Haswell changed everything in the ultrabook world, and Lenovo has risen to meet the challenge.
It's already reworked the design of its ThinkPad line, giving them sleeker bodies and lighter builds. Now it's embracing the marathon battery life that Intel's fourth generation chip provides.
At IDF 2013, Lenovo is showing several new ultrabooks in the T440 line. The vanilla ThinkPad T440 is a meat and potatoes productivity machine, chocked full of functionality with ports a plenty, an i5 processor and up to a 1TB of space.
If the ThinkPad T440 is a basic sedan, then the T440s is the luxury model. You'll know it the moment you look at that 1920 x 1080 full HD display. At our IDF demo, it showed superb viewing angles and rich colors. It also has the option of an i7 processor, up 12GB of DDR3 RAM and Intel HD 4400 graphics.
You can get a T440s with or without touch. The touch option adds about a pound to the system's weight, and as well as some bulk to the asking price, which starts at $1,149. We're waiting to hear back on British and Australian pricing.
At 21mm thick, the T440s may not be as sleek as Apple's MacBook Air, but it's no clunker. As with many of the ThinkPads we've been seeing lately, Lenovo has taken pains to streamline the design.
Volume and other controls have been integrated into the keyboard, and the "sweater catchers" that secured the lid on older models are gone.
It's a sleeker design, but ThinkPad die hards may miss the old trackpad design. At least they still have the trackpoint mouse to fall back on.
One place where ThinkPad ultrabooks continually best the MacBook Air is in ports. The T440s has three USB ports, plus VGA, Ethernet and an SD card reader. That should go over well with the enterprise crowd, or anyone who's desperately searched for a dongle when trying to plug into a projector.
Lenovo is already claiming battery life at the 12-hour gold standard set by the MacBook Air. It can actually get beyond that, 17-hours according to Lenovo, if you pony up for a larger extended cell.
Like the T440, the T440s has two batteries. One is internal and locked in place, the other is removable and can be hot swapped without shutting down the machine. That's where the extended battery will go, but be warned that it's large, and will change the angle at which the laptop sits.
The T440s has a very solid build, with the excellent typing experience you often find on a ThinkPad. While hinges on the T440s were strong and smooth, the lid didn't open as nicely as we'd like. We had to hold onto the lower portion while pulling open the screen, which is not the case on the MacBook Air and a lot of other ultrabooks.
As we said, this is Lenovo's luxury ultrabook. The display is excellent, and might attract customers who were disappointed that Apple didn't put a retina display on the new Haswell air.
The i7 option is really nice as well, especially since it can be complimented with up to 12GB of RAM. That could make a tricked out T440s into a serious workhorse. If it can pull off 10-hours or better with that intense display and i7 processor, then it'll cast some serious shade on Apple's Air.
We were disappointed that we couldn't open the lid without holding onto the lower portion. It could be that Lenovo's display model has taken some showroom abuse, but it's certainly something we'll be watching for in our full review.