Hands on with Lenovo’s new tablet, smartbook, and hybrid device
I got a chance to check out Lenovo’s new products at a press event this evening. And I have to say, there’s a lot to like (plus a few nits to pick).
First up, the most remarkable device Lenovo announced this week: The IdeaPad U1 Hybrid. This device actually consists of two different computers that play together very nicely. The screen is detachable from the keyboard, and behind the screen you have a Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM-based processor, the Skylight Linux operating system, 512MB of RAM and 16GB of flash storage. Plug it into the base station and you have a full QWERTY keyboard, a CULV processor, Windows 7, and significantly more memory and storage.
The U1 is just as impressive in person as it is on paper. The device Lenovo is showing off this week is just a prototype. It’s not expected to actually be available until this summer. But the computer seems to function equally well as a tablet or a notebook. And the tablet is incredibly thin and quite responsive.
The display supports multitouch gestures, and the Skylight OS is always running in the background, even when you’re using Windows 7. What that means is the two operating systems can communicated with each other. For instance, if you open a web page on the tablet and then plug it into the base station, the same web page will open, even though the tablet uses Firefox and in notebook mode the same page will open in Internet Explorer.
The only down side is that Lenovo expects to sell the U1 Hybrid for a whopping $999, which kind of banishes it from liliputer territory.
You can check out a video of the IdeaPad U1 in action after the break. I’ve also got more pictures and details for the Lenovo Skylight smartbook, ThinkPad X100e thin and light, IdeaPad S10-3t tablet-style netbook, and IdeaPad S10-3 next-generation standard netbook.
Lenovo was also showing off the Skylight Smartbook. A lot of people have pointed out that at $499, this 10 inch laptop is rather expensive for a machine with a low power processor that can’t run Windows. But it’s likely that the up-front price will be much lower than that once the notebook is subsidized and offered with a 3G data plan by a wireless broadband provider.
While the Skylight has the same display size as most netbooks on the market today, it’s seriously thin and light. It also has an enormous touchpad, although part of the size is due to the fact that the left and right buttons are integrated into the touchpad itself.
The Skylight runs the same custom Linux operating system used on the tablet portion of the IdeaPad U1. It includes an integrated 3G modem, even if you buy the unlocked version, which helps explain the $499 price tag. There’s a SIM card slot and an integrated USB flash drive for storing your data, although the OS runs from internal flash storage.
Next up, we have the Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3. As the name would suggest, this is an incremental update to Lenovo’s last netbook, the IdeaPad S10-2. The new model features a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 Pine Trail processor and runs Windows 7 Starter. It also has a rather small touchpad with integrated buttons. It looks attractive enough, but I’ve had bad experiences with this type of touchpad in the past. I’ll try to reserve judgment until I’ve had a chance to review this laptop, but that touchpad worries me.
The S10-3 also has a new island-style keyboard, which I like. But it still has the Fn key located to the left of the Ctrl key, which could cause a moment’s confusion for anyone that’s not used to Lenovo keyboards.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t may have a similar name to the S10-3, but it’s a very different machine thanks to a touchscreen display that can be folded down over the keyboard for use in tablet mode. Here’s a brief video showing the transformation from netbook to tablet:
The S10-3t is also heavier and features a thicker plastic frame than the sleek-looking IdeaPad S10-3. But that’s to be expected in a relatively inexpensive tablet. The S10-3t is set to retail for $499, which is a high price for a netbook, but cheap for a tablet.
Last, we have the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e. This model is aimed at business customers, but there’s nothing stopping consumers from picking one up — especially since it has a starting price of just $449.
Some readers have complained that the 3 cell battery provides just 2 hours of run time, which does sound rather pathetic. But Lenovo says that the 6 cell battery is good for up to 5 hours, which ain’t bad. Unfortuntately the 6 cell battery option will add to the cost of this laptop. And the battery does stick out a bit.
You can find more hands-on pictures of each of these laptops below.