Tag: u300s

Intel Ultrabook head-to-head: HP Folio 13 vs Lenovo U300s

As Intel’s Ultrabook kick into full throttle as partners gear up for the release of a new wave of Ivy Bridge based devices TechEye took the time to have a look at how some of the initial wave of ultraportables have fared.

Intel set itself a mammoth task in attempting to keep up as the PC market moves at breakneck speed towards a greater emphasis on mobile devices.
 
With tablets knocking the established order of desktop and laptop dominance, traditional notebooks ran the risk of looking almost archaic in the face of shiny new mobile devices.  Vendors had largely tried and failed with the lightweight but underpowered netbooks, and there had been little to rival the rise of the mobile device.

The reaction from Intel to the various threats of ARM chip designs (and Apple‘s iPad and Macbook Air) was to offer up its own take, the Ultrabook.

$300 million dollars, a raft of specifications, and some dodgy handbags later and the initial influx of devices from a range of manufacturers have now properly arrived.  

Most of the major PC vendors have released their own take on the Ultrabook, and although Intel is likely a good way off the 40 percent penetration target that it set itself for the PC market in 2012, the Ultrabooks appear to have been largely well received and expectations remain high.

Price has been one of the main quibbles among consumers, though these are now dropping for the first wave of Sandy Bridge devices.  

Thanks to endeavours with hybrid SDDs, as well as potentially replacing metal casings with tough plastics and even roping in airplane designers, Ultrabooks are approaching more mainstream price points to meet Intel’s desired mainstream appeal.

As AMD’s own ultrathings hit shops later this year with a mission to beat Intel on price, there are plenty of challenges ahead. Apple’s own MacBook Air, generally accepted as the blue-print for Ultrabooks, though a razor thin Sony Vaio laptop did appear some time before, still presents a threat in the ultrapotable market.

The battle to gain dominance with mainstream adoption is still ongoing.

To find out what the fuss is about, TechEye got to grips with HP’s Folio 13 and Lenovo U300s.

 

HP Folio 13

The Folio 13 looks to us like it is aimed squarely at the business market but HP has delivered in a visually appealing, if somewhat heavy, device. Ultimately we think HP nailed it: considering it is part of the first wave, expectations were high, and considering the pressure to keep the price point low while delivering an ultra-thin, instant-on machine, we came away impressed. £649, we think, is not a bad price and the machine felt like, to us, bang for our buck.

 

Lenovo IdeaPad U300s

This machine has an eye catching design and is a pleasure to look at. Lenovo got it right with its vital statistics, keeping the machine thin and light: this is a very portable machine. However, it does feel a little flimsy at times. We missed an SD card which can prove very useful depending on the profession. Wireless connectivity and the advent of a world with its head in the cloud does offer an alternative down the line but we are not quite there yet. Lenovo’s IdeaPad U300s costs a little more, at £749, but is still a good, media laptop that offers instant-on working productivity with attractive looks to boot. 

 

The Result

Overall both laptops were mighty impressive and go a long way to achieving Intel’s goal of turning the consumer’s head away from tablets.

Both are lightweight, highly portable, powerful and, perhaps crucially, both score highly in the looks department.

They might not quite be as easy to brandish on the bus as a tablet, but they are not too far off, and more than make up for this is in productivity and versatility, and, well, all round usefulness.

As Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks crop up they will offer even better battery life and power than these devices.

Already, though, Intel and its vendor partners appear to have gone some way to cracking the Ultrabook standard in the first wave of Sandy Bridge based devices, and we would certainly recommend either device.

The real question for Intel and the big PC brands is whether or not they can continue to replicate the high quality level of products that has been set by the initial flock of Ultrabooks.

As device types proliferate and form factors begin to differ more substantially to accommodate Windows 8 touch features, The challenge in keeping the standard high is at least as tricky as ensuring a good standard in the first place. There will be more device types – as Microsoft’sSurface has shown us – and there will be more form factors on the way.

But, we reckon, Lenovo and HP have both managed to bring out very good devices at reasonable price points with the U300s and Folio 13 both representing good value.

