Introduction and Design
Alongside our T440s review unit was something slightly smaller and dear to our hearts: the latest entry in the ThinkPad X series of notebooks. Seeing as this very review is being typed on a Lenovo X220, our interest was piqued by the latest refinements to the formula. When the X220 was released, the thin-and-light trend was only just beginning to pick up steam leading into what eventually became today’s Ultrabook movement. Its 2012 successor, the ThinkPad X230, went on to receive our coveted (and rarely bestowed) Editor’s Choice Award, even in spite of a highly controversial keyboard change that sent the fanbase into a panic.
But all of that has since (mostly) blown over, primarily thanks to the fact that—in spite of the minor ergonomic adjustments required to accustom oneself with what was once a jarringly different keyboard design—the basic philosophy remained the same: pack as many powerful parts as possible into a 12.5-inch case while still maintaining good durability and battery life. These machines were every bit as capable as most other 13- and 14-inch notebooks of their time, and they were considerably smaller, too. About the only thing they lacked was higher-resolution screens, discrete graphics, and quad-core CPUs.
But with the X240 (and the T440s), portability has truly taken center stage, suggesting a complete paradigm shift—however subtly—away from “powerful (and light)” and toward “light (and powerful)”. Coupled with Intel’s Haswell CPUs and Lenovo’s new Power Bridge dual-battery design, this will certainly yield great benefits in the realm of battery life. But that isn’t all that’s different: we also find a (once again) revamped keyboard, as well as a completely new touchpad design which finally dispenses with the physical buttons entirely. Like in the X230’s case, these changes have roiled the ThinkPad purists—but is it all just a matter of close-minded traditionalism? That’s precisely what we’ll discover today.
Introduction and Design
Arguably some of the most thoughtful machines on the market are Lenovo’s venerable ThinkPads, which—while sporadically brave in their assertions—are still among the most conservative (yet simultaneously practical) notebooks available. What makes these notebooks so popular in the business crowds is their longstanding refusal to compromise functionality in the interest of form, as well as their self-proclaimed legendary reliability. And you could argue that such practical conservatism is what defines a good business notebook: a device which embraces the latest technological trends, but only with requisite caution and consideration.
Maybe it’s the shaky PC market, or maybe it’s the sheer onset of sexy technologies such as touch and clickpads, but recent ThinkPads have begun to show some uncommon progressivism, and unapologetically so, too. First, it was the complete replacement of the traditional critically-acclaimed ThinkPad keyboard with the Chiclet AccuType variety, a decision which irked purists but eventually was accepted by most. Along with that were the integrated touchpad buttons, which are still lamented by many users. Those alterations to the winning design were ultimately relatively minor, however, and for the most part, they’ve now been digested by the community. Now, though, with the T440s (as well as the rest of Lenovo’s revamped ThinkPad lineup), we’re seeing what will perhaps constitute the most controversial change of all: the substitution of the older touchpads with a “5-button trackpad”, as well as optional touchscreen interface.
Can these changes help to keep the T440s on the cusp of technological progress, or has the design finally crossed the threshold into the realm of counterproductivity?
Compared with nearly any other modern notebook, these specs might not hold many surprises. But judged side-by-side with its T430s predecessor, there are some pretty striking differences. For starters, the T440s is the first in its line to offer only low-voltage CPU options. While our test unit shipped with the (certainly capable enough) Core i5-4200U—a dual-core processor with up to 2.6 GHz Turbo Boost clock rate—options range up to a Core i7-4600U (up to 3.30 GHz). Still, these options are admittedly a far cry from the i7-3520M with which top-end T430s machines were equipped. Of course, it’s also less than half of the TDP, which is likely why the decision was made. Other notables are the lack of discrete graphics options (previously users has the choice of either integrated graphics or an NVIDIA NVS 5200M) and the maximum supported memory of 12 GB. And, of course, there’s the touchscreen—which is not required, but rather, is merely an option. On the other hand, while we’re on the subject of the screen, this is also the first model in the series to offer a 1080p resolution, whether traditional or touch-enabled—which is very much appreciated indeed.
That’s a pretty significant departure from the design of the T430s, which—as it currently appears—could represent the last T4xxs model that will provide such powerhouse options at the obvious expense of battery life. Although some markets already have the option of the ThinkPad S440 to fill the Ultrabook void within the ThinkPad 14-inch range, that notebook can even be outfitted with discrete graphics. The T440s top-end configuration, meanwhile, consists of a 15W TDP dual-core i7 with integrated graphics and 12 GB DDR3 RAM. In other words, it’s powerful, but it’s just not in the same class as the T430’s components. What’s more important to you?
