Lenovo N200 Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (353,065)

by Kevin O’Brien

The Lenovo N200 is a mid-range consumer laptop aimed to compete against the Dell E1505, Toshiba A200/205 and other laptops in that category. The N200 model is a refreshing update to the previous N100 line, with enhancements such as the Santa Rosa chipset, double the dedicated video memory, express card instead of PC-card, and Windows Vista.


Lenovo N200 (view large image)

The N200 model I am reviewing is the 0769A9U laptop. It is loaded with the following features:

  • Model: N200 0769-A9U
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz T7500
  • Chipset: Intel 965 Express
  • Memory: 2048MB DDR2 PC5300 (A single 2GB stick)
  • Hard Drive: 160GB Hitachi(HTS541616J9SA00) SATA
  • Screen: 15.4" WSXGA+ 1680×1050 Glossy
  • Optical Drive: LG GMA-4082N DVD-/+R/-RAM
    • 8x DVD-/+R
    • 4x DVD-/+RW
    • 2.4x DVD+R DL
    • 3x DVD-RAM
    • 24x CD-R
    • 24x CD-RWX
  • GPU: 256MB nVidia 7300 Go
  • Network/Wireless: Intel Wireless 4965AGN, Broadcom 10/100 Ethernet Card, Modem and Bluetooth
  • Inputs: 84 Key Keyboard with Two Button Touchpad with Scroll Bar
  • Buttons: Power, Lenovo Care, Power Up and Down, Mute, and WiFi/Bluetooth On/Off Switch.
  • Slots: ExpressCard/54
  • Battery: Six Cell (Mine has the 9 Cell battery)
  • Dimensions:
    • Width: 14.2"
    • Depth: 10.5
    • Height: 1.24"
  • Weight: 6 Lbs 8.6 oz
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Ultimate
  • Warranty: One Year Warranty With One Year Battery
  • Price: $1599

Design and Build Quality


Lid view of N200 (view large image)

The N200 is a very solid laptop with minimalistic design features. The basic silver paintjob and dark grey plastic inside don’t automatically stick out from the crowd in terms of looks. Where it really shines is build quality, ease of upgrading, and solid Thinkpad geared keyboard. The screen hinges are very solid … which you would expect from the company that brings you the very durable ThinkPad business line. The screen latches hold the lid down very firmly by keeping a bit of tension on the rubber guards placed around the screen edges. The chassis is very nice and produces no plastic squeaks or creaks when you lift it up. The entire area around and below the keyboard is supported very well with little or no flex under pressure. Pressing firmly along all parts of the keyboard shows no sign of weakness or give.


Bottom view of N200 (view large image)


15.4" screen Lenovo N200 on the right compared to 12.1" screen Lenovo V200 on the left (view large image)

Like others in the Lenovo line, upgrading the laptop is easy without completely dismantling the entire laptop. Each area has its own cover held in by one or two Phillips head screws. This includes the ram, hard drive/wireless card, and the CPU/heatsink area. Almost any upgrade the average or power notebook user would ever need to do to this laptop throughout its useful lifespan could be dealt with through these sections.


Lenovo N200 opened up (view large image)

Inputs and Outputs

The N200 has the following port selection:

  • Four USB 2.0
  • Four-Pin Firewire
  • 4-in-1 Card Reader
  • Ethernet
  • Modem
  • VGA Out
  • S-Video Out
  • Microphone
  • Headphone
  • Security Lock
  • Power Connector


Left side view of Lenovo N200 ports (view large image)


Right side view of Lenovo N200 ports (view large image)


Back view of Lenovo N200 ports (view large image)

Screen

The screen on this laptop is a glossy style LCD with the WSXGA+ resolution. Viewing angles are very good for a non-IPS display, but as you move vertically above or below the screen, colors do start to invert. Horizontal viewing angles are much nicer though, allowing movement all around without much color distortion. The plastic cover and frame to the display provide decent rigidity to prevent flexing, but pressing the back of the display firmly will show distortion marks.


Lenovo N200 on the left, ThinkPad T60 with FlexView on the right (view large image)


Lenovo N200 on the left, ThinkPad T60 with FlexView on the right (view large image)


Lenovo N200 on the left, ThinkPad T60 with FlexView on the right (view large image)

I could find no flaw with my display, either through light leakage or dead/stuck pixels. Backlight brightness was very adequate, almost too bright for my tastes on its high setting. I found the comfortable range to be two notches up from the bottom on its adjustment scale. White levels and color reproduction are very good.


Comparison of Lenovo N200 on the left with ThinkPad T60 FlexView on the right (view large image)

To give an idea of color and overall brightness compared to a known source, I took some shots comparing its screen to my T60. The T60 has the 1400×1050 Flexview (IPS) screen and both screens have the brightness set to maximum. The N200 screen is much brighter and I feel has a cleaner looking white. For the standard viewing zone which is either dead on perpendicular, or +/- 10 degrees up or down, side to side, the N200 shows no color distortion. As you start moving at greater angles though, you can clearly see that the colors invert. Overall I really enjoy this display and wish they offered it on the ThinkPad line.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the N200 feels similar to the Thinkpad keyboards. Side to side with my T60, the only difference I could tell is the N200 has a bit softer key press noise. The pressing depth, support, and key texture were all the same. Also, as mentioned above, the keyboard has no flex under it and provides very supportive typing.


