Lenovo chose Memorial Day to launch a range of PC updates that include a world-first. The IdeaPad S12 is the first netbook to have an option for NVIDIA’s Ion platform and overcomes one of the performance setbacks for netbooks: the advanced graphics can fully decode 1080p HD in hardware and is capable of 3D that would be off limits for Intel-based video. It also helps drive visuals on the newly enlarged 12-inch, 1280×800 display or the (optional) HDMI output.
The S12 is said thinner than same-size netbooks at less than an inch thick but also gets a full keyboard as well as the rare options for larger 250GB or 320GB hard drives instead of the normal netbook limit of a 160GB disk. A 1.6GHz Atom, 1GB of RAM, Bluetooth and a webcam are all standard. Base configurations start from $449 with Intel-based video and will ship to the US in June, while Ion versions arrive later in the summer.
Lenovo has also taken its first steps into Intel’s Consumer Ultra Low Voltage (CULV) processors with the IdeaPad U350. The 13.3-inch system aims to deliver the relatively thin (1 inch thick) and lightweight (3.5 pounds) design of an ultraportable but in a low-cost form; buyers can pick a 1.2GHz Celeron M, a 1.3GHz Pentium dual-core or a 1.4GHz Core 2 Solo. All of these consume very little power while performing faster than netbooks; Lenovo estimates 10 hours on an optional 8-cell battery and gives them a 4-cell battery that should provide a normal lifespan.
Specific trim levels haven’t been outlined for the U350, though systems will start at $649 with the Celeron M, Dolby Sound Room audio and a webcam as standard. Systems will scale up to 8GB of RAM and 500GB hard drives; shipments start in July.
Other companies, such as Apple and Dell, are both believed to be interested in Ion and CULV but haven’t detailed their plans. Apple has repeatedly resisted netbooks due to their historically slow performance and built the MacBook Air to provide much better performance than most ultraportables.