by Kevin O'Brien
As a refreshing update to the C series budget line, Lenovo released the C200 model to replace the older C100. Much of the laptop has been changed, it has adopted the style seen in the Lenovo V/N series, but a few parts have stayed the same. Luckily for us, the majority of the changes have been much needed improvements. Some of these include stronger hinges, a newer SATA hard drive interface, processor series upgrade, and chipset upgrade.
Here are the specs of the system I am reviewing:
Lenovo C200 15" screen laptop (view large image)
Compared to the previous C100, you can see right away that the newer model is much faster, and on par with the majority of new laptops out right now. The only part that changed from the C100 to a lesser component in the C200 is the battery. The old C100 models all had an 8 cell battery, and the new C200 is only a 6 cell. Personally I would rather take a hit on an hour or so of battery life to be able to use a much faster laptop.
Reasons for reviewing:
Well for starters, Lenovo loaned us this and I couldn't pass on a chance to review the C200 as I love new toys. Second, I personally own the previous C100 model (see the C100 review here), and wanted to see how things have changed in the laptop series. For all my friends that have been looking at low cost laptops, it's nice to know of at least one model I can recommend and that I have personal experience with. Now that the C100 is replaced, I would love to keep pointing people at this laptop line.
Build and Design:
The new model is very sleek and rounded in spots, compared to the older model which was very squared off much like a textbook. The smooth edges are actually welcome, as it can slide into my laptop bag much easier and without as much effort. Another change is the screen hinges. They are very strong, and feel more like the ThinkPad line. You actually need to hold down the laptop with one hand, while lifting the screen with another! Once up, it still holds strong, with no play whatsoever like the C100 had. The latching mechanism was also improved, with 2 latches, compared to a single centered latch of the C100.
Notice the curvy design at the back of the C200 (view large image)
Move to the sides of the laptop, another thing that some C series users will notice is that the optical drive is mounted on the right hand side, not the front. The front mounted design of the old C100 did cause some problems if you had the laptop on your lap, as opening the drive meant you had to hold it away from your body. Now it just pops out from the side, like every other laptop out right now. Another really nice improvement which might not be noticed as quickly is the SD card slot. The old model didn’t allow the SD card to sit entirely inside the unit and flushed with the design. This could cause some problems if you stuck the laptop into a carrying case, and forgot to remove the card. It might have damaged the card, or pulled it from the slot possibly losing the card. The newer C200 has moved to a spring loaded slot that allows the card to be fully inserted. I really enjoy this design, as you can leave a card always in the laptop to save files to, and quickly remove if needed. This would be similar a USB flash drive, but internal and not obtrusive.
A look at the underneath of the C200 (view large image)
Aside from the changes relating to card slots and the optical bay, the rest of the port assortment has stayed the same. The laptop is still equipped with 4 USB ports, now spread across both sides of the laptop, a single mini firewire port, VGA/S-video for external viewing, 10/100 Ethernet, and audio input/output ports. Most have switched position, but are still just as easy to locate.
A look at the screen of the C200 (view large image)
The screen is one of the items that stayed the same from the C100. In fact, it’s the exact same part number from the older series. It is very bright and can crank up high enough to view on a sunny day outside in a park. When viewing directly head on, text and images are very clear to read, but the viewing angle and contrast is lacking compared to other screens on the market. This usually is never an issue if you are using the computer right in front of you though.
Light leakage is non-existent, and just like my C100, no dead pixels. Colors and lighting are very uniform throughout the screen, making it very pleasant to look at. I sat in front of this screen for 5-6 hours a day, and only had a sore neck from looking down at the laptop. I found little to no eye strain viewing this screen, which is s great for me, as I easily get migraines.
The speakers are on the small side, and not meant for music enthusiasts. They can be fine for watching a movie or TV show on an airplane, but don’t think it will make the neighbors windows shake from the bass. I found them to be just fine for basic things, like playing streaming music from my local radio station.
