Ultrabooks don't come much cheaper than the 13.3-inch Lenovo IdeaPad U310, and reviewers love its portability, power and ergonomics. This pint-sized notebook comes heartily recommended by most -- especially given its price -- but be sure to keep your expectations reasonable.
Enough power for most tasks. The Lenovo IdeaPad U310's low-voltage Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB hard drive are more than capable of performing several everyday chores simultaneously without hiccupping, gaming excluded. However, the 32 GB solid-state cache drive -- which is supposed to speed up boot times and the opening of commonly used programs -- simply doesn't work as fast as the competition, reviewers say. Other low-cost, SSD cache-equipped Ultrabooks boot twice as fast as the IdeaPad U310 in some tests, and its five-hour battery life is far below the Ultrabook average.
The Lenovo U310 ships with Windows 7 Home Premium by default, but Windows 8 is an option. If you need a bit more oomph, the 14-inch Lenovo IdeaPad U410 (*Est. $650 and up) doubles the RAM and adds basic discrete graphics, but it's still no gaming machine.
No complaints. The keyboard and glass touchpad both win praise for being fairly comfortable, a rarity in both cheap laptops and ultraportables. The U310 also has a decent selection of ports, including HDMI, an SD card slot and a pair of USB 2.0 connections. It lacks an optical drive, however.
Far from a beauty. The Lenovo IdeaPad U310's plastic chassis isn't nearly as attractive as the brushed metal exterior of other Ultrabooks, but reviewers say it looks nice and they appreciate the wide variety of color options. While the 13.3-inch display runs dim, especially if you don't look at the screen head-on, the picture itself is sharp and colorful. Some ding the 1,366-by-768-pixel resolution as being low, but it's hard to find a 1080p display on a budget.
Customer support is top-notch. Lenovo maintains a strong reputation for producing high-quality products backed by a helpful and responsive customer support staff.
Good value, but not the cheapest Ultrabook available. If you want an Ultrabook but don't want to break the bank, reviewers say this Lenovo laptop is a great value that handles most tasks with ease. If you don't mind ditching the small form factor, however, other cheap laptops offer more ports and power for slightly lower prices.
1. Laptop Magazine
Review Credibility: Excellent Smith likes the IdeaPad U310's design, typing ergonomics and all-around performance, but the short battery life, dim screen and stiff mouse buttons are serious drawbacks. Those few flaws lead her to drop the laptop's overall rating to 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Review, Sherri L. Smith, June 21, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent Stein's rating and listing of the IdeaPad U310's highlights are similar to Smith's, but he gives the Ultrabook 3.5 stars out of 5 for its weight increase over last year's model and the lack of SSD upgrade options.
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Review, Scott Stein, July 3, 2012
3. Computer Shopper
Review Credibility: Excellent The Lenovo IdeaPad U310's weight is a gripe of Grevstad's, too, but he loves the colorful design, low price and general performance. He gives the laptop 4.5 stars out of 5 and an Editors' Choice award.
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Review and Ratings, Eric Grevstad, June 28, 2012
4. Notebook Check.net
Review Credibility: Excellent After an in-depth dissection, the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 earns a score of 83 percent. Ngo likes its solid keyboard and mouse combined with the Ivy Bridge processor. "The U310 has the first-rate core functionality to justify its impressive looks," he writes.
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Laptop Review, Allen Ngo, June 28, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good The heft and short battery life of this low-price Ultrabook give Wollman some pause, but she says its pros outshine its cons. "The Lenovo IdeaPad U310 is a solid bet for the money," especially for college students and families who don't plan on traveling much, she writes.
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Review: a Reasonably Priced Ultrabook for the Masses, Dana Wollman, July 13, 2012
6. PC World
Review Credibility: Very Good Jacobsson Purewal agrees that the IdeaPad U310's low price and color options make it attractive to college-bound students. However, "this Ultrabook is just average," she says. "It performs well, as long as you're not looking to do anything fancy."
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Review: A Dorm-Room Ultrabook, Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, July 11, 2012
Review Credibility: Good The Lenovo IdeaPad U310 gets an overall rating of 8 out of 10 in this brief but informative review. Although Null finds the Ultrabook a bit heavy, he calls it an "awesome value, with solid performance."
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U310, Christopher Null, July 9, 2012
Review Credibility: Good Although Smith says the Lenovo Ultrabook delivers an "excellent bang for your buck," he admits it "doesn't excel in any metric besides value." Still, it earns an Editors' Choice award.
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Review, Matt Smith, June 27, 2012