Lenovo

Intel 6th Gen CPU Launch

I was given the opportunity to attend the launch of Intel Asia Pacific’s 6th Generation CPU in Sydney, 14th October 2015.

Sydney Opera HouseSydney Opera House

The event was held in the Sydney Opera House, which I’d never been in before. Great building, but not so great for phone reception – luckily Wi-Fi was readily available. The event was also live streamed so people around the world could watch and see what Intel had to say. If you missed out, you can still watch a reply of it here.

20151014_173053Intel On Stage

The hashtag for the event was #Experience6thGen and you can check out what people were saying on Twitter – including myself as I live tweeted points I found interesting.

Take home messages from the event for me were:

  • Intel are releasing 48 different CPUs for the 6th Generation – ranging from CPUs designed for convertibles, laptops, gaming PCs and servers
  • Skylake is the code name for the 6th Gen CPU
  • Gaming CPUs are selling great, Intel are seeing a resurgence of console gamers coming back to PC. Intel is focusing more on gamers now along with eSports sponsoring
  • CPU sales are still on a slight downward trend, but as an example Q3 2015 was better than Q2 2015, and Intel are hoping this new CPU along with Windows 10 and the new devices coming out help drive growth
  • Thunderbolt 3 is supported with the new CPU which is 8x faster than USB 3.0
  • RealSense is awesome – 3D Camera support which most laptops will come with. This enables secure face scanning for login via Windows 10 along with a bunch of other cooler things – think 3D printing/copying! Sheldon Cooper can tell you all about it.
  • Intel has some crazy new storage technology on the way for 2016 – Intel Optane
  • There’s a lot of new devices on their way!

Some of the devices were on display. To get to them, I had to sneak past a robot:

RobotIntel Robot

…then I had to avoid detection of some Stormtroopers:

StormtroopersLooking for droids?

… and I finally managed to make my way to Lenovo’s showcase of devices, with Intel’s new CPU inside.

I spotted:

ThinkPad Yoga 260Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 260

Lenovo P50Lenovo P50

YogaLenovo Yoga 500

Miix 700Lenovo Miix 700

Sorry about the photo angles, it was very crowded! Personally, I’m most interested in the P50/P70 series of Lenovo laptops because they’re really a decent server in laptop form, go read about them! The ThinkPad Yoga 260 is also interesting for a business user, as a lot of the Yogas lately have been consumer. They all look like decent laptops though, and have their own target audience.

There was also a gaming desktop set up, but I only managed to snap a photo of the awesome red keyboard:

20151014_175307Lenovo Gaming Keyboard

It’s nice to see a focus from both Lenovo and Intel on the gaming community again, which combines with so many people wanting a grunty PC as rich media content creator and editor.

CRQzC7bU8AAYGR6Hi from the event! (I’m 3rd from left)

Thanks for the invite Intel, had a great time and got to catch up with a variety of great people all with an interest in what Intel does. Hopefully I’ll have my hands on a 6th Gen CPU myself, so I can put it through the paces.

Lenovo Y40–80 gaming laptop

Below is a review written by Mason Baxter – his first review of a product, as well as his first article!  He is a 14 year old student (at time of writing, now 15) in South Australia, interested in different technologies, games and sports. 

Introduction

I had the chance to test Lenovo’s Y40-80 gaming laptop for a few days. This is my first gaming laptop experience, so I was really excited to see how it worked with it’s dedicated graphics card. Here’s what I thought about it.

lenovo2Overhead photo comparing to size of a Surface Pro 3

Design

I loved the look of this gaming laptop at first sight. The carbon fibre look finish on the outer of this laptop not only feels great but it is appealing to the eye. This design makes the Lenovo badge stand out and give it a nice touch. When I opened the lid I saw very nice a clean look on the interior. The palm rest was made of a smooth material that was very comfortable when I typed.

