Lenovo's IdeaPad U450p is their newest ultra-thin consumer-oriented notebook. With a 14-inch screen and Intel Ultra-Low Voltage Core 2 Duo processor, consumers can expect a mid-sized notebook that maintains a great deal of portability. Does a svelte exterior hamper the performance? Read on and find out.
Our Lenovo IdeaPad U450p review unit has the following specifications:
Build & Design
The U450p feels much lighter and thinner in the hand than a typical 14-inch notebook. It features a traditional rectangular form factor and design with nothing in particular that stands out.
The notebook is made of high-quality plastic that is reasonably thick. Tapping the plastic with my fingernail did not result in any cheap rattling sounds. The plastic has a textured matte finish which limits the appearance of fingerprints and dust. The screen surround is the only component with a glossy plastic finish; it gets smudged up quite easily.
The chassis exhibited some mild bending when I grabbed the front two corners and twisted; this is typical of a consumer notebook and indicates that the internal frame is not as strong as it could be. The screen also had mild flex when twisted by its corners but was stronger than I expected given the thinness. Pushing in on the back of the display did not yield any ripples on the screen; that means there is some measure of protection behind the display.
Fit and finish is satisfactory; there are no rough edges and all areas of the notebook seem to have about the same level of quality. Overall the U450p neither impresses nor disappoints in the build quality department. It is more durable than its svelte shape implies and feels solid overall.
Screen & Speakers
The U450p has a 14-inch display with a glossy finish and 16:9 aspect ratio. It has LED backlighting for improved power efficiency. The screen has reasonable contrast and brightness though is not remarkable. Color reproduction is average; the display has a cool temperature at default settings. There are ten levels of brightness; I found that one notch above minimum was a good compromise between power saving and visibility while on battery.
Viewing angles are narrow; the display washes out and darkens quickly from above and below, respectively; there is noticeable color shift horizontally as well. The glossy screen finish helps colors stand out and improves clarity but results in a lot of reflections.
The U450p is available with one screen resolution only: 720p (1366x768 pixels). 720p is by far the most popular screen resolution for 14-inch consumer notebooks even though it's on the low side. We feel that 14-inch notebooks should have a 900p (1600x900 pixels) resolution at the very least. A 720p screen is best described as confining; using two windows side-by-side is difficult since there is not enough space to view them both without scrolling; it also means extra scrolling in web pages and documents. For example, only one-half of a Microsoft Word document can be viewed at once on a 720p screen.
The U450p has two stereo speakers located above the keyboard. Despite the "Dolby Sound Room" sticker they are nothing special; they sound tinny and have no measurable bass.
Keyboard & Touchpad
Lenovo generally impresses with its keyboards and touchpads and the IdeaPad U450p is no exception.
The U450p has a traditional-style keyboard, as opposed to an island or "Chiclet"-style setup. It has very good tactile feedback and a solid feel. Under normal typing pressure there is no flex. The keys have just the right amount of travel and are very communicative as a result; it is easy to tell when a key is fully pressed and keystrokes are registered. The keyboard is accurate and easy to type on quickly. The keys are made of solid-feeling plastic and give a high-quality feel.
The keyboard is quiet enough to be used in just about any environment; it actually sounds quite nice, adding to the tactile feedback.
The keyboard has a few oddities. On the plus side I liked the arched spacebar, arrow keys and rounded key edges; they all enhanced the typing experience. On the minus side I found the layout to be somewhat odd; the [Fn] and [Ctrl] keys in the bottom left corner are switched, which took getting used to. This is a holdover from Lenovo's business-oriented ThinkPad line; anyone who's used a ThinkPad keyboard will feel right at home. Additionally, the Home/End/PgUp/PgDn keys on the right side of the keyboard have a non-standard arrangement and also take getting used to.
The touchpad is rather small but works well. Its matte surface is appreciated since it is easy to track on regardless of whether fingers are moist or dry. The touchpad buttons are quiet and have an excellent multi-level feel.
I did not have any general tracking issues with the touchpad. It supports multi-touch features such as two-finger scrolling and "pinching" to zoom but they work sporadically at best.
Ports & Features
The U450p has an acceptable range of inputs and outputs including HDMI (for connection to HDTVs), three USB 2.0 ports and VGA. The U450p surprisingly includes an optical drive, which is becoming less common - especially on thin-and-light notebooks. Several ports not on the U450p include eSATA, USB 3.0, and ExpressCard. All descriptions are left to right.
Front: 4-in-1 media card reader (MMC/MS/MS Pro/SD)
Rear: Battery pack
Left: Kensington Lock slot, AC-power, cooling exhaust vent, VGA, HDMI, RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet, 2x USB 2.0
Right: Headphone and microphone jacks, USB 2.0, wireless on/off switch, DVD burner
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