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When Lenovo acquired IBMs PC and laptop business many feared for the reputation and quality of the famed IBM ThinkPad brand. However, they ought to have feared not as Lenovo sensibly kept the ThinkPad brand going, and judging by our reviews the quality has stayed too.
The ThinkPad brand then retains the high-end while Lenovo reserves its own brand for its more affordable notebooks, much like this V100. As part of the 3000 range, the full title is the Lenovo 3000 V100, which is a little confusing. Firmly in the ultra-portable category, this notebook features a 12.1in widescreen display and weighs only 1.86Kg, yet has its optical drive built-in.
On first impression I was a little disappointed with the look of the notebook as the finish is nothing like the cool Darth Vader black of the Think Pad range. In particular the pads inside the overly thick bezel round the screen look a bit cheap. Build quality isn't fantastic. There's too much flex in the screen, the mouse buttons feel very plasticky and the volume up key at the top right above the keyboard was pressed down and no longer flush with the others next to it, though it did still work.
Of course, the ThinkPad's Imperial chic is expensive and this V100 brings much of the ThinkPad's traits to those of less capacious pockets. What it doesn't have is the hard disk protection that the ThinkPad's offer, so if someone picks up your notebook and chucks it on the floor it's likely to get damaged. So don't let them do that.
What it does carry over are the keyboard and the fingerprint reader. The keyboard is actually one of the best I've ever used on a notebook. It's distinguished by being particularly firm with a short travel, and I was able to get my typing speed up quite high while retaining accuracy. In terms of layout, you're rewarded with a full size return; backspace and right shift keys and numerous functions are available via a function key in the bottom left.
The display uses a high contrast coating for richer colours, but this made it harder to read under the office lights, so I had to angle it to compensate. The choice of angle is restricted though as the vertical viewing angles are quite restricted. It's better to the sides though. The screen resolution is 1,280 x 800, which is about right for a screen this size.
In the middle of the bezel in the top of the screen is a integrated webcam, which is very useful for videoconferencing on the move, or keeping in touch with home. Though the lens is small the image quality is actually very good. However, I would have preferred to see one that could rotate rather than having to move the screen up and down to get the right angle.
The trackpad is on the small side but does the job, but the mouse keys have a wobbly and slightly flimsy feel to them. To the right of this is a fingerprint reader. This is a technology that has been carried over from IBM's ThinkPad range. Once you've enrolled your fingers you can use a swipe to login, rather than typing your name, which is hardly a big deal. More potentially useful is the ability of the Omnipass software to detect password fields and offer to remember them for you so you can enter secure web sites without having to remember usernames and passwords - a swipe will do it instead.