Introduction and Design
Contortionist PCs are a big deal these days as convertible models take the stage to help bridge the gap between notebook and tablet. But not everyone wants to drop a grand on a convertible, and not everyone wants a 12-inch notebook, either. Meanwhile, these same people may not wish to blow their cash on an underpowered (and far less capable) Chromebook or tablet. It’s for these folks that Lenovo has introduced the IdeaPad Flex 14 Ultrabook, which occupies a valuable middle ground between the extremes.
The Flex 14 looks an awful lot like a Yoga at first glance, with the same sort of acrobatic design and a thoroughly IdeaPad styling (Lenovo calls it a “dual-mode notebook”). The specs are also similar to that of the x86 Yoga, though with the larger size (and later launch), the Flex also manages to assemble a slightly more powerful configuration:
The biggest internal differences here are the i5-4200U CPU, which is a 1.6 GHz Haswell model with a TDP of 15 W and the ability to Turbo Boost (versus the Yoga 11S’ i5-3339Y, which is Ivy Bridge with a marginally lower TDP of 13 W and no Turbo Boost), the integrated graphics improvements that follow with the newer CPU, and a few more ports made possible by the larger chassis. Well, and the regression to a TN panel from the Yoga 11S’ much-appreciated IPS display, which is a bummer. Externally, your wallet will also appreciate a $250 drop in price: our model, as configured here, retails for just $749 (versus the $999 Yoga 11S we reviewed a few months back).
You can actually score a Flex 14 for as low as $429 (as of this writing), by the way, but if you’re after any sort of respectable configuration, that price quickly climbs above the $500 mark. Ours is the least expensive option currently available with both a solid-state drive and an i5 CPU.
Subject: General Tech | September 4, 2013 - 01:07 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ultrabook, Thinkpad, t440s, t440, Lenovo
In addition to the high-end X240 ultraportable, Lenovo has launched the T440 and T440S to its ThinkPad lineup. Both machines are 14” notebooks with larger trackpads, HD displays, optional dedicated graphics, Intel Haswell processors, and up to 17 hours of rated battery life. The T440 and T440S notebooks can also be outfitted with NVIDIA GT 720M or 730M dedicated GPUs respectively. Unfortunately, the SKUs with NVIDIA graphics will not be available in North America. The T440S is the higher-specced unit of the two, and both notebooks will be available in October.
The Lenovo T440 is a four pound, 21mm thick 14” ultrabook. It can be configured with an HD+ touchscreen display, Intel Haswell i5 CPU with HD 4400 graphics, up to 12GB of DDR3L memory, and a 1TB hard drive or a 512GB SSD. Other features include a 720p webcam, Dolby Digital Plus with Advanced Audio 2 technology, Intel Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and 4G LTE ratios. IO includes mini Display Port, VGA, two USB 3.0, one SD card reader, and a RJ45 Ethernet jack.
The T440 will be available at the end of October with a starting price of $899.
Stepping up from the T440 to the T440S gets you some extra features and a lighter laptop thanks to a carbon fiber chassis. The ThinkPad T440S is a 14” notebook that is 20.45mm thick and weighs 3.5 pounds. The notebook can be configured with an Intel Core i7 Haswell processor, a 1920 x 1080 touchscreen display, three USB 3.0 ports (instead of the two on the T440), and Dolby Digital Plus with Home Theater 4 audio technology.
The faster and lighter ThinkPad T440S will also be available at the end of October with a starting MSRP of $1,149.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 3, 2013 - 02:29 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: x240, ultrabook, Thinkpad, Lenovo, ifa
Lenovo recently launched a new high end business ultrabook called the ThinkPad X240. The 12” ultrabook is aimed at road warriors and business professionals that want high end hardware in a portable form factor.
The ThinkPad X240 is a 12-inch, 20.3mm (0.79”) thick, notebook that weighs less than three pounds (1.34kg). It has large trackpad, backlit keyboard, 720p webcam, Dolby Home Theater Advanced Audio 2 technology, up to a 1080p display, and full size ports. External IO includes VGA, Ethernet, a combo headphone/mic jack, SD card reader, HDMI out, and two USB 3.0 ports.
Internal specifications include Intel Haswell processors with HD 4400 graphics, up to 8GB of DDR3 memory, and up to a 1TB hard drive. The system comes with a TPM chip and finger print reader and can be further configured with a 3G/4G LTE cellular radio, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and NFC radios.