However, the Folio 13 is marginally the victor. It was a close call, but we’d give it the advantage thanks to its battery life, strong build and versatility. Our winner? It’d be HP’s Folio 13. 

Lenovo IdeaPad U300s review

Lenovo’s IdeaPad U300s is seemingly positioned somewhere between appealing to the consumer and businesses, with an attractive tapered front edge and metal lip running around the side of the chassis giving it a slimline ‘book’ appearance.

At a skinny 16mm the U300s has the razor-thin appeal of an ultrathin laptop, and the two tone dark metal chassis hits high in the prettiness stakes. It is eye-catching without being overly stylised like some Ultrabooks, and when shown to non-techy friends it received considerable praise for its initial looks, a prime requisite for a spot of Mac Book Air bashing.

At 1.32kg it is also a very light machine, though we found it hard to feel any substantial difference with the Folio 13, and Lenovo even provides a miniscule battery brick that is a thoughtful, and useful, touch.

Despite its weight, or lack of, the majority of the aluminium chassis feels strong, and holding it one-handed results in no problematic bending at the edge of the main body. The thin metal surrounding the screen is slightly flexible, however, and has an unnerving tendency to bounce back and forth for a second or two when opened and positioned into place.

Nevertheless it is sturdy overall, and users will be more than confident to throw it in a bag to bring outside without fretting that it will be crushed in by whatever is lurking around it.

As with the Folio 13, the 1366×768 screen is not remarkable, and we found that the brightness left a fair bit to be desired, sometimes making it slightly difficult to use in well-lit environments.   This appears to be a feature of many Ultrabooks, and the inconvenience was minimal.

The audio is decent enough for a laptop of this size, if slightly tinny and obscured by the main body.

The glass trackpad is spacious and a joy to use.  The left and right click buttons both have just enough resistance, as does the satisfying one touch click. The two finger scroll and pinch zoom were as good as any we have used, with even our clunky and uncoordinated digits moving around with ease and precision.  

The keyboard is generally easy to use, with enough give in the well-spaced keys to make for speedy typing. The positioning of the shrunken ‘enter’ and ‘backspace’ keys meant that mistakes were made occasionally when typing fast, though most will adjust to this, and did not present any significant problems.

The rounded keys suit the lines of machine, but the lack of backlighting on the keyboard is a missed trick both in terms of functionality and general aesthetics.

One drawback with the U300s is perhaps in terms of connectivity, as it is far from generous in this department.  While a full sized HDMI on an ultrathin device rather than a mini port saves on faffing around with adaptors, with two USBs (one being the newer USB 3.0) and no Ethernet, connectivity is basic. What is even more glaringly absent is the space for an SD card. While external hard drives and cloud storage offer some alternatives to the 128GB SSD, many will find an SD card upgrade essential.

The SSD itself is fantastic, and the boot up times are as speedy as Intel has claimed the Ultrabooks would be, switching from sleep mode to full use in a flash, and zooming through a restart.

This is one of the main benefits of Ultrabooks aside from their portability, and go a long way to rivalling tablets for carrying around and instant use.

In terms of performance, the spec varies little from the Folio 13 – and indeed many other Ultrabooks – with 4GB DDR3 RAM and a 1.6GHz i5-2478 Sandy Bridge Intel chip, meaning that the U300s rumbled through most tasks without blinking.  For a small and light device this is impressive, and makes netbooks look almost laughable.

Of course an Ultrabook is not the place to play newer games with graphics at full tilt HD 3000 or no, but gaming on reasonably new titles without major tweaks was possible, and there is little the average user will require that the U300s cannot provide without stuttering. HD video playback through an LCD TV caused no hiccups either.

Similarly, multitasking was a cinch, with the U300s not batting an eyelid even battling a ridiculous amount of web tabs open at once, as well as a number of programs open simultaneously. One slight problem that was evident at times was a tendency to start overheating when the processor is working harder, though this was relatively rare.   

Battery life on the machine was again impressive, and we managed to eke out close to six hours with moderate day to day usage and even more with the settings turned down and minimal usage.

The benefits of such longer battery on a device this small and powerful are hard to understate.