CES 2011: Lenovo Readies ThinkPads

At CES in Las Vegas this week, Lenovo will try to up the ante on rivals like Acer, Dell, and HP with a veritable full house of new PCs, including new ThinkPad Edge models for small- and medium-sized business users incorporating new rapid boot-up technology, videoconferencing, and "crossover" home entertainment.

ThinkPad E220s
Lenovo's new Edge E420s and E220s laptops will be outfitted with "Enhanced Experience (EE) 2.0" capabilities that boost boot-up times by about 30 percent, said Luis Hernandez, executive director for Lenovo's ThinkPad Transactional Business, at a press briefing.The two latest notebooks PCs will be geared to people who work for companies with anywhere between ten and 499 employees, an audience Lenovo first started targeting with the Edge line a year ago at CES 2010.

Other features of the 14.1-inch E420s and 12.5-inch E220s will include HDMI for TV connectivity; TV-like "infinity" screens; Dolby Home Theater Audio; and enhanced videoconferencing features such as 1080p high definition (HD) webcams, advanced white-balancing settings, and noise-canceling keyboards for screening out typing sounds in the background.

Lenovo's new Edge notebooks will also be available with several advanced security features: self-encrypting hard drives; BIOS port lock settings; a fingerprint reader usable for powering on the PC, and, for larger businesses, a hardware password manager for deploying authentication security across fleets of PCs. A slim slot-loading DVD burner is another option for the E420s.

Small- and medium-sized businesses are the biggest and fastest growing "commercial segment" in the PC market, projected to account for 67 percent by 2014, Hernandez contended, citing statistics from the IDC analyst group.

Lenovo plans to straddle all aspects of the mobile PC space for these companies, from sub-$400 entry-level units to "premium" notebooks at $800 and up.

Accordingly, also at CES, the company will introduce new E420 and E520 midrange notebooks and updates to its existing x120e entry ultraportable.

In a new edition that will roll out for under $400 in February, the x120e will be equipped with an HDMI port for projecting digital content and AMD Fusion technology for faster graphics performance and longer battery life.

The new E420 and E520, also follow-ons to earlier Edge models, will get EE 2.0 for quicker boot-ups, along with AMD Radeon graphics in some markets. The E520 will sport a numeric keypad.

In the spirit of Lenovo's history of ThinkPad innovation, EE 2.0 will speed boot-ups through "proprietary optimizations" to the bios, as well as to how and when software such as drivers and OS and network services are loaded, said Nick Reynolds, director of global marketing, Product Group.

But Lenovo isn't looking at small- and medium-sized companies as its sole ace in the hole. Also over the year ahead, the company will introduce large numbers of new AMD- and Intel-enabled desktop and mobile PCs for consumers, gamers, and enterprise users, including a new slate tablet also to be unveiled at CES, the Lenovo execs said.

Some Lenovo notebooks will also be available with a new Rapid SSD (solid state drive) option for even faster boot-up times of 10 seconds of less.

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