The X240 also features Lenovo's Power Bridge technology which allows users to hot swap batteries while a 3-cell internal battery keeps the system powered up. When the 3-cell internal battery is paired with a removable 6-cell battery, Lenovo rates the X240 at 10 hours of battery life.
The new ThinkPad X240 is portable and fairly powerful with battery life that business professionals value. Should the reviews hold up, it looks like a solid machine. It will be available around the end of October with a starting price of $1,099.
Introduction and Design
It seems like only yesterday (okay, last month) that we were testing the IdeaPad Yoga 11, which was certainly an interesting device. That’s primarily because of what it represents: namely, the slow merging of the tablet and notebook markets. You’ve probably heard people proclaiming the death of the PC as we know it. Not so fast—while it’s true that tablets have eaten into the sales of what were previously low-powered notebooks and now-extinct netbooks, there is still no way to replace the utility of a physical keyboard and the sensibility of a mouse cursor. Touch-centric devices are hard to beat when entertainment and education are the focus of a purchase, but as long as productivity matters, we aren’t likely to see traditional means of input and a range of connectivity options disappear anytime soon.
The IdeaPad Yoga 11 leaned so heavily in the direction of tablet design that it arguably was more tablet than notebook. That is, it featured a tablet-grade SOC (the nVidia Tegra 3) as opposed to a standard Intel or AMD CPU, an 11” display, and a phenomenal battery life that can only be compared to the likes of other ARM-based tablets. But, of course, with those allegiances come necessary concessions, not least of which is the inability to run x86 applications and the consequential half-baked experiment that is Windows RT.
Fortunately, there’s always room for compromise, and for those of us searching for something closer to a notebook than the original Yoga 11, we’re now afforded the option of the 11S. Apart from being nearly identical in terms of form factor, the $999 (as configured) Yoga 11S adopts a standard x86 chipset with Intel ULV CPUs, which allows it to run full-blown Windows 8. That positions it squarely in-between the larger x86 Yoga 13 and the ARM-based Yoga 11, which makes it an ideal candidate for someone hoping for the best of both worlds. But can it survive the transition, or do its compromises outstrip its gains?
Our Yoga 11S came equipped with a fairly standard configuration:
Unless you’re comparing to the Yoga 11’s specs, not much about this stands out. The Core i5-3339Y is the first thing that jumps out at you; in exchange for the nVidia Tegra 3 ARM-based SOC of the original Yoga 11, it’s a much more powerful chip with a 13W TDP and (thanks to its x86 architecture) the ability to run Windows 8 and standard Windows applications. Next on the list is the included 8 GB of DDR3 RAM—versus just 2 GB on the Yoga 11. Finally, there’s USB 3.0 and a much larger SSD (256 GB vs. 64 GB)—all valuable additions. One thing that hasn’t changed, meanwhile, is the battery size. Surely you’re wondering how this will affect the longevity of the notebook under typical usage. Patience; we’ll get to that in a bit! First, let’s talk about the general design of the notebook.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | July 16, 2013 - 07:09 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xps 12 ultrabook, windows 8, ultrabook, tablet, dell
Dell has announced that within the next few weeks, it will be unleashing a refreshed version of the XPS 12 convertible ultrabook (tablet/notebook). Although the base price will be increased by $100, the refreshed tablet features Intel’s latest Fourth Generation Core “Haswell” processor, a NFC radio, and a larger battery.
Specifically, Dell will be releasing at least three new XPS 12 SKUs. The lowest-end refreshed model includes an Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. This ultrabook/tablet SKU has an MSRP of $1,199 and is an update to the original base model with an MSRP of $1,099.
Dell's XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook (Tablet)
Beyond the starter version, users can upgrade the CPU and memory to an Intel Core i5-4500U and 8GB of DDR3 for $200 more ($1,399 MSRP).
Finally, users can take the $1,399 model and upgrade the storage to a 512GB solid state drive (SSD). This version of the XPS 12 has a MSRP of $1,999.
Dell claims that the updated ultrabook has up to 1.6-times the performance and 2.5 hours more battery life (8 hours, 43 minutes) thanks to the move to Haswell CPUs and a larger 50Wh battery respectively. Of course, the original XPS 12 used Ivy Bridge CPUs and 47Wh batteries. The new models have started shipping and will be available for purchase around the end of July.
Subject: General Tech | June 27, 2013 - 03:31 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: yoga 11, video, ultrabook, podcast, MacBook Air, haswell, gtx 760
PC Perspective Podcast #257 - 06/27/2013
Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 760, Ultrabook Reviews, Intel Enterprise SSDs and more!
