Performance and Benchmarks
The U550 is based on Intel’s Consumer Ultra Low Voltage (CULV) platform, which is mostly used in 11.6- to 14-inch notebooks; it is strange to see it on a notebook with a 15.6-inch screen. Typical notebooks in this size use higher-performance components. I suppose Lenovo’s goal with the U550 was to offer a 15.6-inch notebook that was thinner and lighter than usual and offered longer battery life.
I used the U550 as my primary notebook for a week and found its performance to be sufficient for everything I threw at it including web surfing, Microsoft Office, and watching 720p HD videos. I was also able to play back 1080p video without problems.
We ran an extensive suite of benchmarks on the U550 to compare its performance to other notebooks; all benchmarks were run with the high-performance ATI graphics enabled:
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures video and gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):
CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance results:
The U550’s performance is more than adequate for most everyday tasks. While the dedicated ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics are much faster than the integrated Intel graphics found in most notebooks, they are not fast enough for most modern games. The U550 is a multimedia notebook, not a gaming machine.
The U550 has a six-cell Li-ion battery (57Wh/5200mAh/11.1V). I conducted two battery life test scenarios: the minimal usage scenario involved typing this review with no Internet connection; the moderate use scenario consisted of wireless Internet surfing, watching videos, and office applications. Both battery life tests were conducted with the screen brightness one notch above minimum and the integrated Intel graphics activated.
I recorded six hours and 15 minutes of battery life under the minimal usage scenario, which is impressive for a 15.6-inch notebook. Under the moderate usage scenario I recorded three hours and 35 minutes, which is about what is expected out of standard 15.6-inch consumer notebooks. For general usage, expect around four hours of battery life. Remember to use the integrated Intel graphics for the best results. Overall the battery life is above average for a 15.6-inch notebook with a six-cell battery.
Heat and Noise
The U550 is cooled by a single fan that exhausts warm air out the left side of the chassis. At idle the fan is essentially silent; even while stress testing it barely becomes audible. It should be acceptable for use in nearly any environment.
The U550 has switchable graphics; high-performance mode activates the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 and low-powered mode switches to the integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD. The chassis was barely lukewarm using the high-performance ATI graphics; using the integrated Intel graphics, the chassis was no more than room temperature. Overall I am impressed with the U550’s thermal management.
Lenovo aimed to create a 15.6-inch notebook that was lighter, thinner, and had better battery life than typical notebooks with the same screen size. I think they accomplished this goal with the U550. The notebook itself is not super exciting but has a lot to like. It is extraordinarily thin and light for a 15.6-inch notebook and four to six hours of battery life. The build quality is satisfactory and the keyboard and touchpad are excellent. There are areas of the notebook that need improvement; I yearned for a higher screen resolution and better speakers.
Overall the IdeaPad U550 is a recommendable notebook, though it will be up to the end consumer to decide whether the thin-and-light design is worth extra money over a standard 15.6-inch notebook.
- Very thin and light
- Good keyboard and touchpad
- Runs cool and quiet
- Low screen resolution
- Mild chassis flex
- Weak speakers