New laptop design more ThinkPad than not

The new Lenovo V100 laptop takes many cues from their ThinkPad product line.
The new Lenovo V100 laptop takes many cues from their ThinkPad product line.Lenovo

IBM used to make laptop computers called ThinkPads.  Many people really liked those computers, but IBM doesn’t make computers anymore.

They sold that business to Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo, which now makes ThinkPads as well as laptops under their own brand name.  They’re about to announce a new model — the Lenovo 3000 V100.

As you might expect, the Lenovo laptop bears a large family resemblance to its older cousin the ThinkPad. ThinkPads are black inside and out — although some new ones have a silver outer lid.  The Lenovo is a dark metallic gray – with a silver outer lid.

The V100 made a very good first impression.  Overall, the V100 is full-featured and lightweight — starting at 3.9 pounds.  The screen is a widescreen design: 12.1-inch diagonal with 1200 by 800 WXGA resolution.  Inside is the Intel 945 GM core with available Core Solo and Duo processors running Windows XP Home or Professional Edition, as much as 2GB of DDR II memory, hard drives as large as 100GB, built-in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and a choice of batteries lasting up to about four and a half hours.

Lenovo also has added a bunch nifty features such as built-in stereo speakers and stereo microphones, a 1.3 megapixel camera, an integrated fingerprint reader, three USB ports, a 1394 port and a multi-card reader.

And there's what Lenovo calls their Media Now button, which lets you play music or videos without powering on the entire computer.

The V100 is one of the first ultra-portables I’ve seen that come with a full-sized keyboard, which Lenovo has tweaked to feel like an IBM laptop keyboard.  If you like the action on a ThinkPad you will like typing on the Lenovo.

The only feature obviously missing is the famous red ThinkPad mouse button sticking up between the G, H and B keys.  The Lenovo has a plain touch pad instead that Lenovo says is the industry standard.  I personally love the red mouse button.

I haven’t had a chance to play with one of these computers for an extended period but I was very impressed with what I saw at a preview last week.

All in all, the Lenovo V100 looks like a formidable contender for your laptop purchasing dollar.  Package prices start at $1,099 (Duo processor, 512 MB, 80GB HD).  $1,649 gets you the Duo processor, 1 GB of memory, a 100GB HD and a DVD burner.

If you’re planning on a notebook computer for dads, grads and anyone else — the Lenovo should be on your short list.