updated 06:30 pm EST, Fri January 7, 2011
Lenovo formally introduces its tablet projects
Nearly six months after Lenovo disclosed plans to develop an Android-based tablet, the company has brought its LePad to show off at CES. As expected, the company has introduced the LePad alongside a hybrid dock that converts the pair into a netbook running Windows. Electronista took a closer look at the LePad options, along with the Windows-based IdeaPad Slate.
Externally, the LePad offers an appearance that could be mistaken for an iPad if viewed from a distance. Both share a matte silver rim surrounding the black glass bezel that covers the front of the LCD, though the LePad is available in several different textures and colors for the back panel.
The demo LePad was powered by Android 2.2, which is not configured specifically for ten-inch touchscreens. To overcome the limitations, Lenovo developed its own UI overlay that takes advantage of the larger screen. The Android 2.2 version will only ship to China, and we have to agree with the decision to withhold a North American launch until Google has finalized the tablet-optimized Android build. We found the interface to be snappy, seemingly faster than the Galaxy Tab, as the LePad is driven by a faster 1.3GHz Snapgradon CPU.
As a hybrid offering, the IdeaPad U1 (LePad + dock) diverges from the iPad and competes directly with other new devices such as Samsung's Sliding PC 7. Both hybrids still offer their own distinct features that will suit different customers. When the LePad is separated from its dock, users will be able to take advantage of an OS built for touch input. When it is connected to the dock, it can quickly switch to Windows 7. The Sliding PC 7 is cheaper and smaller as a complete package, but it limits users to the desktop OS in both the tablet and netbook modes.
Aside from the LePad and its dock, the company also previewed a prototype tablet that runs natively on Windows 7. The IdeaPad Slate is designed with a similar appearance to the LePad, but lacks the OS switching capabilities and swaps ARM components for Intel's Atom platform.
Users that primarily focus on desktop-level features may gravitate toward the IdeaPad Slate, especially when it is connected to its own keyboard dock. While the LePad is on a solid track to launch in various markets, the company has yet to confirm if the IdeaPad Slate will be pushed past the prototype stage.
The LePad and IdeaPad U1 will ship in China sometime in the first quarter of 2011, with the standalone tablet priced at RMB 3,499 (~$520 USD) and the tablet/dock U1 package to be sold for RMB 8,888 (~$1,300 USD). Customers who want a full keyboard without the Windows function can purchase a simple keyboard dock that is similar to the IdeaPad Slate dock, but customized for Android. The keyboard dock is expected to carry a price around $100 USD.
LePad and IdeaPad U1 hybrid
IdeaPad Slate prototype