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Subject: General Tech | June 23, 2013 - 12:08 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, ultrabook, u430 touch, u330 touch, sshd, Lenovo, haswell
Lenovo recently unveiled a n umber of new laptops and tablets running Microsoft's latest touch-friendly operating system. New devices include the Lenovo Mix convertible tablet, three new S-series laptops, and two new U-series ultrabooks.
The Lenovo Mix is the company's latest convertible. Primarily a tablet, the 10.1" device comes with a detachable AccuType keyboard case. It weighs 1.2 pounds and is a mere 0.4" thick.
Boasting a 10 hour battery life, the Lenovo Mix features a dual core Intel Atom processor, 64GB internal flash storage, microSD card support, and Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and (optional) 3G+GPS radios. The main attraction is a 10.1" IPS display with a resolution of 1366x768.
The Lenovo Mix will be available later this summer with a starting price of $500.
Lenovo S210, S400, and S500
In addition to the convertible tablet, Lenovo is also releasing three new S-series laptops. These new Windows 8 machines start at 3 pounds and 0.8" thick. They all feature a "tactile metallic finish," Dolby Advanced Audio v2 certification, and pre-installed Lenovo software such as Lenovo Companion, Lenovo Support, Lenovo Cloud.
The Lenovo S210 is a 11.6" laptop that supports Intel's Ivy Bridge Core i3 processors. Moving up from there, the Lenovo S400 is a 14" laptop and the S500 is a 15.6" laptop. Both the S400 and S500 support Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processors and discrete NVIDIA graphics.
All three Lenovo S-series laptops will be available for purchase later this summer. The laptops have a starting price of $429 for the S210, $499 for the S400, and $579 for the S500.
Lenovo U330 Touch and U430 Touch
Lenovo is also releasing two new ultrabook-class ultra-portable laptops. The Lenovo U330 is a 13.3" machine and the Lenovo U430 is a 14" thin-and-light. The laptops use a metal chassis, start at 3.7 pounds and 0.74" thick. Users will be able to interact with the ultrabook using voice or motion controls as well as the multi-touch touchpad and 10-point capacitive multi-touch display.
The Lenovo U330 is a 13.3" ultrabook that measures 12.7" x 8.8" x 0.74" and weighs 3.7 pounds. Display options include 1366 x 768 and 1920 x 1080 displays. Lenovo is providing the option of a 10-point multi-touch add-on for the display. Hardware specifications include an Intel Core i3-4010U or a Core i5-4200U CPU, up to 8GB of RAM, and a 42 Whr battery. Storage options include a 500GB or 1TB hard drive paired with 16GB of flash storage as cache, or a single 256GB SSD.
The Lenovo U330 Touch will be available in orange or gray later this summer with a starting MSRP of $799.
Meanwhile, the Lenovo U430 Touch is a larger machine that measures 13.2" x 9.2" x 0.81" and weighs 4.2 pounds. This machine comes with a 14" 1600 x 900 or 1920 x 1080p display with 10-point multi-touch panel option. The ultrabook is powered by Intel's Fourth Generation Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processors, optional NVIDIA discrete graphics, up to 8GB of RAM, and a 52 Whr battery. Storage options include a 1TB or 500GB SSHD with 16GB cache or a single 256GB SSD.
IO options on the laptop include HDMI video outputs, USB 3.0 ports, and a SD card reader.
The U430 Touch will be available later this summer with a starting price of $899.
All this new hardware is a lot to take in, but overall the specifications look good.
Subject: General Tech, Storage | June 12, 2013 - 08:04 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: ultrabook, sandisk, Samsung, pci-e ssd, Marvell, MacBook Air, macbook, haswell, apple
As Scott covered earlier this week, Apple quietly announced an update to the MacBook Air line along side the headline-grabbing Mac Pro redesign preview. Being a MacBook Air user for the past 2 years, I decided it was time to replace my Sandy Bridge-based model with some new Haswell goodness. Today marked the first day of retail store availability, and I picked up an 11" model with 256GB SSD.
Naturally, when I got back to the office there was only one route to take, installing Windows and disassembling it. While Anand uncovered the fact that these MacBooks were hiding a new unadvertised option, in a PCI-Express based SSD, I wanted to check it out for myself.
When I did some digging, I discovered that while Anand found a Samsung based SSD in his MacBook, mine actually contained a model by Sandisk. I did a quick initial benchmark in OS X, and proceeded to inspect the hardware itself.