Lenovo IdeaPad U410 Review: Trying To Keep Up
Performance - Processor, Application, Hard Drive
Our Lenovo IdeaPad U410 review unit came equipped with a Core Intel Core i5-3317U processor, eight gigabytes of RAM and an NVIDIA GT 610M discrete GPU. That last specification is the most interesting because it’s unusual – most laptops in the ultrabook don’t come with discrete graphics. In addition, the GT 610M is not a powerful part. It’s the bare minimum offered by NVIDIA for this latest generation of products. I’m eager to see how much of an advantage it really provides over Intel HD 4000.
For competition we’re rounding up the ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Both are a bit more expensive but, from a performance perspective, don’t significantly outrun the U410 on paper. If the U310 can handle these laptops it should be able to handle anything else powered by a low-voltage Intel Core processor.
Performance – Processor
We start our performance review with SiSoft Sandra’s Processor Arithmetic and Multimedia benchmarks. It provides a gauge of overall performance relative to the competitors and usually matches the story found in our other benchmarks better than any other single test.
We can really see the difference between the products in this benchmark. Both the Prime and the Carbon have Core i7 low-voltage processors, and they clearly outrun the Core i5 in the U410. They don’t dominate it, but there performance gap is easy to see with a quick glance.
Is this replicated in 7-Zip and Peacekeeper? Let’s find out.
This pair of benchmarks is, if anything, even harsher on the U410. The Peacekeeper benchmark is particularly telling. It shows that there’s a notable gap between the Core i5 and i7 parts, a gap that might have real-world implications during heavy web browsing or while playing browser-based games.
Performance – Application
We temper our processor performance results by timing two real-world applications. First among these is Windows Live Movie Maker. We use this software to save/encode a standardized video clip to a 1080p .WMV file
This application shows the real world results of the Core i5 processor in a demanding scenario. Verdict: it doesn’t seem to make much difference. The gap is most similar to the one found in SiSoft’s Processor Multimedia test – noticeable, but not so large as to make a significant difference.
Does Sunlit Green Batch Blitz agree with this conclusion? This freeware app doesn’t make great use of multiple threads, so it tends to rely on pure processor clock speed. Let’s see if that has an impact.
That’s a different story, isn’t it? Here we see there’s a large gap between the Core i7 ultrabooks and the Core i5 powered U410, large enough that it would be easy for the user to notice in real-world applications.
Overall, it would appear that there is good reason to upgrade to the Core i7 if performance is of even moderate concern. Lenovo will let you grab a Core i7-3517U for just $50 more than the Core i5 variant. This almost seems like a no-brainer in favor of the Core i7 unless speed is of little concern or budget is a serious constraint.
Performance – Hard Drive
The U410 is an affordable ultrabook. Like most competitors in the category, it manages to meet a low price point by offering a mechanical drive paired with a solid state cache drive. A single, larger solid state drive does not appear to be available even as an option.
Laptops with cache drives usually are left behind by brethren with the full enchilada, so let’s see if the U410 can struggle along.
These results are typical for a cache drive. Reads are actually quite good, and the U410 even beats the X1 Carbon when doing 4MB writes. However, write speeds are far less impressive. Let’s see if HD Tune agrees.
The HD Tune test we run simply averages transfer read speeds, so it does not pick up on the write speed weakness. As a result, the U410 actually beats the field. It also provides excellent access times. I think the HD Tune results are more representative of how the drive feels in everyday use. Response delay is at solid state drive levels and reads are quick, resulting in fast load speeds for large programs (like games).