Lenovo

Lenovo Tech World Day 4

Day 4 arrived rather quickly – it was the second day of Lenovo Tech World and a day that focused on the consumer side of things, rather than business. All the gadgets!

Again we boarded the bus early, and sat for our 90 minute drive to the convention center.

Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing (aka YY) again introduced the day, tieing in what was presented yesterday in the world of business and SiOT, and how it came back to the devices Lenovo currently had, and were planning. It also tied into the technologies we’d seen at the Lenovo Future Center two days before, which helped explain their vision in a bit more detail.

The ‘deeep’ acronym was used a lot to explain this vision, which was:

smart device
Cross-device engine
Home Edge server
App/Service ecosystem
People-oriented smart experience

Lenovo recognised that people now want smart, stylish and personalised devices. They’re applying this to their Core Smart Devices, and extending out to Other Smart Devices

Then, with a slight hint of smugness, YY announced the was ‘One More Thing’… which ended up being two things; the world’s first foldable PC (The X1 ThinkPad Foldable) and the Motorola Razr. For the two days we’d been expecting this, as we’d spied a little Motorola circle hiding right up above the stage. We were right, it slowly descended for YY to take out the new device, and show off it’s folding ability as he proceeded to pop it into his top pocket.

Next up were more devices, and a demonstration of the Lenovo One software. This software allowed an Android phone’s screen to be duplicated and controlled on a laptop screen which was cool in itself, but also extend the Android’s screen to result in a second screen, running separately to the first. The Lenovo One solution also had file sharing capabilities, and tied back into the Home Edge Server aspect.

Home Edge Server was another interesting angle Lenovo was approaching things on – the idea of a home server isn’t something new, but it was tying all the devices and technologies for ease of use, to have the smarts and storage of a device in your home rather than in the cloud. They didn’t touch too much on the ‘why’ of this that I picked up, but I think it’s a bit more about giving the control and trust of this back to people, rather than relying on a central resource to do it. It seems Lenovo is playing it both ways (which is good to give people options) – bringing centralised cloud based smart systems to businesses, and bringing centralised home based smart systems to consumers.

Moving onto more devices and continuing the theme of ‘having it both ways’, Lenovo delved into two product lines; ThinkPad and ThinkBook. The former being the more conservative style, and the much newer brand ThinkBook being a more modern feel with customisations.

Some of the cool things coming to these devices:

ThinkPad was coming with ‘E-privacy guard’ where it would automatically detect someone looking over your shoulder, and blur out the screen.

ThinkVision M14 was brought up again as a useful standalone monitor, able to be plugged into a mobile or laptop ( I still really like this one!)

The ThinkPlus brand was brought up again, this time as a Smart Conference Solution. It was the reasonably standard video conferencing solution, but again trying to encompass the entire solution rather than bits and pieces – video camers, screens, devices, and real-time translation from one language to another. This seemed to resonate with several people I talked to later, around providing a much more inclusive solution when dealing with people in different languages – everyone could talk in their native language and be more confident.

The show wrapped up with the announcement Lenovo would be sponsoring the Chinese Women’s National Volleyball team, and had a chat to the captain – which was a nice moment to end on.

With the show over, we were rushed away to have a quick opportunity to get a hands-on with the Motorola Razr that everyone wanted to check out.

I was really interested to see how the screen folded for starters – and although this was a prototype and not the end product, it seemed quite robust. The screen actually moved up or down when opening/closing the device to prevent stress on the end-point, which makes sense when you’re told it, but it’s a strange thing to see the entire screen move a little!

The Razr was also thinner than I expected. I liked the take on making a phone smaller to carry around and use (and that front display screen is also touch, and able to do basic phone functions + photos without actually opening the phone), rather than trying to make the device size we’re used to have a bigger display again.

We then wandered around the convention centre a bit more, where I bought my thinkplus USB-C 13000mAh, 48W laptop battery pack that I later lost at the airport. I still have the empty box that haunts me, reminding me of my ignorance in battery-in-checked-luggage rules.

It was time to be a tourist again, so we hopped on the bus and headed to the Temple of Heaven. I learnt a little about all the sacrificial customs they obeyed at the time, and yet again was amazed at the effort, detail and age of all the constructions and artifacts on display.

Following that was another impressive dinner served on a lazy-susan and a good night’s sleep.

