Lenovo V100 Review (pics, specs)

by abaxter Reads (153,218)

The Lenovo V100 rounds out the Lenovo 3000 series by filling in the ultraportable gap.  The 12.1-inch widescreen V100 isn’t as thin and light as its cousin ThinkPad X60s, but with a built-in optical drive and 1.3 megapixel web camera it’s more integrated and perhaps more convenient for some people.

 


Lenovo V100 12.1″ screen notebook (view large image)

Lenovo V100 Specs as Reviewed:

  • Processor: Intel Core Duo T2500 2.0GHz
  • Screen: 12.1″ WXGA (1280 x 800) VibrantView (glossy screen)
  • 100GB Hitachi Hard Drive @5400 RPM
  • Wireless: Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG (802.11 a/b/g)
  • Bluetooth (optional)
  • Graphics: Intel Media Accelerator 950
  • Ports: 3 USB 2.0 ports, IEEE 1394 (4 pin), VGA out, 5 in 1 Multicard Reader, Express Card 54, headphone jack, mic-in jack, power adapter jack
  • Built-in Web Camera, 1.3 megapixel (optional)
  • Memory: 1.00GB (2GB max)
  • Finger print reader (optional)
  • Battery: 3-cell or longer life 6-cell Li-Ion battery (6-cell sticks out of the back, 3-cell is flushed)
  • Thinness: About 1.2″ thin
  • Weight: About 4.4 lbs with 6-cell battery
  • Operating System: Windows XP Pro

Build and Design

You right away notice the V100 is no ThinkPad because of the rather interesting curvy design.  The back of the notebook is curved, evoking the look of some of the curvier cars on the road.  In physics many will have learned that a curved back-end tear drop shape is the most aerodynamic form, but I don’t think Lenovo had any ideas of accelerating this notebook up to top speeds.



Lenovo V100 ports and design overview (view large image)

The coloring is an all silver outside with black on the inside.  Overall the look is quite plain, it’s not exactly exciting but steers away from being brazen, so therefore it could still be carried around as a notebook for business users — and Lenovo does fully intend to sell this to small business types.

The casing is made of a sturdy plastic.  The build is durable, there’s a slight amount of flex on the palm rests if you push in hard, but nothing that will sink under the light downward pressure of one’s palms.  The lid offers adequate protection, push in and you’ll find some ripples on the LCD — it’s not as convincing as say the mag-alloy ThinkPad lid but more than serviceable.  Just don’t sit on it while it’s in your backpack and there will be no worries.

One thing that struck me about the V100 is that it’s not as light as you might think, and it shouldn’t be classified as an ultraportable (an ultraportable is a 1.0″ or thinner notebook that weighs under 4lbs).  With the 6-cell battery it weighs about 4.4 lbs, which is most definitely portable and easy to carry, but 1.5lbs more than the ThinkPad X60s and nowhere near as wonderfully thin as that notebook.  Of course, you get a built-in optical drive and other goodies with the V100 that aren’t on the X60s, so you trade weight for features.


Here is the Lenovo V100 on the left flushed against the XPS M1210 12.1″ notebook, the M1210 is slightly thicker (view large image)


Lenovo V100 next to the Dell XPS M1210 competing 12.1″ widescreen Core Duo notebook (view large image)

Input and Output Ports

The V100 offers a nice selection of ports, let’s take a tour around the notebook to see what they are and where they are:

On the front side you simply have the two front located speakers and some indicator lights on the left side:


Front side view of the V100 (view large image)

On the back side of the V100 you can see the battery in the middle, and on the far back right is a USB port:


Lenovo V100 back side (view large image)

On the V100 left side you have a security lock towards the back, fan and vent, USB 2.0 port, VGA monitor out, ExpressCard 54 slot (ExpressCard 34 compatible), a headphone and microphone jack and then a FireWire IEEE 1394 port:


Left side view of V100 (view large image)

On the right side of the V100 we have the power adapter jack at the back, the modem and ethernet port, optical drive which has a 5-in-1 media card reader and wi-fi on/off switch above it


Right side view of V100 (view large image)

 

Processor and Performance Benchmarks

Whenever you think of a 12.1-inch screen laptop you start thinking about low voltage processors, and sacrificing performance for the size.  This isn’t necessarily the case with the V100.  The V100 I have configured with a 2.0 GHz Core Duo processor is much faster than past generation 12.1″ screen notebooks.  It’s slightly faster than its cousin ThinkPad X60s notebook that has a low voltage Core Duo processor.  Factor in the 1.0GB of memory this V100 has and the decent 5400RPM hard drive and things move along very well.  If you prefer to save money and go with a lower end processor, such as Core Solo, that option is available to you with the V100

Let’s look at some benchmarks to see how the V100 stacks up against fellow notebooks (all benchmarks are done using the stock system setup, no Windows reinstall or removal of programs).

