Review Lenovo IdeaPad U510 Ultrabook

Sebastian Jentsch (translated by Peter Krastev), 01/09/2013

Stylish. Those who value style and design would not buy a rough-cut plastic brick to use on the desktop. Is the 15.6-inch MacBook Pro look-alike the right choice for the budget-conscious, yet style-seeking Windows user?

Lenovo IdeaPad U510: The Windows PC for the stylish user?
Lenovo IdeaPad U510: The Windows PC for the stylish user?

For the original German review, see here.

Lenovo describes its IdeaPad U510 in concise and simple terms; Affordable Windows 8 ultrabook. We are talking about a 15.6-inch ultrabook that leaves the handy 11.6- and 13.3-inch form factors far behind. The manufacturer makes one thing clear with the U510: the bulky office laptops are a thing of the past. Browsing the web, working a bit, and enjoying multimedia content - all are possible with this beauty.

For the price of 700 Euros (~$922) no outstanding performance should be expected of the Intel Core i3-3217U. The 15.6-inch form factor could attract those users for whom gaming and CPU benchmarks do not matter. The father wants a 15-inch notebook for typing and web browsing. The looks should be modern and resemble his Samsung smartphone. The low-cost HP Pavilion g6Aspire E1-531, and the Lenovo N586 are also in this category. The aluminum finish grabs his attention, he sees the DVD drive and the battery life of 6 hours, and thinks to himself: I'll take it. 

Is this the perfect office notebook for the stylish user? Our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad U510 holds all the answers and details. As equal rivals we have the following well built (made of aluminum or magnesium) and quite slim 14- and 15-inch notebooks, which have an optical drive as well.

·        Asus S56CM (i5, GT 635M, 680 Euros, ~$903)

·        Acer Aspire TimelineU M3-581TG (i7, GT 640M, 999 Euros, ~$1327)

·        Acer Aspire TimelineUltra M5-581TG (i5, GT 640M, 800 Euros, ~$1063)

·        HP Envy m6-1101sg (i5, HD 7670M, 760 Euros, ~$1010)

Without a DVD drive, but otherwise on par: 

·        Asus VivoBook S400CA (i5, Touchscreen, 700 Euros, ~$930)

·        HP Envy 4-1000sg (i3, 600 Euros, ~$797)

Case

Aluminum base plate
Aluminium base plate
Two RAM slots, one of which is free
Two RAM slots, one of which is free
Plastic with an aluminum look
Plastic with an aluminium look

The U510 is slim and quite portable. The required ultrabook height (21 mm/~0.83 inches for notebooks > 14-inches) is exceeded only by the rubber feet that raise the base by three millimeters (~0.12 inches). 24 mm (~0.94 inches) is the combined height. On the bottom side we find large intake vents, which should not be obstructed, even with the low-voltage Core i3 on board. The U510 is not in the modern shape of a wedge, but has a uniform height throughout. 

This does not diminish the practicality. In order to enhance the book resemblance and the lateral grip, the edges are curved inwards. This also eases opening the lid. The top and bottom sides look identical (no maintenance cover, perfectly flat surface) and are both made of lacquered aluminum panels.

Because of that, the lid and the base should have gained stability and quality. We would like to leave it just to the latter, since the base is relatively flexible. The flat panel exhibits limited twisting when the notebook is lifted at a corner. The lid is no different and clearly gives in when depressed, especially when closed. We are not entirely impressed with the cold (metallic) feeling that the surface has.

The large hinge has a soft, wobbly stop at about 140 degrees. The lid can be opened using only one hand, which does not cause the solid frame to bend or twist. The lid has a circumferential rubber lip that provides a smooth closing.

Experienced enthusiasts can remove the bottom cover. Lenovo's Maintenance Manual U510 shows the process in detail, but changing the hard drive or the RAM modules should best be left to the experts. Removing the keyboard causes the first scratches on the lacquered plastic palm rest. There are four screws under the keyboard. This leaves four more screws beneath the feet and a couple of fragile plastic latches on the front. Two of the latter broke completely. The images on the right show the inside of the U510 in detail.

Slim chassis that looks like a book (24 mm). The "sides" are curved inwards.
Slim chassis that looks like a book (24 mm). The "sides" are curved inwards.