Again I tweeted as much as I could on the day, so have a read through my Twitter thread for a few more bits of information and photos I took along the way:

Lenovo Tech World Day 2

After having the best sleep I’ve had in a long time, in a rather classy hotel room at Shangri-La;

…. I headed down for a buffet breakfast. An abundance of new foods lead me to choose a bowl full of bite sized samplers, many of which I don’t know what they’re called or contain – but all were quite tasty:

After filling up, we loaded onto the bus to visit Lenovo Headquarters in Beijing. I had no idea what to expect inside, apart from visiting the ‘Future Center’ and seeing some products:

At the Lenovo HQ Enterance

We were ushered through to the Future Center after using the fingerprint driven lockers (which seems like a much better idea than the old PIN style lockers), we had two volunteers have their face scanned in for a lot of the facial recognition systems we were about to see.

Those people’s faces were used to unlock a rather impressive silver ball structure, causing some of the balls to change colour. The faces were then used to get past security gates, again showing now accurate and quick facial recognition can be with real world use cases.

After some impressive visual displays, we were taken into Lenovo’s vision of what AI tech at home could look like. Some of the concepts were:

In the lounge, having a system that would give recommendations driven by AI and machine learning from news, weather, holiday destinations, movie and TV selections and shopping to display to you what you want without needing to select it in the first place – e.g. sitting down in the evening after dinner usually means you want a movie selection, so it will display that information first.

In the bedroom, monitoring your sleep and keeping a perfectly climatised environment, along with opening the blinds in the morning for natural sunlight.

In the kitchen, interfaces which can guide you through a cooking process from beginning to end – knowing what food you have and ordering more if needed, telling you what ingredients to add and how exactly to do each step.

And in the garage (ok it’s car related but I’m keeping the ‘home’ theme going) a car that unlocks with an app rather than a key, and more importantly, is connected to a network that controls the entire road experience – from finding the best route based on traffic, to knowing when pedestrians are crossing the road from intersection cameras and reporting back to the car rather than expecting onboard cameras to see all risks.

None of this is mind-blowing in itself and in isolation, but together this all builds a picture of what our lives could be in the very near future. AI and machine learning are buzzwords constantly thrown around these days, but seeing and understanding how these high level concepts can be applied in particular situations, and Lenovo’s vision of how they see it working is worth understanding. Of course Lenovo is not the only company working towards these goals, but one of the messages that came across is that Lenovo is working hard to build relationships with other vendors to achieve those goals – Lenovo are trying to build upon their specialities, and partner with other companies who have different specialities that can come together for an all encompassing solution.

After the eye-opening Future Center experience, we then entered through the next several rooms containing Lenovo hardware. First up was several office desk setups including Ultrawide screens, stand-up and sit down desks, and artist peripherals.

Next we entered an area containing gaming devices – from a gaming computer in a Star Trek USS Enterprise NCC-1701 case, to a water cooled computer in a bubble known as ‘Winbot’. There were several Legion branded laptops and desktops too.

The Virtual Reality units Lenovo is involved in were also on display; Star Wars and Marvel AR headsets, the Lenovo Mirage, and the Oculus Rift.

Then we had a look at the mobile options – both Lenovo branded phones which aren’t globally available, and Motorola which are (and Lenovo now owns). Some of the other less known products were shown here too – like electronic door locks, robot vaccuums and air humidifiers.

We then saw some of my favorite product line devices – the ‘Think’ series. The Thinkvision P44w – a 43.4″ ultrawide monitor caught my eye first, as it’s on my ‘love to have’ list. The small ThinkPlus Mini 45w power adapters were also there, which really looks like a great travel accessory to replace the standard laptop power brick we’re all used to. Of course all the latest ThinkPads, Yogas and other Lenovo laptops were on display too, as well as the ThinkVision M14 – a portable USB-C monitor that can be a secondary monitor for your laptop or tablet/mobile phone.

The tour kept going, and if you can’t tell already, this was probably the main highlight of the entire trip and I wish we’d had more time there. The next area was more server focused, with again a bunch more hardware laid out to look at. This included an enclosed datacentre amongst server hardware:

Finally for the Future Center we were able to see some of Lenovo’s ideas in action – an area that showcased how their technology can and is being used in the real world. Focuses included a learning environment where students could be monitored to see if they were sitting/standing, reading/listening, happy/neutral etc – things a teacher does already, but can glance at a screen to quickly identify what the entire room is doing rather than relying on their own visual check of everyone. Lenovo also have their foot in the door for medical solutions, and 3D rendering/virtual reality/engineering. It was good to see where Lenovo had found use cases for the ideas they had.

