Lenovo's IdeaPad U450p is a 14-inch ultra-portable laptop with a rather odd mix of an ultra-low-voltage CPU and dedicated GPU. You can buy our configuration, with an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 CPU and 500GB hard drive, for around £600.
Diamonds are a geek's best friend
Perhaps the U450p's most striking aspect is the diamond-shaped texture that's stamped into the lid and keyboard surround. The pattern is made up of plenty of small raised squares and certainly makes a change from the standard glossy finish on most of today's machines. We like it, but some may think it's too busy.
Weighing in at 2.1kg, the laptop isn't all that light by ultra-portable standards. At least it manages to pack a DVD writer into its relatively small frame, though.
Lenovo claims the laptop's 14-inch, glossy display has an anti-glare coating, but, unfortunately, it doesn't work very well -- the screen is quite reflective. When you're using the U450p indoors, you'll find you often have to adjust the screen's angle so that it's not reflecting overhead lights.
Nevertheless, despite using traditional CCFL backlighting, the display is very bright and colours look strong too. It's also capable of producing pretty deep black levels, and this helps pictures and movies to look impressively rich. That said, the 1,366x768-pixel resolution isn't anything special. It does provide enough room to work on two documents side by side, though.
The U450p's keyboard sports traditional tapered-style keys. Although there's some flex when you apply pressure to the middle of the keyboard, it's not very noticeable when you're actually typing on it. The main keys are quite large, so it's easy to achieve a fast typing speed, but some compromises have been made in the case of the other keys. For example, the shift keys are shorter than usual. This seems like an odd decision. The laptop could easily have accommodated a wider keyboard.
Given the laptop's smaller frame, you wouldn't expect it to be overflowing with ports. There's only three USB ports, VGA and HDMI connectors, and an Ethernet socket. Sadly, this means you miss out on the eSATA port and ExpressCard slot that you'll find on larger machines. On the wireless front, 802.11n Wi-Fi is included, alongside Bluetooth 2.1.
Lenovo hasn't skimped when it comes to the hard drive. The laptop has a rather generous 500GB of storage space.
Assault on battery
With longer battery life in mind, Lenovo has chosen to build the U450p around an ultra-low-voltage, dual-core, 1.3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor. This is helped along by 4GB of RAM, enabling the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium to go about its business jauntily.
In the PCMark05 benchmark test, the U450p managed to rack up a score of 3,632. That's not bad for a machine with an ultra-low-voltage chip, and indicates that it will be fine for day-to-day multitasking. It may struggle when it comes to more demanding tasks, like video encoding, however.
Most ultra-portable laptops are pretty hopeless on the gaming front, but Lenovo has made more of an effort than most manufacturers by equipping the U450p with a dedicated ATI Radeon HD 4200 GPU. Despite this, we still wouldn't recommend it as a gaming machine -- it only managed to post a score of 2,803 in 3DMark06. That's good enough for playing older games at a decent frame rate, but not fast enough for smooth gameplay with the latest titles.
One area in which this laptop certainly can't be faulted is battery life. The U450p was able to keep running for an impressive 2 hours and 37 minutes in the Battery Eater Classic test. As this test is very intensive, you're likely to get much longer battery life under normal, day-to-day conditions.
Lenovo has attempted to straddle the gap between an ultra-portable and desktop-replacement laptop with the IdeaPad U450p. Unfortunately, the results aren't that successful. Although it offers long battery life, it's not small or light enough to be a comfortable machine to use on the road, and it doesn't have the CPU or graphics power to cut it as a desktop-replacement laptop.
Edited by Charles Kloet