Usage, Battery Life and Closing Thoughts
The Lenovo U260 is one of the nicest looking small notebooks I've had the opportunity to work with. Its slim lines, uniform styling and matte display make for one attractive offering.
The 12.5" widescreen display is a nice change from the glossy screens that have crowded the market. The resolution used is more than acceptable and color reproduction was where it should be. Horizontal viewing angles were good as well, but the vertical angles left a bit to be desired.
Lenovo has traditionally posted high marks with their keyboards and the IdeaPad U260 is no different. The layout and key sizes could be tweaked a bit for perfection, but everything else seems to be spot on. The chiclet keys look and feel great.
The smooth glass touchpad is one of my favorite features of this system and likely the best I've ever used. Aside from feeling buttery smooth under your finger, its performance was accurate every time. There were no misclicks or spotty tracking issues. Equally as impressive were the mouse click buttons. These have a traditional Lenovo tactical feel yet seemed more solid in construction than other Lenovo systems I have worked with, even late model ThinkPads.
All of this is topped off by the leather wrist rest, which adds a touch of class to the unit. Looks aside, the leather feels fantastic and seems to reduce heat buildup as well.
The dual 2.1w speakers on the U260 are positioned just above the keyboard and fire upwards towards the user. The speakers get decently loud and don't distort at max volume levels. They are pretty tinny however, so music enthusiasts might want to keep a solid pair of headphones handy.
Performance-wise, the ULV Core i5 should offer enough power for most users, despite only running at 1.33 GHz. This processor supports Intel's Turbo Boost, meaning that the CPU will dynamically clock itself higher should the need arise.
In combination with the i5, the U260 also features Intel's HD Graphics. While not as powerful as a discrete chip, Intel's on-chip GPU is sufficient for the average user and allows for HD playback. A fullscreen 1080p video on YouTube played smoothly and only taxed the CPU about 30%.
Mainstream gaming, however, is still a bit too much for the integrated graphics to handle. You can get by playing some lower-end games on this system, but don't expect to load up Call of Duty: Black Ops or any other newer, graphically demanding game.
Normally when I run our battery tests, I disable all power saving features in Windows and the BIOS. Interestingly enough, there weren't any power options to adjust in the BIOS for the U260, so I had to rely only on disabling Windows power saving features. This meant that Intel SpeedStep technology was still on, allowing the CPU to clock down when idle. Wi-Fi was also disabled for these tests.
At full screen brightness, the system was good for 4 hours and 31 minutes while sitting idle at the Windows desktop. At half screen brightness, the 4-cell battery held a charge for 5 hours and 11 minutes.
Under normal use, the system is barely audible. Every so often the cooling fan spins up for a few minutes before throttling back. Under full load, the cooling fan is audible in a silent environment, but you likely won't hear it in a public setting. The ULV i5 doesn't require much voltage and subsequently, doesn't produce much heat either. At full load, only the bottom right side of the unit near the power connector was warm to the touch. The rest of the system remained nice and cool.
Six months ago, this would have been one heck of a system. Unfortunately, the IdeaPad U260 narrowly missed Intel's Sandy Bridge processors, which offer better all-around CPU and GPU performance. Lenovo could be planning to refresh this system soon as all models are currently discounted $200 from their original price (so you can currently get this system for $800). If that doesn't discourage you, then we can safely recommend the current IdeaPad U260 to anyone shopping for an ultraportable laptop.