The Core i5 (Ivy Bridge) version of the Lenovo IdeaPad U410 is a real steal deal, with a market price of Rs. 52,000. The build quality is something that would comfortably do justice to even an ultrabook with a much higher price tag. The thickness is somewhere between that of a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro 13, which panders very efficiently to its appeal. Brilliant battery life and very good performance are essentially two cherries on the top of the cake!
It has been a rather busy time for ultrabook manufacturers, ever since the middle of summer this year, with one Ivy Bridge ultrabooks after the other being launched. The consumer now has a lot of options to choose from, and interestingly, the sub Rs. 55,000 price bracket has been well populated as well. Ultrabooks aren’t the forbidden computing device anymore!
Build & Design
“This looks very similar to a MacBook Pro”, is a comment you may get to hear quite often. To be boring and pedantic, yes, there are some clear influences, but the IdeaPad U410 has the Lenovo Loop design method, which creates some rounded edges and some subtle contours. This ultrabook is available in three colours – Graphite Grey, Metallic Red and Sapphire Blue. But the colour theme only applies to the lid, while the rest of the chassis is a non-shiny version of silver colour. The thickness is uniform throughout. The display hinge is the most solid across all ultrabooks, and doesn’t vibrate or move around when subjected to sudden jerks.
The IdeaPad U410’s lid has the Lenovo logo on one side, while the rest of it is completely clean. No imprint finish or any design, which accentuates the colour even more. The ports are placed on the two sides, while there is a generous cooling vent on the left side. Open up the lid, and the huge touchpad will immediately grab your attention. The keyboard layout and design is admittedly similar to that of a MacBook Pro – the slightly depressed placement, the key size and the spacing, but then again, that is a good thing. The MacBook Pro has possibly the best keyboard in the computing device ecosystem, and if this can replicate even a percentage of that, you are in for a delight. More on the keyboard in the features section! Above all this, to one side, is the power key with the spun metal look. No quick access hardware keys, and that keeps the deck totally clean.
Flip the IdeaPad U410 over, and there is a fairly generous channel of cooling vents that connect up to the outlet on the left side. The central-ish placement of the intake vent on the underside means it will most likely never be blocked by the thighs when used on the lap. Secondly, if using a cooling pad, the fan will most probably be directly under this vent. We used the Belkin cooling pad with this machine, and it was quite unbelievable to find the fan blowing out rather tepid air even after two hours of continuous use.
All in all, it has excellent build quality, which would do justice to an ultrabook that, may have sported a much higher price tag. No surprised then, because the IdeaPad U410’s Core i7 version is indeed priced higher, but is using the exact same chassis and design. There seems to be a distinct preference to using premium materials to put the package together, and all that comes together very well at the end.
Features & Specifications
The IdeaPad U410 version we are reviewing here is the 59-342-778 version with an Ivy Bridge Intel Core i5-3317U processor clocking at 1.7GHz with Turbo Boost taking it to 2.5GHz. There is 4GB of RAM to help it along.
Lenovo loads this with a 500GB hard drive and a 24GB mSATA for caching tasks. Unfortunately, this is too less for both Rapid Boot and Rapid Storage to work simultaneously, reason being, Rapid Boot needs 8GB of space minimum, while Rapid Storage will not work on less than 18.6GB. We deployed the mSATA for Rapid Storage, and the performance boost while opening and switching between apps was quite immense. Turn that off, and you can easily see the difference.
Among all the ultrabooks in this price band, this keyboard has the best feel and usage experience, slightly ahead of the Envy 4. The layout is just perfect, and has adequate amount to travel to make this easy to quickly get used to. Key size is pretty uniform across the alphabet and number keys. Some ultrabooks that have come with slightly modded key size and layout to either fit it in comfortably or to make it look unique, but that just doesn’t work well, we believe.
The IdeaPad U410 comes preloaded with Windows 7 Home Basic, and a bunch of trial software. However, we happily report that the machine is not at all cluttered by preloaded apps, like some rivals. This does help with performance straight out of the box, and cleaning the few trial and full version software preloaded only improves the performance even further.
The performance of the Intel Core i5 version of the IdeaPad U410 is absolutely amazing. We felt this the moment we switched it on, but to verify our observation, we ran a series of benchmarks on the machine. The PC Mark Vantage score of 9086 is only pipped by the 9966 that the HP Envy 4 scored, in ultrabooks below Rs. 60,000. The PC Mark 7 score of 17422 is only beaten by the Dell Inspiron 14z, which scored 18527. Even beyond the benchmarks, the IdeaPad U410 performs very well in most usage scenarios. We used it as a primary machine for a few days, and the experience was delightful. Set it up to Fast Boot, and the boot times come down to within a handful of seconds. However, for the benefit of better performance, we used the Rapid Storage on the mSATA SSD partition. Throughout, the performance was rather zippy, with background apps not hindering or slowing down the opening of more apps.
The tested battery life of the IdeaPad U410 is 209 minutes, which is third only behind 229 minutes of the Series 5 and the 223 minutes of the HP Envy. All in all, you are looking coolly at anywhere between 4.5 hours and 5 hours of battery backup under a typical office usage scenario.
The display has its good points and the bad too. The good first – the IdeaPad U410’s display offers the second best black levels, bettered only by the Samsung Series 5. The white levels are the highest without doubt, shared by the Asus S56CA. The pixel stability was also the best on this display, compared among all ultrabooks. Essentially, the display is the best in terms of being sharp, vivid and handles moving text and visuals very well. Brightness levels are on the lower side. At the same interval points, the likes of the Samsung Series 5, the Inspiron 14z and the Toshiba Satellite U840 look brighter. The IdeaPad U410’s display is also quite reflective, and that doesn’t help if you happen to prefer to set the brightness low while gearing up for a long day at work.
While you surely are not buying the IdeaPad U410 for gaming, but the Nvidia GeForce GT610M (1GB) offers the additional capability of some bit of gaming. This is not the fastest graphics chip around – the Samsung Series 5 and the HP Envy 4 offer much better graphics chips, but you can game without stutter on this machine at medium frame rates.
Lenovo shared the price of this ultrabook as Rs. 58,990, but this is available in the markets for around Rs. 52,000. Keeping that in mind, this seems to be quite the all-rounder. The performance is very good, and competes for the most part with the more expensive HP Envy 4. The battery life on offer is very good as well. The U410 is built with classiness, sophistication and good quality in mind, and that shows. You would do well to consider this, if within your budget.