Lenovo Announces the 12.5-inch ThinkPad Edge E220s, 14-inch E420s

Today, Lenovo announced the first of their 2011 lineup of their ThinkPad Edge series. These include machines running Intel’s new Core processors which were formally known as “Sandy Bridge”, but are now carrying the Core moniker. They have also announced an AMD Fusion-based ThinkPad, the ThinkPad X120e.

While they are oriented towards the small-to-medium business market, there will be consumers who are interested, and they will give an idea of what we will see further down the line.

The new Edge models are the ThinkPad Edge 12.5-inch E220s and the 14-inch E420s. Given that this site is about small laptops, I’m going to ignore the 14-inch E420s, but it is fairly small for its size. The 14-inch machine starts at $749 while the 12.5-inch E220s starts at $899 and both will be available in April.

E220s Specifications:
– 12.5-inch display
– Less than one inch thick
– Less than 3.5 pounds
– Spill-resistant keyboard
– “hidden” slot-loading DVD player/burner.
– Optional mobile broadband/4G/WiMAX
– HDMI port

Lenovo mentions a “Lenovo Enhanced Experience 2.0” which allows the boot time for Windows 7 to speed up by up to 30% on certain models with Solid State Drives (SSD). Both laptops also have “enhanced” video conferencing which features a high definition webcam, high performance/stereo microphones, and “noise-cancelling keyboard software”.

Read: Lenovo Press Release

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Intel Reveals 2nd Generation of Core Processors (aka Sandy Bridge)

Earlier today, ahead of this week’s 2011 CES (Consumer Electronics Show), Intel revealed the second generation of its Core processors.

Prior to this, these processors/architecture had “Sandy Bridge” as their codename. They will now be known as Core processors, and will follow the Core i3, i5, and i7 naming scheme.

These new Core processors are built upon a brand new 32nm microarchitecture, and are much more energy efficient than previous Core processors, with large increases in battery life. They also utilize Intel’s Turbo Boost 2.0 for times when a little more processing power is required. Turbo Boost 2.0 will allow the CPUs to run faster than the normal clock speed, but have the capability to manage any thermal issues that may arise, avoiding overheating problems.

Intel is claiming anywhere from a 40-50% boost in speed when working with multimedia content creation and gaming than original Core processors.

Better graphics performance (including 3D) are a part of the package, and the graphics system has been completely overhauled, with the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) being built into the same processor as the main CPU. This is supposed to be a huge improvement in speed and allow for easier/better cooling, along with slimmer laptop and ultraportable designs.

As part of the rollout, Intel’s WiDi has been upgraded. WiDi = Wireless Display, and it allows laptops to wirelessly send video output to other devices, and now 1080p video is supported.

LAPTOP Magazine and others have started publishing some test results and comparisons, but at least with the LAPTOP Magazine test, they were using a very high-end processor – a 2.3GHz Core i7-2820QM. It’s a quad-core CPU with 8 threads, and with the Turbo Boost technology, it can do burst speeds of up to 3.40GHz.

On the ultraportable front, as far as netbooks and other smaller laptops, we are out of look for several months, as those CPUs might not be available until the second half of 2011. This is what we have to look forward to in regards to Low Voltage (LV) and Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) CPUs:
– i5-2537M, 17W TDP, 3MB L3 Cache,
– i7-2617M, 17W TDP, 4MB L3 Cache,
– i7-2657M, 17W TDP, 4MB L3 Cache,
– i7-2629M, 25W TDP, 4MB L3 Cache,
– i7-2649M, 25W TDP, 4MB L3 Cache,

All have 2 cores and 4 threads and all have Intel’s HD Graphics 3000

From what I’ve seen, I don’t think we’ll see any 13″ and smaller laptops powered by these new CPUs (non-LV/non-ULV) for a few months. It seems to be the quad-cores launching first, with 15″ and 17″ laptops/notebooks due to the cooling/size requirements.

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Netbook Pricing to Continue Dropping?

