Hi kids! Do you remember the business PC? How about the mini PC? We used to have someone on staff who would espouse Apple on these things like they were going out of fashion, not really doing much, from a ‘business technology expert’ point of view to dispel the myth that they have a monopoly on powerful business tech.
Enter Lenovo, a company I have confused with digital-rights-management hobgoblins Denuvo more times in the past eight hours than I can count, announcing a new raft of business laptops and other plain old boring PCs.
Just to ruin my New Year's Resolution to actually respect the industry I report on, this comes alongside Lenuvo's presence (see, it's very easy, get that trademark infringement filed) at Big Tech and the Las Vegas tourist board's answer to the old west medicine show, the Consumer Electronics Sluice (CES) 2024.
There are a couple of things emetic about the company's latest ThinkBook laptops and ThinkCentre desktops. First: this product line will at least save you the sheer mortification that buying the consumer-aimed ‘Lenovo Yoga’ laptop, with bundled generative artificial intelligence bloatware ‘Lenovo Yoga Creator Zone’, would cost you. Go into Richer Sounds and ask for that.
The second is that, even in a business setting, Lenovo are going hard on the AI doggerel, especially so in its accessory line. Please, for your delectation, the following:
"The ThinkBook 14 i Gen 6+2 [...] includes a Graphics Extension (TGX) port that supports the new ThinkBook Graphics Extension (TGX)2 dock boosting AI computing power.’"
Now, initially I was quite worried, because I didn’t know what this meant and it’s sort of my job to know, but if you unpick it, it’s an external GPU slot that, if you want, you can put an NVIDIA RTX card in, which, are, supposedly, pretty good at 'AI-powered computation', whatever that really means in practice.
Anyway, each new product will also come fitted with an Intel Core Ultra processor, which we are assured, through the potency of more wafty marketing, ‘feature[s] an on-chip AI accelerator called a neural processing unit (NPU), which enables power-efficient AI acceleration that speeds up AI workflows.’
I’m trying to think what application this could have in your daily workflow, and the answer, as per usual, is ‘if you don’t work in data analysis, it probably won’t mean anything to you’. Get Microsoft 365 Copilot going on Windows (the press release is also keen to point this out despite the service having not much at all to do with Lenovo, so I don’t know what’s going on there) if you’re that fussed.
God, imagine being at CES this year. It’s just going to be wall-to-wall this, isn’t it?
Elsewhere, ‘the new Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 5 Hybrid can switch from a laptop to a tablet and back seamlessly.’ True, this is not a revolution either: Microsoft have been at this for some time with their Surface range, but I’m going to hold off snarking for a minute because the next bit sounds pretty neat:
‘This amazing solution has two products, a Microsoft Windows laptop base system and a tablet, but they can be used either separately as two devices or work together as a laptop, so users can switch between Windows 11 and Android with ease.’
To be clear, I see this is a wanton extravagance, but that’s new, isn’t it - dual-booting out of the box, and a mobile OS at that?
What Android would have over Windows at this stage I don’t know - the availability of certain apps, maybe. But Windows is getting better at allowing users to run Android apps, and you’ve been able to tether your phone to Windows (even an iPhone, which remains low-level astonishing to me, like brokering world peace) so you can send and receive messages from it for some time now. But, yes, let us all marvel at them putting a bag of meat on the moon.
Someone’s going to write in now saying that some other company got there first with trying to make dual booting cool and mainstream. Great! I’m still giving Lenovo (got there in the end) credit where it’s due. It surprised me. Well done.
Elsewhere, the ThinkCentre neo Ultra (wouldn’t give your product a name that sounds like how a racist would describe themselves to make it sound like they aren’t racist, but it’s a bit late now) is a workstation that packs a punch. Well, NVIDIA’s 40 series of GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit, or graphics card) offer less bang for your buck than the impressive 30 series, and the 60 is at the lower end, but, as ever, how much this will matter to you depends on your use case.
It’s also got Wi-Fi 7, if you live in a metropolitan oasis or the future, and eight (!!!!!!!!) DisplayPorts for multi-tasking. You can imagine that either this will all be specced down closer to launch or genuinely cost you a treasured possession or family member.
Lenovo’s press release is really long, honestly, and if I was to cover all of it, I’d be here all day. Go and read it. There’s a bunch of laptops in there, invariably bundled AI-powered processors and beans that’ll grow into the sky.
I will, however, share some snippets of wisdom from Eric Yu, the press release’s featured executive, who I'm sure does some role, somewhere.
"The SMB employee experience will be transformed by new products, solutions and services powered by AI technologies that cater to their needs.”
[Fast forwards tape while chewing the remote of the recorder]
“New AI PCs with AI-enhanced capabilities and personal digital assistants will usher in next-generation personalization, creativity and functionality that will drive ever more immersive and realistic experiences.”
“Unique pioneering products”
“enabling new ways of working to create efficiencies and new opportunities and help SMBs drive positive growth in a new AI era”
Was this… written by AI? Is that the bit? Has Lenuvo forced Eric Yu to sell his likeness to his employer, while he spends the rest of his days being an enforcer in a top-secret Arctic penal colony? I don’t get it.
No time for jokes
Oh right, the bigger picture.
It’s easy to fall into thinking that there’s an aching gulf between Tim Bop-It’s eye-wateringly expensive, if actually pretty powerful machines like the ‘all-in-one’ iMac (here meaning: 'it’s got a screen in it, yeah?') , and the seven-year-old Dell laptop you’re chaining to the mains because you’re not made of money.
Apple wants you to think they’re the only game in town for ‘I need a PC for work but I don’t want to think too much because I work in car and home insurance and already have a numb head, but also want it to be not dreadful’, but that’s not really true.
In fact, for many small businesses, even enterprises, Apple computers in the workplace are probably overkill. Take a look at the guides linked in this piece. Macs do feature in them, but we’ve done our best to look beyond them, and haven’t really struggled.
Taking more wind out of Apple’s sails, Lenuvo did just announce a new business all-in-one at CES - 24” and 27” screen renditions of the ThinkCentre neo 50a Gen 5 - what exactly that is when it’s at home remains to be seen, but the company describes it as an “entry-level” computer for small businesses, with “up to” 32GB of RAM (so expect to drop a bomb on that), and the first computer of its kind to support an optional wireless charging stand. Big if true.
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Luke Hughes holds the role of Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro, producing news, features and deals content across topics ranging from computing to cloud services, cybersecurity, data privacy and business software.