Ports

For such a small and compact gaming notebook, the Y40 has lots of ports. On the left side there are a pair of USB 3.0 ports, an expandable gigabit Ethernet port, a full-sized HDMI port and a power port. On the right side there is a one USB 2.0 port, a 4 in 1 card reader, a S/PDIF jack, microphone/ headphone jack and a kensington lock. Having the full-size HDMI and Ethernet port were a welcome addition, so you don’t need additional adapter cables to connect the network or an external display, all other ports are well placed.

lenovo3Left hand side – Power, Full size Ethernet and HDMI ports, 2 x USB 3.0

lenovo4Right hand side – 4 in 1 card reader, an S/PDIF jack, microphone/ headphone jack, USB 2.0 port and Kensington lock

 

Keyboard and touch pad

I am currently using HP Pavilion X2 for school and I thought the keyboard was ok until I used the Y40.  The keyboard on the Y40 was very comfortable and easy to type on. After about an hour of gaming I did notice that the keyboard was getting warm in the centre region, but it didn’t get too hot. My only disappointment was that the keyboard wasn’t backlit, as it is in the Y50 (which is another Lenovo gaming laptop with higher specs).

The touch pad was great to use and quite responsive, I also found it easy to use with the windows gestures for scrolling and pinch to zoom.

Display

The Y40 only has a 1080P resolution compared with the 4K resolution on the Y50. While it would be good to have the higher resolution at least all of the games rendered perfectly at 1080p. I believe that even though there is a webcam in the top of the screen, the bezel could have been thinner to maximize the screen size.

Battery

This battery lasts on average 5 – 6 hours if you are using it for everyday activities such as browsing the web, checking for emails or finding out the latest news. But if you are looking to use this laptop for gaming you are only going to get 1 – 2 hours of it, so make sure you have a charger at handy if you’re looking to game.

Graphics / gaming

This gaming laptop is fitted with AMD Radeon R9 M275 GPU with 2GB of ram and it also comes with an onboard Intel(R) HD Graphics 5500. After realising this laptop had two GPU’s I wanted to test which was more powerful. Using 3Dmark, I gathered the results shown in the table below:

                Intel(R) HD Graphics 5500/ AMD Radeon R9 M275

lenovo1

As you can see from the results, the AMD Radeon outperformed the onboard GPU on all of the tests, which would make sense as it has 2GB of dedicated RAM. When I played games like CSGO (Counter Strike Global Offence) or Garry’s mod I could run those games using the highest settings. I didn’t notice any lag at all and the game play was very smooth. I played the same games with the AMD Radeon disabled and there was a noticeable reduction in the quality of the gaming experience.

Whilst having a SSD hard drive would have been great, the SATA 2.5″, Hybrid drive: (1TB 5400 rpm + integrated 8GB NAND flash) provided a great storage capacity and good speed when gaming.

Final results

In conclusion if you are looking to for an entry level gaming laptop that is compact and well-priced, then this laptop is the one for you. The Y40 has a fantastic keyboard, long lasting battery for everyday tasks and has a solid gaming performance. However I wish that the keyboard was backlight and that the bezel was smaller to maximize the screen size. But overall I would recommend this to people looking for a nice gaming laptop at an affordable price.

Lenovo5Open view – 14”FHD screen, 1.0-megapixel, 720p HD camera, fixed focus, with dual array microphone

Thanks Mason for the review!

The Y series of gaming laptops from Lenovo are available here.

Lenovo ThinkPad Stack Review


The ThinkPad Stack. It’s a new product set from Lenovo which takes a little explaining to realise what it is, but also has plenty of potential use cases.

What Is A ThinkPad Stack?
Follow me on this explanation: It’s a series of devices that can be stacked together, for use by one or more computers.  Each device can run standalone, or somewhat in tandem with each other.
Currently, there are 4 possible components to the ThinkPad Stack – each can be purchased separately, or you can buy the whole kit (currently for $389.97US).

20150821_165810ThinkPad Stack Box

The stack of devices can be placed in any order – they all have pins to connect device above and below. Connectivity through the pins (named ‘pogo’ pins) is primarily for power, but will also pass through data. On top of that, each device has magnets on top and below, so they won’t fall off and become quite stable when stacked – but also gives the option of quickly taking one device off if required.

What Are The Components That Make Up A ThinkPad Stack?

Battery Pack – a 10,000mAH battery pack is the main way of providing power to everything in the stack. It takes in power via Micro USB, and has two USB A (rectangle) ports so you can charge phones, tablets or anything else that can run off USB. It will also power the other devices in the stack.