Connectivity

A key characteristic of the U510 is its DVD drive. Unfortunately Lenovo has not used a Slot-In-Drive, but a conventional tray drive. The former would definitely have looked better stylistically and the stability of the chassis would have been better. Slim 14- and 15-inch ultrabooks are no longer scarce. For example: HP Envy m6-1101sg (760 Euros, ~$1010), Aspire V5-431 (from 400 Euros, ~$531), Aspire TimelineU M3-581TG (i5, GT 640M, 870 Euros, ~$1156) or Medion's Akoya S4216 (Multi-Bay with battery/DVD).

The manufacturer has installed an Ethernet RJ45 port, but not a standard VGA port. The latter is replaced by a Mini-VGA, but an adapter is not included. Acer has done things differently with the Aspire V5-431: the supplied dongle (RJ45/VGA) provides both ports.

Front: no interfaces
Front: no interfaces
Left side: Recovery button, Ethernet, Mini VGA, HDMI, USB 3.0, audio jack
Left side: Recovery button, Ethernet, Mini VGA, HDMI, USB 3.0, audio jack
Rear: no ports
Rear: no ports
Right side: 2 x USB 2.0, card reader, DVD drive, AC jack
Right side: 2 x USB 2.0, card reader, DVD drive, AC jack

 

Communication

U510 can connect to the Internet via WLAN (Centrino Wireless-N 2230) or via Fast Ethernet. Lenovo has omitted Gigabit LAN. This makes moving your film collection quite annoying, especially if you have to transfer hundreds of gigabytes from the PC to the laptop via WLAN. Perhaps the user has a Gigabit switch, which will now go unchallenged. We cannot understand Lenovo's choice - every common notebook has a Gigabit Ethernet chip. 

Is the reception of the wireless adapter any good? Yes, it is, but only over short distances. The reception is excellent at three and ten meters (~10 and 33 feet, second floor). Outside the house, it dropped down to two bars (15 m, 49 feet) and at 40 meters (~131 feet), the signal was completely lost. Those are weak results. An Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 (a/b/g/n) had two bars at the furthest distance. 50% of the transmission power of the router (Fritz!Box 7270) is lost along the way.

The webcam has a resolution of 1280x720 pixels. The photos seem bright enough, but have a significant amount of noise and the colors look unnaturally cool. 

Accessories/Software

The U510 comes with a pre-installed Windows 8 (64-bit). There is no Free DOS model, unlike the IdeaPad S300/S400. No recovery disks are supplied either. The user can burn such a disk via the OneKey Recovery. The Recovery Mode on the hidden HDD partition is called upon by pressing the OneKey button. This functions even if the computer is turned off. This key also activates a simple BIOS, in which the F-keys' function can be changed (deactivation of the hotkey mode).

There is also no mini-VGA-to-VGA adapter. We are not talking about the popular Mini-DisplayPort-to-VGA cable, but the rare Mini-VGA one (Manual: VITU5 MINI-VGA CABLE). For example, such cables are the HP-Mini-VGA-Cable (FY828AA) and the Asus Adapter Kit Mini-VGA-to-VGA (30 Euros/~$40). 

Warranty

Lenovo supplies the U510 with a 24-month Bring-in warranty. In the box we also find an information pamphlet, which explains what is covered. But what warranty updates are available for my Lenovo? You can find out by entering the serial number of the notebook on the manufacturer's service website.

No DVDs or CDs
No DVDs or CDs
Thin cloth bag
Thin cloth bag
Energy Management (E-Profile)
Energy Management (E-Profile)
Webcam: 1280x720 pixels
Webcam: 1280x720 pixels
Image noise and cold colors
Image noise and cold colors

Input Devices

Keyboard

The flat chiclet-type keys lie in a small recess in the base unit. The user might need to get used to the small Enter and Backspace, as well as the indented arrow keys. Once accustomed, the user could work comfortably, thanks to the good key spacing and the numeric keypad. "Could" – the soft base inhibits a firm key stop and the vague pressure point takes away the last bit of feedback. The medium drop does not compensate for the above. 

Touchpad

The large ClickPad (12.5 cm/~4.9 inches in diagonal) could have been very good, if it had a reasonable key drop. We are tortured by a short key travel, while the required force to press the key is relatively high. The touchpad registers a click only at the very bottom, while in the middle (left mouse button) it does not. Overall, mouse movement with the Multi-Touch-Pad feels good. The smooth surface has little friction and rarely slows down finger movement.

