Following up on last year's N100, Lenovo has released the unsurprisingly named N200, continuing to bring style to the well known boxiness of Lenovo's designs, while retaining its world famous strength.
The chassis has remained unchanged from the N100. The silver, aerodynamic external casing is pleasing to the eye, while the matte black interior imparts a sense of ruggedness while still managing to banish the 'tank' feeling that accompanies the Thinkpad range.
In terms of thermal management, hot air is expelled from the left hand side of the machine rather than to the back, so left handed mouse users might feel a little toasted at times.
Our review sample came with a 15.4", 1280x800 'VibrantView' screen, which simply means high gloss. While this supposedly gives richer colours and requires less backlight power compared to a matte screen, it also means it reflects mercilessly, ceiling lights often obscuring vision as a result.
The hinges that hold the screen to the base are strong enough to happily swing the notebook around by the screen itself, and it takes a fair amount of flex before the image starts distorting as well. The screen grows rapidly light or dark if you change your viewing height, and while this doesn't cause too much trouble we found ourselves wishing that the screen would fold back further, so it would be easier to see while standing up.
The touchpad is sensitive and one of the nicer surfaces we've used, although there's no markings for where the scroll panel is. While this didn't bother us, newer users may miss out on this feature simply by not knowing it's there. Lenovo's keyboard is still a pleasure to use, though.
At the top right of the keyboard are the custom media buttons, including those for controlling volume -- unfortunately the buttons need to be pressed repeatedly to adjust the volume more than one notch, you can't just hold one down to reach the desired level.
The guts of the N200 have been upgraded to an Intel PM965 board, meaning a faster system overall through access to newer and better processors. This comes with a GeForce Go 7300, so while it's not crash-hot graphics it's certainly fine for Vista and everyday use.
There are still four USB ports, one Firewire port and a 5-in-1 (SD/MMC/XD/MS/MS Pro) card reader, headphone and microphone jack and fingerprint security. An Express Card slot has taken the place of the PCMCIA, keeping things nicely up to date. A 1.3MP webcam sits at the top of the monitor.
Video outputs are disappointing, with the ancient VGA and S-Video outputs revealing why Apple still reigns in the multimedia field.
Not so usefully, Lenovo has pre-installed a whole bunch of unneeded crapware -- Windows Live toolbar, a Lenovo gadget in the Sidebar, and a bunch of Lenovo-designed software which is supposed to be helpful, but ends up replicating already built-in Windows features. The default font 'Segoe' was also replaced on our test machine -- puzzling since Microsoft had already spent so much time, effort and money in finding a significantly more readable font in the first place.
Diskeeper home is included for your defragmenting needs, which is nice -- we only found this out when it started defragging the hard drive entirely without our permission, sapping away our performance. Similarly annoying was a pre-scheduled backup with Lenovo's own Rescue and Recovery software, which regularly popped up without our permission. This was also a favourite habit of the fingerprint reading software -- regardless of how often it was dismissed.
Other applications included are PC-Doctor 5, Corel Business Center, Picasa and the Cyberlink 'Power' range of products. Lenovo's Multimedia Center is also laoded, but it's essentially pointless middleware that serves as a launcher for other programs -- and unfortunately if you remove it, it seems to remove Cyberlink's products as well.
Once we'd aggressively removed all the extra installed applications to reclaim some performance, we got started on the testing side of things.
PCMark05 yielded a respectable 4,117 marks, 3DMark06 a lousy 576 -- considering the GeForce Go 7300 and the business focus though, this is unsurprising.
Turning off all power saving features and putting in the King Kong DVD, the six cell Li-Ion battery lasted 93 minutes and 45 seconds, an unexciting but expected result for the hardware involved. Under normal uses with power saving techniques enabled this would obviously last longer.
On the multimedia side, the speakers are purely token as tends to be the case with notebooks, and even though they weren't capable of much noise at top volume they seemed to cope okay with no distortion noticeable.
The Lenovo 3000 N200 is quite a nifty notebook which verges on desktop replacement. Once all the extra useless software has been stripped off, it's a robust and well performing system that is sure to find a home slung from the shoulder of a few office execs.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)