Well built, comfortable to use
Lenovo's first Intel Centrino 2-based offering is among the best midsized laptops available. Specifications aside, here's why: it’s a joy to use!
- Solidly constructed, comfortable keyboard and touchpad, HDMI, one-touch back-up, versatile wireless adapter
- Control and Delete keys are not at the far corners of the keyboard, no 'sleep-and-charge' USB ports, no keyboard illumination
This is a solidly built unit that's a joy to use and has plenty of grunt for most applications. It also has versatile networking options, including the ability to connect to 5GHz 802.11n routers.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
It has a brilliant keyboard; its keys are full-sized, sturdy and produce crisp bounce-back. The only inconveniences are the Delete and Control keys, which aren't positioned in the far corners of the keyboard but three and two keys further in, respectively.
The touchpad is Teflon-like in its slipperiness, offering no resistance to your finger as it pushes the pointer across the screen; its accuracy is impeccable. It doesn't mistake single-clicks for double-clicks, for example. Its left and right buttons are also very soft and easy to press while navigating.
You get a more than ample palm-rest area and there are touch-sensitive media shortcut buttons laid across a roomy panel above the keyboard. The only thing missing is a keyboard illumination light, similar to the one found on ThinkPads (or even a backlit keyboard), which would make this unit perfect.
On the inside, the IdeaPad makes use of Centrino 2 technology, which encompasses an Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 CPU, an Intel P45 Express chipset and an Intel WiFi Link 5100 wireless network adapter. The P7350 CPU runs at 2GHz and is based on Intel's 45nm (nanometre) transistor technology. That means it runs very cool and it's power efficient. In our battery test, where we looped a DVD, the unit’s 57Wh (Watt hour) battery lasted two hours before the battery alarm was activated. It's an annoying little alarm that is initiated when there is less than 10 per cent battery power left, and we couldn’t find a way to deactivate it.
In our WorldBench 6 test, the CPU propelled the system to a score of 80, which is typically what last-generation Centrino (Santa Rosa) laptops with a 65nm, 2GHz CPU achieved (see the ASUS F3Sv (pre-production model), for example). This score means that the Y430 will handle anything from everyday office applications to Photoshop, and it will even perform satisfactorily when encoding video and rendering 3-D scenes.
It has 2GB of DDR2 RAM, which is enough to handle Windows Vista Home Premium and also facilitate multitasking, and you also get an NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS graphics adapter. Its score of 1823 in 3DMark06 means it's not good for playing many current games, but it will run a lot of older games.
After prolonged use, the bottom-left of he unit, where the CPU, chipset and memory reside, get warm, but not enough to be uncomfortable when using the unit on your lap. Nor is the laptop loud, thanks to its dynamic fan, which isn't an annoyance even while it's at its fastest setting.
Watching movies on the 14.1in screen is enjoyable, as it has good contrast and brightness and adequate viewing angles. However, the laptop’s speakers aren't powerful enough, so you’ll want plug in some headphones. The screen only has a 1280x800 resolution, but the laptop has the necessary features to power a secondary, external display at a full high-definition resolution.
For connectivity, you get a Gigabit Ethernet port, a modem port, a FireWire port, three USB ports, D-Sub and HDMI ports. The right side of the laptop also features a slot-loading DVD burner and an ExpressCard/34 slot. The ExpressCard/34 slot can be used to, for example, add a TV tuner, data card or a Serial ATA card — as long as it uses the narrower ExpressCard standard. The notebook can't accommodate wider ExpressCard/54 devices. A memory card slot is located on the front of the unit.
Wireless connectivity is handled by the Intel W-Fi 5100 module, which supports dual-band operation at 802.11n speeds. This means it will connect to 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n routers, and we had no problems connecting to either type of network during our tests. Bluetooth 2.0 is also integrated, so that you can connect wireless peripherals or transfer files off a mobile phone.
The physical design of the laptop is stylish, with a textured finish adorning the latch-less lid, and a glossy coating covering the screen. The entire unit feels very well put together, and its casing is very solid. We like the physical volume control, as well as the touch-sensitive media controls above the keyboard and the shortcut button that invokes the system backup utility.
Called One-touch Recovery, this utility can be used to make an image (or incremental backup) of your system partition and save it to an external hard drive or DVD. It takes about 40min to back up the system partition if only a handful of programs are installed and if you don't have too many personal files on the notebook. However, Lenovo has installed a 250GB hard drive in this laptop, which is partitioned into a 187GB system drive and a 30GB secondary drive, so you'll definitely want a large external hard drive in order to perform your system backups (or a storeroom full of 50-pack DVD spindles).
The built-in webcam and VeriFace Recognition III software are also useful; they can log you in to the system by scanning your face. It doesn't work very well in low-light conditions, but a password can be used in that situation. The camera can also capture images of unauthorised people who attempt to log-in to the computer.
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