With a red lid that's sure to turn heads, Lenovo's IdeaPad U110 is an ultraportable laptop aimed at people who want something that's very easy to carry and stylish as well. Its beauty isn't just skin deep: there's plenty of substance to this machine and it can swiftly run pretty much any office application you throw its way.
It's based on a 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L7500 CPU, has 2GB of RAM and a 120GB, 4200rpm hard drive. It doesn't use one of Intel's Ultra Low Voltage CPUs, but a Low Voltage CPU instead. Low Voltage CPUs have higher clock speeds and larger caches. This means the IdeaPad U110 has plenty of grunt compared to many other ultraportables, but this is detrimental to its battery life. So much so that Lenovo ships the unit with a second, larger capacity battery. But if it's performance in a lightweight package you want, then you can't go wrong with the U110.
In our WorldBench 6 benchmark it scored 63, which is about 20 per cent better than NEC's VERSA S9100-1203DR ultraportable, which has a 1.2GHz Ultra Low Voltage CPU. This means that programs will load quicker and applications will be more responsive on the IdeaPad U110. In the iTunes MP3 encoding test, the IdeaPad U110 recorded a time of 1min 53sec, which is also much quicker than what an Ultra Low Voltage CPU-based ultraportable will be able to accomplish.
Instead of a solid-state drive, Lenovo has equipped the IdeaPad U110 with a 4200rpm drive, which is 1.8in instead of 2.5in and parallel ATA instead of Serial ATA. That means it's slightly smaller than a typical laptop hard drive and is similar to the drive found in an iPod, but it uses an older interface connection. It didn't add much to the heat production of the unit; in fact, the U110 ran very cool even after many hours of use. It also wasn't too noisy. The drive made only slight ticking noises when seeking, and the extraction fan kicked in on the left side when the processing load was high. As for its performance, it recorded an average rate of 22MBps in our transfer tests, which is higher than what Toshiba's Portege R500 scored with a solid-state drive.
To make the unit as mobile as possible, Lenovo has installed an 11in glossy screen, which has good contrast, wide viewing angles and a native resolution of 1366x768. This is a good size for working on documents and browsing the Web, and despite the U110's small dimensions (27.5cm long, 19.5cm deep and 2.5cm thick) it has full-sized keys that make it easy to type on once you get used to it. Interestingly, Lenovo has installed a touchpad instead of a trackpoint device, but it's a very smooth touchpad to use. With its standard battery pack, which has a rating of 18Wh (or 1250 milliampere-hours), the U110 weighs only 1.1kg, so it's very easy to take on the road. However, as its rating suggests, it won't last long when away from an outlet.
In our worst-case scenario battery test, the U110 lasted only 50min, which isn't even enough for use on a bus ride from Sydney's North Shore to the eastern suburbs. With its larger battery, which is rated at 57Wh (or 3958mAh), it lasted three hours in the same test, which is obviously a much better result. You'll have to use some more muscle if you install this battery, as it will increase the unit's overall weight to 1.35kg. But even at this weight, it's still a very mobile device. We also love the U110's power adapter, which is very thin doesn't contribute much to the overall weight of the unit when it's in a carry bag.
The notebook's size is convenient for use while on public transport and its build quality does seem to be solid. Its base, in particular, feels hard and doesn't move at all when it's squeezed. However, we did find the screen to be a little creaky. We noticed this creaking in the frame when opening and closing it, which felt like the seal between the lid and the bezel wasn't quite exact. It's also worth pointing out that the batteries aren't easy to swap; they are a tight fit and take plenty of effort to remove.
Along the sides of the notebook, you get FireWire, three USB 2.0 ports, an SD memory card reader and an ExpressCard slot. This slot is of the 34 rather than 54 variety, so it won't accept full-sized expansion cards. There is a switch for turning off the Wi-Fi module, which supports 802.11a/b/g but not draft-n, and it also has headphone, microphone, D-Sub and 10/100 Ethernet ports — Gigabit networking would have been a sweet addition.
The top of the screen is home to a webcam, which can be used with Lenovo's VeriFace face recognition technology. With this technology, you can scan your face and then strike a pose in front of the camera in order to log in to Windows. A fingerprint reader would be more practical though, especially in low-light situations. We love the fact that the U110 ships with an optical drive, so you can start loading applications onto it quickly and easily.