop for word processing and Web surfing.
The C200's 6-cell standard battery lasted an impressive 4 hours, 29 minutes in our drain tests--above the average for a laptop of this size and ahead of its sibling, the N100, and the Fujitsu LifeBook A6010.
The Lenovo 3000 C200 comes backed by a year-long warranty, which, though the standard among consumer laptops, is shorter than the three-year term that covers most business laptops. Somewhat expensive warranty extension options include an upgrade to three years for $199; 24/7, toll-free phone support lasts for the length of your warranty. In addition to the Lenovo Care suite mentioned above, the company's support Web site displays troubleshooting information--though it lacks helpful elements like a user forum.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)