Review: Lenovo Unveils A New Low-Cost Laptop - InformationWeek

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4/3/2006
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Review: Lenovo Unveils A New Low-Cost Laptop

Although this portable is targeted at small business, our reviewer says it's also ideal for consumers.

While Lenovo caused a stir with its innovative ThinkPad X41 Tablet PC in June 2005, many market watchers passed off Lenovo's success as something it had purchased from IBM. Almost a year later, the next generation of portables has arrived. This time, Lenovo is introducing a new notebook under its own label: the Series 3000 N100. The Lenovo 3000-branded line of notebooks is specifically targeted at small-business professionals, but pricing across the lineup should make it an attractive option for consumers as well.

Lenovo has released a range of systems under the "N100" banner. The $999 basic unit comes with a 1.67GHz T2300 processor, combo DVD player/CD burner, Windows Home Edition, Intel's integrated graphics, an 80GB hard drive, and a 14-inch display. Intel's Pro/Wireless a/b/g Network Connection, a 10/100 Ethernet port, a 56K V.90 modem, four USB ports, side-mounted mic and earphone jacks, and an external monitor port are also part of the package.

For this review, I optioned this up just a bit to $1,300 to get a larger (100GB) hard drive, Intel's T2400 Core Duo processor running at 1.83GHz, nVidia's GeForce Go 7300 graphics, a dual-layer DVD burner, Bluetooth, Windows XP Professional, and a 15.4-inch wide-screen WSXGA+ VibrantView display.

One of the primary things you expect of a portable computer is that it will be light enough to be carried around. Unfortunately, that's not always true; although listed at 8.1 pounds, my Inspiron 9300, for example, felt like it was more appropriate for forklift transportation. At exactly 6 pounds, the N100 feels much lighter, and its 15.4-inch screen keeps the overall size down to something that's much more manageable.

VibrantView Display
Lenovo offers two different sizes of LCDs, 14-inch and 15.4-inch, and then adds two varieties to each: VibrantView and Anti-Glare. Anti-Glare is the usual matte approach to LCDs that reduces reflections and glare (and sometimes also dulls the color just a little bit). VibrantView, on the other hand, is highly reflective and will bother the heck out of you if you're sitting with your back to a light source. Its saving grace is that it's breathtaking — the N100's vivid colors, especially for pictures and video, will knock your socks off.

Which type of display you choose depends on how you plan to you use notebook. Because my passion is video, the polished look and brilliant color rendition of the VibrantView is a welcome change from the somewhat duller view supplied by the typical LCD. However, if my concentration were on business graphics, I would probably prefer the Anti-Glare.

When I read through the list of specifications and saw that the 14-inch WSXGA wide-screen display had a 1680x1050 resolution, I was prepared for any number of readability issues. There weren't any.

On my Inspiron, I had pumped up the dots per inch to mitigate the effect of the tiny screen icons on its 17-inch display rather than drop the 1280x1024 resolution. Yet as I sat in front of the N100, with a vastly wider field of view and a 1.6-inch smaller screen, I had no problem seeing tiny objects and text. At the risk of gushing: It was honestly amazing.

I can now understand all of the excitement about the Intel Core Duo processor in the new Macintosh portables. The N100 with its 1.83GHz T2400 Core Duo CPU is much faster than my overclocked (3.56Ghz) Pentium 640 desktop box.

The real surprise, however, was that while the N100 is not quite up to par with my 3.2GHz dual-core Pentium 840 Extreme Edition computer, the difference was only slightly noticeable when I used each for editing videos. (And, of course, I've never had the desire to carry my 45-pound desktop from room to room.)

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