Super Pi

Super Pi is a program that forces the notebook processor to calculate Pi to 2-million digits of accuracy.  The Lenovo V100 took 1m 19s to calculate this value with its 2.00 GHz Core Duo processor, here’s how it stacked up to other notebooks:

Notebook Time
 Lenovo V100 (2.00 GHz Intel T2500)  1m 19s
 Dell XPS M1210 (2.13GHz Intel T2600)  1m 11s
 Lenovo ThinkPad X60s (1.66 GHz LV Core Duo)  1m 23s
 IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s
 Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)  1m 36s
 Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)  1m 48s
 Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  1m 52s
 Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  2m 10s
 HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 39s
 Asus V6Va (Pentium M 1.86 GHz)  1m 46s
 Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 18s

PCMark04

Here’s how the V100 stacked up in PCMark04 results against other notebooks.  This result considers system performance as a whole (processor, graphics card, hard drive) and is a better indication of how the V100 performs compared to other notebooks:

Notebook  PCMark04 Results
Lenovo V100 (2.00 GHz Core Duo)  4,665 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.13 GHz Core Duo)  6,033 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron XPS2 (2.0GHz Intel Pentium M)  4,082 PCMarks
Acer Aspire 5002 WLMi (AMD Turion 64 ML-30 1.6GHz)  2,392 PCmarks
Acer TravelMate 4400 (AMD Turion ML-30, 1.6GHz)  3,104 PCMarks
Toshiba Tecra A6 (1.66GHz Intel Core Duo)  2,653 PCMarks
PortableOne SR2 (Intel Pentium M Dothan 735 1.7GHz)  3,274 PCMarks

You can see that the Core Duo processor adds some impressive performance gains over the older Pentium M.  Notice the 12.1″ screen M1210 was quite a bit higher with its PCMark number, the fact the M1210 used had dedicated nVidia graphics helped it to outpace the V100.

3DMark05

It’s not really fair to compare the V100 against other notebooks with dedicated graphics cards, but just for the fun of it and to demonstrate the V100 is most definitely not a notebook that can be used for demanding games, here are the 3DMark performance numbers:

Notebook 3DMark 05 Results
 Lenovo V100 (2.00GHz Core Duo, Intel Integrated Graphics) 470 3D Marks
 Dell XPS M1210 (2.13GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks
 Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800 GTX)  7,078 3DMarks
 Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Intel T2500, ATI X1400)  1,791 3D Marks
 Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI Radeon Mobility x700 128 MB)  2,530 3D Marks
 Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)  2,273 3DMarks
 HP dv4000 (1.86GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)  2,536 3D Marks
 Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)  4,157 3DMarks

 

Screen


Lenovo V100 display (view large image)

The V100 sports a widescreen XGA display with a glossy screen finish.  Most consumer notebooks these days have the glossy screen finish, it provides for richer bolder colors and a better media viewing experience.  If you’re in an office or home with strong overhead lighting though, beware of the reflections you’ll get on the screen — this is demonstrated in the picture below:


Glossy screens provide for nice bold colors when the screen is on, but when the screen is off or just displaying dark colors you’ll get a lot of reflection from background lighting (view large image)

Overall, despite the reflection issues with a glossy display I’m a fan of the richer colors you’ll get.  It was a good choice for Lenovo to offer this.

The V100 display is overall pretty good.  It could be a notch brighter in my opinion, it’s not as bright as some competing 12.1″ notebooks such as the Dell XPS M1210.  Also, the vertical viewing angles are quite poor, you’ll have to choose a perpendicular angle of viewing to get the best screen coloration.  Horizontal viewing angles are quite good though.  Light leakage is minimal, but there is some at the bottom of the screen.

Speakers and Audio

The V100 speakers are located at the very front of the notebook.  The speakers are actually not too bad, the loudness is good and clarity decent as well.  I was surprised to have even adequate speakers on this sized notebook.  They’re leaps and bounds better than the ThinkPad X60s 12.1″ screen notebook that has a speaker located on the bottom side.  Still, if you want what can be called very good sound you’ll need headphones or external speakers to plug into the line-out port on the left hand side.

Heat and Noise

The V100 is a very quiet system that stays nice and cool.  Even when running benchmark applications on this notebook things didn’t really warm up and the fan was either inaudible or didn’t need to kick in.  High marks go to the designers for making a notebook that has a good cooling system.  Ever since using an Apple MacBook that runs at 140 F in normal usage, which is apparently considered normal to longtime Apple notebook users, I’m more appreciative of notebooks that don’t cook your lap when used.

Keyboard and Touchpad


Lenovo V100 keyboard and touchpad (view large image)

Despite the fact we’re dealing with a smal 12.1″ screen notebook, the keyboard on the V100 is full sized.  Except for the “Home” and “End” key, all of the major keys are there with dedicated buttons you’d usually use.  The top row of keys is slightly undersized to fit properly, but still very usable.  The feel of the keyboard is good, it’s firm overall with a very slight amount of flex on the bottom right side — you have to push hard to discover it though.  The keyboard is “ThinkPad like” but not as good or the same feel in my opinion.  The touch of the keys seems somewhat lighter and the travel not quite as far or as pleasing.

