Review Price £788.97
Lenovo IdeaPad U260 - Connectivity, Usability and AV
Connectivity on the IdeaPad U260 is somewhat disappointing. Don't get us wrong, it just about covers the basics and easily outdoes the previous generation Macbook Air, but most other ultraportables offer a few more options. Along the left you'll find a single USB 2 port, combi headphone/microphone jack, and – in a nice touch – a physical wireless switch. There's also a blanking plate, the use for which we haven't yet been able to ascertain, but we can but hope it offers further connectivity on other variations on this model, if they ever arrive.
The front and back are clean, while to the left we have the second USB 2 port, HDMI 1.3, Gigabit Ethernet and good old VGA. Even with Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth thrown into the mix to cover the wireless side of things, that's less connectivity than that offered by some netbooks, such as the Toshiba NB550D. Our main complaint here is the lack of a memory card reader, something pretty much every other laptop on the planet offers, with the exception of the 11.6in Air. We simply cannot understand why Lenovo left it out here. You also miss out on USB 3.0 (and, looking to the future, ThunderBolt) but these are more understandable ommisions.
Any resentment we might have felt about the connections dissipates when we get to actually using this little laptop. Though the keyboard is quite shallow, layout is perfect, and the keys' quirky shape helps them to cradle your fingers nicely. Though feedback is somewhat limited keys still offer a positive click, and if typing is not as superlative an experience as on a ThinkPad, it still more than holds its own against other ultraportables. Our only regret here is the lack of backlighting.
The U260's touchpad doesn't offer the multitude of multi-touch gestures and single button surfaces that some more premium models have, but as a simple traditional example it is great. It's large enough for comfortable use without getting in the way when typing. Its surface is nice and smooth, while its metallic buttons offer a lot of travel and perfect response.
We don't see too many examples of 12(.5)in screens around anymore these days, but on the evidence of this model, there's no reason why not. It sports the usual 1,366 x 768 resolution and, best of all, has a semi-matt finish that minimises annoying reflections – though its surround is attractively/annoyingly glossy. It offers even backlighting without significant bleed from the edges while there are no other unwanted artefacts, and sharpness is great. It also has fairly decent contrast, though it couldn't differentiate between the two subtlest shades in our greyscale test.
In typical Lenovo fashion the lid tilts back far further than most other laptop brands' screens. However, this does reveal the screen's biggest weakness: its viewing angles. Horizontally they're decent if far from flawless, but vertically they're simply below-par, with so much contrast shift that you have to angle the display's hinge just right to avoid noticing it. Still, overall we can live with this shortcoming, especially as it's one shared by many laptops using TN panels – the Samsung Series 9 excepted.
As for the speakers, the less said the better. They're about what you would expect from a slim laptop like this: underpowered, tinny and muffled. Just about usable for YouTube or an episode of Corry (shudder), but for anything more serious, headphones or external speakers are a must. At least they're mounted on the top edge so aren't muffled by your lap, like on some.
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