DigiTimes is reporting that due to a strong and continued demand for Tablet PCs and Tablets (notably Apple’s iPad), that name brand vendors/manufacturers in Taiwan are dropping prices on their netbooks.

Asustek is mentioned as dropping the price of new Intel Atom N450-based single-core Eee PCs to under $300 USD, and new Intel Atom N550-based dual-core Eee PCs to right around $400 USD. The article mentions that Asustek was playing up its specifications of its netbooks as well as new netbook designs to bring in consumers.

Other vendors mentioned are Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard (HP), and Micro-Star International (MSI). The article goes on to discuss that current demand for netbooks has dropped, with a potential impact of smartphones occurring as well. Their sources believe Asustek and Acer will continue to push netbooks while some vendors such as MSI may exit the netbook market.

My view is that there is a saturation of sorts – many people are on their second generation of netbooks, and those who have moved up to dual-core netbooks are definitely not going to have a need to upgrade anytime soon. I think a need for netbooks will continue to exist for the long term – many will not sacrifice a physical keyboard or a high-resolution screen. What I wonder is whether or not the netbooks and the ultraportables running faster CPUs (Intel’s Core Ultra Low Voltage as an example) will eventually merge. There might reach a point where the costs favor sticking a Core ULV CPU in netbook-style laptops rather than Intel continuing with the Atom line. Then again, the Atoms could find themselves in thin tablets running Windows 7.

Read: DigiTimes

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Google Chrome OS Pilot Program Launches

Google has formally introduced Chrome OS and the Chrome OS Pilot Program for laptops, and they’ve even introduced a new ultraportable laptop that was “designed for the pilot program.”

Google Chrome OS is a Linux-based OS being developed by Google for laptops/notebooks, and netbooks that is focused on internet-based work, with an emphasis on using Google Apps. All of the applications are either meant to be web-based, or work with web-based content. The pilot program is open to the following people/groups who are based in the US:
– Individuals
– Businesses
– Schools
– Non-profit organizations
– Developers

The Google Cr-48 Chrome Notebook really resembles a 13.3-inch Black MacBook.

Cr-48 Chrome Notebook
– “Designed for the Pilot program”
– 12-inch LCD
– Boots in about 10 seconds, Resumes from sleep instantly
– Over 8 hours of battery life, standby for a week
– Flash/SSD storage instead of a mechanical hard drive
– Wi-Fi and 3G network connectivity
– Full-size keyboard / oversized touchpad
– 3.8 pounds
– VGA out
– Possibly a headphone out jack
– Possibly a Secure Digital (SD) slot
– 1x USB 2.0 port
– Webcam

If you’re worried about security, Google has posted this video, explaining some of the safety/security features:

Further Reading:
Chrome OS Pilot Program

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Google Chrome OS Netbook to Launch Tuesday (December 7)?

Engadget believes an Intel-Atom powered netbook running Google Chrome OS, and branded by Google will be released next Tuesday, December 7, 2010. Multiple sources have told Engadget to expect a Google Chrome OS device to be released then. Google has sent out official invitations to the media for a Chrome event on December 7 in San Francisco.

The “launch” is going to be more of a publicity launch than anything – Engadget’s sources believe it’s going to be a very limited production run (65,000), and not for the public market. Apparently the OS is still in beta and not polished.

It’s been right around a year and a half since it was announced. Originally it was slated for a release by the fall of this year, but back in November Google said it would not be until early 2011.

Google Chrome OS is based on Linux and the entire focus of the OS is centered around internet/web applications. The OS will even look like Google’s Chrome browser. Performance should be very good, even on low-end hardward, since there isn’t a lot to the OS – everything will be based on using the internet. The OS itself will be stripped down, and that should ensure good performance, even on single-core netbooks. The OS will be designed to take up as little of the display as possible, leaving more room for web browsing, online document editing (Google Docs), and other intended uses, which will be especially helpful on the lower resolution display (1024×600, etc.).

Engadget and Google invite

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