When we set out to round up a handful of laptops that cost less than $1,000, we knew we had to include Lenovo. The small-business-focused Lenovo 3000 line has long been one of the best deals going if you want to buy a laptop built on the latest Intel processors and platforms. Our 14.1-inch Lenovo 3000 N200 review unit, which cost just $948, lived up to our expectations when it passed most of the other $1,000 systems on our benchmarks. Its primary competition, performance-wise, came from a Sony VAIO CR120 built on many of the same components, which kept pace with the Lenovo on all but one of our tests. But the slickly designed Sony incorporates a number of media-friendly features destined to appeal to entertainment-minded home users. The chunky N200, on the other hand, delivers a fingerprint reader and a suite of support utilities designed to help business users maintain their systems, making it an excellent choice for small businesses on a tight budget or home users looking for a no-nonsense productivity machine.
|Processor||1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7100|
|Memory||2GB of 667MHz|
|Hard drive||80GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA X3100|
|Chipset||Intel Mobile 965 Express|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium|
|Dimensions (wide x deep x thick)||13.2 x 9.7 x 1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.3 / 6.2 pounds|
The Lenovo 3000 N200 doesn't feel quite as tank-like as its ThinkPad cousins, but its case (silver on the outside, dark gray on the inside) features sturdy metal hinges and an overall solid construction. Contributing to the sturdy feel is the N200's 1.4-inch thickness, which pushes the definition of thin-and-light. Thickness aside, its size is similar to the 14.1-inch Sony VAIO CR120.
As with all Lenovo laptops, the Lenovo 3000 N200 features a roomy, comfortable keyboard reminiscent of the board found on higher-end ThinkPads. Its touch pad is passable, and the mouse buttons provide satisfying tactile feedback. Three volume controls above the keyboard constitute the extent of the N200's media controls, not surprising given that Lenovo targets small business with the N200 and the rest of the Lenovo 3000 line (the company's ThinkPad brand is marketed to larger enterprises by including features such as shock-mounted hard drives and high-level data security, among others). Next to the volume control is a button to summon the useful Lenovo Care system-management and help utility (more on that below). A fingerprint reader below the keyboard frees you from typing in passwords. We like that the N200 includes handy port labels along both sides of the keyboard deck to help you immediately find where to plug in peripherals.
The Lenovo 3000 N200 can be configured with either a 14.1-inch or 15.4-inch wide-aspect display. Our test unit featured the 14.1-inch wide screen with a sharp 1,280x800 native resolution. Though not as expansive as the larger size, this 14.1-inch screen provides adequate room for working in spreadsheets and documents as well as watching the occasional movie. While buyers can opt for an antiglare finish on other versions of the N200, our review unit included a video-friendly glossy finish; fortunately, we had no trouble with annoying reflections in our typical office environment.
Because the Lenovo 3000 line is aimed at small-business users who aren't likely to have an IT department or loaner systems at their disposal, the company preloads the N200 with a helpful suite of utilities called Lenovo Care. 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.
|Lenovo 3000 N200||Average for thin-and-light category|
|Video||VGA-out, S-video||VGA-out, S-video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||ExpressCard/54||PC Card or ExpressCard|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
As indicated in the chart above, the Lenovo 3000 N200 includes a good selection of ports and connections. As might be expected from a primarily business-oriented laptop, the N200's speakers emit tinny, soft sound. We were happy to see that the N200's low price includes a Bluetooth radio--a rarity among sub-$1,000 laptops.
Our Lenovo 3000 N200 test unit--stocked with 2GB of RAM, integrated Intel GMA X3100 graphics, and a 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo T7100 processor--cost $984 on Lenovo's site. That CPU is the entry level for the current generation of Core 2 Duo processors, but it was enough to keep the N200 at the top of our group of systems in its price range on CNET Labs' benchmarks. Though the nearly identically configured Sony VAIO CR120 ($1,000) kept pace for some of the tests, its single gigabyte of RAM was no match for the Lenovo on our Photoshop module. In our small sampling of inexpensive laptops--which includes the Sony as well as a Fujitsu LifeBook A6110 ($999), Toshiba Satellite A215-S7437 ($899), and Gateway M-1618 ($899)--the Lenovo 3000 N200 is the performance king.
The Lenovo 3000 N200's six-cell standard battery lasted just over 2 hours on our DVD battery drain test--about the same as the VAIO CR120. That isn't too impressive for a 14.1-inch laptop, but it is longer than the battery life posted by other similarly priced systems. Our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect even longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.
The Lenovo 3000 N200 comes backed by a yearlong warranty, which is standard for budget-minded laptops. Reasonably priced warranty extension options include an upgrade to three years for $150 or three years of on-site repairs for $219. Toll-free, 24-7 phone support lasts for the length of your warranty. In addition to the Lenovo Care suite mentioned above, the company's support Web site includes the expected troubleshooting topics, driver downloads, and user guides. The site lacks interactive features such as customer forums or the chance to chat in real time with a technician.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)