Lenovo has updated its ultra-portable laptops with the flagship 3000 V200. Sporting a 12.1-inch widescreen display (1280x800 native resolution) and based on Intel’s brand-new ‘Santa Rosa’ mobile platform, the silver-and-black V200 might just be the perfect highly-portable Windows-based system for cash-strapped small businesses.

Starting at just £800 (ex.VAT), Lenovo’s 3000 V200 is the company’s lightest (1.81kg) widescreen laptop to date. That doesn’t mean to say it lacks some grunt under the hood. At time of purchase you can opt for an Intel Core 2 Duo processor up to a T7300 (2GHz), up to 4GB of 667MHz DDR2 system memory, and a very accommodating 160GB (5400rpm) hard drive. The processors have Santa Rosa’s 800MHz front-side bus, and are paired with an Intel GM965 chipset.

Other technical niceties to ponder include a choice of graphics chipsets - Intel GM965 or nVidia GeForce Go 7300 (64- or 128MB) - and you can opt for either a CD-RW/DVD-ROM or DVD recordable (Dual Layer) drive. Unlike a lot of ultra-portable laptops, the V200’s optical drive is actually built in, so you don’t have to worry about additional peripherals and power supplies weighing you down.

Powered by Windows Vista (Lenovo offers a choice of Editions), the V200 is relatively well connected considering its size. There’s a 4-pin FireWire port (ideal for external storage devices), three USB 2.0 ports (one at the rear of the machine and one at each side), analogue VGA port, 5-in-1 card reader, Express Card/54 slot, Bluetooth, 802.11a/b/g/n, Gigabit LAN, 56K modem, headphone and microphone ports. Unfortunately there’s no digital video-out (DVI) or S-Video ports, but the system isn’t really designed for multimedia. The battery should provide you with around 2 hours 45 minutes operating time, which is a little disappointing considering the small display.

Not as well supported in terms of pre-installed applications as a ThinkPad, the V200 still offers more than your average business laptop. Take the one-button system recovery for instance, which helps you to recover from a crash or virus with the push of a button. Simple network connectivity and management tools let you quickly find and connect to a wireless network and save connection profiles for later use, while performance restoration keeps the system running almost as good as new by allowing you to restore to a previous backup without losing your personality settings for printers, browsers and applications.

Lenovo’s automatic update utility is neat for staying up to date with model-specific drivers and patches. Fragmentation can cause slowdowns, crashes, system freezes or even system failures. With Diskeeper Home you can quickly analyse fragmentation levels and detect them automatically to maintain peak performance on your system.

Presentation Director is a display configuration utility that enables you to create, manage, and use various display and projection schemes when making presentations. Using these schemes you can quickly and easily configure the machine to display a presentation on an external projector, monitor, or television with appropriate resolution and colour settings; avoid interruptions by disabling the screen saver and power management timers and hiding your desktop and instant-messaging windows; and use multiple monitors to extend the size of your desktop.

Presentation Director also enables you to capture your current display settings as a default scheme called ‘My Normal Display Settings.’ After you finish a presentation you can immediately and easily return to your default settings by applying this scheme.

Another neat utility which tends to get overlooked is PC Doctor 5. This provides a relatively comprehensive set of diagnostic testing and system information tools that allow end-users to quickly troubleshoot many (not all) hardware and software problems without the aid of a technical support engineer.

Corporates will also love the integrated fingerprint reader and integrated 1.3 megapixel conference camera. To unlock the V200 (after configuration), all you need is the swipe of your finger. The biometric security tools also let you store passwords for easy access to password-protected Web sites.

Mobile computing should be as comfortable as possible. The same engineers that brought us the legendary keyboard design on ThinkPad range now give you great tactile feel with intelligent layout and performance on V-Series. Thoughtfully designed, the keyboard has specialised keys and buttons for easy access to the presentation director application and Lenovo Care tools, as well as multimedia controls for stop, play, forward, rewind and pause.

The TrackPad is responsive and the two mouse buttons nice and quiet. We missed the TrackPoint of the ThinkPads, but Lenovo keeps this second navigation device the preserve of its premium range. Above the keyboard are three handy external volume controls.

Conclusion

Lenovo’s 3000 V200 is an impressive machine. It’s not the most striking in terms of design, nor does it offer the most features in its class, but it’s a great choice for small-business users unable to stretch their budget to a ThinkPad X61 (from £980 ex. VAT). The keyboard and pointing device are both solid, and the pre-installed software bundle is perfect for business owners. The screen is really crisp and bright, and the biometric security will be a real boon to anyone transferring sensitive documents. The only real disappointments are the sub-standard battery life and the lack of a digital video-out port.

OUR VERDICT

Ruggedness, battery life, scree and keyboard quality, and a decent warranty are all things to watch for. Don't worry about processor speed within reason. One issue that people often take for granted is Wi-Fi connectivity, which can vary from machine to machine in the robustness and range of the connections it can make.