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Lenovo 3000 N200 review: Lenovo 3000 N200

Lenovo 3000 N200

Michelle Thatcher

Michelle Thatcher

Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops

Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.

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6 min read

With a starting price of $949, the small-business-focused Lenovo 3000 N200 line is one of the best deals going if you want to buy a laptop built on Intel's latest processors and the new Centrino Duo platform. Even our N200 review unit, which included a number of upgrades to bring its price to $1,599, costs less than a similarly configured HP Pavilion dv6500t, Gateway E-475M, and Toshiba Tecra A9. Figuring there had to be a catch, we expected the lower-priced Lenovo 3000 N200 to drag behind those more expensive systems on our performance benchmarks--but it largely held its own against the competition, with the exception of our 3D gaming benchmark, and it posted a lengthy battery life. Lest home users be enticed by the N200's performance, we should point out that it lacks the full speakers, media controls, and other consumer-friendly features found on the HP and the Gateway, offering instead a fingerprint reader and a suite of support utilities designed to help business users maintain their systems. But for small businesses that need a well-stocked yet low-priced portable, the Lenovo 3000 N200 will fit the bill.

7.0

Lenovo 3000 N200

The Good

Inexpensive; strong productivity and multitasking performance; great battery life; comfortable keyboard; robust system management and help utility.

The Bad

Somewhat thick; small touch pad; lousy speakers; few dedicated multimedia controls; poor gaming performance.

The Bottom Line

The business-friendly Lenovo 3000 N200 offers strong performance, great battery life, and best of all, a competitive price.

The Lenovo 3000 N200 doesn't feel quite as tanklike 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. As a category, midsize laptops are generally a bit bulky, and the N200's 1.5-inch thickness is chunky even for a midsize laptop. Otherwise, its size is similar to that of the Gateway E-475M and Toshiba Tecra A8.

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, though there were times when we wished it was a bit bigger. 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 15.4-inch wide screen with a sharp 1,680x1,050 (WSXGA) native resolution. We couldn't get over how expansive the screen seemed, providing adequate room for working in spreadsheets and word processor documents as well as a beautiful canvas for movies. While buyers can opt for an antiglare finish on the 14.1-inch version of the N200, all 15.4-inch models include a glossy, video-friendly finish; fortunately, we had no trouble with annoying reflections in our typical office environment. Though the N200's lovely display had us itching to watch movies during work breaks, we found ourselves reaching for headphones to do so--the laptops' weak stereo speakers deliver tinny, soft sound. Regular Web conferencers will delight in the optional Webcam built into the N200's display bezel.

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.

As indicated in the chart above, the Lenovo 3000 N200 includes a fairly average selection of ports and connections. Worth noting: three of the four USB ports are lined up in a row on the laptop's right side, which can get pretty crowded if you use a lot of USB peripherals. Also, the N200's wireless card supports the 802.11n standard, though of course you'll need a Draft N router to take advantage of this feature.

Our $1,599 Lenovo 3000 N200 test unit was configured with a 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500 processor, which is on the higher end of Intel's latest-generation processor line. But don't call it Centrino Duo: the N200 doesn't include Intel's integrated graphics solution, opting instead for the bottom tier of Nvidia's mobile graphics cards, the GeForce Go 7300. That's a competitive price for those components; a similarly configured Gateway E-475M with a faster hard drive costs $2,186, while an HP Pavilion dv6500t with a slower hard drive costs $1,769.

On CNET Labs' benchmarks, the N200 fell between those two systems on our Multimedia multitasking module and scored within our 5 percent margin of error on the Photoshop and Office Productivity tests. It even stayed on pace with the more expensive ThinkPad R61, which included a faster hard drive. The only test where the N200 fell far behind its competition was our Quake 4 gaming test, where it posted a lousy 10.5 frames per second at 1,024x768 resolution--not surprising, given that its graphics card is one step up from integrated. With these results, it's safe to say the Lenovo 3000 N200 packs enough power to tackle most office and personal productivity tasks, including heavy multitasking. But if your work or play is graphics-intensive (e.g., extensive photo editing), you should consider a system with a higher-end graphics card, such as the HP Pavilion dv6500t.

The Lenovo 3000 N200's 6-cell standard battery lasted just over three hours on our DVD battery drain test--impressive for a midsize laptop, and 27 minutes longer than the comparably sized battery on the Gateway E-475M. 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 business 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.

Find out more about how we test Windows notebooks.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo 3000 N200
266 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo 3000 N200
185 

Microsoft Office productivity test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo 3000 N200
1,319 

Quake 4 performance (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1024x768, 4xAA, 8X AF  
Lenovo 3000 N200
10.5 

DVD battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo 3000 N200
184 

System configurations:
Lenovo 3000 N200
Windows Vista Ultimate Edition; 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce Go 7300; 160GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Gateway E-475M
Windows Vista Business Edition; 2.2GHz Intel Core Duo T7500; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD2300; 100GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Lenovo ThinkPad R61
Windows Vista Business Edition; 2.2GHz Intel Core Duo T7500; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Nvidia Quadro NVS 140M; 100GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

HP Pavilion dv6500t
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.2GHz Intel Core Duo T7500; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB Nvidia 8400M GS; 200GB Toshiba 4,200rpm

7.0

Lenovo 3000 N200

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7Battery 8Support 6
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