Gear Diary Live at CES- The Lenovo U1: A Year Later It Looks Better than Ever


Dino and I spent some time this afternoon at the Lenovo display. We had the opportunity to look at all of the new computers that will be offered by Lenovo this year. Trust us, there are a ton of them and we will have a look at many over the next few days. Right now, however, we wanted to take a few minutes to look a little more closely at their most unusual and innovative product–the Lenovo U1. This is both a tablet and a notebook computer.


We saw a version of this computer last year when we were here in Las Vegas and I for one was disappointed to learn a short time later that Lenovo haddecided to step back and rethink the process entirely. The reason for this was quite obvious. First, shortly after CES 2010 Apple made a small announcement that they were bringing a new product to their line–the iPad. This changed everything in the world of tablet computing and was reason enough for any and every company that was thinking about bringing a tablet to market to pause for a moment and reassess. There were some companies that chose not to do so and they did so at their own peril. In addition, the version we saw last year was running a proprietary OS based upon Linux when in tablet mode. I remember thinking at the time that this was the Achilles’ heel of an otherwise awesome device. I suspect that Lenovo thought the same thing and reassessed. The result is a computer you’re later that is far more familiar on every and any level.


It is rare to find a company that is willing to eat some crow, slow down the process, and rethink their devices when the landscape changes suddenly. That is exactly what Lenovo did in this case and the result is impressive. We absolutely love this device and we enjoyed having a chance to spend a few minutes with it.


The real magic of this device comes when you remove the screen from the base and convert the device into an android tablet. When in tablet mode the device runs Android honeycomb and, once the screen is reconnected to the base unit, it converts into a Windows 7 PC within a few seconds. As a notebook is a little bit on the thick side but with that thickness comes with a range of processors that go up to an Intel Core i5 processor. In other words, it promises to be a rather speedy notebook computer in its own right.

The process of removing the screen is as simple as sliding one button and lifting the screen out and off of the base itself. I was able to do this with just a single hand and, having removed the screen and placed it back in place numerous times I can tell you that it’s a fluid and a solid motion to have it take place. As a tablet we were impressed. The unit has a slight curvature to the back that makes it comfortable to hold. It feels incredibly light in the hand and, even holding it in my right hand I had no difficulty or discomfort after a few minutes of holding it. As a tablet computer it is incredibly snappy thanks to the powerful processor built into it and the screen, wow! It is a stunning display. Rotating the screen from landscape to portrait caused the computer to change orientation. This is often a test of the speed of such a device and in this case it moved quite quickly from one to the other and back again. As I commented in the video below, although I am an iPad guy I am also super impressed by this particular tablet and could certainly see using it on a daily basis.


What really stands out about this product is the fact that, for a price point that is hoped to be under $1000 in the US when it is released, you get both a powerful notebook computer with Lenovo’s many years of experience in creating effective and efficient devices and an Android-based tablet that is just about as good as any you will find on the market. I’m not sure I see myself making the move from my iPad to this device when it does come to the US (it will first be released in China) but the combination of having two devices in one and having both stand out as excellent devices in their own right is a compelling case for purchasing this when it’s available. We hope to have the opportunity to review it once it is released.




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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.