Maybe you can have it all. Despite a notebook market fragmented into various extremes – from netbooks that can barely play YouTube videos to desktop replacements you can barely lift off the desk – a handful of notebooks still manage to find some middle ground. Lenovo’s attempt to balance size, power, and price manifests as the IdeaPad V460, an aluminum-clad, 14-inch notebook with both integrated and discrete graphics for power when you need it and battery life when you don’t.
Features and Specs
Lenovo’s V460 follows the now-familiar pattern for mobility notebooks with some bite: It idles on Intel’s GMA graphics chipset for puttering around the desktop, then fires up the GeForce 310M waiting in the wings when it’s time to crunch some numbers. Our review unit got an extra dose of pep in the form of an Intel Core i5 processor running at 2.27GHz, rather than the Core i3 on the base configuration. Every version available through Lenovo offers GeForce 310M graphics with 512MB of dedicated RAM, a 500GB hard drive, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and a built-in DVD-RW drive. Some retailers, including Sears and Walmart, carry a cheaper variant, which squeezes the price down $200 with a 320GB hard drive and no GeForce chip.
Unlike many next-gen notebooks with switchable graphics, including the competing Asus U30Jc-A1, the V460 lacks Nvidia’s Optimus technology, which basically acts like an automatic transmission for switching GPUs. To Lenovo’s credit, it does offer a suite of some business-savvy options carried over from the ThinkPad line that might be of use, including shock protection for the hard drive, lockable USB ports to prevent theft, and a standard fingerprint reader.
At 4.8 pounds and 1.3 inches thick, the V460 is actually right on par with the competing Asus U30Jc-A1 – a flattering comparison considering it delivers an extra inch of screen size. Neither machine compares to leaner “thin and light” machines that use ULV chips, but they more than make up for the boost in size with dramatically increased performance.
In a overdue departure from the textured plastic found on many of Lenovo’s other ThinkPads, the V460 gets cloaked almost entirely in anodized black aluminum, which gives it a stealthy, almost sinister look. Think less of an exec with a ThinkPad popped open on the boardroom meeting table, and more of a Bond villain plotting world domination in an underground cavern while stroking his pet spider. Even if you have no plans to control the world by injecting the entire population with venom to which only you hold the anecdote, it’s a beautiful design.
Ports and Connections
With all the pixel-pushing prowess the V460 offers, you may just want to hook it up to a 1080p HDTV now and then. Lenovo obliges with both HDMI and VGA video outputs, on the left-hand side, joining an Ethernet port, microphone and headphone jacks, and two USB ports. DC power connects on the right, almost uncomfortably close to a third USB port, which could cause issues for oversized thumbdrives and wireless modems. The right also offers a tray-loading DVD drive and a Expresscard slot for addons and accessories. Up front, you’ll find a hard switch for hopping between GeForce and Intel graphics, right beside an almost identical switch for turning Wi-Fi on and off. Visually, the white light (which signals that the GeForce has fired up) and chrome plastic on the graphics switch makes it easy to differentiate, but to the finger, they feel too similar, and you’ll need to tilt the notebook up and check to see which is which the first few times you use them. Lenovo hides the usual multimedia card reader up front, too.