Lenovo had a large area reserved where they could display all of their new and upcoming hardware along with some of their recently released products. While there were various ThinkCentre offerings on display, the majority of the space was occupied by a plethora of laptops, tablets, and smartphones. We didn’t spend time with every product on offer, but there were a few interesting items worth pointing out. We’ll focus on their laptop offerings from the ThinkPad and IdeaPad lines for this post.

We’ve often complained about the dearth of quality displays in laptops—and it’s particularly irksome considering how many tablets are now sporting higher quality displays. Well, I finally got a chance to put my mitts on the ThinkPad X220, and it’s everything you’d expect from a high quality IPS panel. Contrast ratios look very good, with bright whites and dark blacks, but more importantly you get excellent viewing angles. I generally like the look of ThinkPad laptops, and the build quality of the T- and W-series is excellent. The X220 is probably one of the most compelling laptops you can find at under 13.3” right now, and while you’ll pay more for the privilege it’s money well spent. There are aspects of ThinkPad that I don’t like much—the touchpad on the X220 in particular is small and not particularly comfortable for me to use—but given the choice between an excellent touchpad with a crappy display and a mediocre touchpad with an excellent display, I’ll definitely take the latter. None of the other displays could match the quality of the X220, sadly, though the W520 is at least close.

Other ThinkPad offerings run the usual gamut of T-series, W-series, and ThinkPad Edge to name a few. Lenovo has also decided to move away from the s-suffix (e.g. T420s) and created a new S-series line. The ThinkPad Edge S430 is interesting in that it’s one of the few laptops we’ve seen so far at CES with a Thunderbolt port. Another cool ThinkPad is the X1 Hybrid, which is the same as the X1 but with a mini-PCIe card that contains an SoC capable of running a Linux-style. If you need more battery life and don’t need the performance of a full Core i5/i7 processor you can switch to the SoC. At that point, the Windows environment goes into sleep mode and you switch to a Linux-based (Android-based) environment. There’s shared flash memory storage that can be accessed by both the Windows and Linux platforms, but the Linux OS can only read from the flash memory. The battery life benefit is claimed as being up to 2X when in SoC mode, though others have reported even lengthier runtimes.

Overall, the ThinkPad line continues to deliver as a well-built business laptop series. Not all ThinkPads are created equal of course—I’m partial to the T-, W-, and X-series—but the hinges are all solid and for the increased price you get a laptop that should last a good five years. I'm also (apparently like many of you) more than a bit concerned with the move away from the classic ThinkPad keyboard to a new chiclet-style design; all of the new ThinkPads are sporting chiclet keyboards, and while they're not bad I definitely prefer the current "classic" keyboards. Finally, while there weren’t any Ivy Bridge models on display yet, those are obviously coming and we’ll keep an eye out for the spring refresh.

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  • MeesterNid - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Really, after some 20+ years of building laptops they are still making the same old tired design? Did Lenovo buy "ugly" from IBM along with the rest of the computer business?
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Thinkpads from y few years ago look ugly compared to the current ones. And for many people the design actually screams "rock solid & reliable, worth the money". As soon as you've got so many posiive associations with the look, it doesn't matter much how it actually looks like. Kind of Porsche style.
  • Omega215D - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    You do realize that the ThinkPad line is meant for business users right? The understated design is what many people like about it. It's also functional and durable. Many of the mid - upper range ThinkPads have a roll-cage incorporated into the body while the plastic is thick and hard to crack.

    Richard Sapper is responsible for the award winning Tizio lamp and lent his design expertise to IBM and Lenovo so not everyone thinks the laptops are ugly
  • mino - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    While not all (R/T/W/X..) Thinkpads are pretty, none are kitsch.

    For me, a properly designed device is a beauty and losing capabilities for Glitz!(aka chicklet) is not a plus but sheer stupidity.

    If one a toy craves, he need not buy a ThinkPad.
  • Omega215D - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    The ThinkPad Edge is said to be the low end of the Thinkpad line thus a lot of the reliability features are left out and the design is more in line with Lenovo's consumer IdeaPad range. I kinda don't see the reason for it to be honest.

    In regards to the keyboard, I liked the chiclet keys on my MacBook but found the keys on my ThinkPad T60p to be excellent as well. I hope Lenovo took the time to get the feel right. I would have expected them to improve the touch pad. It's not bad but it's not as good as the one on my MacBook. The Touchpoint makes up for it somewhat.

    Hopefully the matte screen options and drive bay battery packs are here to stay for the line.
  • twotwotwo - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Using an X220, heartily agree about the touchpad. Don't like the bumpy surface or how it clicks. I use the TrackPoint where I can, but where I can't, I'd like the touchpad to be better. :)
  • kenyee - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    That was my favorite part about the thinkpad...they old keyboards had enough feel that you could touch type at a decent speed.

    Any thoughts on how the new chiclet keyboards feel?

    And yes, my T61p is 5 yrs old....needs an ivy bridge replacement w/ a decent screen and *FOUR* SODIMM slots (can't believe how many business laptops out there only have 2 slots)-:
    Thinkpad T series = solid reliability.....ugly? lol...bring an Alienware to a customer presentation and see how professional they think you are ;-)
  • Omega215D - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Agreed. It's a professional looking piece that's quite tough. Mine never missed a beat when it was in the lab getting knocked around by equipment or minor spills and it outlived my MacBook from the same year.

    The C2D in mine is still speedy as is the discrete GPU but I do plan on upgrading to a new one myself.

    To be fair, I don't notice any slowdown in typing speed on the MacBook's chiclet keys compared to the Thinkpad though the ThinkPad felt "right." The ThinkLight is a nice alternative to a backlit keyboard. The finger print scanner is great for locking the laptop.
  • andywuwei - Friday, January 13, 2012 - link

    I am a ThinkPad fan because of its keyboard and Touchpoint. Without "classic" ThinkPad keyboard i will not buy ThinkPad any more.
  • Scott586 - Saturday, February 25, 2012 - link

    Agree, the classic keyboard is one of the main attractions for the Thinkpad. What possible reason for the change? Cost? I would gladly pay for a superior quality keyboard. Stupid change, stupid.

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