One thing there's certainly no shortage of these days is thin and light laptops. From the Sony VAIO Z and Samsung Series 9 to the 13in version of the Apple MacBook Air, there are plenty of dreamy ultraportables – if you have the money and are willing to go for 13 inches. So far, the Sony VAIO S is one of the only premium candidates we've seen to come in below that magical £700 barrier, and the 11in Air is one of the few choices if you want smaller.
Well, for a bit more cash than the Sony S, Lenovo has a great option for those looking for something that's both small and affordable. Its IdeaPad U260 is a super-stylish, 12.5in ultraportable that's under an inch thick (2.5cm) and weighs a mere 1.36kg yet comes in at a very reasonable looking £780-ish. With it packing an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD (solid state drive) under the hood (compared to the 2GB and 64GB SSD of the £850 MacBook Air 11in), this seems like it should be set to take the ultraportable market by storm.
So what's the catch? Well, that Intel CPU is actually one of the older generation models, rather than the newer Sandy Bridge type; connectivity is limited to USB2 rather than 3.0; and fancy extras like a backlit keyboard are absent. However, there's still plenty of potential and things to like, starting off with its frankly stunning design.
Sporting a unique mocha-coloured soft-touch outer shell (it's also available in orange) and leatherette black wrist-rests, the U260 is designed to look like a folio case and succeeds admirably. When closed, its flat top and bottom, which just overhang the edges of the body of the machine, and curved 'spine' excellently mimic the cover of a hardback book or folio. The result is a machine that, while not the absolute thinnest, looks particularly classy. Visually, it's especially arresting when closed but also looks the part when opened thanks to its minimalist interior. But the soft-touch outside doesn't just look great, it feels wonderful too. We know we're gushing here, but this kind of finish is reasonably durable, doesn't suffer from fingerprints, and makes holding and carrying the U260 a real pleasure. It's so much more comfortable than glossy plastic or metal rivals.
And the good news continues when you open this ultraportable up. Inside there's a faux-leather finish on the palm-rests and around the keyboard. Again, it's durable and feels good, helping to make typing a pleasant experience.
Build quality, meanwhile, almost lives up to the legendary ThinkPads, such as the X220 Tablet. Plastics are incredibly solid, even on the wafer-thin lid. Only a little flex in the keyboard betrays that this is a consumer laptop that's not held up to the same rugged standards.