Next up was the ‘Unmanned Store’ – an actual working store in Lenovo, that lets staff use facial recognition paired with reading NFC (I assume) chips attached to supermarket supplies, letting someone go into the store, load up on what they want, and self check-out the items. It worked a heck of a lot better than I’ve seen the local supermarkets trying to let customers self-service, and I even got someone to buy me a warm Ovaltine drink :)

Even more stuff! We then went over to the Lenovo Reliability Labs where we saw staff working away on several things – vibration tests, sound tests (and going into a room with next to no echo is a great way to unnerve yourself), radio wave interference tests, and environmental tests. The environmental tests are performed by putting a device into a large oven like system, and they showed what happened to a screen at 150oC.

After lunch, even more tech treats were in store for us. We spoke to a few Lenovo employees who were talking about the product lines they looked after, which included William (who owns over 300 different ThinkPads – world record holder!) who brought in some nostalgic and weird devices from the history of ThinkPads. We also had a hands on with the new Legion laptops, and the Yoga S940 amongst others.

If that wasn’t enough for one day, we then visited the Summer Palace, and had another great dinner which as always, was presented on a Lazy Susan as we politely fought for access to the plates we wanted the most.

Here’s what I tweeted for this day of the trip – click through to see a bunch of observations and photos:

Lenovo Tech World Day 1

About a month ago, I received the invitation to attend Lenovo Tech World in Beijing, China – fully sponsored by Lenovo for being a part of their Lenovo Insiders program. I jumped at the opportunity and thankfully was able to organise work, home and the visa requirements for getting into China in a short enough time to make the trip.

I’d never been to China before, so the prospect of both a completely new place to visit, plus being emersed in the latest technology from Lenovo was a double win to look forward to. The trip was planned for 5 days plus travelling, and included a mix of technology and sight-seeing. On the trip I learnt that this was part of Lenovo’s goal – to expose more of China to the rest of the world since it’s where they come from themselves.

Beyond having a very long 3 leg flight from Adelaide > Sydney > Hong Kong > Beijing and being very tired at the end of it, the journey was rather uneventful. Landing in China and getting past immigration wasn’t much of a hassle, and I even had a driver waiting holding up my name to take me to the accomodation we were staying at – the Shangri-La Hotel.

I expected more of a culture shock than what I actually experienced – beyond everything being written in Mandarin wherever I looked, I didn’t feel offput – just interested in seeing the differences of the world I’m used to in Australia compared to China. One lesson I learnt very quickly was about zebra crossings – cars just drive through them and unofficially seem to have right of way. An Australian could very easily get run over as we’re used to all cars stopping when crossing the road on a crosswalk!

After getting to the hotel, I was treated to an amazing lunch with Lenovo staff and journalists who were also attending Tech World. This was an example of all meals to come – vast amounts of options of premium food catering to all tastes. I’m generally not someone who takes photos of what they eat, but all the food was both greatly different to what I was used to, and visually appealing (for the most part!).

My first meal in China

Following lunch and after a much needed nap, I was awoken by the hotel room phone asking where I was. I’d slept a bit longer than planned, and in a half asleep daze rushed downstairs again to meet and have dinner with the other Lenovo Insiders who’d been invited also. In no particular order, here they all are – all very friendly and smart people:

Arthur H Walker, Vernon Chan, Onica Cupido and Lawrence Mann. I’ve linked to their Twitter accounts, but they’re present in different social media spaces too.

I also have to mention Yuszela from Lenovo who looks after us Insiders, who’s incredibly easy to work with and gets the best outcome for everyone involved. Although I’d been dealing with her for years, this was my first opportunity to meet her in real life too – icing on an already stunning cake of tech, people and environment that was making up this trip.

One of the intriguing parts of China that pretty much everyone’s heard of, is the Chinese Firewall – internet in China doesn’t allow many sites including Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – so a lot of time was spent testing and trialing different VPN solutions so we were able to do what we’re here for; sharing the experience with others. There seems to be a cat and mouse game happening between commercial VPN providers and China in shutting down and getting around VPN blocking. In my limited experience it seems no one VPN solution is a silver bullet answer, so if you’re travelling to China and need guaranteed access to the entire public internet, make sure you have a few VPN options available.

