Lenovo is best known for its excellent ThinkPad business laptops, but also offers entry-level machines via its 3000 Series. The IdeaPad range strikes a balance between the two, with the U350 offering a combination of mobility, usability and corporate features.
Where Lenovo's other laptops use stark but functional black designs, a more consumer-friendly design is used here on the U350. The textured plastic lid and faux brushed-aluminium palmrest provide a look that will suit the home or office and build quality is excellent throughout.
The slim chassis weighs 1.7kg, making this ultraportable ideal for frequent travel use. The large but slim battery is neatly integrated into the chassis, and it allows the machine to run for 261-minutes when away from mains power, easily keeping you working for half the day.
The quality of the user interface is mixed. The keyboard is large and spacious and all the keys respond accurately, but the board flexes and rattles slightly when typing. The model we saw was a pre-production build, however, so this will hopefully be rectified on final samples.
The large touchpad is more usable. It also supports gesture control, allowing you to move your fingers in a circle on the pad to scroll through documents, or pinch your fingers together to zoom in on images. It is a small touch, but works really well.
The 13.3-inch screen is excellent. Brightness, colour and contrast are outstanding, delivering sharp and vibrant images. The widescreen aspect ratio is ideal for viewing spreadsheets and an ambient light sensor automatically adjusts the brightness to your surroundings.
Low-powered components are used to deliver optimum performance within the confines of the small chassis. The low-voltage Intel processor and 3072MB of memory provide enough power for basic home and office tasks. Again, final retail models may differ slightly, however.
Ample storage is provided by the 250GB hard drive and the disk is shock-protected, to prevent damage to your data if you drop the laptop. There is no built-in optical drive for CD/DVD use, but a 3-in-1 card reader allows access to flash memory cards.
802.11n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet allow high-speed networking. The integrated camera supports VeriFace login software, whereby it remembers your facial characteristics and lets you log in to Windows by looking into the camera.
Overall, the IdeaPad U350 finds a comfortable balance between Lenovo's ThinkPad and 3000 ranges. It may not be the best ultraportable, but it's a highly usable machine and sure to suit small to medium business use.
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