Keyboard: weak base
Keyboard: weak base
Touchpad: short key drop
Touchpad: short key drop

Display

The non-matte surface of the 15.6-inch panel (16:9; 1366x768) is a common characteristic of all the IdeaPad notebooks. There is not a single model without a glossy display! This could scare away some buyers. In the class under 800 Euros (~$1063), panels such as our AUO B156XTN03 are relatively common. Low-cost devices like the HP 650 or the Lenovo Edge E330 prove that the matte panel is not a matter of price range. 

We have to admit: the glossy display is not the worst choice. The combination of a high contrast ratio of 611:1, bright colors, and deep black works quite well. 

A better color reproduction is important to professional image editors, who would also be disappointed by the HD resolution of the 15-inch display. Therefore, we list the following only for the purpose of completeness: sRGB and Adobe RGB were clearly not covered. Low black level (0.319 cd/m²) and large color space reproduction do not always go hand in hand. Even premium notebooks like the Asus Zenbook UX51VZ do not necessarily cover the sRGB color space. None of the mentioned rivals manages to completely cover sRGB.

ICC Lenovo U510 vs. AdobeRGB(t)
ICC Lenovo U510 vs. AdobeRGB(t)
ICC Lenovo U510 vs. sRGB(t)
ICC Lenovo U510 vs. sRGB(t)
ICC Lenovo U510 vs. Asus UX51VZ(t)
ICC Lenovo U510 vs. Asus UX51VZ(t)
211
cd/m²
208
cd/m²
199
cd/m²
182
cd/m²
195
cd/m²
181
cd/m²
178
cd/m²
168
cd/m²
182
cd/m²
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 211 cd/m²
Average: 189.3 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 80 %
Center on Battery: 197 cd/m²
Black: 0.319 cd/m²
Contrast: 611:1
Distribution of brightness

The reflective surface and the low brightness, averaging 189 cd/m², make the U510 unsuitable for outdoor usage. Effective work is hindered by the reflections and the too dark desktop. The photos below were taken on a cloudy day. Even under these ideal conditions, the desktop was still mostly too dark. In order to be sufficiently readable in daylight, the luminance of a reflective type panel should be a minimum of 300 cd/m².

Outdoor, cloudy
Outdoor, cloudy
Outdoor, reflections
Outdoor, reflections
Outdoor, cloudy
Outdoor, cloudy

The viewing angles are typical for an affordable notebook - very small. Massive inversions occur even at the slightest change (10 degrees) upwards or downwardsThe cause is of course the TN (Twisted Nematics) panel with white LED backlight. The U510 has a horizontal viewing angle of 45 degrees (see the picture below).

Viewing angles Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE
Viewing angles Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE

Performance

The U510 has a rich variety of configurations. Starting from the entry-level model with Core i3 3217U and HD 4000 (our unit) up to the top model with Core i7 3517U and GeForce GT 625M. The GeForce graphics chip is standard for every model with i5 and i7 and should be preferred by gamers. We'll take a closer look at that in the Gaming section. The HDD options are only 500 and 750 GB. Although there is no SSD available, all the HDDs have a 24 GB SSD cache.

Systeminfo CPUZ CPU
Systeminfo CPUZ Cache
Systeminfo CPUZ Mainboard
Systeminfo CPUZ RAM
Systeminfo CPUZ RAM SPD
Systeminfo GPUZ HD 4000
Systeminfo HDTune
DPC Latenzen Idle OK
System information Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE

Processor

Cinebench R11.5 Multi CPU @1,8 GHz
Cinebench R11.5 Multi CPU @1,8 GHz
Cinebench Shading GPU @1050 MHz
Cinebench Shading GPU @1050 MHz

Starting with the name, the Core i3 already suggest a lower performance than an i5 or i7. But how large are differences? Should buyers stay away from the i3? Using the Cinebench tests we will examine the difference in performance.

