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.

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21 replies on “Hands on with Lenovo’s new tablet, smartbook, and hybrid device”

  1. I tried out the x100e yesterday, and I love the touchpad. The buttons have a lot of throw to them. It seems on the big side, too.

    1. I’ve been waiting forever to get the right ultra portable. Every day, I get closer and closer to clicking the “order” button on the x100e, even with only the single core. Buy.com apparently has some in stock, but I like doing business with J&R – they list them as coming soon. It’s a race to see if I can stand waiting on the dual core or if I just break down and buy it πŸ™‚

    2. @ Uber – when you tried it out, what did you think of build quality and the keyboard? Was it pretty cool running, or warm? Sorry for so many questions, I haven’t seen one in a store yet. (where did you see it, btw?)

      1. It seemed pretty sturdy, but I didn’t have much time w/it. The keyboard had a bit of flex. I liked the keyboard, it was pretty easy to type with. I didn’t check the temp. I didn’t notice any heat on the palmrest.

        I got to see it at Microsoft’s booth at CES. I did notice it had a missing driver for the cell modem, so I think it was their highest end model (from what I saw on Lenovo’s order page).

  2. Personally, I’m a tad confused re the processor that Lenovo are shipping the x100e with in the UK. According to their website, the processor is AMD Athlon Neo X2 Single-Core MV-40 – now it does say ‘single core’ but then why the ‘X2’?

    Personally, I’m waiting for the dual core variants to become available. This looks like netbook nirvana to me.

    1. To me, too, cavgirl. I’m allergic to Intel graphics, and I want something a little more beefy than an Atom.

    2. It’s just what AMD decided to name the cpu series. Like how Intel’s Core 2 Solo is a single core processor

      And waiting for a dual core version isn’t a bad idea, the L335/L625 are much closer to the SU4100/SU7300 with the same battery life of the MV-40 (which is closer to Atom than C2D CULV).

  3. According to the Lenovo website, the x100e comes with the 6-cell and WWAN for $449. Maybe it costs more from somewhere else, but you can order it from Lenovo for $449 right now, if you are so inclined. Personally, I’m waiting to see what else comes out at CES with the AMD/HD3200 platform.

    New tech is so exciting – the U1 Hybrid is also extremely cool. Pricey, but there is a lot to like about it.

  4. I have a question regarding The IdeaPad U1 Hybrid. Is the data interchangeable between the Tablet & Netbook?

    1. I have a Yahoo Group on netbooks. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/netbookpc
      I like to forward these types of articles to it.
      It is not just netbooks but also smartbooks, UMPC’s and MID’s
      (basicly anything small and portable πŸ™‚ ).

      The hybrid might be expensive but it is like getting two computers; a tablet and a netbook in one device. πŸ™‚

  5. The Skylight Smartbook is the way to go. Why bother buying a 1.4KG machine when you can buy a machine half the weight?

    Its expensive because it has a 3G modem built in. That is fair. Lenovo should come out with options ie ones without the 3G modem to reduce the price further.

    Mozille Firefox works perfectly on Linux. OpenOffice also runs perfectly on Linux. So, who wants a Windows OS netbook anymore?

  6. Dang, thought I had found the perfect replacement to my original S10 in the S10-3t, until I saw the super-glare-fingerprint-magnet screen they put on it, instead of using a nice matte screen like the original S10. πŸ™

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