Bluetooth Speaker – Running Bluetooth 4.0 and 2 x 2 watt speakers, along with a microphone, this speaker can be used wirelessly or wired via a standard 3.5mm audio jack. It has it’s own battery which will provide up to 8 hours of use. Paired with the dedicated Battery Back, it provides up to 48 hours of use. At a guess I’d say the Bluetooth Speaker has a 2500 mAh battery, but couldn’t find any technical details to confirm. This can also be charged seperately through Micro USB if not connected to the battery pack in stack mode.

Hard Drive – a 1 terrabyte hard disk drive (platter, not SSD) is encased within this component. This isn’t upgradable – there are no visible screws or ways to open any of the modules. It is accessable through either the USB 3 port (cable included), or via the router if you’re connected to that.

Router – A standard router that can be used in a few scenarios (bridged, gateway or Wireless ISP): Connect an ethernet cable into the back, and have a wireless access point for internet/network access or connect a 3G/4G dongle via the USB port to share internet to connected devices. The router supports both 2.4G and 5G WiFi running 802.11 a/b/g/n/a.

Managing and Configuring The ThinkPad Stack

Out of the box, most of the components just work. You can download the ThinkPad Stack Assistant software for Windows, iOS or Android. If you enable advanced mode on the router, it’s managable from the url http://lenovo-stack – otherwise check out the admin user guide. It has a bunch of details about the software, and FAQs which will help you get the devices working the way you want.

 

20150821_165856ThinkPad Stack Unboxed

 

20150821_165946Size compared to an iPhone 5S

Use Cases

The ThinkPad Stack isn’t a dock replacement, nor is it a standalone PC – those are common misconceptions (which I had too!) on what the product actually is.

Here are several scenarios I can come up with, where the ThinkPad Stack would be useful:

  • Sharing a single ethernet cable to provide network/internet access amongst one or more staff (even one who may not have an ethernet port on their laptop, and forgot the dongle).
  • Centralised storage on small scale – two or three laptops can use the same 1TB storage.
  • Presenting audio/video, and putting the Bluetooth speaker in the middle of the table so everyone can hear
  • Making a call via Skype, and using the Bluetooth speaker (with built in mic) as a portable handsfree kit
  • Emergency charging for phones/tablets

I believe this product is aimed at the mobile worker – if you’re in the same office all day, this probably isn’t for you (you could definitely still make use of it though).

Other Bits

A few extra comments and info around this unit – it comes with a nice fabric pouch to carry the stack, along with cables for the hard drive, power, speaker and a power adapter. It’s surprisingly small for what it is, but I hope they release more modules – I’d recommend a small computer as one, and a monitor extender – plug in USB 3, and you can output to two separate screens. More USB ports is always handy too. I’d like to see it as a full dock replacement, or a full standalone PC.

It’s worth mentioning that there is support for 5 units max currently, which means you can add a second power brick if you really want a lot of battery life.

Overall it’s an interesting looking piece of kit, which will suit certain people in certain situations. I feel it’s well designed and built, and using the pogo pins with magnets to make stacking incredibly easy is a nice addition.

You don’t need to use a Lenovo laptop to connect to these devices either, they’re rather generic.

Got any questions about it? Feel free to post in the comments below.

Lenovo supplied the Thinkpad Stack for this review.

Lenovo X1 Carbon – Three Generations

An updated version of this article is available here: Five Generations Of The X1 Carbon

The Lenovo X1 Carbon Gen3 came out recently, so I thought it would be a good time to review the 3 models and compare. I won’t be looking at too many of the specs, because each generation has had many configurable options – but where it makes sense, I’ll draw attention to technical differences.

The X1 Carbon is part of Lenovo’s Thinkpad series. These are normally aimed at businesses, due to their military-spec testing. Consumer models of Lenovo laptops are still of high quality, but don’t have the same stringent testing and guarantees. Thinkpads have been around since 1990 – then they were owned by IBM, but Lenovo bought out IBM’s personal computer business in 2005 and continued with the name.