The CPU multi-core test (1.71 points) results are 36 to 41% worse than the i5-3317U (Asus S56CMVivoBook S400CA). The Core i5 benefits from Turbo Boost. If you think that is not a significant difference, the OpenGL test shows impressive results for all the rivals. The dedicated graphics chips Radeon HD 7670M (Envy m6-1101sg), GeForce GT 640M (Aspire M5, Aspire M3) and GeForce GT 635M (Asus S56CM) provide an increase in performance of up to 186%. But gamers have a choice: the GT 620M, which comes with the i5 and i7 models of the U510, was 123 and 117% faster in Aspire V5-571G and in Asus UX32VD (i5-3317U) respectively. Thus, the GT 620M is not the best choice in terms of performance.

The Cinebench R11.5 Single test (1.11 points) utilizes only one core. Here 1.8 GHz are not enough - thanks to Turbo Boost, i5-3317U (+37 %) and i7-2637M (+45 %) are faster. The latter processor is not available with our notebook, but Lenovo offers the i7-3517U instead. In the Dell XPS 13 it was 64% faster than the Core i3. On battery power we measured identical results as when plugged in (CPU and GPU @Cinebench R11.5).

Cinebench R11.5
OpenGL 64Bit
Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE
12.31 fps ∼11%
HP Envy 4-1000sg
7.38 fps ∼7% -40%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
34.91 fps ∼32% +184%
Asus S56CM-XX079H
27.29 fps ∼25% +122%
Acer Aspire M5-581TG-53314G52Mass
32.37 fps ∼30% +163%
Asus VivoBook S400CA-CA006H
12.28 fps ∼11% 0%
HP Envy m6-1101sg
35.22 fps ∼32% +186%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE
1.71 Points ∼14%
HP Envy 4-1000sg
1.32 Points ∼11% -23%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
2.23 Points ∼19% +30%
Asus S56CM-XX079H
2.32 Points ∼19% +36%
Acer Aspire M5-581TG-53314G52Mass
2.38 Points ∼20% +39%
Asus VivoBook S400CA-CA006H
2.41 Points ∼20% +41%
HP Envy m6-1101sg
2.89 Points ∼24% +69%
Legend
      Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE Intel Core i3-3217U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 24 GB SanDisk U100 SSD Cache
      HP Envy 4-1000sg Intel Core i3-2367M, Intel HD Graphics 3000, 320 GB - 5400 rpm
      Acer Aspire M3-581TG Intel Core i7-2637M, NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M, Lite-On LMT-256M3M
      Asus S56CM-XX079H Intel Core i5-3317U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 635M, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380 + 24 GB SanDisk i100 SSD Cache
      Acer Aspire M5-581TG-53314G52Mass Intel Core i5-3317U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 20 GB SSD Cache
      Asus VivoBook S400CA-CA006H Intel Core i5-3317U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 24 GB SanDisk U100 SSD Cache
      HP Envy m6-1101sg Intel Core i5-3210M, AMD Radeon HD 7670M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVT-60A1YT0
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
3159 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
6676 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
3844 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
0.75 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
1.71 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
12.31 fps
Help

System Performance

PCMark 7 Scores
PCMark 7 Scores

The result of the PCMark 7 is 5307 points. Ultrabooks with i5 3317U can be up to 33% faster, depending on the speed of the SSD/HDD; then come the true SSDs, such as the one in the Aspire M3-581TG. It seems that the Core i5 ultrabooks hardly benefit from their faster graphics cards. Even HP Envy m6-1101sg, which performed very well in the OpenGL test, is now 9% slower. The cause lies in the slow hard drives. On the other side is the Aspire M3-581TG. It scores very high thanks to the quick access times of its Lite-On LMT-256M3M SSD. 

PCMark 7
Score
Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE
2633 Points ∼40%
HP Envy m6-1101sg
2392 Points ∼36% -9%
Asus S56CM-XX079H
2532 Points ∼38% -4%
HP Envy 4-1000sg
2556 Points ∼39% -3%
Acer Aspire M5-581TG-53314G52Mass
2826 Points ∼43% +7%
Asus VivoBook S400CA-CA006H
2823 Points ∼43% +7%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
3503 Points ∼53% +33%
System Storage
Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE
2181 Points ∼34%
HP Envy m6-1101sg
1474 Points ∼23% -32%
Asus S56CM-XX079H
1950 Points ∼30% -11%
Acer Aspire M5-581TG-53314G52Mass
1848 Points ∼29% -15%
Asus VivoBook S400CA-CA006H
1942 Points ∼30% -11%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
5271 Points ∼81% +142%
4.8
Windows 8 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
6.3
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
5.9
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
4.8
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.2
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.9
PC Mark
PCMark 72633 points
Help

