It was truly amazing to see CES 2017 come and go so quickly, and yet not have enough time to truly grasp at every detail of every cool machine offered. Amazingly, I managed to spend every moment possible at the #LenovoCES event, and even met the fun YouTube celebrities Linus Sebastian and Gavin Free! Alas, you’re not here to listen about my adventures, and if you are, there are better stories to read than mine. With that, let’s dive into THE MOST ALL INCLUSIVE LENOVO CES GUIDE!
Note: Although I do my best to include all the tidbits of information, there may still be questions I can answer in the comments below.
Section 1: The Smart Stuff
Honestly, I was not expected to be interested in the smart, IoT-esque products coming out this year. Being a Canadian, I feel we’ve missed the IoT excitement due to lack of cloud services being available up north. Still, Lenovo brought some interesting tech to the table, which is making me seriously considering trying to get the gear operational in Canada.
I didn’t grab any photos of the below gear since there was nothing revealed that isn’t already out there (Unless you have a thing for DC barrel jack connectors, to which, I am sorry).
Lenovo Smart Assistant
I had heard of Amazon’s Alexa service, and had even briefly read into it when I heard of people getting it operational in Linux, but I truly hadn’t experienced it until CES. I had also used Google’s Google Now system on my phone, and considered it to be a more consistent version of the old Microsoft Sync services. I truly thought it was a niche playtoy.
Lenovo’s Smart Assistant solves a lot of problems that, frankly, I was not aware of. The Smart Assistant offers an Intel quad-core processor (Intel Atom x5-E8000) and 2GB of RAM to process the voice commands as quickly as possible. Unlike other Alexa products, the Smart Assistant comes with an additional mic built-in, bringing the total number of mics to 8 in the array, reducing noise interference and improving clarity of voice commands to the Alexa service. Although it is extremely difficult to validate the quality of the commands without disassembling the Smart Assistant, I was given a demonstration wherein Alexa interpreted the commands with all the background noise of the crowds. Thanks to the far field microphones, the claim is interpretation within 5 meters (~16.5 ft) of the unit.
The unit will come in 3 colours (white, with a trim colour choice of Light Gray, Green, or Orange) and will list at $129 USD. A special, all-black Harmon Kardon edition will also be available for $179 USD. The units are slated for release in April.
Lenovo Smart Storage
Before I sound overly critical of this rather nifty NAS drive, I figure I’d mention that every NAS I’ve owned in my life has challenged my sanity with the extended services simply not working. Maybe it was the fact that everything ran on ARM. Maybe it was the fact that I somehow discovered core memory leaks in the SAMBA daemons which caused the unit to run for months then suddenly freeze. Either way, most of my NAS drives have quickly become Linux PCs running file sharing services. So I was walking into this rather pessimistic.
The Smart Storage seems to focus on the minimalistic side of NAS enclosures. The design is not loaded with overwhelming lights, and would integrate nicely into your home theatre setup (as long as you are OK with the white enclosure). I first looked at this unit and thought “Hey, it’s a NAS. Very... NAS-ey.” because realistically, there’s not much you can do with a NAS on its own. Luckily, Lenovo had the Smart Storage set up in the same room as the Smart Assistant, a TV, some lamps, and a gorgeously classic floor fan that stood out. And this is where the Smart aspect comes in.
NAS devices traditionally used ARM-based processors with a stripped down Linux to offer the cheapest, low power enclosures possible, while adding in a few features. Somehow, there was an idea that people want to save a few watts when they’re spinning a 10W drive 24/7, but I digress. The Lenovo Smart Storage ramps up the processing power by adding a Intel Celeron N3060 and 2GB of DDR3. The added performance allows Lenovo to offer better support services in addition to the basic NAS services (NFS, SAMBA, etc). Some of the features included are:
- One Key Upload: With a single button press, you can back up the files of a USB-connected peripheral device (think phone, thumb drive, etc) to the NAS without accessing a web server.
- Auto Organization: Files can be automatically sorted and filed based off the file type, making it easy to keep all your movies in one place.
- DLNA: Hey look, a DLNA server that runs surprisingly well! Stream your videos to your DLNA device such as a smart TV, gaming console, or even your phones and tablets!
In addition, the NAS comes with built in Wireless AC. Although I would never advise to run a NAS wirelessly if you want to get the best transfer rates, it makes it convenient to hide it in a closet or laundry room. The Wireless AC will also offer a huge performance boost over the previous (ABGN) technologies.
The Lenovo Smart Storage will start at $139 for a 2TB model, coming in April. A 6TB option will also be offered.
THE ELUSIVE VR HEADSET
I won’t lie. I wish there was a bunch of info I could get on this thing. But it was behind glass. Guarded. And I just simply don’t have the legs to make a run with it. Alas, it’s a beaut.
The unnamed (but stamped HOLOGRAPHIC) VR headset is marketed as a low-cost (I’ve heard between $300-400 USD) competitor in the VR realm. Notably, the unit was featured alongside the Legion Y720 (more on that later). VR seems to be a big focus with Lenovo’s gaming lineup this year, with most of the featured units coming VR ready.
