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Lenovo unveils Skylight 'smartbook' mini laptop

Device features ARM chip and Linux OS

Lenovo has unveiled its Skylight laptop, the company's first entry into the category of 'smartbook' devices that combine features of netbooks and smartphones, albeit without telephone functions.

The lightweight device weighs 0.8kg and resembles a netbook, with a 10.6in screen and compact keyboard. It is designed for customers who want internet on the go without PC functionality, said Ninis Samuel, marketing director at Lenovo.

Powered by Qualcomm's Arm-based Snapdragon processor, the device offers 10 hours of battery life and includes integrated 3G mobile broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Smartphone-netbook hybrids

Lenovo is one of the early PC makers to offer Arm-based mini-laptops, which have been called 'smartbooks' by some chip makers. (German company Smartbook AG is selling Smartbook-branded laptops, and holds a trademark for the word Smartbook in a number of countries, although not in large markets such as the US, China, Japan  or India. More information here.)

These devices could fill a big void for consumers who need the simplicity of smartphone usage in a PC-like device, Samuel said.

"To match that demand and growth, the consumers want innovative devices that can connect to the internet and multimedia on the go," Samuel said.

Skylight could emerge as an alternative in the low-cost laptop space to netbooks, which are mostly powered by Intel's Atom chips.

Atom-based netbooks have a leg up because of support for both Microsoft's popular Windows operating systems and Linux.

Arm-based chips do not support a full Windows OS, so smartbooks usually come with the Linux OS.

Lenovo already offers netbooks with multiple screen sizes, and on recently added new models with the Windows OS.

The IdeaPad S10-3 and the IdeaPad S10-3T, which includes a touchscreen, will be powered by the latest Atom processors, which should provide better battery life and performance than earlier chips.

Smartphone-netbook hybrids mainly come in devices with smaller screens. Though many Arm-based internet devices with PC functionality are expected to be announced this year, one major PC maker has already questioned the viability of such products.

Asustek Computer CEO Jerry Shen has said he saw no "clear market" for 'smartbooks' and that the company had no immediate plans to ship them.

However, Asus, which was a pioneer of netbooks, demonstrated a mini-laptop with Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform running Google's Android open-source operating system at the Computex trade show in June.

Longer battery life and quicker startup

But the smartbook devices could offer advantages over netbooks including longer battery life and quicker startup. Arm processors usually draw less power than Atom chips, and the quick boot capabilities of Linux help provide instant access to the web.

Skylight's Linux OS includes a custom software user interface called Live Web Gadgets for users to access multiple web applications at the same time.

Users can receive notifications of new email on Gmail, or write Facebook or Twitter updates in a split window interface.

The smartbook will be available for $499 (£311) in the US starting in April. Shortly after, it will become available in Asia and Europe, Lenovo officials said.

Lenovo is launching a total of 10 PCs at CES, including the IdeaPad S10-3T netbook, which comes with 10.1in screen that supports multiple finger touch input.

Users can place fingers on the screen to manipulate images, scroll down documents or zoom into maps. Prices for the device start at $499 (£311). It weighs just over 1kg, and runs for about four hours with a four-cell battery.

The IdeaPad S10-3 netbook, which also includes a 10.1in screen is priced starting at $349 (£218). The device runs for about 3.5 hours with a four-cell battery.

The netbooks will support up to 320GB and 2GB of memory. The company didn't immediately comment on availability of the devices.

Laptop buying advice

See all netbook reviews

See also: First Lenovo 'smartbook' on show at CES


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