image Musicians have generally had to shy away from slim, light portable PC laptops, but watching the specs on these machines, I’d say that’s finally changing. Take the upcoming Lenovo IdeaPad U110. Like the Apple MacBook Air, you have to rely on an external optical drive, but otherwise, this machine comes pretty close to being a worthy mobile music machine. If shedding pounds and size is important to you, there’s no question you could make this box work on the road.

Lenovo IdeaPad U110 [ Early Specs at]

  • There’s not that much of a price premium: it’s US$1899.
  • The specs look good: a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo ("Merom") plus up to 3GB RAM — not high-end specs, but more than enough to run SONAR, Ableton Live, and the like. (Similar to the equally-capable specs on the MacBook Air side)
  • Lots of ports: 3 USB 2.0 ports, so you don’t run out of ports when you plug in, say, a keyboard, an audio interface, and a high-speed USB storage stick. (Here’s where it bests the Air.)
  • Lots of slots: Express Card supports high-end audio interfaces, and having an onboard card reader is nice for your camera and mobile recorder
  • 2.4 lbs, .66 inch thick (actually slightly thinner and lighter than the MacBook Air) … and super small, meaning this is easier to tote and keep inconspicuous onstage

What’s the catch?

There’s only a 4200 rpm 120GB hard drive, which would likely be an Achilles’ heal. I do think the ThinkPad comes a heck of a lot closer to the mark than Apple’s MacBook Air, which sacrifices virtually all your ports and expandability — a black mark no matter how pretty the Air is. In fact, a lot of my live Ableton sets fit easily onto a flash drive, so I could imagine popping that into a machine like this.

Then again, that’s not really the competition: a US$1000 PC or Mac laptop could easily best these specs with only slightly more power consumption, size, and weight.

I still find these machines interesting, though, in that they demonstrate cooler, lighter, smaller, thinner, power-miserly directions for the same laptop platforms — all things that could make their way into more practical machines in the near future. And while I can’t really recommend the Air over the MacBook or MacBook Pro on the Mac side, on the PC side the U110 is at least in the running for those willing to make some (significant) sacrifices, which is a big change from the recent past.