My hunt for a new laptop continues. I definitely want an ultrabook, even if it means paying a premium for a thinner, lighter design, but I'd really like to keep the price under $600. Given that most ultrabooks start at $700, I'm having to marshal all my cheapskate powers.
The latest candidate: Newegg has the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 13.3-inch touch-screen ultrabook (model 59365302) for $599.99 shipped, along with a $50 Newegg gift card.
Staples is also selling the U310 for $599.99 shipped, but you'll probably be on the hook for sales tax. Plus, no gift card. On the other hand, you may be able to find the system in stock at your local store, meaning you can actually lay eyes and hands on it before buying -- always a smart move.
I may just zip over so I can do exactly that. The U310 sounds pretty sweet on paper, but in photos it looks a little boxy, a little MacBook Pro. To me, half the appeal of an ultrabook is its razor-thin, wedge-shaped form factor, which is not in evidence here.
Update: I stand corrected. I just got back from Staples, and the system is gorgeous. I tried to buy one on the spot, figuring the value of seeing it in person was worth paying sales tax, but they were out of stock. (This despite their Web site indicating that store had them.) So I came home and ordered from Newegg. I've waited this long; I can wait another 4-7 days.
At least the specs meet my needs: Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor, 13.3-inch display, three USB ports (two of which are USB 3.0), lightweight chassis (3.7 pounds), and a hybrid storage system. This last consists of a 24GB SSD that allows for lightning-fast startup, plus a 500GB hard drive to accommodate lots of apps and data.
Surprisingly, the U310 rocks a touch screen. I don't consider that a must-have feature by any means, but if I'm going to suffer with Windows 8, I might as well use it the way Microsoft intended. If nothing else, flick-scrolling Web pages is pretty nice.
In an ideal world, the system would have a backlit keyboard and all-SSD storage, but those aren't deal breakers for me. Neither is the lack of Bluetooth (I've never once needed it on a laptop). (Update: I stand corrected again! The system does have Bluetooth. Apparently a previous configuration (which I read about in a review) did not. Sorry for the mistake! At least it's in your favor this time.)
Most of the reviews I've found (including CNET's) are focused on the non-touch-screen version that debuted last year running Windows 7 -- but they were pretty positive. Thankfully, the few user reviews on Newegg's and Staples' product pages (all pertaining to this exact model) are positively glowing.
Thus, although the U310 lacks some of the sex appeal of other ultrabooks, it's a darn good buy at under $600.
Bonus deal: Game deals come to those who wait. The new Tomb Raider debuted just two months ago to almost universal acclaim, but with a $50 price tag for the PC version. Today, Amazon has Tomb Raider (Windows) for $34.99. I'm waiting for it to dip even lower, which it invariably will, but if you can wait no longer to meet the new and improved Lara Croft, here's your chance to save 30 percent.
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