Storage Device

Crystal Disk Mark: 98 MB/s Read Seq. (HDD)
Crystal Disk Mark: 98 MB/s Read Seq. (HDD)
HD-Tune: 97 MB/s Read Seq. (HDD)
HD-Tune:  97 MB/s Read Seq. (HDD)

HDTune showed an average of 97 MB/s – a good result for a 5400 RPM hard drive. CrystalDiskMark measured 98 MB/s. The HDD scores of PCMark Vantage and PCMark 7 hardly benefited from the throughput. The results are far from the 4500 points (PCMark Vantage HDD score) that a quick 5400 RPM HDD can achieve. The storage score in the PCMark 7 is 2181 points - average for a 5400 RPM HDD.

The Momentus Thin reads small data very slowly (4K Read 0.35 MB/s CrystalDiskMark). Many of the common 2.5-inch HDDs are up to 100% faster (5400 RPM). You can find more comparative data in the HDD/SSD Benchmark list in the FAQ section. The SanDisk U100 SSD (24 GB) functions only as cache for the HDD. It is unusable by the user and its memory stores frequently used data. This speeds up applications and system start-up.

Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 24 GB SanDisk U100 SSD Cache
Transfer Rate Minimum: 8.4 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 184.8 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 97.4 MB/s
Access Time: 19.1 ms
Burst Rate: 94.2 MB/s
CPU Usage: 14.9 %

Graphics Card

In turbo mode, the HD 4000 is overclocked (1000 MHz) and at idle it is downclocked (350 MHz). The 3DMark 06 score is 3504 points - in the lower range for this graphics chip. The reason is not only the CPU dependence of the benchmark (i3 is relatively weak), but mainly the shared Single Channel DDR3 memory. As expected, the rivals with dedicated graphic cards achieve higher results: Asus S56CM (+113%), Aspire M3-581TG (+162%), Aspire M5-581TG (+180%), HP Envy m6-1101sg (+126%). The GT620M alternative (+192%) is also significantly faster (Aspire V5-571G).

3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
3893 points
3DMark Vantage2580 points
Help

Gaming Performance

The results of the 3DMark 06 indicate how games should run. Performance is at a  low level - users should not get too excited about it. Some relief may come from the possibility to upgrade the RAM (~25% increase). The two slots allow Dual Channel RAM to be at the disposal of the GPU. 

Still, the graphics card barely suffices for gaming purposes. Games run smoothly with minimum details and low resolutions at the most. Gamers would be better off with a GeForce GT 620MGT 640M, GT 635M or HD 7670M. Unfortunately Lenovo offers only the weakest of those.

Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE
Intel Core i3-3217U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 24 GB SanDisk U100 SSD Cache
Asus S56CM-XX079H
Intel Core i5-3317U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 635M, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380 + 24 GB SanDisk i100 SSD Cache
Acer Aspire M5-581TG-53314G52Mass
Intel Core i5-3317U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 20 GB SSD Cache
Anno 2070
1366x768 Medium Preset AA:on 15.931.01
95%
52.8
232%
World of Tanks v8
1366x768 Medium Preset22.228.8
30%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
95% / 95%
131% / 131%
low med.high ultra
Anno 2070 (2011) 33.115.910.1fps
Sleeping Dogs (2012) 12.89.25fps
World of Tanks v8 (2012) 38.922.218.9fps

Emissions

This is rare: the fan is barely audible under full load. The base remains cool.
This is rare: the fan is barely audible under full load. The base remains cool.

Noise Level

The U510 surprises: no matter how much we torture the notebook, it never gets louder than 33 dB (A). Strangely, the optical drive completely kills the silence of the fan with a loud roar - we measured 43 dB (A) when playing a DVD. On the other hand, the hard drive is as quiet as the fan, never exceeding 30.6 dB (A). The fan never completely turns off.

For the full load test we ran Prime95 (CPU) and FurMark (HD 4000) simultaneously for two hours. This increased the noise level only to 33 dB (A). None of the rivals is this quiet under full stress (40-48 dB (A)). Quietest is the Aspire TimelineUltra M5-581TG (GT 640M) at 42 dB (A).

