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Formerly known for the iconic, if boxy, ThinkPads (which the company still does well: see our review of the T400s), Lenovo has also begun branching into more stylish consumer products, loosening up its slightly uptight design aesthetics along the way. The recent IdeaPad line reflects the change most starkly: we looked at the 16-inch IdeaPad Y650 a while ago, and were impressed by the thin, sturdy feel and bolder touches, including texture-patterned lids and glossy materials used in the interior.
While the IdeaPads retain Lenovo's comfortable keyboard and some of the same custom software, the prices are also more reasonable, making them, by some measures, budget-friendly notebooks bearing better-than-average design.
The $799 Y450 is a smaller-screened relative of the Y650, with an extremely similar design on the inside and out. While the 14-incher is also thicker than its 16-inch big brother, the overall feel and performance of the Y450 make it a worthwhile alternative for those who want a bit more portability.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$799/$679|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400|
|Memory||3GB DDR2 RAM 800 MHz|
|Hard drive||250GB, 5400 rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.4x9.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.98/5.78 pounds|
The Y450, on the outside, comes patterned with an attractive hex design on its black lid, which feels like plastic to the touch as opposed to the Y650's slightly silicone finish. Copper highlights line the edges, and inside, the same white glossy palm rest and white keyboard as the Y650 lie below the black plastic-framed glossy 16x9 screen. We liked the design then, and we still like it now.
However, from the front view the Y450 looks thinner than it is. Turning it on its side, a more considerable bulk is revealed. Still, the system carries comfortably in a backpack, and whether we used it at a local cafe or on our laps, it felt really well proportioned.
Above the keyboard, twin JBL stereo speakers sit on either side of a small lineup of controls: power and a OneKey recovery button for instant backup and data restore, an LED-backlit touch-strip for launching Lenovo's small suite of tools including VeriFace facial recognition software, and touch controls for volume and Dolby Home Theater settings.
The Y450's keyboard has a good classic combination of travel and click, and the textured multitouch touch pad feels more accurate than glossy pads, although that is more of a tactile psychological effect. The twin buttons below were a little mushy for us, but worked fine.
The 14-inch wide-screen LED-backlit display offers a 1,366x768 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size that has a 16x9 aspect ratio. The colors were sharp, and text and icons were crisp and readable. The glossy screen is inset from the lid, which helps with glare, but viewing the screen from off-angles produced a slightly washed-out look on our model.
The JBL stereo speakers, similar to the ones in the IdeaPad Y650, are great-sounding and pack better-than-average punch for movie viewing and headphone-free music listening. They're one of the features we like the most about Lenovo's midrange IdeaPad lineup. In simulated surround mode, the Y450 provides a satisfying lap-based mini home theater for the budget-minded.
|Lenovo Ideapad Y450||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, eSATA/USB combo, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
One area where the IdeaPad Y450 mostly shines is ports. From first glance, nearly every connectivity consideration is covered, especially for the student or home consumer. HDMI, eSATA, ExpressCard, FireWire, and three USB ports on top of that are studded all around the sides--so many ports, in fact, that the headphone/mic jacks have been relegated to the front of the laptop, because that's the only place they'd fit. On the other hand, there's no Bluetooth in most configurations. Bluetooth can be added on the highest-end model, which costs $999, but it would have been a reasonable inclusion here.
On the other hand, an area the IdeaPad Y450 is lacking in is discrete graphics. The included integrated Intel GPU is capable of playing video, but for video editing, mainstream games, or any more dedicated graphics work, the Y450 isn't your system of choice. Customization options include choosing a Core 2 Duo T4200 or T6400 processor, or upgrading the Intel graphics accelerator to a slightly more graphically robust NVIDIA GeForce G 105M. Hard drives can be customized up to 320GB, and RAM to 4GB.
The processor in our test unit was a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400, which is a widely used mainstream CPU more than suitable for running most Windows applications that aren't graphics-processor intensive. In our benchmark tests, it performed a little worse than the Y650 (which had a better graphics chip), but similarly to the Gateway TC7804u. In many ways, they are similar products, but overall, we prefer the Y450.
The included six-cell battery ran for 3 hours and 9 minutes in our video playback battery drain test, which is better than the Y650, which ran for just 2 hours and 17 minutes. That's just over our suggested minimum of 3 hours from a mainstream laptop. In our comparison charts it led the pack, including against the similar Gateway TC7804u.
Lenovo offers a standard one-year manufacturer's warranty on the IdeaPad Y450, which can be extended up to three years for an additional $149, or $239 for a protection plan that includes accidental damage coverage. Support is available on the phone or online, where product information databases and drivers are easily located.
Lenovo Ideapad Y450
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 250GB Western Digital 5,400rpm
Sony Vaio VGN-CS215J/W
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 250GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 320GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS; 250GB Seagate 5,400rpm