Lenovo 3000 V100 review
An amazing keyboard and light weight aren't quite enough to earn Lenovo's debut notebook an award
It's nearly two years since Lenovo started its acquisition of IBM's personal computing division, and for a long time there was no discernible difference in its range. Then came the first all-Lenovo desktop, the 3000 J105, which ditched the distinctive black and red colour scheme for more sober shades of grey and orange.
Like the J105, the V100 lacks any familiar IBM branding, although there are a few important areas that have come through as part of the inheritance. The ThinkVantage 3 software suite is included as part of Lenovo Care - hold down the shortcut button while booting and you'll get the full version of Lenovo's integrated problem-solving software. You can connect to the network, run a series of diagnostic utilities and more without even starting Windows. The ThinkVantage software is supplied on a hidden partition of the hard disk, which is particularly handy should you suffer a virus outbreak or similar, as, in theory at least, it can't be infected. You still need to know what you're doing to use it properly, but it's a better recovery package than you'll get with any other consumer or small-business-level laptop.
You also get the legendary IBM quality on the keyboard. The reassuringly solid base and near-perfect amount of travel have a surprisingly substantial effect on how enjoyable the notebook is to use, and touch-typists will rejoice at it. The poor touchpad is more of a letdown, with the mouse buttons feeling cheap and tacky. Security is a mixed bag: you can specify a password to enter at power-on, and there's a swipe-style fingerprint reader next to the trackpad. But there's no TPM chip, which means that it isn't possible to hardware-encrypt your data.
The widescreen TFT panel isn't a top choice for businesses either. While it runs at a practical resolution of 1,280 x 800, we found the VibrantView glossy screen too reflective for the office. It's much better when it comes to watching films or looking at photos, but our technical tests left us a little disappointed, with the colour gamut being notably restricted. The bezel above it does integrate a potentially handy webcam, though.
We're also sad to see that the chassis build quality is average at best, with flex apparent across the back of the screen. It's nothing critical, but a long way behind what we'd expect from the average ThinkPad. And while IBM's design was never for the fashionista, the V100 is certainly no more attractive. The bezel around the TFT is nearly an inch thick and the grey and orange colour scheme is of questionable taste at best.
It's a slightly better story when it comes to portability, with both the physical dimensions (it's approximately the same size as a half-ream of A4 paper when closed) and the sub-2kg weight making it an ideal travelling companion. Battery life struggles to live up to the V100's ultraportable credentials, though, with our light-use test draining the battery in less than two-and-a-half hours, and intensive use taking more than an hour off that.
The V100 has a variety of specifications. You can opt for either the 1.66GHz T2300 or the 1.83GHz T2400. Our specification had the former, with 512MB of RAM, although other SKUs are specified with up to 2GB. The overall application benchmark score of 0.85 is as we'd expect, but given that Vista is just around the corner we'd suggest doubling the RAM for starters - there's a free SODIMM slot available, which means you won't have to bin any memory when you upgrade. You can also specify either an 80GB or 100GB hard disk, about 8GB of which will be taken up by the ThinkVantage software. System backups can be made via the integrated DVD burner, which is also compatible with dual-layer discs. The 5-in-1 memory card reader is a welcome addition, particularly for those who want to copy files from their digital compact camera on the go. The only significant omission is CompactFlash.