Lenovo also brings its A-game to the Ultrabook party. And well it should, since it’s asking almost $1,500 for the IdeaPad U300s. That’s premium, business-ultraportable price territory. It’s therefore apropos that the U300s has the most businessy aesthetic, although not at the sake of sleek design. Like the Asus UX31E and the MacBook Air, the U300s is crafted from a single-sheet of aluminum. It eschews the wedge form factor established by Apple and instead uniquely mimics the lines of a hardbound book, with the top and bottom edges protruding slightly all the way around the perimeter, the way a book’s covers protrude past the pages. It makes for a distinct and pleasing silhouette.
Both bottom and top are dark gray—Graphite Gray, to use Lenovo’s parlance (Clementine Orange is also an option)—while the deck and screen bezel are matte silver. The inside is clean and minimalist, consisting of a power button, island keyboard, and large clickpad. The Shift, Enter, Caps, Tab, and Backspace keys are all slightly shortened, but typing on the U300s was a mostly comfortable, trouble-free affair, and the glass-surfaced clickpad is sublime.
We love that the U300s's deck is free of third-party branding, but that tack helps pay the rent.
Ports include one USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, full-size HDMI, and a headphone/mic combo. Lenovo is alone in this pack for excluding a media reader. A small button on the notebook’s left side launches Lenovo’s OneKey Recovery, which walks you through creating a system image that can be launched from the same button should your system fail. The U300s also supports Intel’s Wireless Display technology. So with a WiDi adapter (purchased separately) attached to your TV, you can stream any content from your notebook via Intel’s software.
Enough with the extras, how 'bout the hard stuff? The U300s is powered by a Core i7-2677M, which is clocked just a hair above the Core i5 in the Asus UX31E, at 1.8GHz. The two units traded wins in the benchmarks, although the U300s performed significantly better than the UX31E in Photoshop, for inexplicable reasons. In Quake III, the U300s suffered the fate of all single-channel RAM configs. For storage, Lenovo taps a comparatively spacious 256GB SSD. It’s a SATA 3Gb/s device using a year-old J Micron controller, but it comes close to maximum bandwidth, and subjectively speaking, the U300s feels plenty snappy. It was the quickest to boot to Windows, posting 17 seconds flat.
The U300s’s screen quality is on par with the UX31E’s, albeit at a lower res of 1366x768. Battery life for the two was also similar, exceeding five hours. Lenovo, however, had the speediest recharge, hitting 50 percent in 30 minutes.
So, yes, the U300s offers a good deal of quality for the price. But it’s nonetheless costly, and by contrast, the Asus UX31E is the better Ultrabook value.