Generation 1

Originally, the Lenovo X1 Carbon Gen1  launched in 2012. It was the successor to the Thinkpad X1, and was quite popular when it hit the market, but there were a few major drawbacks. No touchscreen, and a 14″ 1600 x 900 res screen were still good, but not in the realm of amazing. This was partly resolved about 4 months later at the start of 2013, when a touchscreen variant, inventively called the Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch. This still had the lower resolution though, while the Lenovo Helix released at the same time had a much smaller 12″ screen yet ran at 1920 x 1080.

Battery life was quite good too, Lenovo quoting 8 hours under ideal conditions. For a 2012 laptop, that was pretty impressive.

lenovo x1 carbon gen1 keyboardLenovo X1 Carbon Touch Gen 1 Keyboard

The Gen 1 laptop was powered by a 3rd Generation Intel CPU, Intel HD 4000 graphics chip . It weighed in at 1.54kg. Keyboard wise, this was the standard design that most Thinkpad laptops had, and worked well.

Generation 2

Then in early 2014, the Lenovo X1 Carbon Gen 2 launched. For the CPU, Lenovo had moved to the 4th Generation of Intel CPUs. Screen wise, the base model was still the 1600 x 900 res, but there was also upgrades available – a massive 2560 x 1440 resolution with an additional touchscreen optional.

Several new design changes were made, and not all were seen as improvements. The biggest was a new feature called the ‘Adaptive Keyboard Row’ which was a long LCD panel at the top of the keyboard. Instead of actual buttons for function keys, it was now a cycling set of images that let you toggle to the keys you wanted – standard function keys, or 3 other screens of laptop shortcuts. Software could be installed to auto detect the most likely keyboard option you’d need, but personally I’d almost always want the function keys. It was also possible to always default to the one you wanted which made it more usable. Personally, I’d rather just have keys and a function button.

Other major changes were the dropping of the left and right buttons on the trackpad – now it was just where you clicked on the trackpad. I prefer those physical buttons. A strange adjustment was removing the caps lock key, and replacing it with ‘Home’ and ‘End’ buttons. For anyone who uses a keyboard regularly, changing the placement of buttons to the opposite side of the keyboard than you’d expect them to be isn’t a great design choice.

Caps lock was still possible to do by pressing ‘Shift’ twice, and that would light up a tiny LED on the shift key to indicate Caps Lock was on. Another strange design choice, as it was very easy to accidently press Shift twice, and start typing in capitals.

Despite these changes, the laptop was still solid overall. For it’s weight, it was 200 grams lighter than it’s predecessor at 1.34kg. The graphics had been updated to Intel HD 4400/5000, and battery life was ‘a bit longer’ at around 9 hours.

lenovo x1 carbon gen 2 keyboardLenovo X1 Carbon Touch Gen 2 Keyboard

The laptop was also thinner, and sported more ports than the Gen 1. Between then Gen 1 and Gen 2, each had it’s pros and cons. If only they could mash them together to make the perfect laptop…

Generation 3

Enter the Lenovo X1 Carbon Gen3 in early 2015. A 5th Generation Intel CPU would be inside each laptop, along with another updated Intel HD 5500 graphics chip. The base level resolution had been bumped up to 1920 x 1080, with the standard 2560 x 1440 high res option available, along with a touch variant.

Battery life had gone up another hour or so, to 10ish hours depending on what screen you had. It hadn’t shed any weight, depending on the variant it came in at somewhere between 1.31kg and 1.44kg, which is still rather light and comparable to the MacBook Air.

WP_20150331_17_19_20_Pro

Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch Gen 3 Keyboard

The adaptive keys were gone, function keys were back. Caps lock had it’s place back on the keyboard too, with Home and End being moved to the right side of the keyboard again. The trackpad had it’s left and right mouse buttons back too!

Almost perfect, except they put the function key back in the bottom left hand corner. For people used to finding the Ctrl button there, it’s a bit of a change to get used to (and Gen 1 had the key in the same spot). Really, it should be one key over – such as Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Pro has.

Generation 4

Please read the bottom of this post for more info.

