Despite Intel’s publicity, ultrabooks’ pricing remain strange: shouldn’t Windows notebooks be cheaper than MacBooks? Manufacturers, such as Lenovo, respond to that call through their compromised variations of the “ultrabook”. The Lenovo IdeaPad S300, reviewed today, is one such compromise.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S300 takes the wedge-form of the MacBook Air, settles for plastic instead of an aluminum or magnesium alloy body, and houses a fast-enough processor – Intel Pentium 997 (1.60GHz/1333MHz/2MB L3) – instead of the strict-ultrabook-requirement (and battery hungry) i5 or i7. The result is a surprisingly snappy “ultrabook” sans the blessing of Intel to call it one, at a price point that’s less than half of the standard ultrabook price: 18 thousand bucks.
You can’t complain about the ports (USB 3 and 2, HDMI out, SD Card slot, Ethernet, no VGA), the screen (13.3 WXGA 1366×768 LED) is good enough for watching movies (slightly washed out colors, acceptable viewing angles), the sound is not deep-bass-driven but good enough in a quiet room.
It’s an acceptably spec’d work notebook without a disc tray, without an SSD, and without Windows 7 installed. Good thing the S300 has a Quick Boot OS that has a browser: you can update your Facebook status minutes after booting.
The build and the preinstalled OS are the corners that Lenovo cut to bring down the price of the IdeaPad S300.
The plastic body is surprisingly sturdy. Unlike some plastic body notebooks, the S300 has a kind of center mass, which gives you the tactile impression of solid unit.
The keyboard is what you’d find on other Lenovo notebooks with full-sized keyboards – properly spaced out, just enough bounce and travel.
The trackpad is huge.
Heat dissipation is handled by grilles on the left side of the keyboard and under the notebook, so you hardly feel the warmth on your lap despite long hours of surfing.
The battery lasted five hours under testing – 60% brightness, 30% volume, seven tabs on Chromium open, including YouTube. If you load a full 1080p movie, which I did after I installed Windows 7 trial, the battery gets shaved by half. (Yes, you can install via the USB port.)
Keep in mind that the IdeaPad S300 is an 18k less-than-an-inch-thick, 1.8 kg notebook, so that affordability plus user comfort plus sturdiness are actually good things.
The S300′s can take a beating: I’ve been using it for more than a week now; throwing it in my backpack and generally lugging it around with no protective case or sleeve.
Still, the “solid” feel of a MacBook Air, which leads you to think that an MBA will survive a fall, is just not there. Make no mistake, the S300 is a compromise. But you will get your reports done, and your college group paper sorted out, on this thing.
1. The trackpad can be too “sensitive” – hover your cursor over a link, lift your finger and bring it back down to tap that link, and the cursor will have moved somewhere else. You can avoid this clicking on the trackpad, but initially it was annoying. (I suspect there’s a trackpad sensitivity adjustment solution that I’m missing.)
2. The keyboard is not backlit. No surprise there, it’s only Php18k. The same non-backlit feature is echoed in another Lenovo notebook from the same price range.
3. There’s no preinstalled Windows 7 of any kind. But if you’re used to Chrome, the comes-with Quick Boot OS is armed with Chromium, almost the same design and browser features are Chrome (you can even install Chrome apps). If you’re okay with this and with open source OS’s (like Ubuntu), then you don’t need Windows 7.
But if you plan to install MS Office, you need to install Windows 7 first through the USB port. You need either an external DVD-ROM plugged in via the USB, or a Windows 7 installer in USB form. You can do the latter through a free app called WinToFlash, which converts the Windows CD into a bootable USB version (you need a USB thumb-drive of at least 4 GB capacity).
WinToFlash, take note, neither creates Windows serials nor does it provide ways to hack it. So, and again, you’re on your own.
If you can get used to the plastic-light feeling of a thin notebook, if you can install an OS of your liking (on your own or through techie friend), and if you don’t need a graphically powerful machine, you can live with the Lenovo IdeaPad S300. It’s crazy light; I have to check my bag just to be sure I brought it. And its price has a surreal way of making you rationalize everything else.
Intel Pentium 997(1.60GHz/1333MHz/2MB L3)
2GB Memory (only one memory slot)
13.3 WXGA(1366×768) LED
Lenovo Quick Boot OS
Intel HD Graphics
Realtek 10/100 LAN; Lenovo a/g/n; Bluetooth
.3MP Camera with Face Recognition
HDMI, 2 USB (2.0), 1 USB (3.0), SD Card, Audio Jack, no VGA
4 Cell Li-ion battery (up to 5 hours)
OneKey® Rescue System makes data backup and recovery simple
Less than 1″ thick
Price: P18,500.00 at Villman
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