Left: IdeaPad S12 / Right: IdeaPad U150

The Lenovo IdeaPad S12 and IdeaPad U150 are a lot alike. They’re both thin and light laptops that weigh about 3.1 pounds or less. They both have high resolution displays and full sized keyboards, as well as touchpads that feature distinct left and right buttons.And they’re both relatively affordable, with IdeaPad S12 prices starting at $429 (or $599 for a model with NVIDIA ION graphics), and the U150 going for $650 and up.

But on the inside, these are two very different machines. The IdeaPad S12 has a relatively slow Intel Atom N270 CPU while the U150 uses faster Intel CULV processors. The review units I’m testing right now are rather interesting, in that the S12 has NVIDIA ION graphics, while the U150 on my desk has Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics and a 1.3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 dual core processor.

In a nutshell, the S12 has better graphics, while the U150 has better overall performance. Both can handle most day to day tasks, including playback of 1080p HD video.

What surprised me though, was given just how similar these two laptops are, how different they look. Asus has two very similar models along the same lines. The Asus Eee PC 1201N with NVIDIA ION graphics and the Asus UL20A with an Intel CULV chipset. The two laptops look an awful lot alike, and even share interchangeable batteries. That’s not at all the case with the Lenovo IdeaPad U150 and S12.

First, the S12 has a 12.1 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel display, while the U150 has an 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel screen. The case design is also quite different, with the S12 featuring a glossy lid while the U150 has a matte, textured pattern. The S12 has a keyboard which I find much more comfortable. Laptop Magazine refers to the U150 keyboard as “mushy,” and I can’t think of a much better word to describe the tactile sensation of pressing down on its keys. And the S12 is noticeably bigger than the U150.

Those are just a few of the cosmetic difference. You can see more in the photo slideshow embedded after the break. Which design do you like better? I have to admit, the U150 looks more attractive due to its two-tone design and slimmer profile. But I can’t get over how much I prefer typing on the keyboard of the IdeaPad S12.

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