Lenovo slims down new ThinkPad T400s

New business laptop is 25% thinner than T400, weighs under four pounds (image below)

Showing again that rugged business-oriented laptops can play the thin-and-light game, Lenovo Group Ltd. today revealed a slimmed-down ThinkPad that boasts a number of innovations for the mobile workforce.

The 14-in. widescreen ThinkPad T400s weighs 3.9 lbs., 17% less than its bigger brother T400 (4.7 lbs.), and is 0.83 in. thick, versus 1.09 in. for the T400, putting it closer on the portability scale to what was until now Lenovo's thinnest ThinkPad, the X300, a 13-in. sub-notebook model that varies between 0.73 and 0.92 in. in thickness.

With its larger screen but thin-and-light design, the T400s sits halfway in between models from Apple Inc., the hardware maker leading the thin-and-light charge with the 0.95-in. unibody aluminum MacBook and MacBook Pros, which come in 13-in. and 15-in. screens, and the 0.76-in. thick MacBook Air.

Available immediately at a starting price of $1,599, the T400s comes with an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4-GHz processor, a backlit LED screen, a 120GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM, an integrated Intel GMA 4500 graphics chip and a DVD burner. It uses the Windows Vista Business operating system.

Options such as an SSD drive or a 3G broadband wireless card will each add several hundred dollars to the price, said David Critchley, a marketing manager at Lenovo. Lenovo will offer Windows 7 on the T400s and its other ThinkPads as soon as possible after the operating system's release this fall.

lenovo t400s
Lenovo's T400s sets a new standard for its thin-and-light business model.

Critchley emphasized that Lenovo did more than just put the T400s on a diet. The new notebook uses a carbon-fiber roll cage design that Lenovo first used in its X300.

"This is as durable as our old magnesium frames, but a lot lighter," Critchley said.

Befitting former ThinkPad maker IBM's keyboard heritage, the T400s has enlarged Delete and Escape keys to minimize typing errors, along with tighter gaps between keys in order to block out food crumbs from those who dine at their desks.

To make it easier for people to place VoIP calls or use teleconferencing systems, the ThinkPad T400s comes with a 2-megapixel webcam, and it has two digital microphones, compared with one in the T400, and offers a higher maximum speaker volume than the T400 does.

The T400s has both a VGA and a DisplayPort connector, allowing users to hook up two additional monitors without a port replicator.

One thing that is staying the same with the T400s is the conservative look. But Critchley said that won't hurt ThinkPad sales, even with sexier gear like Apple's MacBooks appealing to executives.

"I'm not sure 'executive jewelry' is the position we want to be in," Critchley said.

Rather, Critchley touted the new ThinkPad's inclusion of Intel Corp.'s management technology, vPro, as something that IT managers who buy ThinkPads demand.

"Apple doesn't support vPro. It will be interesting to see when their customers start to ask for that," Critchley said.

As for future ThinkPad trends, Lenovo may release a successor to the ThinkPad X300 using a lower-voltage CULV processor from Intel to cut heat and energy usage, said Franciso Carias, Lenovo's worldwide product marketing manager for the ThinkPad line.

Lenovo is also thinking about adding a multitouch screen to future ThinkPads, and it will consider releasing a slim model of its T500 with 15-in. OLED screen "if demand is there," Carias said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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