Lenovo slims down new ThinkPad T400s

By Eric Lai, Computerworld |  Hardware, laptop, Lenovo

Showing again that rugged business-oriented laptops can play the thin-and-light game, Lenovo Group Ltd. on Tuesday revealed a slimmed-down ThinkPad that boasts a number of other trademark innovations for the mobile workforce.

The 14-inch widescreen ThinkPad T400s weighs 3.9 pounds, 17% less than its bigger brother T400 (4.7 pounds), and is 0.83 inches thick, versus 1.09 for the T400, putting it closer on the portability scale to what was until now Lenovo's thinnest ThinkPad, the X300, a 13-inch sub-notebook model that varies between 0.73 and 0.92 inches in thickness.

With its larger screen but thin-and-light size, the T400s sits halfway in between models from Apple Inc., the hardware maker leading the thin-and-light charge with the 0.95-inch unibody aluminum MacBook and MacBook Pros, which come in 13-inch and 15-inch screens, and the 0.76-inch thick MacBook Air.

Available immediately at a starting price of $1,599, T400s comes with an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz processor, LED-backlit screen, 120GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM, an integrated Intel GMA 4500 graphics chip, DVD burner, and Windows Vista Business.

Options such as an SSD drive or a 3G broadband wireless card will each add several hundred dollars to the price, said David Critchley, a marketing manager for Lenovo. Lenovo will offer Windows 7 on the T400s and its other ThinkPads as soon as possible after the operating system's release this fall.

Critchley emphasized that Lenovo did more than just put the T400s on a diet. The new notebook uses a carbon-fiber roll cage design that Lenovo first used in its X300.

"This is as durable as our old magnesium frames, but a lot lighter," Critchley said.

Befitting former owner IBM's keyboard heritage, the T400s has enlarged Delete and Esc keys to minimize typing errors, along with tighter gaps between keys in order to block out food crumbs from those who dine at their desks.

To make it easier for workers to place VoIP calls or use teleconference services, the ThinkPad T400s comes with a 2-megapixel Webcam, and Lenovo doubled the number of digital microphones (to two) and the maximum speaker volume over the T400.

The T400s has both a VGA and a DisplayPort connector, allowing users to hook up two additional monitors without a port replicator.

One thing that is staying the same with the T400s is its conservative look. But Critchley said that won't hurt ThinkPad sales, even with sexier gear like Apple's MacBooks appealing to executives.

"I'm not sure 'executive jewelry' is the position we want to be in," Critchley said.

Rather, Critchley touted the new ThinkPad's inclusion of Intel's management technology, vPro, as something that IT managers who buy ThinkPads demand.

"Apple doesn't support vPro. It will be interesting to see when their customers start to ask for that," Critchley said.

On future ThinkPad trends, Lenovo may release a successor to the ThinkPad X300 using a lower-voltage CULV processor from Intel to cut heat and energy usage, said Franciso Carias, worldwide product marketing manager for ThinkPads.

Lenovo is also thinking about adding a multi-touch screen to future ThinkPads, and will consider releasing a slim model of its T500 with 15-inch OLED screen "if demand is there," Carias said.

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