Lenovo's new IdeaPad S300 and S4400may start at the modest price of $499, but they have a premium look and feel that you'd normally pay much more for. At Lenovo's IFA Booth we had a chance to go hands-on with the 14-inch IdeaPad S400 and were impressed with its gorgeous design and luxurious keyboard.
The IdeaPad S400 comes in three colors: silver gray, cotton-candy pink and crimson red, with the lid and bottom both painted in the theme color while the deck, bezel and hinges remain black. There's no question that the crimson red color is the real star of the show and the photos in this post just don't do it justice. Looking at the red lid and smooth red bottom, which has matching crimson rubber feed and even a series of attractive looking air vents, you might forget this is a laptop and start thinking it's a sports car.
Even better, the S400's lid, bottom and deck are all soft-touch surfaces that have a comfy, rubberized feel. When we placed our hands on the soft-touch deck and began typing, our wrists felt like they were lying on top of gel pad wrist rest. Normally, a soft-touch finish like that is only found in expensive, high-end notebooks like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
At 3.96 pounds and just .86 inches thick, the S400 really looks quite slim and felt light light in our hands. Though it's not Ultrabook-light, you can carry this notebook anymore and fit it into any bag.
While Lenovo's ThinkPads are known for their worldclass keyboards, many of its IdeaPads haven't followed suit. Sure, the "Accutype" keyboards on IdeaPads look a lot like the ThinkPad's new island-style keyboard, but many of them just don't have the same sharp tactile feel. In fact, the IdeaPad Z500 and U510 that we saw this week had keyboards that weren't as tactile as we'd like and even suffered from some flex.
Fortunately, the IdeaPad S400's keyboard also feels like a ThinkPad keyboard, with strong tactile feedback and a rock solid, flex-free base. Combine the great feel of the keys with the soft-touch palmrest and you have a truly fantastic typing experience.
As with any sub-$500 notebook, the IdeaPad S400 does have a few feature that are not particularly premium. The plastic hinges on the lid made creaking noises and seemed really flimsy on the demo units we tested (we hope this is fixed on production models) and the low-res, 1366 x 768 screen was nothing to type home about.
You can spec-out the IdeaPad S400 with up to a Core i5 or AMD A8 quad-core CPU, and can speed boot times with a 32GB SSD cache so this system should offer reasonable mid-range performance to go with its touted 5-hour battery life. But even with the base configuration, you get a fantastic keyboard and red-hot design for under $500. Based on what we saw in our hands-on, that seems like a bargain.