I’m sure there’s a few things I’m forgetting about day 1, but I’ll use the excuse of being too tired to remember. The tech starts tomorrow with a visit to Lenovo HQ, so stay tuned for that!

Four Generations of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga

Lenovo’s X1 Yoga is my favorite business laptop. Ever since the X1 Yoga Gen 1 came out, I liked it over the other X1 options as it was an all-rounder, while doing everything really well.

That first generation came out in 2016, and each year there’s been a new one, the 2nd Gen, 3rd Gen and now in 2019, we’re at the 4th Gen.

It’s about time I did a round up and comparison of these four models.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 1

The Gen 1 came out in 2016 as the X1 Carbon became lighter, thinner and lost it’s touchscreen. There was mixed reaction to this decision from Lenovo, and although the Yoga had existed in several forms previously, this was the first in the ThinkPad X1 series.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 1

Notable on this model is the OneLink+ connector – a shortlived port for a OneLink+ dock that only survived a single generation, to be replaced by USB-C/Thunderbolt. It has the standard rectangle style power plug hole, again this would not be seen on future X1 Yogas.

This is the only model to not have a dedicated Ethernet port, instead a special OneLink+ Ethernet dongle, USB2 100mbit dongle or USB3 gigabit dongle was required.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 2

2017 saw this release with the 7th Gen Intel CPU and the OneLink+ port abandoned, replaced by USB-C. This was great, since it was now an industry standard and meant there was a lot of flexibility with what power pack and dock you could use.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 2

This is the first model to have an OLED display option, and strangely this Gen 2 is slightly thicker and heavier than the Gen 1. There wasn’t that many improvements in this model, but overall it’s pretty well rounded solution.

Battery life on this was claimed to be a lot better than the Gen 1.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 3

It was the third model’s turn in 2018 which saw few changes again. Another generation jump on the Intel CPU, which this time doubled the core count from the 7th to 8th mobile CPU generation.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 3

Other smaller changes included the introduction of a shutter over the camera, a HDR display option with Dolby Vision, and the black colouring a bit different – the chassis is glossier, and anything silver has gone black including the hinges and ThinkPad logo (it still looks silver in this photo sorry!)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 4

And finally, here we are in 2019 with the Gen 4 being released… and it’s a major jump. The biggest jump we’ve seen year to year so far. An all metal chassis, the laptop footprint has been drastically reduced (17% smaller footprint, 11% thinner), the colour is now ‘iron grey’ which I’m personally a fan of, and the screen to bezel distance is much smaller.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 4

There’s also a new connector for a different ethernet dongle, and support for a new style of dock that connects on the left hand side to the combo USB-C/ethernet slot. Of course it’s jumped a CPU generation again, up to Intel’s 8th.

The MicroSD slot has been dropped, probably as part of making the laptop smaller. If you really need that, then look at any of the previous generations.

One other interesting feature is a new privacy screen option called PrivacyGuard that can be toggled on and off, and stops people seeing the screen on an angle. The retractable key feature has gone again – there’s no rubber feet to protect the keys, but they might be minutely sunk in, I couldn’t tell with the naked eye.

The final note on this model is that it has a very similar CPU to the Gen 3, still an 8th Generation Intel CPU but a newer variant – Whiskey Lake rather than Kaby Lake.

Let’s have a look at the 4 generations stacked together, going bottom to top Gen 1, Gen 2, Gen 3 and Gen 4:

Front – X1 Yogas
Back – X1 Yogas
Left Side – X1 Yogas
Right Side – X1 Yogas

You can see that footprint difference in the photos above. The 4th Gen looks completely different to the rest.

Each of my individual reviews lists out the possible specs for each model if you want to dive a bit further into the technical differences;

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga Gen 1
Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga Gen 2
Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga Gen 3
Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga Gen 4

The X1 Yoga will never be as small and light as the X1 Carbon, and never be as portable as the X1 Tablet, nor the powerhouse of the X1 Extreme – but it is all of these devices at once in it’s own way. It’s still my pick of the X1 series for it’s flexibility, but the other choices could also be better for your personal needs if you know how you’re going to use it.

Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller Review

Thanks to Lenovo, I’ve been given an interesting new gadget to review – the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller. It’s a compact sized wireless keyboard, designed for usage from a couch.