Noise Level

Idle 30.5 / 30.5 / 30.5 dB(A)
HDD 30.6 dB(A)
DVD 43.4 / dB(A)
Load 31.4 / 33.1 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Stress test: CPU constantly @1.8 GHz
Stress test: CPU constantly @1.8 GHz

The U510 remains reasonably cool. At idle and with sporadic load (office use) the base and the palm rest are lukewarm to warm. At no point is the 35 oC (95 oF) mark exceeded. 

Under constant load the temperatures rise to 38 oC (100.4 oF). In this case (stress test for several hours), the CPU steadily runs at the default clock of 1.8 GHz. During the pure CPU stress test with Prime95 the clock frequency was the same. The 3DMark 06 test we ran immediately afterwards showed the same result as before.

Max. Load
 35.4 °C34.5 °C27.8 °C 
 31.8 °C37.8 °C27 °C 
 30.6 °C37.2 °C30.2 °C 
 
30.2 °C37.1 °C34.1 °C
29.8 °C36 °C34.1 °C
29.1 °C31.3 °C31.5 °C
Maximum: 37.8 °C
Average: 32.5 °C
 Maximum: 37.1 °C
Average: 32.6 °C
Power Supply (max.)  40.6 °C | Room Temperature 22.3 °C | Voltcraft IR-360

Speakers

Where are the speakers? The music seems to be coming out of the area of the hinge, thus we believe they are located above the keyboard. Opening the case proves us right. The small speakers are suspended in a movable rubber buffer. Thus the membrane can vibrate better. The result is a sound that is acoustically similar to a high-end multimedia notebook or a MacBook Pro. There are no distortions at high volume and the highs and mids are clear and distinct.

The bass is largely lacking. Even though multimedia laptops have a separate subwoofer, we are happy with the sound of the notebook for this price range and its slim case. Music enthusiasts can connect headphones or external speakers via the analog headphone/microphone combo jack.

The position of the speakers has a clear advantage over devices with speakers under the palm rest (requires a desk) or above the keyboard. The lack of a desk, covering the speakers, or closing the notebook has no effect on the sound.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The battery life at idle of almost 8 hours (lowest brightness, energy-saving profile) is surprising. Not because it is a good run time for an ultrabook, but because it is equipped with a meager 45 Wh battery. The low energy consumption of less than 7 W (minimum) and 12 W (idle, maximum) provide the U510 with a good battery life. 

The rivals with the same form factor have similar energy consumption at idle, but higher consumption under load (idle/stress test), because of the dedicated graphics cards: Asus S56CM (GT 635M, 7/60 W), Acer Aspire TimelineU M3-581TG (i7, GT 640M, 4/70 W), Acer Aspire TimelineUltra M5-581TG (i5, GT 640M, 9/69 W), HP Envy m6-1101sg (i5, HD 7670M, 9/48 W). Due to the lack of a discrete GPU, the U510 draws a maximum of 27 W during the stress test. Our Lenovo is not an extreme energy saver, despite the weak processor. Optimus and Intel's energy-saving functions (CPU) provide even the powerful rivals with high energy efficiency. 

Our stress test (Prime95, FurMark) shows the highest possible power consumption. The small 65 W power supply seems somewhat excessive. However, we have to take into account charging the battery as well as the other configurations with Core i5/i7 and GT 620M.

Power consumption

Off / Standby 0.1 / 0.2 Watt
Idle 6.7 / 11.3 / 12.1 Watt
Load 21.7 / 26.8 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 960

Battery Life

The WLAN test (a script reloads web pages, 150 cd/m² brightness dimmed at 3 levels) finished after 4:47 hours. This test is more realistic than the idle one, because at an acceptable for indoor use brightness, text was scrolled up and down and video clips were played. 

The rivals do not perform much better (Idle/WLAN): Asus S56CM (44 Wh, 3:28/2:35), Acer Aspire TimelineU M3-581TG (54 Wh, 11:39/6:04), Acer Aspire TimelineUltra M5-581TG (54 Wh, 11:12/5:05), HP Envy m6-1101sg (62 Wh, 6:40/4:55). Those seeking a long battery life should not immediately buy the S56CM, but rather the Aspire model, which also delivers the best graphics performance. The customer cannot get around the glossy display among these rivals.

