Lenovo C100 Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (96,856)

by Kevin O’Brien

Overview and Introduction:

This is a review of the new Lenovo 3000 C100 (SKU # 0761-26u). The C100 is a new model from Lenovo that is targeted at the average consumer or small business buyers, and comes in a lot cheaper than the more expensive Lenovo ThinkPad business models. So in essence it is more of a value line of notebook, without the extra frills you might see on more expensive models.


Lenovo 3000 C100 (view large image)

Lenovo 3000 C100 0761-26u Specs:

  • Intel Pentium M 1.73GHz
  • 512MB RAM
  • 80GB 5400RPM hard drive
  • 15-inch XGA screen
  • Intel 2915abg (802.11 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
  • DVD+/-RW
  • Warranty: 1-year

Reasons for Buying:

This laptop was not purchased per se, but rather sent to me by Lenovo on loan to review, so it wasn’t really an item I sought out to choose long term. As such I didn’t come into it with high expectations as the C100 was from the low-end line of laptops. This concept of mine and believing the notebook would be poorer quality quickly changed once I had the laptop in hand.

Build & Design:

If Rubbermaid made a super durable laptop, the C100 would be it. As many of you might have seen over the years, not all plastics are made equal. Some plastic cases are really thin and brittle, while other plastic cases are tough and could be run over by a car with only a few minor scuffs. The latter tough classification would be this laptop. I was really taken aback when I had this laptop in my hands. The palm rest compresses about the same as a chunk of hardwood, and the framework under the keyboard only flexes when you start to put all your upper-body weight on it.


Top view of C100 (view large image)

Comparing this with my previously owned ThinkPad z60m, and my current ThinkPad T60, it’s like night and day. While not being as pretty as a ThinkPad, this thing actually feels more solid than these laptops I’ve owned. The battery design is a bit different than the ThinkPad business line of laptops, where it fits into the body, instead of sliding into the back of the unit. Unlike the business laptops, the battery doesn’t jiggle around at all (see a review of the Z60m I did that pictures an animation of the wiggling battery). The placement of the battery under the palm rest also explains the no flexing, as the entire space is taken up. To the left of the battery is the optical drive, and even above this area, no flex is apparent. This struck me as a bit odd, until I removed the drive to look in its cavity. Usually it is only thin plastic around the optical drives, and out of all spots on most laptops, this is the place where flexing occurs. On the C100, its secret is the use of stamped steel under the plastic palm rest above the drive. This adds just a little weight, but really ties into the overall strength of the laptop.

Another pleasant surprise was the use of quality parts. The hard drive is made by Seagate, the DVD drive by Samsung, wireless card by Intel, and RAM by Hynix. This is pretty cool considering this laptop is aimed at the low cost laptop market, and they aren’t skimping on parts, or build quality.


It’s thick like a milkshake for sure, but well built (view large image)

Screen:

The screen is just incredibly bright. On the full setting it is brighter than my Sony Xbrite desktop LCD.  There are no dead pixels on my C100’s screen, or any other manufacturing related screen flaws for that matter. The downside to this screen is that most colors seem pretty washed out. It is almost like an older CRT monitor with the brightness level cranked to the max. The screen colors also change pretty quickly if you move your head up or down, meaning the viewing angle is pretty narrow. Overall, it’s not the best screen in the world, but pretty okay overall.


ThinkPad T60 screen on the left, Lenovo 3000 C100 on the right (view large image)

Speakers:

The speakers are quite loud, but like all 0.5″ speakers, lacked bass and some midrange. They seemed fine for listening to movies or music, but were not audiophile quality. Bring headphones if you want to listen to music on a laptop.

Processor and Performance:

This laptop has been great for me during the past couple of weeks. Boot times are a fraction of my desktop, being at the Windows login screen in less than 15 seconds most of the time, and it keeps up with the desktop loading most programs. The laptop included 512MB of RAM, and this amount of memory seemed quite adequate for what this laptop would be used for. As it only has integrated graphics, a large amount of ram for gaming isn’t a concern, because you would have probably bought a different laptop if your goals were to play Half-Life 2 on the road.

Benchmarks:

We use Super Pi to get a benchmark of processor speed.  The Super Pi program simply forces the processor to calculate Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy.  Calculating to 2 million digits is our benchmark:

Comparison of notebooks using Super Pi to calculate Pi to 2 million digits (plugged in):

 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Lenovo 3000 C100 (1.73 GHz Pentium M) 1m 49s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M) 1m 48s
IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Pentium M) 2m 23s
Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz) 3m 3s
Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Pentium M) 2m 10s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz Pentium M) 1m 45s

Below are the results of running HDTune on the C100:

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:

The keyboard feels very similar to the high end business grade laptops Lenovo sells. Key presses have a nice feeling to them, and the keyboard stays very rigid while typing. Overall the only key differences between it and the business keyboard are the lack of touch point, and the arrangement of the function keys.


Keyboard and touchpad view (view large image)

The touchpad seems lacking. It will track your finger just fine, but the feel of the assembly is pretty different than those on the business laptops. It has almost no texture, and feels super stiff. The buttons are also a bit odd, with very short hard throws, or presses compared to those seen on the business models


(view large image)

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


Front side view of C100 (view large image)


Left side view of C100 (view large image)


Back side of the C100 (view large image)


Right side view of C100 (view large image)

Wireless:

This unit came equipped with an Intel 2915ABG wireless card. It has been pretty stable connecting onto my wireless network, and its reception has been quite nice around the house, and driving around town. No Bluetooth or infrared ports were included.

Battery:

The battery is located under the palm rest. Unlike the business line that the batteries slide in from the rear, this unit is limited to only one size of battery. The advantage of this is a tighter fitting battery without wobble, and a disadvantage being only one battery size. Battery life with an instant messenger going in the background keeping the wireless connection alive, and the screen on full brightness edged out at 4 hours and 10 minutes.


You can see the battery slot here with the battery popped out (view large image)

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 Professional
  • Norton Antivirus
  • Intervideo WinDvd
  • Roxio burning software
  • Google Desktop
  • Corel Small Business
  • IBM system software

Customer Support:

IBM support has always treated me well when I have had to deal with them. They have always been nice over the phone, and problems are quickly resolved (outside of shipping delays).

Conclusion:

This laptop has really won me over. I was expecting a low end laptop with more creaks and flex than an empty soda can, but was surprised with an incredibly durable laptop. Lenovo really pulled through on the design of this laptop.  I wouldn’t bat an eye handing this over to my most obnoxious relative to borrow, knowing full well they’d abuse the thing. When compared to the budget B130 and B120 offerings from Dell and their questionable build, you really can’t beat this line of laptops.

Pros:

  • Built like a tank, could stand up to the everyday abuse we as people generally give laptops
  • Many quality parts used inside the laptop
  • Does not sacrifice build quality while also being on a budget, good price

Cons:

  • Screen seems washed out, and colors easily distort depending on the viewing angle
  • Non-upgradeable battery
  • Some might not like the front positioned DVD drive

Pricing and Availability:

The C100 is available in differing configurations for varying prices, the base model starts at $649 while the model reviewed here is about $1,000.


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