Hands on with Lenovo’s Ultra-Slim Skylight

lenovo-skylight

Perhaps you remember the Palm Foleo.

Back when netbooks were still running around in diapers, Palm announced the so-called “subnotebook” to bridge the gap between smartphones and full-powered laptops: large enough to comfortably type, surf and e-mail from, but small enough to carry everywhere. Despite the geek love for the concept, Palm axed it less than a year later to focus on the then-unknown Pre.

lenovo-skylight-3Lenovo apparently never forgot. Among the many new notebooks and prototypes shown at CES 2010, the company’s recently launched Skylight looks to us a lot like a Foleo prototype dusted off and brought to production – based on an ARM processor, running a custom Linux-based OS, and half the thickness of today’s netbooks.

Hands on, the Skylight feels every bit as sturdy as its full-length hinge and metal-rimmed chassis would suggest. At 10 inches across, the screen might be mistaken for a netbook’s, and the keyboard as well, but fire it up and you’ll revisit the era of those 2007 netbooks. To make the most of the 1GHz Snapdragon processor within, Lenovo has it running on a custom Linux build that uses “widgets” in place of applications. Although it feels responsive enough, you’ll find just 18 total apps. (A software developer’s kit in the pipeline should open this up to more if the platform ever catches on.)

lenovo-skylight-2Oddly enough, the Skylight has a sort of trunk hiding above the keyboard: Flip the plastic filler piece up, which is actually attached to a USB arm, and you’ll find a SIM chip for the built-in 3G modem and an open space. It’s been designed to accommodate USB accessories within the laptop – for instance, you might add a 16GB thumb drive to add more storage than the native 20GB SSD within.

Priced at $500 without wireless contracts, the Skylight may have a tough time competing with netbooks, but its sleek build, thin chassis, light weight and extended battery life (Lenovo claims 10 hours) will all give it a leg up for true road warriors.

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