Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U310

Barely seven months ago, Lenovo released its excellent IdeaPad U300s, the company’s consumer-friendly entry to the ultrabook market. Now Lenovo is back with an update, the U310.

To the casual eye, not a lot appears to have changed. It’s still a 13.3-inch aluminum slab of a laptop with a 1366×768-pixel resolution screen. The island keyboard still offers a great layout and good action (though the keys now feel a touch small in comparison to some recently reviewed machines), and the huge clickpad has finally had the kinks worked out of it.

The biggest switch under the hood is the move to Ivy Bridge, with Lenovo subbing in a 1.7GHz third-generation Core i5 for the old 1.7GHz second-generation Core i7. There’s a substantially better port selection now, too, with an extra USB port (bringing the total up to three, two 3.0 and one 2.0), get-gadget Ethernet, and an SD slot. The HDMI port from the U300s stays as-is.

Surprisingly, the U310 I reviewed performed almost identically in benchmark tests to the U300s I reviewed in November. That’s interesting, because the prior machine featured a 256GB SSD, and the U310 features a slow, 5400rpm 500GB traditional hard drive. It seems the faster CPU and slower hard drive manage to cancel each other out in the end. At about 4 hours, 20 minutes of video playback, even battery life is almost the same as it was last time around. But there is a catch: At just $800, today’s U310 is a whopping $700 cheaper than the U300s.

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