Lenovo has just announced a number of revisions to its ThinkPad range of business notebooks, plus a couple of interesting new departures from its traditional offerings. The company is also using AMD processors for the first time in the ThinkPad's long history.
Now viewed as rather staid but dependable corporate workhorse, it's easy to forget that when the ThinkPad was launched 18 years ago it was the height of flashy style to be seen with one. Lenovo is now trying to re-inject some pizzazz into the range with the newly-announced ThinkPad Edge. Aimed at small businesses and based on a completely new industrial design, the Edge ditches several trademark ThinkPad features such as the any-colour-as-long-as-it's-black policy and, perhaps more controversially, the much-loved keyboard.
ThinkPad Edge: now available in red as well as (glossy or matt) black.
For the first time in a ThinkPad, AMD processors are an option, with Turion X2 and Neo-powered models. Intel Core 2 Duo CULV and standard dual-core processors are also available. With a 13in. screen at launch and 14in. and 15in. variants to come later, the ThinkPad Edge isn't an ultraportable, but the 'sophisticated simplicity' is intended to appeal to those consumer or business users who wouldn't normally consider a ThinkPad. With silver highlights and a choice of red, gloss black or matt black (the first time you've had a choice with a ThinkPad), it's not a ThinkPad that traditionalists would recognise. The spill-proof keyboard retains the signature trackpoint, but is a now low-profile 'chiclet'-style affair — referred to as 'contemporary' by Lenovo. It remains to be seen how well this works, but it's bound to be one of the biggest talking points in reviews. Lenovo says the larger models will have an illuminated keyboard.
How will traditionalists react to the Edge's 'chiclet'-style keyboard?
Other notable features are a multi-touch trackpad, Wi-Fi, webcam and preloaded Skype client software. Bluetooth, 3G and WiMAX are optional extras. ThinkVantage features such as an Active Protection System for hard disks and Rescue and Recovery are included as standard. Prices for the ThinkPad Edge start at £450 (ex. VAT).
The X100e is a new AMD-powered entry-level ultraportable model, featuring a spill-proof keyboard similar to that on the Edge plus a multi-touch trackpad and an 11.6in. LED-backlit display. There's a choice of Neo single and dual-core CPUs or Turion dual-core models. Priced from £380 (ex. VAT), it's available in red or black and features built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi, with optional Bluetooth and 3G.
ThinkPad X100e: an AMD-powered 11.6in. ultraportable.
Other ThinkPad refreshes
Other new additions to existing ThinkPad range are the T410s, T410 and T510. These augment the existing T4xx / 5xx series models but are based on Intel's latest 'Calpella' mobile platform, with 16:9 aspect ratio screens and, in the T410s, switchable Nvidia graphics. There's also a new addition to the high-end mobile workstation range, the W510.
ThinkPad W510: a Core i7-based mobile workstation.
The W510 is perhaps the most interesting of these, with Core i7 processors, USB 3.0, support for up to 16GB of DDR3 RAM and an optional multi-touch display. A 9-cell battery slice is offered for all the new models, giving a claimed 22 hours of battery life on the T410. UK pricing was not available at the time of writing.
Skylight is a Mobile Internet Device (MID) or 'smartbook' (in between a smartphone and a netbook) aimed squarely at the consumer market. It's based on Qualcomm's 1GHz Snapdragon ARM processor and has a claimed 10-hour battery life, a 10in. widescreen display and a custom web interface featuring a variety of gadgets for Facebook, Gmail, Twitter and so on. There's a built-in fold-out USB memory stick, local Flash storage plus 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Skylight: US-only until the end of 2010.
Lenovo says the Skylight will be sold both unlocked via the Lenovo store for $499 (£307) or bundled with data deals. It will be a US-only product until the end of 2010.