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Lenovo takes on M1-powered MacBooks with its own ARM-based IdeaPad 5G

After being an early adopter of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipsets on its Windows notebooks, Lenovo is upping the ante at CES 2021. While Lenovo is continuing to support Microsoft’s Windows on ARM efforts, it’s also now embracing 5G mobile coverage on the new IdeaPad 5G — one of the best new laptops at CES this year.

Like Lenovo’s previous Yoga C630 Snapdragon-powered clamshell, the IdeaPad 5G features strong battery life — this notebook is rated for 20 hours of continuous video playback — and a fan-less design with a thin-and-light form factor. The IdeaPad 5G this year will be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx 5G compute platform and feature Adreno 680 integrated graphics, a Snapdragon X55 modem, and 4G LTE support in areas where 5G signals aren’t yet available. Where 5G is present, Lenovo claims that large files can download up to 10 times faster than over LTE.

The portable laptop comes with a 14-inch FHD display that can reach 300 nits of brightness. The screen has 100% sRGB color support. There’s also a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive for storage and 8GB of LPDDR4X memory on board in a package that measures just 0.59-inch thick and weighs just 2.6 pounds.

Given the choice of ARM-based processor on this notebook, the IdeaPad 5G will likely be compared to Apple’s new M1-powered MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models that recently launched. In addition to the difference in operating systems — the IdeaPad 5G relies on Microsoft’s Windows 10 platform — both current Apple MacBook models feature 13-inch displays, while the IdeaPad 5G goes with a larger screen.

An Amazon Echo Show built-in

For its IdeaPad lineup this year, Lenovo is partnering with Amazon to bring the Alexa smart assistant to the laptops in what the companies describe as a “hands-free, full-screen” experience. In essence, when Alexa is summoned, the smart assistant goes full-screen to deliver an Amazon Echo Show-like experience. The company calls this the Show Mode for PC experience.

The IdeaPad also comes with hardware to complement the experience, like PC microphones with far-field technology to aid with voice commands even when you’re across the room.

Lenovo is pitching Alexa as a helpful assistant for students to get help with homework — which isn’t a bad thing given the current state of the pandemic, which has many schools turning to remote curriculum. The screen can  also display the weekly weather forecast, music recommendations, and other helpful tidbits through the day.

Lenovo IdeaPad 5i Pro and IdeaPad 5 Pro

If Qualcomm’s platform doesn’t cut it for you due to limitations that reviewers noted in the past, then you can opt for an IdeaPad with more traditional x86 processors from Intel or AMD. The company’s IdeaPad 5i Pro and IdeaPad 5 Pro feature 14- or 16-inch displays with a wider 16:10 aspect ratio — which will help professionals who need to multitask and juggle multiple windows  — and an all-metal chassis for a more premium experience.

The smaller size will give you a package that weighs just 3.2 pounds, while the larger 16-inch form factor weighs in at 4.4 pounds, but comes with a Windows Hello-equipped IR camera for a password-free login experience. As with the IdeaPad 5G, you’ll also benefit from the Show Mode on Lenovo PCs with these laptop models. Lenovo also highlights features like a larger trackpad, improved key switches on the keyboard, optional backlighting, and Dolby Atmos audio.

The main difference between the 5i Pro and 5 Pro is the processor choice. Both series feature up to Nvidia’s discrete MX450 GPU for graphics, but the 5i Pro uses Intel’s 11th-gen Core processors — up to a Core i7 — while the 5 Pro is based on what Lenovo described as “next-gen AMD Ryzen Mobile processors” that are “coming soon.”

Lenovo had been a big adopter of AMD’s Ryzen 4000 mobile processors in the past, so hopefully these laptops will utilize the silicon successor to the 4000 series. Lenovo lists the IdeaPad 5 Pro with Ryzen H-series processors.

With the Intel-powered 5i Pro, you can choose between a 2.8K 14-inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, 90Hz refresh rate, and 400 nits of brightness or a 16-inch 2.5K panel with 120Hz refresh and 350 nits of brightness that also comes with Thunderbolt 4 support. The Intel models are equipped with up to 16GB DDR4 memory and 1TB SSD. These mark some of the first nongaming laptops to include a refresh rate higher than the standard 60Hz.

The AMD models boast similar memory, storage, and screen configurations with the exception of the 16-inch 5 Pro, which can be equipped with up to 32GB of DDR4 memory.

Pricing and availability

Despite their attractive features, Lenovo unfortunately won’t offer these laptops in every market. The IdeaPad 5G 14-inch won’t be coming to the U.S., for example, and pricing for the Snapdragon-powered laptop will vary by market.

The IdeaPad Pro 16-inch powered by AMD’s Ryzen processor will launch in May 2021 and start at $1,149 in the U.S., while the 14-inch variant will launch in other parts of the world in March. The Intel-powered IdeaPad 5i Pro in both screen sizes also won’t be destined for American shores. The 16-inch model starts at 899 euros, while the smaller model starts at 699 euros when they launch in March in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa region. The Pro laptops are available in either lighter Cloud Gray or darker Storm Gray shades.

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Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
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