If we had to name a multimedia laptop series which combines the best in design and performance, then Lenovo's IdeaPad suite is undoubtedly up for consideration. The newly bred IdeaPad U460, designed with the necessary brawn and beauty to make the U450P appear like a dowdy old maid, is set to dethrone its predecessor. According to Lenovo, this 14-inch model is designed for the fashionistas amongst us, and it isn't hard to see why given its sensuously sleek and avant-garde styling.
What first struck us about the U460 is its compact yet durable styling. When closed, the notebook measures just less than an inch at its thickest point. Its fashionable black-brownish lid is peppered with diamond patterns, and if you were to flip the notebook over, you'll find Lenovo's hallmark Chinese motifs below which double up as heat vents. Notably, the notebook exhibited a decent heft despite its portable 1.7kg frame. There's hardly any flex on the metallic wrist rest etched with faint pinstripes, although the keyboard did consent to a little pressure.
Lenovo has ditched the crowded keyboard design of the U450P and replaced it with an island layout. Besides, the keys also sport a unique U-shaped and beveled contours which make them easy to type on. Our only gripe is the rather small backspace key. Moving on, we like its wide and textured Synaptics touchpad which offers multi-touch capabilities. For connectivity, expect no less than four USB ports and a HDMI outlet. The IdeaPad comes with a standard 6-in-1 memory card reader on its right flank plus a hardware switch to enable or disable its 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features.
While its LED-backlit screen is capable of producing a vibrant display, you might want to consider another laptop if glossy and reflective screens aren't your cup of tea. The panel has ample horizontal viewing angles, but suffers easily from contrast shifts on the vertical axis. A pair of twin speakers are located on the underside of the front lip. They didn't produce the biggest sounds, but we'd give them a thumbs-up for clarity nonetheless.
With most contemporary notebooks, sometimes it is hard to tell where the bloatware ends and practical features begin. As a multimedia device, the U460 is understandably packed with applications, and one of them is Lenovo's VeriFace facial recognition utility which works in unison with its 1.3MP webcam. Its Security Suite boasts of a number of features such as Fingerprint Authentication (used in tandem with the biometric sensor) and System Backup and Recovery option.
Additionally, an Active Protection System safeguards the 500GB hard drive from shocks and bumps, a common feature of business notebooks that's also in the U460. Overall, there are more useful applications on the IdeaPad than annoying bloatware to contend with.
In terms of hardware, the new IdeaPad U460 is a notable improvement from its CULV-based predecessors such as the U350 and U450P. Paired with a middle-class Core i5-450M processor on a 64-bit Windows 7 platform, the notebook was delightfully responsive when multitasking between web navigation and tackling Office documents. The U460 comes with integrated and discrete GPUs but automated graphics switching is a no-show, with NVIDIA's Optimus visibly lacking.
To achieve a greater mileage on its 8-cell pack, stick with the Intel GMA HD graphics as proven by its impressive 230 minutes endurance on our video playback test. Naturally, battery sustenance was less impressive on the discrete GeForce 305M alternative with only 185 minutes to show.
There's little difference between the integrated and discrete options on PCMark Vantage with a score of 4,577 and 4,596 PCMarks respectively. On the flip side, the GeForce's graphical sinews were more apparent on 3DMark06. For the record, the IdeaPad clocked 1,378 3DMarks on the integrated module and 3,518 3DMarks on the discrete substitute. The GeForce 305M is backed by NVIDIA's PureVideo HD technology, and we verified this with a smooth and stutter-free 720p playback. However, we wouldn't recommend intensive gaming on this platform just as yet.
In a nutshell, the IdeaPad U460 is slim, sexy, functional, and conveys a decent standing in the performance arena. Lenovo has also upped the ante with a healthy collection of ports and software features to cover your computing needs. What's more, its $1,399 price tag is definitely tempting although the IdeaPad isn't without its share of niggling shortfalls.
It would be ideal if the laptop's screen was less reflective, and we'd also prefer a bigger backspace key. But if you can look past those chinks, this IdeaPad is definitely something you'd like to consider as an all-purpose machine. That said, we can imagine the U460 going up against MSI's latest FX400 poster boy with the two similarly specced notebooks slugging it out in the multimedia category.