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CES 2010: Lenovo Wows Crowds With Stunning Smartbook

Gordon Kelly


CES 2010: Lenovo Wows Crowds With Stunning Smartbook

We've long heard from manufacturers and chipmakers that 2010 in general and CES in particular was going to be the time when the fabled 'smartbook' would take off. You know what? They may just be right.

Chipmaker Qualcomm and PC maker Lenovo have jointly announced the 'Skylight' - not the first smartbook to ever be demoed, but certainly the most exciting.

Like many smartbooks we've heard about in 2009, the Skylight uses an ARM processor (the key differentiator between themselves and Intel based netbooks) and is based on the Qualcomm 1GHz Snapdragon chipset which can also be found inside smartphones. Where things get particularly interesting however are what the choice of the mobile platform allows the Skylight to achieve: namely an ulta-thin and light form factor (under 1kg, MacBook Air slim) and battery life that will top 10 hours.

Elsewhere you'll find a custom Linux OS (Microsoft doesn't support ARM processors for its own baffling reasons) and taking a leaf out of Chrome OS's books are preinstalled widgets for Amazon MP3, Facebook, Gmail and YouTube plus 2GB of Cloud storage. As for hardware, you'll get a 10.1in 1280 x 720 display, 20GB of solid state storage plus a memory card expansion slot (8GB provided), WiFi and integrated 3G - a key part of the smartbook mission statement. This will be AT&T Stateside, we await UK details.

"The web has become the window to the world for more and more people, helping them connect with friends and family across town or thousands of miles away," said Peter Gaucher, Lenovo executive director, Mobile Internet Product Management. "Skylight combines the long battery life and connectivity of a smartphone with the full web browsing and multimedia experience of a netbook to create one of the first devices in this developing smartbook category. Consumers want choices. They can now choose from a full portfolio of Lenovo mobile consumer devices including netbooks, smartbooks and laptops."

Yep, smartbooks suddenly do provide a compelling argument and the deal sealer could well be price. Smartbooks are expected to undercut netbooks substantially and with Lenovo confirming a $499 (£310) RRP for the Skylight and an April release (while netbooks are being quickly eaten up by CULV machines) I have to say first impressions of this new sector are extremely positive.


January 6, 2010, 1:05 pm

Say what... £310 does not in anyway substantially undercut netbooks and in fact is more expensive. You've not even added in the small matter of UK tax. With that shape not only would I not want to be seen dead within 10 feet of it I doubt its actually that much more portable. On the performance side of things its not as powerful as a netbook and has to run linux - which is perfectly fine apart from that consumer joe (and me) would much prefer windows 7. It could be subsidised but you will still be able to get a netbook with 3G on a similar tariff if not cheaper. All of the issues above wouldn't matter if they just lowered the price to £200


January 6, 2010, 1:11 pm

Stunning? It looks like an airplane toilet seat!


January 6, 2010, 2:05 pm

"Microsoft doesn't support ARM processors for its own baffling reasons"

actually that reason would be because ARM uses a different architecture to Intel chips and would require a complete re-code of Windows XP/7 for it to be supported on the different architecture; hence Windows CE and subsequently Windows Mobile/Phone existing


January 6, 2010, 2:48 pm

Forgive me for being so dense as to ask this simple question, but what exactly is a Smartbook? And why is is different and better than a Netbook? And what is CULV? Don't assume we all know everything you do Gordon! :)


January 6, 2010, 3:14 pm

I dunno... it's a nice enough looking bit of kit and the prospect of 10 hours battery life from a portable is nice. Oh, and a decent screen resolution is a bonus too. But... £310? Really? That seems like an awful lot of dosh for a device with limited functionality, especially when stuff like the Vostro V13 come in at around £400 (and nope, sorry, it doesn't undercut netbooks which start getting expensive around the £250 mark really and this has FAR worse hardware specs).

It just seems a lot like the early days of netbooks when the price was cheap-ish but people just weren't interested unless it had Windows or unless it was a LOT cheaper than the equivalent notebook.


January 6, 2010, 3:18 pm

I personally think that these sort of things would be more suitable in a 8" tablet form factor - true full internet experience with portability on the go. As it stands, it is just a poor man's netbook (which is a poor man's CULV notebook).

And Microsoft do support ARM with its Windows CE platform.


January 6, 2010, 6:24 pm

Gordon's getting some bashing here, and I have to say I agree with it.

Not cheaper than a netbook.

Less powerful and no better battery life than many.

Linux has already shown it's not able to compete against Windows.

Sorry but it's ARM desperately trying to find customers with the product they made that doesn't work with Windows. They need to halve the price to get anyone interested.

To summarise the device, this is like a "big phone" without the phone and not much of the computer.


January 7, 2010, 1:12 am

@all - I think you've been on the crack pipe.

CULV machines are circa £450 and £300 is indeed cheaper than the majority of netbooks, ESPECIALLY with integrated 3G networking (typically a £100+ option in its own right). 10 hours of battery life is also better than most netbooks (especially in this form factor) and with a Linux OS you don't need any extra power since it is a far more agile operating system. Sure, newbies may not get the same functionality out of Linux as Windows (advanced users actually get far more than you can get out of Windows), but it is perfectly suited for the basics required in mobile computing.

Then thrown in a thickness akin to the MacBook Air, a weight of around 900 grams and I'm beginning to think the snow has frozen everyone's brains.

As for what is a smartbook? Intel has the rights over the 'netbook' tag so essentially it is ARM powered netbooks which can be lighter and have longer battery life since ARM chipsets are shared with smartphones. Smartbooks also all integrate 3G and will be priced in the £150 - 300 region.

@McPlopp - I've explained these categories many, many times and cannot do it in every single story. There are plenty of links in the story which will help you.


January 7, 2010, 1:28 am

Well, I've been on the prescription painkillers and I've been riding a motorbike in the snow so my comments are probably best described as those of a frozen brained, codeine addled idiot.

Must say it looks ugly as sin and I really have doubts about the overall appeal. XP was flexible on a netbook and whilst slow, you could do pretty much the same as on a laptop hence why XP equipped netbooks massively outsold Linux ones. Common sense says these will do the same job most of the time and that they'll be reasonably brisk but to me (and apparently most of my fellow nerds) the Eee just has more appeal. Might be something to do with there being an ARM processor in my phone and that phone being utter cack.

The weight doesn't make a massive difference to me, but that said I carry several kilos on my back to work every day but when you get down to losing half a kilo, surely it becomes a little pointless? I'd rather have a 1.5Kg laptop/netbook/smartbook/flippy open typy thing with extra stuff than lose a CD drive or something equally useful for the sake of Macbook Air comparisons.

It has an aura of those VTEC things you used to see in the kids section in Argos catalogues.

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