Lenovo N200 keyboard area (view large image)

The touchpad feel is very nice with a textured slick surface. Compared to the touchpad on the ThinkPads, it is almost ” wider. This was a nice adjustment for me since it provided more room for the touchpad scrolling feature. The touchpad buttons have a very satisfying press with a bit of travel, not just a simple click like others.

This particular model also comes with a fingerprint scanner, usually something only found on business laptops. Most people struggle with fingerprint scanners until they get used to the steady stroke the scanner wants, but once you figure it out it is very second nature. These days I use the fingerprint scanner to log myself in, instead of having to type out my long password.

Speakers

The speakers on the N200 are about average for laptops. The speaker don’t provide thrilling bass or midrange, but are good enough to listen to music or movies. Volume was acceptable for enjoying a movie without having to sit directly in front of the laptop.

Processing Power and Games

This laptop was equipped with the T7500 Core 2 Duo processor, as well as the nVidia GeForce Go 7300 with 256MB of dedicated memory. I found this to be just perfect for my very light game playing … mostly just some Half-Life 2. There was no detectible stuttering or other problems. High Definition movies–even at 1080P resolutions–play with ease.

Benchmarks

Super Pi Comparison Results

Super Pi was run so that the processor was forced to calculate Pi to 2-million digits of accuracy.

Notebook Time
Lenovo N200 ( 2.2GHz Intel T7500, nVidia GeForce Go 7300) 55s
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300) 59s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200) 1m 03s
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300) 1m 24s
Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 34s
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52) 2m 05s
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400) 59s
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s
Toshiba A100 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 1m 29s
HP dv5000z (2.0GHz Sempron 3300+) 2m 02s

 

Comparison table for PCMark05

PCMark05 measures the overall performance of a system.

Notebook PCMark05Score
Lenovo N200 ( 2.2GHz Intel T7500, nVidia GeForce Go 7300) 4,648 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300) 4,084 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (Intel 1.73GHz T5300 + GMA 950) 2,981 PCMarks
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270) 2,420 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite A135 (Core Duo T2250, Intel GMA 950) 3,027 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950) 2,994 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950) 2,732 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo) 3,427 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 Comparison Results:

(Remember, the score might look bad but 3DMark06 is really for benchmarking gaming PCs)

Notebook  3DMark 06Results
Lenovo N200 ( 2.2GHz Intel T7500, nVidia GeForce Go 7300) 493 3D Marks
Asus G1J (Core 2 Duo, 2.0GHz, NVIDIA 7700) 2,389 3D Marks
HP nc8430 (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 1,745 3D Marks
Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,528 3D Marks
Dell Precison M90 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia Quadro FX 1500M) 3,926 3D Marks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800GTX) 4,085 3D Marks
Compal HEL80 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB) 1,654 3D Marks
Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB) 4,744 3D Marks

 

Vista Performance Index

Processor 5.1
RAM 4.7
Graphics 3.5
Gaming Graphics 3.1
Primary Hard Disk 4.9

 

Wireless Performance

Since I still lack an N capable router, my testing was done with a WRT54GL running DDWRT. Wireless speeds seemed slower than my T60 running Windows XP, but it could also relate back to the security software preinstalled on the laptop. Internal network file transfers maxed out at 2.2MB/s to 2.7MB/s, which is about average for a 54G wireless network. Range with the Intel 4965 was 10-15% under my Atheros chipset wireless card.

Heat and Noise

The fan on this laptop, while having the ability to spin slowly, likes to quickly ramp up at the slightest temperature increase. It also has no delay, causing the fan to quickly speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down, etc. This started to drive me up the wall when some programs were running. I am hoping a BIOS fix comes around to mellow out the fan. Heat from the sides and bottom of the laptop was very controlled and the only hot point was next to the heat sink output grill.

Battery Life

I was able to get three hours and 45 minutes of battery life from the nine cell battery, with power settings set to average and an active internet connection courtesy of AIM, before it shut down at five percent. Screen brightness was two notches above the bottom. The N200 ships with a 90W power adapter that only gets mildly warm under heavy laptop use. After running 3DMark it was soothingly warm … not scalding hot like other brand laptops.

An odd power management quirk with this laptop is it gives no estimation of how much battery time you have left. It will show the percentage of charge left in the battery, but no countdown of time remaining. I noticed this in the Lenovo C200 as well.

Conclusion

The N200 is a very competitive laptop in the upper middle price range. If you configure a Dell or Toshiba laptop with similar specs you will spend as much as $200 more than the N200 price … and they still lack the Santa Rosa platform. The N200 also had nice touches like Vista ultimate and a single 2gb stick of DDR2 (quite expensive compared to two 1gb sticks) included at no additional cost. The only drawback to the N200 is its very basic look and feel compared to much more stylish computers on the market. That said, the Lenovo N200 is something to consider if you are one of the shoppers who are more interested in features and cost than looks.

Pros

  • Sturdy build quality and very easy to upgrade components
  • Bright and Vibrant screen
  • Comfortable Touchpad with great tactile feedback from the buttons
  • ThinkPad style keyboard

Cons

  • Vertical viewing angles could be improved
  • Cooling fan with ADHD


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