For a long time, I’ve used a computer plugged into the main loungeroom TV for a variety of things – watching TV shows and movies via local copies of content on Kodi, streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, as well as general web browsing.

The sticking point on doing all of this from a couch rather than a desk, is how to drive it all. I’ve tried a fairly vast array of devices:

  • A standard wireless keyboard and mouse, an ‘air mouse’ – too clunky and no nice flat surface to use the mouse on.
  • An ‘air mouse’ which is what happens when you breed a keyboard and Nintendo Wiimote together – inaccurate and slow to type on.
  • A dedicated remote control for ‘media’ content – too limiting in what you can do with it, no keyboard for typing.
  • Smartphone as keyboard/mouse – keyboard too slow to type on, mouse too tricky to use, always need smartphone around.
  • All in one keyboard and trackpad – the current winner for me (Logitech K400

The all in one keyboard and trackpad gives me what I want – a full keyboard experience so I can type fast, a multi-touch trackpad so I can move the cursor around fairly well, and use gestures like scrolling through pages. However, it’s still rather large, and doesn’t really like being dropped (the batteries generally go flying).

That’s why I was looking forward to trying Lenovo’s solution to this, and compare it to my currently winning solution.

The box turned up which looks simple enough, and shows what you’re getting :

Opening the box, all that’s inside beyond plastic and manuals are the keyboard itself, a tiny dongle, and a USB extension cable.

The keyboard itself looks and feels very well made. I was expecting something of average quality, but this feels premium. It has a reasonable amount of weight to it and the keys feel very solid – there is no cheap plastic to be found:

Getting the back cover off was a bit tricky – I needed to apply a lot more force than I was comfortable with, but that’s probably good for a device that’ll probably get thrown around and dropped. It takes two AAA batteries (included in the box in some countries) which will last up to 8 months – about normal for a wireless keyboard.

After clicking the back cover back on, I had one more look at the device. It has a decent amount of weight to it which helps with the premium feel, and a curved back sort of like an old iPhone 3GS, but a more emphasised curve – again, a really nice design that feels good to hold:

After plugging it in to my Intel NUC running Windows 10, the device was ready to use. When I first looked at the device (I decided to approach it with no research until after I’d finished playing), I assumed the bottom section was a trackpad. It turns out, the entire keyboard area is a trackpad! Everywhere from the top left Escape key, to the bottom right arrow key is one giant trackpad – despite the keys actually being individual buttons that press down. It even supports gestures, such as scrolling.

Quick demo of using the device as a trackpad

The bottom section are dedicated left and right click mouse buttons, with no touch abilities. The keyboard itself can be used to click also, just like a trackpad and using a tap motion rather than actually pressing down on it.

It’s also worth noting that the cursor sensitivity can be adjusted via the keyboard itself, with the Fn + F9 and Fn+F10 key combos – personally I upped the sensitivity a bit.

After using it for a while, here’s the pros and cons I formed about this device:

Pros:

  • High quality device – good materials, good weight, not flimsy in any way
  • Compact – it’s about the size of a large smartphone
  • Touchpad accuracy – fairly accurate with a very large surface to work with
  • Keyboard keys – they press down seperately and actually click. Typing can be done similar to the old full keyboard Nokias.
  • Battery – ~ 8 months means you won’t go flat easily, or have to remember about charging the device. It can be treated like any other standard remote control

Cons:

  • Small keys – no small device will let me type as fast as I can on a full sized keyboard, but this is probably the best to expect for a device this size
  • Touchpad sensitivity – because the keys are so close to the edge, I found my hands would accidently rest againt a key and affect my ability to move the cursor.

Overall, this is the best keyboard I’ve seen for couch usage for it’s size. The more important consideration is how you expect to use it; if you do a lot of typing and are used to typing fast, you’re going to need a full sized keyboard – no mini keyboard is going to be as good to use. However, for light typing and a trackpad experience, in a form factor that’s around smart-phone size, this ticks all the boxes.

Because the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller is a different style of device than what you’d be used to, there is a little adaptation required to put your hands in the right spot, get used to tapping the trackpad instead of clicking and use a small keyboard – but these to me were just minor adjustments I had to learn, rather than being too difficult to change what I do.

A note for Australians – at the time of writing, I can’t see anywhere to buy this locally, but for US residents the device costs around $40US.