Two In One: Lenovo’s U1 Hybrid is Part Laptop, Part Tablet

lenovo-u1-1

In a show already overflowing with tablet madness, Lenovo’s U1 Hybrid managed to stand apart more than any other. Why? It’s not really a tablet.

lenovo-u1-3As the name would suggest, the U1 Hybrid is half notebook, half tablet. But unlike the other devices that pull the same dance, this one doesn’t just use a monitor that spins around and folds flat, it actually detaches. When you’re sick of carrying a full laptop, just go Incredible Hulk on the U1 and rip off the screen to get a standalone tablet.

OK, not rip, per se, but slide carefully. (And if you’re Lenovo’s presenter, do it with white gloves.)

A separate set of smartphone-based guts hidden around the screen take over, turning the screen into an 11.6-inch touchscreen tablet. Like the Skylight, it runs a custom Linux operating system that takes advantage of the touch screen. In our demo, we saw four panes that came together at a cross: image, music, video and document. Put your finger in the middle, drag, and you can resize all four of them simultaneously. Clever in concept, but in execution it seemed quite laggy, pushing the Qualcomm Snapdragon a little further than it seemed to want to go. Hopefully it will get some more streamlining before production. Besides working as a simple media player, it should also run the same 18 apps found on the Skylight.

lenovo-u1-2In laptop mode, an Intel Core 2 Duo in the base of the U1 takes over, along with a 16GB SSD and Windows 7 Home Premium. A regular laptop, you have. It weighs 3.8 pounds in this mode, up from 1.6 for the tablet alone, giving a clear incentive to snap away the screen when you need to lighten your load. The three-cell battery in the tablet should give it four hours of life on its own, or eight when plugged into an additional six-cell battery in the base.

Lenovo says the U1 Hybrid will sell for $999 when it debuts on June 1, making it significantly more expensive than netbooks and even the company’s own competing Skylight. But then again, it’s hard to put a price on people’s face when you take the screen off your laptop.

Check out our Hands-On Video with the Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid.

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