Idle: 468 min
Idle: 468 min
Load: 145 min
Load: 145 min
DVD: 244 min + 192 min charging time
DVD: 244 min + 192 min charging time
Battery runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
7h 48min
WiFi Surfing
4h 47min
DVD
4h 04min
Load (maximum brightness)
2h 25min

Verdict

Lenovo's IdeaPad U510 (Model MBM62GE with Core i3-3217U) tries to be two things at once. On one hand it is an affordable entry-level ultrabook. On the other it tries not to skimp on workmanship in order not to look like a plastic brick. Several points of the plan have been a success. The interfaces, including the mini-VGA port and optical drive, correspond to the standard 15-inch notebook. 

Workmanship is an important point for Lenovo, because the notebook looks very much like the MacBook Pro. Had the manufacturer omitted the numeric keypad, going to court would have been inevitable. Not much should be expected of the strength of an aluminum unibody for 700 Euros (~$930). The material feels of high quality, but the bendable base and the weak display lid prove that it only looks that way. 

Still, Lenovo has put some effort into it and the workmanship is adequate for this price range. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the keyboard. It gives in when typing. The keys have a vague pressure point and a short stroke. The touchpad is not much better either. The high level of pressure needed to register a click is tiresome and the short key drop is annoying. 

Speaking of weak points: the glossy display and its low luminance hinder outdoor use. On the other hand, the contrast ratio of 611:1 is good and the colors are crisp and clear. 

There is no room for criticism in terms of performance, excessive heat, and noise level. For 700 Euros (~$930) the user receives sufficient power, as can be expected from a low-voltage Core i3. Gaming performance is nonexistent on our unit. The i5 and i7 models are equipped with a GeForce GT 620M. Lenovo will shortly start delivering the U510 with the successor GT 720M.

The fiercest rival is definitely Asus S56CM (680 Euros/~$903), which is cheaper and comes with an i5 and GT 635M. It has more gaming power, but shorter battery life. Acer's Aspire TimelineUltra M5-581TG is not cheaper with an equivalent CPU. But the longer battery life, better keyboard (backlit), and good workmanship bring value for money.

Lenovo IdeaPad U510: elegant look and distinctive weaknesses.
Lenovo IdeaPad U510: elegant look and distinctive weaknesses.

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In Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE
In Review: Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE

Specifications

Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM77 (Panther Point)
:: Memory
4096 MB, Single Channel DDR3
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, AUO B156XTN03, TN LED, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 24 GB SanDisk U100 SSD Cache, 500 GB 5400 rpm
:: Soundcard
HD Audio
:: Connections
2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, Audio Connections: Combo port, Card Reader: SD, MMC, Mini VGA - no adapter included
:: Networking
Realtek PCIe FE Family Controller 10/100 (10MBit), Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 (b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GT70N
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 21 x 382 x 250
:: Weight
2.182 kg Power Supply: 0.35 kg
:: Battery
45 Wh Lithium-Ion, 11.1 V 4060 mAh
Battery runtime (according to manufacturer): 6 Stunden min
:: Price
599 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: 1280x720, Speakers: 2 x Stereo, Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: no, Security and Support, McAfee Emerald 11.0, OneKey Rescue System 7.0, Lenovo Energy, Management Software 7.0, Power2GO 5.6, Microsoft Office 2010 Transition, Windows Live essential 2011, Adobe Reader 9.4, Lenovo EE Boot Optimizer, Lenovo Solution Center, I, 24 Months Warranty

 

