Lenovo slims down, adds horsepower to new ThinkPads

Lenovo's new ThinkPad Carbon and T450 lines now have Intel's Broadwell chips

Lenovo ThinkPad X250 (1)

Lenovo ThinkPad X250 (1)

Thinner, lighter, faster ... expensive: Here come Lenovo's new ThinkPads, which also have longer battery life.

Lenovo hasn't radically changed the new ThinkPads, and for good reason. Its committed user base resists product overhauls. Headlined by the ultrathin ThinkPad Carbon X1 and workhorse ThinkPad X250, the new laptops now have Intel's latest fifth-generation Core i3, i5 and i7 processors.

Users should see an immediate improvement in graphics, application performance and battery life with Intel's new chips, set to be announced at International CES this week and based on the Broadwell architecture. Lenovo has reduced the size and weight of the ThinkPads with the leaner chips.

There's more storage and memory, and also support for new wireless technologies like 802.11ac and 4G LTE in some ThinkPads. However, some basic screen and webcam features haven't changed.

Prices on the new laptops, in some cases over US$1,000 for the Carbon X1 and X250 models, seem high, but expect them to fall over time.

ThinkPad Carbon X1

The thin profile of Lenovo's ThinkPad Carbon X1 made it popular among business users, but the latest model is even thinner. It's 17.7-millimeters thick, weighs around 1.3 kilograms, and has Intel's fifth-generation Core i processors. It offers between 10 and 11 hours of battery life.

The Core i processor was selected over another low-power Intel tablet processor called Core M, "as our business customers continue to demand the best from our products," said Steve Gilbert, director of worldwide product marketing for Lenovo's commercial group.

Also fresh to the laptop is faster storage. Solid-state drives now plug into PCI-Express 3.0 slots, which can transfer data faster than SATA technology, the dominant laptop storage technology. PCIe SSDs are around 80 percent faster than standard SATA-based SSDs, Gilbert said.

"X1 Carbon just continues to get better," Gilbert said.

The laptop will support up to 512GB of SSD storage and up to 8GB of DDR3 DRAM. The laptop screen displays images at a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution. Wireless options include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and LTE mobile broadband. The X1 Carbon also has a 720p webcam, which is poor considering Lenovo is upgrading to higher-resolution 3D cameras in its consumer laptops.

The X1 Carbon is priced starting at $1,249 and will ship this month.

ThinkPad X250

The ThinkPad X250 takes over from the disappointing X240, which was released last year but came under fire after shipping delays and screen problems. The X250 is thinner, lighter and faster with the new Core processors. But the new model doesn't offer flexibility for screen options, which was one reason buyers shied away from the X240. The X250 also doesn't offer a screen beyond full high definition, and a touchscreen option isn't available, according to Lenovo's specification sheet.

The X250, though, inherits many of its predecessor's design traits and improves on them. It has two batteries that can combine to offer up to 20 hours of battery life, an improvement from the 17 hours of battery life for the X240. At 1.3 kilograms and 20.3 millimeters thick, the X250 is also lighter and thinner than the X240.

The X250 supports up to 512GB of SSD storage or 1TB of hard drive storage. The laptop also supports up to 8GB of DDR3 DRAM and has a 720p webcam. Wireless connectivity options include 4G LTE and Wi-Fi.

The ThinkPad X250 will ship next month starting at $1,149.

ThinkPad T450S

Lenovo's mainstream ThinkPad T450 and T450S laptops succeed the popular T440 and T440S laptops, which shipped in 2013. The T440S is now SSD-only, so a hard drive option isn't available, according to Lenovo's specifications. The T450S also has a two-battery design, much like the X250, and offers up to 17 hours of battery life with an optional second battery.

The T450S is 21 millimeters thick, which is big compared to comparable business laptops like the Spectre from Hewlett-Packard and XPS from Dell. The laptop supports up to 512GB of SSD storage and 12GB of DDR3 DRAM. It also has a mini-DisplayPort and an old-school VGA port, which is one reason why it may be so thick. Users can select 720p, full HD or touch screens.

Specifications for the T450 weren't available. The T450 starts at $849, and the T450S starts at $1,099. The laptops will ship next month.

Other ThinkPads

Other ThinkPads with Broadwell chips that will become available next month include the T550, which starts at $999, and the E450 and E550 models, which start at $599.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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