Ultrabooks are birds of a feather when it comes to performance, since they all share very similar specifications. The average user can buy an Ultrabook confident in the knowledge it will run most of what they might want, barring demanding games. As already mentioned Lenovo’s IdeaPad U300s is available in several different configurations: the M6844uk model with a Core i7 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, which will set you back around £1,200, or our M6845uk review model with a Core i5, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD at just under £900.
To be honest, Intel’s dual-core ‘Sandy Bridge’ Core i5-2467M should be plenty powerful for most. It runs at 1.6GHz by default but can Turbo Clock to 2.3GHz with support for up to four virtual cores. Likewise a 128GB SSD is standard for the Ultrabook crowd and can always be supplemented by cheap external storage.
As ever, graphics is a weak point of the Ultrabook, which explains the U300s’ poor result of 13.8fps in Stalker: Call of Pripyat, despite running at a low 1,280 x 720 resolution and Medium Detail. In other words, if you’re into your gaming, this is not the machine for you, but the casual crowd should find performance here just about adequate.
It’s worth noting that the U300s stayed cool and quiet throughout our testing, which certainly can’t be said of all Ultrabooks.
When it comes to time away from a socket, Lenovo’s IdeaPad Ultrabook also puts on a strong show. In our low-intensity battery test it lasted seven hours and 18 minutes, just two minutes short of the reigning champion, Toshiba’s Satellite Z830. As this difference is within testing margins of error, we’re calling it a draw and declaring the U300s one of the longest-lasting first-gen Ultrabooks.
So how does the U300s hold up against the competition? In its reviewed configuration at £899, it’s one of the cheaper Ultrabooks available. Acer’s Aspire S3 starts at £680, but that’s for a Core i3 model with hybrid SSD/HDD storage and no USB 3.0.
So Lenovo’s closest competitor here is the Z830, which costs around the same. Both of these laptops are comparable in terms of battery life and performance. The Z830 offers far better connectivity, lighter weight, a matt screen finish and a backlit keyboard, while the U300s gives you a more stylish and rugged chassis, better ergonomics and a superior quality (albeit glossy) screen.
To be honest, if its lack of keyboard backlighting and SD card reader aren’t huge issues for you (both laptops have screens with poor viewing angles) we would probably choose the Lenovo, and if you’re after an Ultrabook on a budget it’s our top choice right now. However, none of the first-generation Ultrabooks have convinced us enough to choose them over the likes of the Samsung Series 9 900X3A if you can afford the extra outlay.
Once again we have another excellent 13in Ultrabook entrant with just a few too many flaws to fully recommend it. Nonetheless, Lenovo’s stylish and ergonomic IdeaPad U300s is a strong contender, and at under £900 in its Core i5 guise it’s our favourite budget choice – if you can live with its screen’s poor viewing angles, lack of keyboard backlighting and absent memory card reader.