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Apple's MacBook Air vs. The Lenovo IdeaPad U310, Intel's Cheapest Ultrabook

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By , dealnews Senior Feature Writer

Yesterday we compared the specifications of three of the most notable upcoming ultrabook releases we saw at CES. Today, we're taking Intel's ultrabook push and stacking it up against one of the most popular existing super slim laptops: Apple's MacBook Air.

For non-Apple technology to stand a fighting chance in an area largely pioneered and dominated by Apple, most industry insiders agree that the competitor device needs to be as good or better than Apple's latest models, while (most importantly) remaining significantly cheaper. This is largely the criticism many Android tablets faced when they hit the market with bloated price tags. With this in mind, we aim to compare the MacBook Air to the cheapest ultrabook touted during CES: the Lenovo IdeaPad U310.

Lenovo IdeaPad U310
MacBook Air 13" (2011)
Price
$699
As low as $1,050
Processor
Intel Core Series
1.7GHz Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge dual-core
Display
13.3" 1366x768
13.3" 1440x900
RAM
4GB DDR3
4GB DDR3
Storage
500GB HDD w/ SSD option
128GB SSD
Weight
3.7 lbs.
2.96 lbs.
Thickness
0.7"
0.68" at its thickest
OS
Windows 7
Mac OS X Lion (10.7)
Other features
2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB port, HDMI, 802.11n, Intel Wireless Display (WiDi), SD card reader
Bluetooth 4.0, Thunderbolt port, backlit keyboard, Mini DisplayPort, 2 USB ports, Mic-in, FaceTime camera, SD card reader
Rated Battery
up to 8 hours
up to 7 hours


What You'll Lose (and Gain) with the Lower Lenovo Price

One of the more noticeable differences between the two laptops above is that the Lenovo doesn't taper off into oblivion (or 0.11") like the MacBook Air does. However, at .7", it matches the larger end of the Air. Likely because of this variation in form factor, the U310 is also 0.7 lbs. heavier. A possible benefit from its heft: a slightly better battery rating. And while you get significantly more storage space, it's not an au courant high-performance SSD (which assists in boot times among other things.) Note that the U310 will allow for upgrades to an SSD, but price information to do so is not currently available.

How the MacBook Air Stacks Up to the U310

Being deal-friendly tech consumers, we won't limit our comparison to solely the most recent generation of the Air. The price of the previous-generation 13" MacBook Air — with a Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD — has dropped to as low as $900 in recent months; compared to that, the $699 Lenovo has a lot more to offer for the price, starting with a more up-to-date processor, more RAM, and a bigger hard drive.

Even the current-generation 13" MacBook Air (which we've seen for as low $1,050, as noted) is no match for the $699 U310, since the Air lacks a USB 3.0 port (although it does have Thunderbolt), WiDi, and HDMI. Not to mention that even at its lowest price, the MacBook Air is still $351 more than the very affordable U310. For some, that difference is big enough to make up for any shortcomings.

What if You Opt for a Refurb Mac?

We've seen the refurbished Core 2 Duo-based MacBook Air hit an all-time low of $704, which can be tempting, but it still packs an older processor. However, for just $5 more than the Lenovo, you can get that razor-thin taper and slightly lighter weight. A refurb MacBook Air with the Core i5 CPU is more likely to cost about $1,099, which again puts Apple's alternative at a much higher price point than the Lenovo ultrabook.

So no matter which MacBook Air you compare it to (new or old), the Lenovo U310 always manages to undercut Apple by offering more for your dollar. Yes, the systems are very different (arguably in terms of quality), but so too are the price points; the Lenovo may allow some budget-minded consumers to try the ultraportable/book trend without feeling overwhelmed by the cost, which is exactly what we saw happen with Amazon's Kindle Fire and tablets. That's good news for the consumer because, for once, ultrabooks are doing what they were designed to do — challenge Apple's MacBook Air on the price front.

Photo credit: Netbook News



An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisRamirez. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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1 comment
stoner1970
Too bad the U310 isn't available until MAY!!! I'll take an older refurb Mac anyday of the week..
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