Lenovo C100 as a Budget Vacation Laptop Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (45,106)

This is a review of the Lenovo 3000 C100 (SKU # 0761-22u).

Lenovo 3000 C100 0761-22u Specs:

  • Intel Celeron M 1.50GHz
  • 256MB RAM (Upgraded to 256MB x 2 for review)
  • 40GB 5400RPM hard drive
  • 15-inch XGA screen
  • Broadcom A/B/G wi-fi card
  • Ports:
    • 3 USB
    • 1 Firewire
    • 1 S-Video
    • VGA (Monitor out), Modem, Lan, Headphone/Mic connectors
    • 1 PCMCIA with a SD card slot underneath
  • Dimensions: 13.1 in x 10.9 in x 1.5 in (W x D x H)
  • Weight: 6.4lbs
  • Graphics: Intel GMA 900
  • CD+/-RW
  • Warranty: 1-year

Purchase Price: $599 – $100 Mail in Rebate ($499 final cost)


Reasons for Buying:


This Lenovo C100 was taken as a laptop for use on vacation where it would be exposed to the elements and in general be treated quite roughly (view large image)

I was leaving for a family vacation, and needed a basic computer that was cheap for going through airport security, tossed around on a plane, and used daily out on the Atlantic coast in salty sea air in insane humidity and heat. I also wanted the cheapest possible computer that wouldn’t be broken before the month was out. I had already worked with this model line earlier in the year for a previous review, and I knew it inside and out, and loved its toughness and durability.

Build & Design:

The C100 has a very sturdy plastic construction, neigh impossible to bend palm rest, and no squeaks when it is on a flat surface during use. It makes a few creaks when carrying it around one handed, but what doesn’t? The keyboard is very comfortable while typing, but the space bar doesn’t like being pressed on the far edges. Most need to be about 1cm from the sides, or pressing the space bar will not register a space on screen. This might also be related to using it in 95% humidity at 90-95F in coastal air. The rest of the keys give very good feedback, and never skip a beat when hammering on them all day. I would leave the computer on from late morning till around 1-2am for the most part, and never once had a blue screen or any other crash. I did notice a bit of lag booting up a few times, but that was on the most humid days, where the track pad and keys were literally damp and sticky. The high heat also made the fan run constantly when it was on, but it seemed to stay around 40-50%, and I got used to it quickly. Music and dialog from movies drowned the background noise out just fine though, so I was pretty happy.

Screen:

The LCD display is very bright on it top setting. To keep it easy on the eyes, I had it around 1-2 clicks up from the bottom, where the highest would be around 9 clicks. The contrast is pretty bland, with blacks washed out appearing as a pretty dark grey. The viewing angle up and down is also lacking, with a very narrow viewing span. For a $500 dollar laptop, I can put up with that. I don’t move around much, and the viewing angle when in the sweet spot is pretty easy to hold. The poor viewing angle also keeps prying eyes off of your top secret work!

Speakers:

The speakers are pretty similar to a motherboard piezo on crack. Music and dialog are decent at best, but put on some headphones if you want to enjoy a movie. The audio output is very clean, and drives a good set of headphones very well into the higher volumes. The jack is also secure, and wiggling the cord didn’t make the sound distort in any manner.

Processor and Performance:

I was quite surprised with the Celeron M. I have only had experience before with the desktop Celeron line, which is pretty slow compared to the high-end P4. The M series on the other hand are fast, and only seem to be lacking with the speedstep disabled. That would provide a bit more battery life, but the Celeron is fine with this too. The average uptime when watching xvid movies was 3 hours, and if you are just browsing the web, expect around 5-6 hours with screen brightness set to low. The stock battery is more than enough, and blows away every other laptop in the sub-500 category.

On my vacation I was working with pictures from our Canon 20D (8.2MP, 4-5 meg average file size images), modifying them by size, and also compressing them to upload onto a server to share with members of my extended family. The photo editing program of choice was the open source “Gimp”, an Adobe PS like package. Opening the program was just as fast on my desktop, and working with the images wasn’t that bad at all. It took 2-5 seconds to compress and resize images on the fly.

