The last Lenovo notebook we looked at was the N100, that Spode reviewed back in September. It was a cheap, chunky and cheerful alternative to the more exclusive ThinkPad range, that Lenovo also produce, and it impressed us enough to gain a recommended award. However, if you want something with a bit more oomph the N100 has a bigger brother, the uncannily named N200.
In the time since Spode reviewed the N100, Vista has been released, Intel has released a new set of mobile processors and overall the industry has advanced. So, accordingly, Lenovo has updated its entire N-series.
The N100 series now comes with Windows Vista as standard, a minimum of 1GB of RAM (which you'll need for running Vista), and a larger 120GB hard drive. There are also new CPU options with the Intel Core 2 Duo T5300 being the best of the bunch. The basic chassis design and 15.4in 1,280 x 800 resolution screen remain from the previous version.
The N200, then, takes over from where the N100 series leaves off with a high resolution 1,680 x 1,050 15.4in display being its prime asset. This is backed up by nVidia GeForce Go 7300 graphics, up to 4GB of RAM, and faster Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 and T7300 CPUs. These new CPUs are the super duper power saving ones that form part of the Santa Rosa Centrino platform. Unfortunately, they aren't accompanied by Turbo Memory, Gigabit Ethernet or Draft-n wireless so you'll not get the full Santa Rosa experience. The particular model I'm looking at today has an Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 running at 2.00GHz coupled with 1GB of RAM and a 120GB hard drive. This particular specification wasn't available on Lenovo's website and they don't cater for much customisation so the closest matches we could find were the TY2B4UK and TY2B3IV models which have slightly different memory and CPU configurations.
One thing that hasn't changed since last year is the overall design of the N-series chassis. With dimensions of 360mm x 267mm x 31.4mm and weighing in at 2.8kg it is exactly the same size and weight as its predecessor, which is about average for this type of notebook. The colour scheme also sticks to the tried and tested silver and slate combination with the former adorning the outside and the latter blanketing the inside. As a business oriented model I wouldn't hold this staid look against the N200 but it doesn't do anything to make it stand out from the crowd either.
The N200s business credentials are further emphasised by the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner below and to the right of the keyboard. This works in conjunction with preloaded software enabling you to swipe your finger to log into Windows or enter a password on a website. For someone like me, that has used the same few passwords for years, this seem like overkill but if you're company policy is to regularly change passwords they can save a lot of support calls about forgotten passwords.
Like many notebooks of this price the keyboard on the N200 is best described as sufficient. The keys are a decent size and are quite responsive giving you just enough feedback to enable rapid touch typing. Overall it doesn’t compare to the legendary keyboards found on the more expensive ThinkPad models but it's not a complete dog either. The one real stinker that Lenovo has trodden in is the old problem of the left Ctrl key being displaced by the Fn key, in the bottom left corner. This detracts from an otherwise perfect layout which is rather a shame.