Processor and Performance:
In terms of battery life and raw performance, you really can’t beat the new Core 2 Duo line. This model was equipped with the Intel 5500 Core 2 Duo, clocked at 1.66GHz. I found this more than enough to handle any thing I threw at it during my testing. Lighter applications like a word processor or spreadsheet open lighting fast, with little to no lag. More tasking programs like movie players playing 1080P HD movies really make this processor flex its muscle. It handled the largest 1080P Apple trailers without problem, reaching 50-70% CPU usage, and didn’t stutter or pause at any time. I didn’t try any games on this laptop though, as it only has the Intel GMA950 integrated video.
Super Pi is a program that forces the notebook processor to calculate Pi to 2-million digits of accuracy. The Lenovo C200 took 1m 19s to calculate this value with its 1.66 GHz Core 2 Duo T5500 processor, here's how it stacked up to other notebooks:
|Lenovo C200 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500)||1m 19s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500)||1m 22s|
|Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 16s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Lenovo V100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)||1m 19s|
|Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 41s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
PCMark05 Comparison results:
Here's how the C200 stacked up in PCMark05 results against other notebooks. This result considers system performance as a whole (processor, graphics card, hard drive) and is a better indication of how the C200 performs compared to other notebooks:
|Lenovo C200 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500, Intel GMA 950 graphics)||2,867 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500, Intel GMA 950)||2,994 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1501 (AMD Sempron 1.8GHz, ATI Xpress 1150)||1,912 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950)||2,732 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,646 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO C140 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500, Intel GMA 950 graphics)||2,911 PCMarks|
HD Tune Hard Drive Results:
HDTune gives benchmark results for the hard drive performance, in this case an 80GB 5400RPM drive.
Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard stayed the same as was seen in the C100, and I love it just the way it is. It is made by NMB, just like some of the ThinkPad keyboards are, and can’t be beat for comfort when typing. The touchpad surface is about the same as the C100, but the buttons now have more feel to them, and are easier to click. They also put out a softer click sound, that doesn’t attract stares from across the classroom.
Here's a tour around the sides of the C200 to see what ports you get. There's not much to complain about with what's included, given the fact it's a budget notebook and sells for under $1,000 the port selection you get is excellent:
Microphone and heaphone ports, 3 USB 2.0 ports, optical drive, monitor out (view large image)
Back: S-Video, modem port, power jack (view large image)
Heat and Noise:
I think this is one category where the new model really shines. Heat output feels about the same, but it is almost inaudible when cooling itself down. You can barely hear it when its in its low fan mode, the only way to sense it is on is by placing your hand next to it, and feeling the warm air. In its high mode, you can somewhat hear it, but nobody outside 5 feet will. This is a definite change from the old C100, which even on its low speed could turn some heads in a quiet classroom. Heaven forbid if it turned onto high mode if some program hung in the background, and you might even get your professor looking your way. The C200’s fan update would probably rate #1 if I was comparing each upgrade and change between the 2 models.
Here are the heat readings for each area on the notebook underside, overall not too bad -- the back area gets most of the heat (view large image)
The battery on the C200 is roughly 2/3 the size of the old C100 version. It is a 6 Cell battery and gets between 2.5-3 hours of use with screen at a mid brightness setting, and active web access through the wireless card.
Like most laptops these days, some of the included software isn’t always welcome. The difference between out-of-the-box performance and after a good spring cleaning can be like night and day. If you decide to go with a fresh Windows install, I would have to recommend you at least reinstall the rescue and recovery care package, along with the Lenovo updater program. These 2 programs are very unobtrusive, and the rescue program has become one of my most favorite to date. I use it to make monthly images of my C100 laptop to my network server, just incase anything happens. The one time that I tested it out from a formatted drive, it took about 40-50 minutes to go from a blank drive, to typing in my password at the windows login screen. I almost wish I could install it on my desktop, but it is Lenovo only.
The Lenovo C200 is hands down an awesome upgrade over the previous C100 model. It seems as though they looked at a list of weaknesses of the previous model, and found ways to go above and beyond improving them. Performance has nearly doubled with the new Core 2 Duo, the hard drive is now the newer SATA standard, the screen hinges feel they could outlast the laptop, and the much enjoyed keyboard stayed just the same.
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