If you're looking for a colorful, comfortable and imminently portable low-cost computing option, reviewers say the Lenovo IdeaPad U410 is one of the best cheap laptops available.
There may not be a more capable sub-$800 laptop. Experts say the IdeaPad U410's Core i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM burn through all but the most challenging graphics and video editing tasks. It's aided by discrete Nvidia GeForce 610M graphics and a 500 GB hard drive with a speedy 32 GB solid-state cache drive partner. However, the discrete graphics aren't powerful enough to make this a gaming machine.
The SSD is a bit pokey by premium standards, but it's still much faster than a traditional hard drive alone and something of a rarity in the budget computing world. Reviewers also ding the laptop's five-to-six-hour battery life as being too brief. While that's true compared to premium-priced Ultrabooks, it's not too shabby for a cheap notebook. The Lenovo machine ships with Windows 7 Home Premium by default, but Windows 8 is available as an option.
Like most Ultrabooks, the IdeaPad U410 eschews a CD drive to keep a slim and light profile. If that's an issue, you might want to consider the Dell Inspiron 15R (*Est. $550 and up) . It's a bit bulkier, but packs both an optical drive and a larger 15.6-inch display.
Little to complain about. Aside from the lack of an optical drive, the Lenovo IdeaPad U410's ergonomics shine. The laptop is lightweight and slim, and reviewers say that both its keyboard and glass touchpad perform well and feel good. It even has a good selection of ports for an Ultrabook, complete with a 2-in-1 card reader, an HDMI port and four USB ports, two of which are the fast USB 3.0 variety. If you need an even smaller laptop, consider the 13.3-inch IdeaPad U310 (*Est. $630 and up) .
Budget chic. Lenovo went with a glossy plastic shell rather than a metal case in its quest to keep costs down and experts like the look, especially the expansive color options. The audio performs decently and the bright 14-inch screen pops, although it's plagued by poor viewing angles. Some critics complain about the 1,366-by-768-pixel resolution, but virtually no budget notebook sports sharper displays. However, reviewers call the audio a bit weak.
Nothing to fear. The IdeaPad U410 doesn't suffer from many reports of defective units, and Lenovo's customer service has a sterling reputation with users, which culminated in a PCMag.com Readers' Choice award for the company in 2012. "Home users gave the company high ratings, and satisfaction with support and repairs continue to be top among Windows-based laptop manufacturers," the site reports.
A solid performer. Not only is the IdeaPad U410 cheap, but it also delivers a pretty big wallop in a fairly small package. You can find similar configurations only slightly less expensive if you don't mind a bit more heft.
1. Laptop Magazine
Review Credibility: Excellent Laptop Magazine finds little to criticize in the IdeaPad U410 en route to giving it 4 stars out of 5. The only negatives listed here are its weak audio and poor viewing angles. "The U410 is a solid choice for shoppers looking for an attractive and long-lasting Ultrabook," Smith writes.
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U410 Review, Sherri L. Smith, Aug. 6, 2012
2. Computer Shopper
Review Credibility: Excellent The Lenovo IdeaPad U410's discrete graphics and 8 GB of RAM set it apart from similarly priced competitors, Safford says. "Overall, there's a lot to like about the design and build quality of the U410, from its carrying comfort to its excellent keyboard and touchpad," he writes.
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U410 Review and Ratings, Matt Safford, Aug. 29, 2012
3. Notebook Check.net
Review Credibility: Very Good This report examines a European variant of the Lenovo IdeaPad U410 that's built very similarly to the U.S. model. Hepp gives the laptop a score of 85 percent, citing the high points mentioned by other reviewers. However, "the U410 is unfortunately not the Ultrabook that it could have been," he says, thanks to quirks such as Lenovo's decision to use a glossy screen and a near-useless video card.
Review: Review Lenovo IdeaPad U410-MAH6MGE Notebook, Christian Hepp, Aug. 6, 2012
4. PC World
Review Credibility: Very Good The title of this review sums up Cocilova's evaluation of the Lenovo IdeaPad U410. "For students who must keep a budget in mind but aren't willing to sacrifice too much power in their laptop, this is probably the perfect option," he writes.
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U410 Review: All-Purpose Laptop on a Budget, Alex Cocilova, Aug. 20, 2012
Review Credibility: Good At the end of a lengthy review full of photos and benchmark results, Davidson gives the Lenovo IdeaPad U410 a score of 9 out of 10 in every subcategory the site judges notebooks by, then gives it a Recommended award. "Lenovo offers a very good balance of performance, quality and value," he says.
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U410 Ultrabook Review, Stuart Davidson, Aug. 23, 2012
Review Credibility: Good Lamkin says the Lenovo IdeaPad U410's performance is outstanding, but considers its build quality much more pedestrian. Still, he calls it "a brilliant machine that is perfectly suited to meet the demands of the digital media boom that we're in the midst of, with an extremely tempting price tag."
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U410 Review, Paul Lamkin, July 31, 2012
7. PC Advisor
Review Credibility: Good Even though he touches on all the major points, Martin's review of the Lenovo IdeaPad U410 is noticeably briefer than others. In the end, he gives the Ultrabook 4 out of 5 stars and above-average scores in every subcategory except special features. "The Lenovo IdeaPad U410 isn't the fastest Ultrabook we've seen, but it's difficult to complain about this laptop, given its designer looks and sensible price," he says.
Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U410 Review, Jim Martin, Oct. 25, 2012