A nice surprise I found with the integrated graphics (GMA900) was the built-in MPEG4 decoding on chipset. Playing large xvid movies would task the processor around 1%, where my desktop with an Nvidia 6600GT without hardware MPEG4 decoding would ride between 15-20%. I was even able to play 720P HDTV movie trailers without stuttering, where my P4 2.8ghz desktop would chug, since its video card didn’t offload any of the decoding. The only drawback I found with the GMA900 was lack of gaming, but that is its only drawback. Nowhere else does it lag or fall behind.

Benchmarks:

Super Pi

Notebook

Time

Lenovo 3000 C100 (1.50 GHz Celeron M)

2m 19s

Asus W3H760DD (2.0 GHz Pentium M)

1m 33s

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

Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)

1m 29s

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

Below are the results of running HDTune on the C100:


(view large image)

Heat and Noise:

The laptop has been on the quiet side during normal use. The fans stay off for the most part, and only ramp up in speed if you are during heavy tasking programs. Little heat is felt from the underside of the laptop, and overall is very cool while running.

Keyboard and Touchpad:


Lenovo C100 keyboard (view large image)

The keyboard has very good feedback, no squeaks, with the only flaw being the spacebar that doesn’t like being pressed on the edges. The touchpad texture is average, with the buttons being very loud and clanking, having extremely small throws. The C100 touchpad buttons move a fraction of the depth compared to the Lenovo Thinkpad models. Brownie points need to be given to the keyboard and touchpad for its ability to put up with the humidity and keep on trucking. With some of the hottest and muggiest days Cape Cod has ever had, the keyboard never started having phantom clicks or any odd issues crop up.

Input and Output Ports:

Following is a list of ports you get on the C100:

  • 3 USB
  • 1 Firewire
  • 1 S-Video
  • VGA, Modem, Lan, Headphone/Mic connectors
  • 1 PCMCIA with a SD card slot underneath


Lenovo C100 left view (view large image)


Lenovo C100 back view (view large image)


Lenovo C100 right side PCMCIA slot and SD card slot view (view large image)

Wireless:

The baseline C100 ships with a Broadcom chipset A/B/G card. Connections are very stable, with no dropped connections to my Dlink 634M MIMO router during my vacation. I would leave a torrent client on all day, and it would have constant activity without timing out or having connection errors.

Battery:

Battery life is extremely good, pushing over 5 hours with web browsing with wireless enabled. Watching xvid movies off of your hard drive will net around 3 hours, so most movies under Lord of the Rings will play completely on a full charge.

Operating System and Software:

Installed on the laptop is the average array of software one might expect to be included these days. The only software that I really didn’t enjoy is the Norton AV, but that can be substituted with another free program off the web if you choose. Following is a list of the basic software that you get with the C100.

  • Window XP Home
  • Norton Antivirus
  • Intervideo WinDvd
  • Roxio burning software
  • Google Desktop
  • Corel Small Business
  • IBM system software

Customer Support:

IBM support has been very good over the past few years. This laptop was purchased through Newegg, and so far has required no service calls relating to it. I am not sure if you get access to the same support group as the Thinkpads though.

Conclusion:

For the price this laptop gives you everything you need for a mobile computing platform. A capable processor, extremely good battery life, a very bright screen viewable in direct sunlight, and a sturdy keyboard that is quite pleasant to type on all day if needed. It doesn’t seem to mind high heat and high humidity, just be aware the CPU fan will be pumping air from power on till power off in hot weather. In normal conditions with AC in your house (~73F), the fan rarely comes on, so it’s not a common occurrence.


Pros:

  • CHEAP! CHEAP! CHEAP!
  • Very sturdy, takes anything you can throw or lean on it
  • Business feel at a fraction of the cost.

Cons:

  • Screen could have better viewing angles
  • Space bar needs to be pressed centered, or it won’t register.
  • The forward ejecting optical bay might cause problems for lap use.


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