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Lenovo jumps into consumer market

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  • Business laptop maker Lenovo introduces consumer entertainment models
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  • Lightweight U110 has textured red cover
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By Michelle Thatcher
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CNET.com

(CNET.com) -- Computer maker Lenovo has announced a whole new brand of consumer-oriented laptops and desktops. Called IdeaPad and IdeaCentre, the lines are intended to complement the company's flagship business-oriented ThinkPad and ThinkCentre lines.

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Lenovo's IdeaPad U110 laptop features a textured red lid.

Their announcement does not include any specifics on desktop models, we learned plenty about the new IdeaPad laptops.

The first full line of entertainment-oriented Lenovo laptops to hit the United States (we saw one consumer model, the Lenovo 3000 Y410, sneak into the States last fall), IdeaPads include such welcome design touches as textured lid finishes and a sleek "frameless" screen that's ergonomically situated a bit farther away from the keyboard than most laptops.

Also key to the IdeaPad look are touch-sensitive media controls above the keyboard and a bright orange button, called the Shuttle Key, which can be used on its own to control volume or in combination with the touch controls for additional functionality (somewhat like a Fn key).

There's Front Row-like media software, called Shuttle Center, and Dolby Home Theater sound.

Every IdeaPad is also outfitted with a built-in 1.3-megapixel Webcam, VeriFace software for biometric security via face recognition, and a ThinkVantage-like Novo key that provides quick system recovery should you ever encounter a data-destroying virus.

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The announcement includes the first three laptop models in the IdeaPad line: the 17-inch Y710, the 15.4-inch Y510, and the 11.1-inch U110. Individual specs and details after the break.

First up, the IdeaPad Y710, which Lenovo describes as "the 17-inch notebook for entertainment-focused users."

Key specs include a 17-inch wide-screen display with a 1,440x900 native resolution, a 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD2600 graphics card, and Dolby Home Theater sound with a built-in subwoofer.

The laptop can be outfitted with a Blu-ray drive (handy when paired with the laptop's HDMI output) as well as up to 500GB of hard drive space for your collection of media files.

If those features don't provide enough entertainment, there's always the glowing Lenovo logo on the lid and lighting along the side bezels.

Early photos of the IdeaPad Y710 also reveal a feature called the Lenovo Game Zone, located to the right of the full-size keyboard. In addition to oversize directional keys for game control, there's an overclocking switch to control CPU speed and a secondary display to show performance information. I'm told this feature won't initially be available on models in the United States, but it is expected to appear on our shores early in the second quarter.

The IdeaPad Y710 weighs 7.9 pounds and measures between 1 inch and 1.5 inches thick, making it a relatively portable desktop replacement. Pricing starts at $1,199--though features like the Blu-ray drive will likely raise the cost significantly--and the laptop will be available this month at Tiger Direct.

The IdeaPad Y510, meanwhile, is aimed more at generalists. Its 15.4-inch display features a fairly typical 1,280x800 native resolution and its 6.4-pound case is stocked with midrange components: a handful of processor choices topping out at the 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo T5550, integrated Intel graphics, up to 4GB of 667MHz RAM, and up to 250GB of hard-drive space.

The Y510's standout features are its Dolby sound, including a subwoofer, and an LED battery life indicator on the keyboard deck.

The laptop also features an attractive "light weave" texture on its gray lid. With a starting price of $799, it should stack up favorably against similar sub-$1,000 laptops we reviewed last fall.

The Y510 is available this month at various retailers including Best Buy, Newegg, and Tiger Direct.

Last but not least (unless you're talking about weight) there's the IdeaPad U110, a 2.3-pound ultraportable with an 11.1-inch screen.

Judging from the floral design on its textured, red, aluminum-alloy lid, the U110 is aimed at women who want a lightweight machine for personal use.

Being squarely in that demographic, I'm smitten by this laptop's looks. Adding to its appeal: thickness that ranges from 0.7 inch to 0.9 inch.

Like the Y710 and Y510, the U110 features a "frameless" display plus the Shuttle Key, touch-sensitive media controls, and Dolby Home Theater sound, though it (unsurprisingly) lacks a subwoofer.

To that the U110 adds support for a solid-state drive, which should provide faster access to data and--important in an ultraportable--lengthy battery life. Some configurations will also include Lenovo's Active Protection System, which protects the hard drive in case the laptop is dropped.

The IdeaPad U110 isn't scheduled to ship until April, which is why the rest of the details are sketchy. However, the laptop will likely incorporate low-voltage Core 2 Duo processors on Intel's latest Centrino Duo platform, 667MHz RAM, and up to 160GB of hard drive space.

The official starting price has yet to be set, but given the inclusion of a costly solid-state drive, the IdeaPad U110 will likely cost around $1,800. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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