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Lenovo IdeaPad Z470 review: looks and brawn in a single package?

If you have been keeping notes on the recent trend in notebook designs, it should be fairly obvious that any OEM which claims to design notebooks for 'fashion-conscious consumers' can only mean one thing: thinner models with funky colours. Coincidentally, that statement also serves as a rather apt summary of our first impressions with the Z470.

Forget all that "look into my eyes' bunk you hear from quack hypnotists; you want REAL hypnotism? Try looking into the Z470's "transparent 3D design". We kid you not.

As with most consumer-centric notebooks, Lenovo has apparently seen it fit to furnish the Z470's top with a glossy plastic shell that features what the company boasts as a "transparent 3D design". At first, we were inclined to dismiss that claim as nothing more than just typical marketing gimmick; that is, until we actually sat down to gaze into the interesting design that has been printed on the Z470's cover. We won't go into the specifics of it, but let's just say that staring deeply into the so-called "transparent 3D design" can be strangely mesmerizing. And hypnotizing.

Oh, and the Z470 is apparently available in three different colours, but we figured that it would probably make little sense to settle for the black or red versions considering how bright and vibrant the cyan shell looks like. Of course, glossy notebook shells with bright colours are not going to win you any 'geek creds' when totting this notebook in public but hey, they more than make up for that in terms of "fashion creds". Just be sure to keep a cleaning cloth with you at all times, though.

On the flip side of things (pun intended), the Z470's rear is no where near as funky as its front, although something has to be said about its relatively clean design. Granted, there are other notebooks out there which boast even cleaner rear designs but as far as we are concerned, the Z470's is definitely one of the tidier-looking ones out there, thanks to the placement and unique styling of its ventilation grilles.

Ventilation grilles as pieces of art. Welcome to the 21st century of computer design, folks 

Like most notebooks available for sale on the market today, the Z470 allows advanced users easy access to the more common hardware components used to power it, as long they happen to know their way around mobile hardware and their screwdrivers.  

The IdeaPad Z470 uses a half-height mini PCIe WiFi card, which is a fairly standard card to find in most average notebooks today due to size constraints. Interestingly, the card bears no mention of its manufacturer on the label stuck to it, and searching online for the various product numbers listed on the label turned up nothing. In fact, it was only through Windows' device manager that we were able to extract the card's DeviceID (14E4 : 4727) needed to identify it as a Broadcom BCM4313 WiFi card

Providing the IdeaPad Z470's data storage capabilities is a standard performance Toshiba MK6465GSX mechanical hard disk which sports a platter speed of 5400rpm, a maximum capacity of 640GB and 8192KB buffer size.

Backing up the Z470's multitasking capabilities are two 2GB of DDR3 PC3-10600 SODIMM memory sticks from Hyundai which make use of Hynix chips and are each clocked at 1333MHz.

You can also catch a glimpse of the socketed i5-2410M processor used to power the notebook under the heatsink connected to the notebook's cooling fan. In theory, the use of socketed chips means that one could potentially swap out the 2410M for a more powerful mobile processor. If you can get your hands on one, that is.

Now that we have gotten all that geeky mumbo-jumbo out of the way, it is time to focus on the more consumer-centric aspects of the IdeaPad Z470's hardware, such as its expansion and I/O ports, along with the overall touch and feel of the notebook. For the most part, expandability does not appear to be a problem for most typical end-users; to begin with, the Z470's left side contains the ubiquitous slot for Kensington-compatible locks, a huge heat vent, a VGA-out port, a built-in Ethernet port, a HDMI-out port and two USB2.0 ports, of which the one on the left also happens to double up as an eSATA port.

Standard array of I/O ports are standard.

The right side of the IdeaPad Z470's chassis is a lot simpler; it plays host to a pair of 3.5mm jacks for earphones and an external microphone, a USB2.0 port, the obligatory optical disc drive, yet another USB2.0 port and lastly, the DC-in jack.

Nothing special here. Ho-hum…

The front houses a couple of hardware switches and a card reader. That being said, we are predicting that power users will find much to love about the particular switch located at the Z470's extreme left, if only because its job is to enable or disable the dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT520M graphics card that has been installed on the notebook. The other hardware switch located next to the built-in card reader is used for powering the Z470's Broadcom WiFi card.

Flipping open the lid reveals the IdeaPad Z470's keyboard in all its glory, as shown in the photograph below. Note that the reversed placement of the Ctrl and Fn keys which have been a common feature found on Lenovo notebook keyboards have finally been switched into their proper positions in the Z470. Refreshing? Yes. A change for the better? Depends on how accustomed you are to working with keyboards which utilize such reversed positioning.

Located next to the power switch is the button used to activate the Z470's OneKey Recovery system, which allows a user to restore the notebook to its factory state in the event of a catastrophic system failure.

In case of emergency: push button, lose your data, weep quietly. Then again, you probably brought it on yourself if you ever had to resort to using this almighty button.

As stated before, the IdeaPad Z470 is a consumer notebook which has been designed with the fashion-conscious in mind, so it is expected that Lenovo would attempt to 'bling' up the notebook in certain areas in order to score some points among classy notebook users. In this case, the Z470's 'bling' is provided by the array of glowing touch sensors lined up at the top of its keyboard. That being said, it would have been nice if Lenovo had gone the extra mile to make the glowing sensors pulse under various usage scenarios.

Definitely not as flashy as compared to notebooks designed to impress, but nice to look at nonetheless.

Last but definitely not least, the IdeaPad Z470 uses the same textured, multi-touch capable trackpad which boasts built-in support for various gestures such as two-finger scrolling, However, it seems that Lenovo has heard enough complaints about its earlier multitouch trackpads not being responsive that it has decided to revert to the tried-and-tested method of giving the trackpad's buttons their own seperate row instead of integrating them into the trackpad. Sleek? No way. Practical? Heck yes!

VR-Zone is a leading online technology news publication reporting on bleeding edge trends in PC and mobile gadgets, with in-depth reviews and commentaries.

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