More Photos

To show what ports are available on each model, and comparing size/style, here’s some photos from each side of the laptops stacked together:

WP_20150331_17_17_59_Pro

Top to Bottom: Gen3, Gen2, Gen1

WP_20150331_17_18_29_Pro

Top to Bottom: Gen3, Gen2, Gen1

WP_20150331_17_18_44_Pro

Top to Bottom: Gen3, Gen2, Gen1

WP_20150331_17_19_05_Pro

Top to Bottom: Gen3, Gen2, Gen1

Summary

There are many other areas I haven’t covered – such as all three models have a backlit keyboard which is great in the dark. They all have RapidCharge technology, meaning you’ll get about 80% of your charge back in 35 minutes. The screens on all options are high quality with great viewing angles.

They all have Dolby speakers, and dual noise cancelling microphones. All have spill resistant keyboard. There is a lot to like about all the models, but each has it’s own style. Who knows what they’ll do with Gen 4.

WP_20150331_17_22_27_Pro

Back to Front: Lenovo X1 Carbon Gen1, Gen2, Gen3

Update

The Lenovo Carbon X1 Generation 4 came out in 2016, but I didn’t get one to review. Instead I got the Lenovo X1 Yoga which I think is a better all rounder vs the Carbon X1 Gen4. Check out that review and decide for yourself!

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro Review


I recently reviewed the Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 which I tink is a really awesome laptop. Now, I’ve had a chance to check out the newer Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 which is a bit different again, while being another solid laptop. This will be a mix between looking at the Yoga 3, and comparing it to the Yoga 2. Here’s my thoughts:

Firstly, the model I received was silver. It’s a nice silver, but the Clementine Orange colour of the Yoga Pro 2 which is also available for the Yoga Pro 3 really grew on me, which I was surprised about. Given the choice, I’d pick orange – but the silver probably looks a bit more professional. My other slight disappointment was that Ashton Kutcher, Lenovo Product I Engineer wasn’t featured on my laptop as per the picture:

I moved on fairly quick from that. Here’s the specs of the laptop I have:

DESCRIPTION LENOVO YOGA 3 PRO MULTIMODE ULTRABOOK
Processor Intel® Core™ M-5Y70 Processor (4M Cache, 1.1GHz), Turbo Boost 2.0 (2.6GHz)
Operating system Windows 8.1 64-bit
Display 13.3″ QHD+ (3200×1800), 300nits, 16:9 aspect ratio, with Gorilla glass
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 5300
Memory 8GB, PC3-12800 1600MHz LPDDR3, soldered to system board
Webcam 1.0-megapixel, 720p HD Camera, fixed focus, with dual array microphone
Storage 256GB
Dimensions 330 x 228 x 12.8 mm
Weight 1.19kg
Case colour Platinum Silver
Battery life Up to 9 hours
Audio support Integrated JBL® stereo speakers
Wireless LAN 802.11ac, with Bluetooth 4.0
Ports 2 x USB 3.0
DC-in with USB 2.0 function
Combo audio/microphone jack
4-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC, SDXC, SDHC)
Micro-HDMI

There’s several interesting points here, especially when comparing to the Yoga Pro 2 specs.

The CPU is an Intel Core M model, rather than the i series in the Yoga Pro 2. In a generel performance shootout, the i7 that I had slightly beats the Core M in terms of speed and performance, but the Core M has much more efficient power usage. The Yoga Pro 3 is very quiet when running (there is a fan, but quieter than the Yoga 2 Pro’s). The Yoga 2 Pro gets rather hot when under full load, where as the Yoga Pro 3 only gets slightly warm; a big difference between the two.

This smaller, more power efficient Core M CPU also means the laptop itself can be thinner. Keep in mind that the lower end Yoga Pro 2 comes with an i5 CPU which seems to be so close on performance vs the Core M, you’d notice no difference. There’s also a higher end Yoga Pro 3 than what I have, with the Intel Core M-5Y71 Processor (4M Cache, 1.2GHz), Turbo Boost 2.0 (2.9GHz) CPU which will give you a little extra performance if needed.

There’s not that much difference grunt wise between all these options though, and unless you’re doing really intensive CPU work, they’ll all be more than fast enough for your requirements. The real benefit of the Yoga 3 is the lowered power consumption.