The touchpad is a different story.  I miss using a pointing stick that you get on the ThinkPad series, but can handle a touchpad if it is a good implementation.  The V100 touchpad is not a good implementation.  The mouse buttons are some of the worst I’ve used, they’re very stiff, clicky, cheap feeling and the travel can only be described as awkward.  The touchpad is often erratic, despite my playing with the configuration.  It’s just overall not good.  Maybe because I’m so used to the superb usability of the ThinkPad Ultra Nav input I’m being harsh here, but on the competing Dell M1210 notebook I give high marks for the touchpad and mouse buttons so I’m confident saying this is an area in which the V100 simply falls flat.  Get a wireless mouse, you’ll need it.

Built in Web Camera

We’re seeing more and more notebooks with built-in web cameras and such a thing is a happy addition to the V100 as well.  This is no skimpy VGA resolution camera either, it’s a 1.3 megapixel resolution camera.  I was most impressed with the quality of images captured by the V100 web camera, even in low light situations.  In the same room and lighting conditions, the V100 took much better pictures and video than two other notebooks I have with a built-in 1.3MP camera.  Take a look at the pictures below (your author is somewhat shy and at least prefers to keep eye and hair color a mystery):


Picture taken with the built-in Lenovo V100 1.3 megapixel camera (view large image)


Picture taken with the built-in Dell M1210 1.3 megapixel camera (view large image)


Picture taken with Apple MacBook iSight web cam (view large image)

You can see that the Lenovo V100 built-in camera performs much better in a typical room lighting situation than both the XPS M1210 camera did and also the Apple iSight camera (look at the artwork in the background to see that the V100 camera captured more detail).

It would have been really nice if the camera rotated like it does on the Dell M1210, that way this could be a great notebook to take to class and capture lectures on video.

While the camera quality is good, the included “BisonCap” software is absolutely awful.  I’ve used a lot of notebooks with built-in web cams, some have a button on the keyboard that launches the camera and software that makes it easy to then take a picture or video.  The V100 and BisonCap does not (make it easy).  Check out the “File” menu options (pictured below), this web cam software wants you to allocate file space for a video.  Allocating memory and file space is what made some developers run from C++ to Java, the average user looking at this BisonCap application will just plain run away.  Hopefully you’ll be using a Chat program such as AOL IM / MSN or maybe Skype in conjunction with this camera and not the included BisonCap application.


Screenshot of possibly the worst ever web camera utility software (view large image

Battery

The V100 I’ve been using has the 6-cell longer life battery, it sticks out of the back as you can see from pictures in this review.  I unplugged the V100 at 100% charge and then set the screen brightness level to half on the V100.  I ran a benchmark program, played some music, surfed the web, transferred files, used the camera and did a few other minor tasks on the V100 and then let it simply idle as the battery drained down.  After 2:57 mins the battery conked out.  This isn’t too bad given the fact wireless was left on.  You could squeeze more battery life out by lowering screen brightness.  If you played a movie with full screen brightness, I’m guessing the battery would run down at about 2.5 hours.  I’d definitely recommend going with the 6-cell battery, the 3-cell simply wouldn’t provide enough juice.

Software

Lenovo includes an InstantOn software feature that allows you to watch movies, listen to music or view pictures within a quick boot operating system.  The Lenovo Care software makes it easy to update your system and keep it secure.  There’s also some unwanted trial software on there though, the Corel image application is particularly annoying in that it’s automatically associated as the default app to open any type of image and as soon as you plug in an external device with images it will want to open and have you pay to register and use it.  Oh well, every manufacturer is including these trial software applications and we all just train ourselves to uninstall it I suppose.  Overall though, Lenovo is not as bad as others at loading the system up with junkware and the Lenovo Care software is good to have.  I already mentioned how bad the included web camera software is, I won’t berate it again.

Conclusion

The Lenovo V100 is a decent portable notebook offering and nice addition to the 3000 series.  I think the key for the V100 will be pricing, the 12.1″ form factor is turning into a competitive field as is witnessed by the release of the XPS M1210 and the V100 on the very same day.  If you want to have a small notebook that’s simple to carry around and still offers very good performance and attractive features, the V100 should be on your list to consider.  The excellent web camera image quality, good keyboard, good selection of ports and of course the advantage of having a built-in optical drive in a 12.1″ form factor are key decision components.  The V100 would fit well for a small business buyer or as a second computer in the home that can be easily carried on vacation or other trips.

Pros

  • Good performance with the Core Duo processor
  • Runs very quiet and cool
  • Good keyboard
  • Great image quality on the optional web camera
  • Integrated optical drive in a 12.1″ form factor
  • 5-in-1 media card reader is really nice to have
  • Included Lenovo Care software and built-in finger reader offer nice security features

Cons

  • Design is ho-hum and not as exciting as some other competing 12.1″ notebooks
  • Touchpad is poor and mouse buttons are awful
  • Provided BisonCap web camera software is clunky at best, borderline unusable
  • Not as rugged or well built as the ThinkPad X60 cousin notebook
  • Calling this an ultraportable is a stretch, it’s about 4.4lbs and heavier than you might think with the 6-cell battery which is absolutely necessary to get 3 hours of battery life.  Ultraportable means 1.0″ thin and about 3 – 4lbs by most definitions.


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