A solid laptop6/18/2012 2:58:13 PM

Pros: Build quality: the laptop is made of a metal shell, has one long, metal hinge (rather than two small plastic hinges) and is very sturdy. Everything feels “clamped down” very well. The laptop is also lightweight. Battery life: I have not willingly let the battery burn out, nor have I needed to use the laptop on battery life for a super-long period of time. However, the time I have spent on battery life (~1 hour) got the battery down (on Power Saver) to ~80%. I am confident the battery can last up to the listed 4 hours. Processor: the i3 is fairly fast. It is more than enough for everyday tasks and keeps up well with lightweight development. Graphics: runs games quite nicely, given the size of the laptop: Civilization V, Starcraft II, Team Fortress 2, Diablo III, Dota 2, and League of Legends all seem to run smoothly on acceptable settings.

Cons: Graphics: the U400’s graphics are bizarre. The laptop has a discrete 6470M. But much to my surprise, it also has integrated Intel HD graphics. The idea is that (via Catalyst Control Center) certain applications (like your browser or music player) use the integrated card, while 3D intensive applications (like 3D modeling or games) use the discrete card. This serves to save battery life, and the Catalyst Control Center lets you choose whether or not an application uses the discrete card. This functionality is handy, but can be more trouble than it’s worth. The ATI graphics manager isn’t a great piece of software, and can take some adjusting. I sought to override the Intel graphics altogether in the BIOS, but there is no option to do so. Managing applications would not normally be a problem, but games that use OpenGL (in my case, Amnesia and Fallout 3) seem to ignore your desire to run them with the 6470M and lock you into using the Intel card. This makes a few games unplayable.

Overall Review: Functionality: the USB 3.0 is fast. It really is quite nice. The webcam is decent quality, and the built-in microphone sounds ok, too. The laptop has a secondary power button on the side that allows you to boot into the recovery partition, which serves as a fail safe. The “cooling system” advertised doesn’t seem to have anything special. However, 3D gaming doesn’t require anything excessive, like a cooling pad. Hours of gameplay do not overheat the laptop. The screen resolution is scaled to the smaller screen, so the display is very sharp. There was little bloatware installed with the laptop. The touchpad works surprisingly well. The multi-touch gestures are more help than they are trouble. The optical drive is nice and fast. I have yet to disassemble the laptop, but it is rather tedious and difficult. There are 4 plastic nubs on each corner of the laptop, and there are screws underneath. The whole bottom is one metal shell. If you’re looking to upgrade the RAM, be aware.

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