as it looks.
as it looks.
The keyboard bed gives in on several places when typing.
The keyboard bed gives in on several places when typing.
The edge below the touchpad can pressed.
The edge below the touchpad can pressed.
The case has no maintenance cover, but opening it is still possible.
The case has no maintenance cover, but opening it is still possible.
But the user should very careful,
But the user should very careful,
removing the keyboard can quickly lead to scratches.
removing the keyboard can quickly lead to scratches.
Before the bottom cover can come off, four screws below the keyboard must be removed.
Before the bottom cover can come off, four screws below the keyboard must be removed.
The hard drive is combined with a small SanDisk U100 SSD with 24 GB capacity.
The hard drive is combined with a small SanDisk U100 SSD with 24 GB capacity.
The user cannot use the storage of the mSATA module.
The user cannot use the storage of the mSATA module.
The system uses it as a cache.
The system uses it as a cache.
The speakers are installed on a movable rubber mount.
The speakers are installed on a movable rubber mount.
The 350-gram 65 W power supply is enough for the full load power consumption.
The 350-gram  65 W power supply is enough for the full load power consumption.
The bar shape makes it handy.
The bar shape makes it handy.
The power supply delivers more energy and the notebook draws.
The power supply delivers more energy and the notebook draws.
This is the place of the GeForce GT 625M in the more expensive models.
This is the place of the GeForce GT 625M in the more expensive models.
The battery has a capacity of 45 Wh.
The battery has a capacity of 45 Wh.
This provides run times of four to five hours.
This provides run times of four to five hours.
But the reflective and not very bright display hinders outdoor use.
But the reflective and not very bright display hinders outdoor use.
A pamphlet explains the warranty extensions available for the U510.
A pamphlet explains the warranty extensions available for the U510.
Lenovo IdeaPad U510: extremely quiet fan and low temperatures.
Lenovo IdeaPad U510: extremely quiet fan and low temperatures.
Lenovo IdeaPad U510: the cool aluminium surface is pleasant. The base unit is very stable.
Lenovo IdeaPad U510: the cool aluminium surface is pleasant. The base unit is very stable.
Lenovo IdeaPad U510: the keyboard is disappointing, the key stop is boncy.
Lenovo IdeaPad U510: the keyboard is disappointing, the key stop is boncy.
IdeaPad U510: the affordable Windows 8 ultrabook?
IdeaPad U510: the affordable Windows 8 ultrabook?
Lenovo sells the largest model of the IdeaPad U family for 700 Euros.
Lenovo sells the largest model of the IdeaPad U family for 700 Euros.
The 15.6-inch notebook is aimed at customers,
The 15.6-inch notebook is aimed at customers,
who want an ultrabook at a lower price.
who want an ultrabook at a lower price.
One should not complain about the height.
One should not complain about the height.
Intel's 22 mm specification has been met.
Intel's 22 mm specification has been met.
Lenovo advertises 21 mm, but counting the feet the height is 24 mm in total.
Lenovo advertises 21 mm, but counting the feet the height is 24 mm in total.
The aluminium display and bottom covers ensure a premium look.
The aluminium display and bottom covers ensure a premium look.
However, the plates do not provide much in terms of strength.
However, the plates do not provide much in terms of strength.
The working environment made of lacquered plastic is not as stable,
The working environment made of lacquered plastic is not as stable,

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Pro

+Good battery life
+Energy efficient
+Good speakers
+Very quiet, except for the DVD
+Good performance
 

Contra

-Low brightness
-Uneven illumination
-Bad keyboard feedback
-Noisy DVD drive
-Bendable base unit
-Low gaming performance with the i3
-Mini VGA without adapter
-Poor webcam

Shortcut

What we like

The workmanship is mostly successful, but far from perfect. 

What we'd like to see

An ultrabook aimed at the office user, but with better input devices. 

What surprises

The bold claim that this is an ultrabook. The height and weight requirements were clearly missed (Intel requires 22 mm and 1.4 kg). Otherwise a great contrast that is a surprise in this price range. 

The competition

Notebooks with an aluminium elegance and low weight: Asus S56CM (i7, GT 635M), Aspire TimelineU M3-581TG (i5, GT 640M), Aspire TimelineUltra M5-581TG (i5, GT 640M), HP Envy m6-1101sg (i5, HD 7670M). And one without a DVD drive: Asus VivoBook S400CA (i5, Touchscreen).

The lowest priced 14- and 15-inch (with DVD drive) notebooks are Acer Aspire V5-431 (from 400 Euros), V5-571PG (680 Euros) und Medion Akoya S4216 (600 Euros).

Rating

Lenovo IdeaPad U510 MBM62GE
12/19/2012 v3
Sebastian Jentsch

Chassis
78%
Keyboard
70%
Pointing Device
86%
Connectivity
66%
Weight
85%
Battery
89%
Display
72%
Games Performance
66%
Application Performance
91%
Temperature
89%