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Lenovo Launches Ultra-Thin ThinkPad X300 Notebook

Lenovo isn't expected to sell a lot of the X300s, but it may enhance the company's reputation as an innovator.
Lenovo on Tuesday launched an ultra-thin notebook that competes with Apple's MacBook Air for the pocketbooks of road warriors.

While not as stylish as the Apple notebook introduced last month at the Macworld conference in San Francisco, the ThinkPad X300 has a number of features that the Air lacks, such as a wide array of ports and connectivity options, a removable battery, and a built-in DVD drive. Among the downsides, however, is a higher price tag.

At 2.93 pounds, the stripped-down version of the X300 about matches the Air, but the Lenovo product's thinnest point at three-quarters of an inch is about equal to the thickest point of the Apple notebook. In addition, adding a full-size battery and DVD drive to the X300 takes the machine to 3.5 pounds. The stripped down version has only a half-size battery, which means considerably less battery life.

Both notebooks have a full-size keyboard and a 13.3-inch display. The X300's LED backlit display, however, is a higher resolution screen.

Among the extras available as standards or options in the X300, but not with the Air, is an Ethernet jack, removable battery, built-in DVD drive, and cellular phone modem. Lenovo also offers GPS location finding, the ability to connect to wireless USB devices, and future support for WiMax. The X300, however, has a 1.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, which is slower than the Air's 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU.

Among the biggest contributors to the X300 hefty price is a solid-state hard drive that's faster than conventional hard disk drives, but is far more expensive. In addition, the X300 comes standard with 64 GB of storage, which many critics have said is rather skimpy. The Air comes standard with an 80 GB hard drive.

The pre-configured retail version of the X300 starts at $2,799, and the stripped-down version is available for less than $2,500. The baseline price of the Air starts at $1,799.

The X300's price is expected to make the notebook a niche product, instead of one that would appeal to mainstream consumers and prosumers, Steve Baker, analysts for The NPD Group, said. "While everyone expects to pay for cool, there is a limit."

Instead of mainstream buyers, the X300 is expected to appeal to people willing to pay for a road-ready computer that's lighter and smaller than many other notebooks, but is still feature rich.

In place of high-volume sales, Lenovo is likely to gain attention as an innovator, which would be new for the Chinese computer maker. Lenovo in the U.S. is perceived as a manufacturer of quality business computers that were once owned by IBM. To broaden its appeal in the consumer and prosumer markets, it has to be seen as cooler. "They need to build more of a halo around the Lenovo brand," Baker said.

In that respect, Apple and Lenovo have taken similar approaches with their respective products, since Apple's Air is also not likely to be its biggest seller. "They're not going to be volume products, and they're not going to be No. 1 sellers," Baker said. "But not everything has to be."

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