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Intel's Core i3 chips are a great fit for general-purpose laptops such as the U41. A Core i5 or i7 is preferable if you want something for more heavy-duty tasks, such as photo editing, but that drives up power requirements and cost.
On the other hand, a lightweight Atom processor will have a habit of reminding you of its lack of overall performance, perhaps with slow loading Flash video for example. A Core i3 is a perfect balance between these two extremes.
Here is the Lenovo U41 spec sheet as provided to TechRadar:
- CPU: Intel Core i3-5010U (2.1GHz)
- Graphics: Intel HD5500
- RAM: 8GB
- Screen: 14-inch 1366 x 768 LED Backlit
- Storage: 1TB WD10S21X SSHD
- Optical drive: none
- Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI
- Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n, RJ45
- Camera: 720p HD
- Weight: 1.8kg
The Intel Core i3-5010U in the Lenovo U41 is a dual-core chip with 3MB of L2 cache, and part of the 14nm Broadwell update that came out in January 2015, running at 2.1GHz, and supporting hyper threading so Windows sees four logical processors.
Coupled with that is an Intel HD Graphics 5500 integrated GPU. This is hardly a powerhouse or something you'd want in a gaming PC, but Intel's integrated graphics chips are improving dramatically with each generation, and the HD5500 is certainly enough to at least run software that needs basic-to-mid level graphics performance.
8GB of DDR3 memory is the right choice, as it's just about the baseline level for modern PCs. Although Windows 7 and 8.1 can cope with just 4GB, doubling it adds relatively little to the cost, and ensures the it won't run out when working with lots of programs at once, along with dozens of tabs open in a browser like Google Chrome.
On the entry-level model, the display's native resolution is just 1,366 x 768, hardly impressive in a world of laptops with high-DPI screens. Perhaps more noticeable is how it's based on TN technology, rather than IPS. Viewing angles aren't great and the screen lacks real brightness or deep contrast. A 1080p option is available, however, on slightly more expensive variants.
Similarly there's some variety to the available storage. You can have a 1TB hard disk, 256GB SSD or as in the model I was sent, a 1TB Western Digital SSHD, a hybrid hard disk with a small cache of flash memory for improved overall performance. SSDs generally perform better than hybrid disks, but it's a worthy compromise, ensuring fairly nippy boot times and swift waking from sleep mode, while still providing a good amount of storage.
Lastly, the built-in 1.5W stereo speakers support Dolby Home Theatre, a software enhancement that improves general sound reproduction. Obviously, 1.5W speakers can never deliver volume levels to rival the Glastonbury festival, but there's still a notable improvement to the U41's sound quality over certain laptops in its price range.