Last year at CES Lenovo introduced us to the IdeaPad U1 hybrid. This tablet/PC blend went beyond the typical convertible tablet fare and impressed us so much we awarded it the Best of CES. Though it was slated to come to market by the middle of the year, Lenovo eventually delayed the device. Now, one year later, the U1 is back and it’s better. So much better we’ve forgiven Lenovo for making us wait so long.
The U1 Hybrid is both a tablet and an ultraportable laptop. When connected, the 10.1-inch device resembles a typical netbook. However, the guts tell a different story. The CPU is a CULV Core i processor, not Atom, and the system runs Windows 7 Home Premium. Power, performance, and portability.
That’s just the warm up. The U1 is actually two computers. Detach the “display” and it turns into a tablet running Android. This half of the U1 runs on a separate Snapdragon processor and has its own connectivity (Wi-Fi, 3G), memory, storage, etc. Users can connect the base portion to an external display via HDMI and continue working with it while the tablet is off doing its own thing. The two halves aren’t dependent on each other, but they do work together.
Lenovo equipped both with a Hybrid Sync feature that allows the devices to share certain data. For instance, if you’re surfing the web on the Windows side then decide to detach the tablet, those same websites and tabs will automatically sync to Android. We’re looking forward to seeing how the U1 deals with data, too.
On the Android side, Lenovo didn’t completely abandon Skylight — that custom Linux we saw last year. They’ve incorporated aspects of the UI (particularly the home screen) into Android. Custom widgets and layers take up two Home screens, but otherwise users can scroll through their apps normally. Right now there’s no word on app market availability. Since the U.S. version of the tablet will come with Honeycomb Android, Google may deign to allow the official market on this device.
If you’re intrigued by the tablet but don’t really care about the keyboard, Lenovo plans to sell the slate portion alone. Overseas it will be called the LePad, but the final U.S. name isn’t set.
There’s also no set pricing at this point. When these products come out in China sometime in the next three months, the LePad will cost RMB 3,499 (approximately US $520), and the U1 hybrid will start at approximately RMB 8,888 (approximately US $1,300). The U.S. prices are likely to be less, but for now we don’t know. Another uncertainty: release date. The Chinese versions will run on Android 2.2, but Lenovo is waiting for Honeycomb before they release in the U.S. So the ball is in Google’s court.
Check out our hands-on video of the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid in action — including the fast switch from Windows to Android and back and the Skylight UI — and the gallery below.