Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Lenovo Looks to Bridge Business and Consumer With New Ultra-Light and Ultrabook ThinkPads

ThinkPad laptops have long been associated with boxiness, durability, good battery life and a broad appeal for business users and schools.

Now, Lenovo, which bought the ThinkPad brand when it acquired IBM’s personal computer business in 2005, is stripping away some of the weight of the ThinkPad, with a new lightweight model that falls into the Ultrabook category.

The China-based PC maker is also introducing new ThinkPad X, T, W and L Series models, including the lightweight X230, and the ThinkPad X230t, a 12-inch convertible tablet that comes with a fully attached keyboard.

First, the X1 Carbon: Lenovo is claiming the featherweight title with this one, calling it the world’s lightest 14-inch professional Ultrabook. It clocks in at three pounds and, as one might expect from the name, is built with carbon fiber. It has an HD display and backlit keyboard, and is running Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors. Business users will appreciate the option to connect to 3G wireless networks via the laptop, provided that they’ve subscribed to a data plan through a carrier, for those times one needs to get work done and Wi-Fi is as unavailable as water in the desert.

While Lenovo says the laptop can be fully charged in 30 minutes, it’s unclear how long the battery charge is expected to last; and a few other details about the product — such as price and the number of built-in ports — are still unknown. The X1 Carbon Ultrabook will hit the market this summer.

Lenovo’s first entrant in the Ultrabook market, the IdeaPad U300s, which AllThingsD’s Walt Mossberg reviewed late last year, costs $1,095 and comes with a 128 gigabyte drive, 4GB of memory and Intel’s i5 processor. And at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Lenovo showed off the $849 ThinkPad T430u Ultrabook, which is 12mm thick and weighs less than four pounds.

And then there are Lenovo’s new ThinkPad X, T, W, and L Series laptops, which also include Intel’s third-generation Core processors, Dolby audio, HD displays and ThinkPad Precision keyboards with optional backlighting. The T430s is the ThinkPad line’s lightest 14-inch (non-Ultrabook) laptop, while the T530 has a 15-inch full-HD display. But the most notable feature of these laptops is probably the addition of 4G/LTE broadband availability through Lenovo’s upcoming contract-free broadband service. The laptops will go on sale in June, and will range in price from $879 to $1,399.

A punched-up X230 ThinkPad will hit the market in June for $1,179, claiming up to 24 hours of battery life in a 12.5-inch form factor and weighing less than three pounds. This laptop also comes with 4G/LTE mobile broadband access.

If you’d rather have your X230 in tablet form, Lenovo has thought of that, too: The ThinkPad X230t has a rotating display that can be folded over to create an instant tablet. It is touchscreen enabled, comes with a stylus pen and also works with a ThinkPad laser mouse. (Lenovo has been playing with this form factor for a long time, actually. For an idea of how it works, check out this YouTube video.)

The convertible tablet (tabtop? laplet?) will start at around $1,479.

For the most part, these new entrants are still geared toward the professional market. But Tom Butler, Lenovo’s global director of product marketing, says the company is looking to appeal to consumers, too, in what Lenovo calls the “PC-plus” era. “From a ThinkPad perspective, we’re looking at the ‘consumerization’ of tech, so we’re addressing not only the IT departments but also the consumer,” he said.

Given the growing BYOD trend in corporations, it seems like a wise move. But whether workers given the option to work on their own laptops would prefer to bring in a consumer-ized Lenovo ThinkPad or a MacBook Air — or another, thinner Mac laptop reported to be on the way — is still to be seen.

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— Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, in their farewell D post