Lenovo Launches Entertainment Notebooks

Among their features, the PCs have five Dolby Home Theater speakers and use facial-recognition technology for security.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

January 3, 2008

6 Min Read

Lenovo on Thursday officially entered the U.S. consumer notebook market with three products for people willing to spend more than the basic-notebook price in order to get better entertainment features.

The notebooks fall under the new IdeaPad brand, which will be the consumer side of Lenovo's mobile PC business. The Chinese company is best known in the United States for its ThinkPad line of business notebooks.

(click image for larger view)Lenovo's new laptops have five Dolby Home Theatre speakers and use facial recognition technology for security.View the image gallery

The IdeaPad Y510, Y710, and U110 models are powered by Intel's dual-core Centrino mobile platform, use facial-recognition technology in combination with a 1.3-megapixel embedded camera for security, and have five Dolby Home Theater speakers. In addition, the notebooks have Wi-Fi support, DVD/CD recordable combo drives, touch-sensitive control surfaces, textured outer cases, and frameless screens. "They look very smooth, sleek, and clean," Craig Merrigan, VP of global consumer marketing for Lenovo, said of the screens.

As the PC evolves from a business machine to an entertainment device, design has become increasingly important to consumers. In the case of notebooks, style has become an attraction for people who carry their machines with them to coffee shops or other public places. Desktops also are evolving into pretty machines, which manufacturers hope will lead people to place them in the living room as entertainment hubs that deliver content to digital TVs.

Lenovo quietly introduced its first consumer notebook in the U.S. market in October. The 14-inch L3000 Y410 started at less than $740 in some retail stores, and the base model included a 1.46-GHz Pentium Dual Core T2310 processor, 1 Gbyte of memory, a 160-Gbyte hard drive, a dual-layer CD/DVD recordable drive, and Wi-Fi support. It also had a 1.3-megapixel camera and Dolby Home Theater speakers with subwoofer. Lenovo at the time played down the entry, saying it was based on existing product lines.

The latest products, however, are said to be brand new and are meant to go head-to-head with Hewlett-Packard's Pavilion entertainment notebooks and Dell's XPS line. Both combine sleek design with features for playing and organizing music and video, as well as editing and showing photos.

Lenovo is hoping its notebooks' design, VeriFace Face Recognition software, and Dolby Home Theater system will help differentiate them from rivals. The VeriFace software uses the notebooks' embedded camera to recognize a user's face for login, making it unnecessary to remember passwords. "Your face becomes your password," Merrigan said.

The sound system includes four speakers on the top of the machine -- front, top, and each side -- and a subwoofer underneath. The systems also include Lenovo's Multimedia Control Center software, which the company claims makes it easy to play movies, listen to music, and view photos. The notebooks also have touch-sensitive controls for choosing multimedia files and for setting volume and the built-in equalizer.

The Y710 includes a 17-inch-wide screen, 2 Gbytes of memory, up to a 500-Gbyte hard drive, and a smooth, blue, metallic finish. Select models include a second hot-swap hard drive to store and transfer data and special features for gamers. Those include enlarged directional buttons for enhanced game play, four user-customizable buttons, and a second display showing system information, such as CPU speed. There's also a control switch for CPU over-clocking, an ATI graphics card, and optional Blu-ray DVD reader.

The Y510 targets people looking for an all-in-one notebook for a variety of computing tasks, from word processing to photo and video editing. The system includes a 15.4-inch-wide screen, 2 Gbytes of memory, and up to a 250-Gbyte hard drive, and comes with a black, textured, linen-like top cover.

(click image for larger view)Lenovo's new laptops combine sleek design with features for playing and organizing music and video, as well as editing and showing photos.View the image gallery

The U110 is an ultraportable system with an 11-inch screen. The notebook weights 2.3 pounds and is 0.7 of an inch thick. It has a textured design embedded in its red aluminum alloy top cover, and is available with a solid-state flash drive instead of a hard drive for faster performance. Select models also have an "air bag-like device" to protect the hard drive if the computer is dropped.

The U110 isn't scheduled for release until April, so pricing and further specs weren't released. Pricing for the Y510 and Y710 starts at $799 and $1,199, respectively. The Y510 will be available in the United States initially at BestBuy.com, Micro Center, Newegg.com, Office Depot, and Tiger Direct. The Y710 will be available initially at Tiger Direct. The new products will be on display at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jan. 7-10.

Besides the United States, Lenovo is introducing the IdeaPad line in more than a dozen other countries, including France, Russia, South Africa, India, Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, the Philippines, and Singapore. The company also plans to launch a global marketing campaign that includes Web-based promotions, merchandising, and traditional media advertising.

Outside the United States, mostly in the Asia-Pacific region, the company is introducing three desktops under the IdeaCentre brand.

Lenovo is strongest in its Chinese homeland, where it has a growing consumer presence. The company was ranked third in PC shipments worldwide in the third quarter of 2007 with 8.2% of the market, according to IDC. Shipments for Lenovo grew nearly 23% from the same quarter a year ago, easily surpassing the 15.5% increase in overall PC shipments worldwide.

Nevertheless, Lenovo's market share is far behind industry leaders HP and Dell, which accounted for 19.6% and 15.2% of the market, respectively, according to IDC. Lenovo hopes to narrow the gap with consumer-focused PCs.

In doing so, it will also face stiff competition from No. 4 Acer, which had 8.1% of the PC market in the third quarter. The Taiwanese company increased shipments by more than 59% from a year ago, helped by strong gains in its main markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific area.

In the first quarter of the year, market researcher iSuppli had Acer grabbing the No. 3 spot from Lenovo, before losing it later in the year.

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