Lenovo Launches IdeaPad Consumer Laptops

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Sensing an opportunity in the fast-growing consumer notebook market, Lenovo on Thursday is expected to launch a new line of consumer laptops with the IdeaPad moniker.

Targeted at gamers and home users, IdeaPad adds a low-price line of laptops to complement the company's existing ThinkPad notebook line, targeted primarily at business users. The company will first introduce three IdeaPad notebooks in different sizes, including an ultraportable laptop that the company will ship in the end of March.

The IdeaPad U110 ultraportable notebook comes with an 11-inch screen and weighs only 2.3 pounds (1.04 kilograms), according to Lenovo.

Based on Intel processors, the ultraportable will ship with either hard disk drives or flash-based solid state drives, said Craig Merrigan, Lenovo's vice president of global consumer marketing. To add ruggedness, the laptop has a shock sensor that detects falls and protects the hard drive data from any potential damage. The feature, called the Active Protection system, is already available on the company's ThinkPad laptops.

Lenovo didn't comment on pricing for the ultraportable laptop.

The company also announced the IdeaPad Y710 laptop, targeted at gamers, and IdeaPad Y510 laptop, targeted as a desktop replacement for home users. With colorful front bases in textured finishes, the laptops are equipped with expressive designs oriented to personalities and lifestyles, Merrigan said.

The IdeaPad Y710 comes with a set of controls, including macro buttons and a control to enhance PC performance to optimize gaming on laptops. A slider control allows gamers to overclock the CPU to maximize laptop performance, Merrigan said. Starting at US$1,199, the laptop includes a 17-inch screen and is equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, an ATI graphics card, wireless networking and an optional Blu-ray Disc drive. It can support hard drives up to 500G bytes.

The IdeaPad Y510 notebook, with a 15.4-inch screen, is targeted at home users. Starting at $799, it comes with Intel Core 2 Duo processors with integrated graphics, wireless networking an integrated camera and a DVD/DVR optical drive. Including a battery, the laptop weighs 6.4 pounds (2.9 kilograms). It can support hard drives up to 250G bytes.

The Y710 and Y510 have four speakers and a subwoofer apiece, and an inductive touch surface between the keyboard and screen that lights up multimedia controls based on context, Merrigan said. If movies are playing, it will light up movie controls, and if audio is playing, users can control equalizers using the touch surface.

Equipped with 1.3-megapixel cameras, the laptops have facial recognition technology that makes a face a user's password, Merrigan said. Once a user sits in front of a computer, the computer recognizes the face and logs in a user. While consumers are not concerned about that high level of security, it may be useful to keep track of what kids are doing, Merrigan said.

Both laptops will ship by the end of January and include Microsoft's Vista operating system. The laptops will initially launch in the U.S., France, Russia, South Africa, India, Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Philippines and Singapore, according to Lenovo. It will be available at online retailers and in stores.

The announcements come ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show, to be held in Las Vegas between January 7 and 10, where the laptops will be on display.

Lenovo is trying to establish its own identity after acquiring IBM's PC business in 2004. Late last year it established its first "Think" line of workstations, and with the IdeaPad line, it is trying to get a bigger share of the consumer notebook market. The company is in fierce competition with Acer in the global PC market, according to surveys from Gartner and IDC.

The company is also planning an ultramobile device based on Intel's Menlow platform, though Merrigan wouldn't comment on it. The ultramobile device will be on display at Intel's booth in CES.

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