Lenovo Intros New ThinkPads with Intel's 'Sandy Bridge' Chips

Lenovo will begin shipping six new ThinkPad notebooks in March, featuring speedy Intel processors, long battery life and rugged but light designs.

Lenovo in March will begin shipping six new ThinkPad laptops for business users, emphasizing ultra-thin design, long battery life, enterprise-grade security and a good deal of extra oomph, thanks to Intel's "Sandy Bridge" 2nd Generation Core chips.

There's a W520, said to pack the power of a workstation into a ThinkPad; L420 and L520 notebooks, with strong media and communications skills, plus eco-friendly credentials; T420 and T520 lines, with performance, multimedia and enterprise security bragging rights; and an ultra-thin T420s line, arguably the darling of the bunch.

The 3.94-pound T420s line features a 14-inch HD display, a choice of Windows 7 operating systems and a choice of Intel processors, up to the Core i7, with Lenovo's Turbo Boost+ technology and Intel HD graphics. There's a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port, said to transfer data up to 10 times faster than a USB 2.0, an integrated fingerprint reader and a 720-pixel camera for video conferencing.

The T420s, like all six new ThinkPads, features Private Chat and Conference Call microphone modes, which users can toggle between with a mouse click. The former uses noise-canceling technology to focus on a single voice, while the latter captures 360 degrees of sound around the notebook, allowing multiple users to sit in on a call.

They also include keyboard noise suppression technology to lessen distractions during calls, and an LED-lit microphone mute key to make blazingly clear when the microphone is on to "avoid embarrassing conference call mistakes," Lenovo said in a Feb. 22 statement.

Another perk about the ThinkPad lines, Endpoint Technologies analyst Roger Kay told eWEEK, is that while Lenovo doesn't do much overt bragging about it, these are notebooks that can generally take the abuse of business traveling. "The ThinkPads have really robust hardware, and they do pass some [military]-spec tests, in which price-performance wise they do really well," said Kay. "They sort of claim less and do more. Buyers are actually getting a notebook that happens to be pretty rugged."

The T420 and T520 lines feature 14- and 15.6-inch HD displays, respectively, and second-generation Intel Core processors-the option of Core i5 or i7 for the T420 and Core i3, i5 or i7 for the T520-plus Intel HD integrated or discrete graphics and 15 percent better 3G performance.

The T420 starts at 4.9 pounds, has a DVD ROM read-only drive, a 4GB solid-state flash drive or 80GB micro solid-state drive (SSD), four- or six-cell battery options, and Gobi technology for EV-DO/HSPA and HSPA+ connectivity, in addition to WiFi, WiMax and WLAN connectivity.

The T520, with its 15.6-inch display, starts at 5.74 pounds, comes with a 128GB or 160GB SSD, EV-DO WWAN Minicard, and a nine-cell battery with the option-like the T420-of a nine-cell battery slice.

With the slice, it's possible for users to get up to 30 hours of battery life. This feature, Kay said, hits a demographic, such as users who need their PC to last a full flight to Asia. Lenovo makes this feat possible by doing things like telling the processor to turn off when the user is just listening to music. Features like this, Kay said, "can have a halo effect. If you satisfy some of those demands, users say, 'What else have you got?'"

Well, they've also got the 5.95-pound W520, with Intel Core i5 or i7 processors or a Core i7 quad-core processor, paired with Nvidia Fermi architecture based on Quadro graphics cards with 2GB of dedicated graphics memory, up to 32GB of DDR3 (double-data rate) RAM and 15.6-inch HD, HD+ or FHD displays. There's WiFi, WiMax and WLAN support, plus the Gobi card, and battery options will get you 8.9 or 10.7 hours of juice.

Finally, there are the L420 and L520 ThinkPads, the most mainstream and affordable of the bunch. With 14-inch and 15.6-inch displays, respectively, processor options run up to the 2.7GHz Core i7, along with Intel HD or discrete graphics. Their efficient performance, says Lenovo, creates lowered carbon dioxide emissions, and the notebooks come in 100 percent recycled packaging, are Energy Star-certified and, with backlit LED HD displays, are EPEAT Gold qualified.

The ThinkPad T, W and L Series notebooks share the same docking station, simplifying deployments and ideally costs, and will be available in March starting at $719 for the L420 and L520; $1,329 for the W520; $779 and $909 for the T420 and T520; and $1,329 for the T420s.