- Good build quality
- Good battery life
- Solid overall performance
- No keyboard backlighting
- Anemic display
- No media card reader
- Not user upgradeable
The Lenovo IdeaPad U400 offers good looks and good performance at a fair price, but an average screen and lack of media card reader might kill the deal.
The 14-inch all-metal IdeaPad U400 is an impressive MacBook Pro competitor that offers good performance and six hours of battery life for $879. Keep reading to find out if Lenovo can deliver a killer premium notebook at a fair price.
Build and Design
The IdeaPad U400 is a departure from the standard Lenovo IdeaPad notebooks of the past; it has a metal exoskeleton instead of the plastic (albeit sturdy) shells that have dominated this line for a long time. As few pieces of metal as possible were used in the construction, lending the U400 a clean look. At less than an inch thick and 4.3 pounds the U400 is easy to carry around.
The actual design of the U400s is reminiscent of the Apple MacBook; it’s a little too similar for my taste. It’s clean but not sophisticated. The build quality is excellent overall; there is no chassis flex. The metal lid provides good protection; pressing in on the back doesn’t yield any ripples on the screen. The lid can be opened with one hand and that is very convenient. Something I don’t like about the design is the rather sharp edge around the display and bottom of the chassis; a more rounded-off design is preferred.
Those planning to upgrade the U400 should think again; this notebook has no user-accessible panels for changing out the memory or hard drive. Additionally the battery is not removable. If you’re looking at this notebook as a Apple competitor then it makes sense: Most MacBook owners don’t upgrade components.
Ports and Features
The U400 has a scant selection of ports; it has three USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0), HDMI, and a slot-load DVD burner. It lacks VGA (remember this if you need to hook up to projectors), DisplayPort, and shockingly enough, there’s no media card reader; I can’t remember the last time I reviewed a notebook (or even a netbook) without one. Those of you with digital cameras – be prepared to carry around a USB adapter for your SD cards.
Lenovo is taking a gamble that most of its customer base will not need extra ports – it’s a rather risky gamble in this reviewer’s opinion. Something else I’m not sold on is the lack of status lights; there is no hard drive or wireless indicator lights. There is a very faint power light on the front of the chassis; the power button itself is not illuminated. All picture descriptions shown below are listed from left to right.
Left: Cooling exhaust vent, Ethernet, USB 3.0 port
Right: Headphone/microphone combo jack, 2x USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, slot-load DVD drive, AC power jack