Display is the same between both models, with the very high QHD resolution. Both laptops have amazing screens. Not much else to be said here!

WP_20150325_17_05_41_ProLenovo Yoga Pro 3 Screen

Keyboard wise, it’s very similar to the Yoga Pro 2. Keys are spaced nicely and it’s nice to type on. The trackpad is a little nicer – I’d still prefer having a separate right click button, but haven’t found any issues with clicking the wrong part.

WP_20150325_17_05_23_ProLenovo Yoga Pro 3 Keyboard

Onboard graphics has jumped from the Intel HD 4400 model which has become commonplace, to the HD 5300. There’s no huge difference between these, so again you won’t notice much difference. Intel have a list of games that are playable at 30fps or higher with this chipset, which by no means is an extensive list – but gives you an idea of the capability.

8GB of RAM is more than enough these days, unless you’re doing fairly crazy high end work, or trying to run multiple Virtual Machines – not really what this laptop is designed for. Standard photo and video editing is fine of course. The RAM is soldered onto the motherboard itself which is becoming standard in slim line laptops to save on space.

The internal drive for the Yoga 3 is a 256GB SSD, same as what I had on the Yoga 2. If that’s not enough, there is a 512GB option. Plenty for a laptop!

The Yoga 3 is a rather thin 12.8mm in thickness – thinner than the Yoga 2’s 15.5mm. As a comparison, the Macbook Air‘s thickness is 17mm – so both of these are really thin! Weight wise, the Yoga 3 is also 200 grams lighter than the Yoga 2, and 160grams lighter than the Macbook Air.

Battery life is around the same – again one of those things that is hard to measure and dependent on many factors. You generally won’t get a full day’s work out of it (the 9 hours is really a best case scenario if it’s on the dimmest setting and doing nothing), but it’s still pretty decent for a thin laptop. Power plugs are everywhere anyway! One day we’ll have a Windows capable laptop that can run for a full 8 hour working day under load, and not be chunky (Lenovo Helix with it’s second battery in the keyboard falls into the chunky category).

Ports are pretty standard, apart from the power jack. Recently Lenovo has been using a rectangle plug around the size of a USB-A in most their models, including the Helix, Yoga 2 Pro, Carbon X1 and so on – but the Yoga 3 has a different plug. This time it’s USB-A shaped with an angled end:

The angled end plugs into the laptop, and the standard USB-A rectanged end plugs into the power pack. The reason they’ve done this, is to let the port on the laptop double up as a normal USB port. I like the idea of that, but wish they’d done it sooner and standardised – but my guess is that it’s something to do with the new lower power usage of the Intel Core M CPU.

The other benefit of this new cable is the power plug – it will support a normal USB cable and charge your phone or tablet. It gives you a double up on the usefulness of the plug.

The operating system that comes with the Yoga Pro 3 is Windows 8.1 – not the pro version. This may not bother most, but to see if there’s a feature you need have a look at this comparison chart from Microsoft. This OS is not for use in a business environment, as it won’t join a domain – but in saying that, many businesses should have their own licensing agreement with Microsoft and not care about OEM licenses.

I almost forgot – the hinges. The hinges between base and screen are a new style, and look like they’re off a watch. They look pretty classy, and are very functional. The Yoga Pro 2 had a different style which also worked well, but was probably too thick for the thinner Yoga Pro 3.

WP_20150325_17_04_53_ProLenovo Yoga Pro 3 Hinges

@dgaust from Twitter recently bought a Lenovo Yoga Pro 3, so I asked him for his thoughts on the device:

He also mentioned he would have preferred dedicated function keys which is a fair comment, but personally I’m used to just using the function button combo’d with the number keys to get function key usage. I prefer this over the 2nd Generation Carbon X1’s context sensitive panel, which can be frustrating to toggle through.

All in all, the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 is an incredibly light and thin laptop, with low power consumption, good battery life and reasonable power that should make most people quite happy to use.

At the time of writing, the base model which I have been using is $2099 AU including GST and delivery.

If you have any questions about the laptop feel free to ask in the comments.

Thanks to Lenovo for providing this laptop for review, and thanks to both @Ant1958 and @AdrianGHughes for asking extra questions which helped in this review.