Sneaking a look from the back, the unit hooks up using an HDMI (probably 2.0) cable and a USB connector. Based on this configuration, and my own assumptions, it looks as though the video will be processed by the laptop’s GPU rather than it’s own image processing chip. This frees up a lot of resources to get updates on the motion tracking, and the dual built-in cameras. This would also explain how Lenovo is able to get the pricing down.
My PC isn’t VR capable, but that doesn’t stop me wanting it.
Section 2: The Business
Ok, calling this stuff business really doesn’t seem fair. Way back in 2016 (cue Jetson’s music), I still called most of the THINK line business machines. Yet, after the Mrs seemed to kill every machine I bought for her (sorry dear), I found the X1 Yoga to be stylish enough to be used as a personal machine (she loved it). After having the X1 Yoga for literally under a month (she received it for Christmas), I was really excited to see all the THINK options for 2017.
Lenovo X1 Carbon
The X1 Carbon line has really been a game changer in the ultrabook (Are we still calling them ultrabooks?) space. After owning the Yoga 3 Pro, and seeing the improvements brought to the Yoga 900, it seemed clear that high powered processors can be squeezed into ultra thin notebooks with minimal heat. But the X1 Carbon was truly unique based off it’s main feature: a carbon fiber body. Carbon fiber truly is an amazing material, offering extreme strength in a thin, light sheet. Admittedly, this is the first X1 Carbon I’ve actually got my hands on.
The X1 Carbon is now in it’s 5th Generation, and Lenovo has brought some amazing upgrades to the X1 Carbon, and in a few cases, the rest of the THINK line. Lenovo has redesigned the carbon fiber layering to shave even more off the 4th generation’s bulk, if you can call it that. The notebook now weighs just 2.5 lbs, and the bezel around the screen is reduced to nearly nothing. But there still is a slight bezel at the top. Why?
Well, Lenovo has added a whole new camera system atop the X1 Carbon. The camera system is designed to work with Windows Hello, offering another option to log in. However, the most interesting feature of the camera system is the eye tracking demo. The X1 Carbon’s camera is capable of tracking a user’s head and eye movements to control the cursor. In the demo, two P27h monitors hooked up via the ThinkPad Thunderbolt 3 Dock were placed on each side of the X1 Carbon. Simply parking in front of it, I was able to move the mouse between the 3 screens without touching the PC. Neat!
Speaking of the Thunderbolt dock, Lenovo has decided to jump right into the next generation of connectivity on the X1 Carbon. The X1 Carbon comes with two (that’s right, 2!) thunderbolt 3 ports. And, to make it better, the laptop also charges via the USB type-C thunderbolt port. You also get a USB-C port, two USB type A ports, HDMI, and a 3.5mm headphone jack (I assume they’re all TRRS now).
Lenovo is also taking the minimalism into the software. The X1 Carbon will be available as a Microsoft Signature Edition product, meaning the unit will come without excess software or applications.
The unit will be available starting at $1,269 USD and will be available this month.
Lenovo X1 Yoga
As I had mentioned, I bought the first generation X1 Yoga for Christmas, and I truly believe it’s the best non-gaming laptop I’ve ever got my hands on. Though I do regret not upgrading to the OLED, and Lenovo decided to mock and rub it in even more this year with the 2nd Generation X1 Yoga.
I mean, come on. It’s gorgeous. And thin. And durable. AND ADORABLE. Sorry, biased here, but this system is too cool. I mean, take the X1 Carbon, make it flip around, and touch friendly, while offering the same cool features of the X1 Carbon? Heck yes. Lenovo threw some unique features in for this generation:
1) Grey colour scheme! This is uniquely retro in colour, and I never thought I’d say I want to go back to grey, but Lenovo made this look lovely.
2) Waves Keyboard: This feature is a bit hard to describe, but needless to say, Lenovo solved problems I didn’t know existed. The term “waves” refers to the movement of the keys when flexing the unit. The keys fall in rows when rotating versus all at once, resulting in a (supposed) sound reduction and vibration reduction when rotating the unit.
3) USB-Type C charging: Lenovo seems to have moved almost all the THINK products to a standard type-C charger. This will be great if you want to reduce the number of charging cables you need to keep around.
The new generation X1 Yoga will start at $1,549 USD and will be available in February.
Lenovo X1 Tablet
Again, I had only heard of these, and playing with the Miix 510 recently, I expected the X1 Tablet to be a more rugged Miix unit. I was wrong.
The X1 Tablet’s shining features is it’s available add-on modules. Lenovo showcased a pico projector module and a “productivity” module with extended battery life and additional ports. The modularity of the X1 Tablet offers a unique ability to have a slim tablet which can run upwards of 15 hours on battery, or even become a 70 inch screen in the boardroom.
The X1 Tablet will be available starting at $999 USD this February.
NEXT TIME, ON CES IN-DEPTH!
In my next post, we'll discuss gaming gear and and the IDEA offerings for 2017. If only I was able to get away...