At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Lenovo came out with their guns blazing by stepping up their product announcements more than I have ever seen them do in the past five years. Lenovo is entering new markets, adding new brands and further improving current offerings. When Lenovo came out with the Yoga they showed that they were innovators and willing to take a risk, and I see their CES 2017 offerings build on that. Lenovo is really pushing their technology portfolio and their engineers to deliver the latest and most cutting edge technologies inside their products and it’s nice to see.
The first of these new products is the Smart Home which is an area Lenovo hasn’t really played in a big way before. These new products are being called Smart Assistants by Lenovo which are actually smart home speakers with Amazon.com Alexa capability in the US. In China, the Lenovo smart home Smart Assistant speakers will utilize local search engine providers to deliver similar capabilities.
There will be two different versions of the Smart Assistant speakers with one being a more high-end Harman Kardon edition with better audio quality for music. Lenovo is the first among their competition like HP, Dell or Microsoft Surface to deliver such a capability to their consumers and offers an alternative to Amazon.com’s Echo and Google Home. This alternative option with a premium audio sub-brand (Harman) is extremely valuable to retailers who don’t want to sell their competitor’s devices like the Echo. The Lenovo Smart Assistant is expected to be sold for $129 and the Harman Kardon Edition for $179 in April in the US and March in China. Lenovo will need to put a laser focus on the value they add over Amazon’s own Echo line in western regions, but don’t forget, Echo doesn’t do China.
The other smart home product Lenovo is launching is a smart storage system which is designed to allow people to backup and manage their own photos. These capabilities include object and facial recognition. If Apple can do AI inference on their iPhone 7, Lenovo should be able to do it with Smart Storage, right? These products are especially valuable for people who live in countries where Google Photos services aren’t available or don’t want the likes of Google or Amazon.com accessing their photos but would still like cloud capability. They will come in 2TB to 6TB capacities which should cover most users’ photo needs and will cost starting at $139.99 and moving up. Ultimately I can see more companies like Google and Apple offer these, I just think they’re focused on other things right now.
New Legion gaming brand
In addition to their smart home push, Lenovo is ramping up their PC gaming efforts. This time, Lenovo is launching a new brand of gaming products named “Legion” which are designed to clearly differentiate their more advanced gaming products with their own brand. When you consider how big the PC gaming market has gotten and how much growth it has had and continues to have, it makes sense that Lenovo would refocus their efforts in this area with a new brand like the Legion line. I wish they would have done it earlier.
With eSports and PC gaming becoming so big it makes sense that Lenovo is giving this another go with two new laptops, the Legion Y720 and Y750. The Legion Y720 will be $1,399 and debuts in April while the Legion Y520 will start at $899 and be available in February. I believe after talking with many of the Lenovo executives, they are taking this very seriously and know it will take investment.
Monster X1 line improvements
More premium Windows notebooks are selling at higher prices as PC players like Lenovo have refined their offerings. Lenovo is rejuvenating their X1 line of premium PCs with series of major upgrades. One of the new notebooks is the updated X1 Yoga which I have had the pleasure of using the previous version and outlined what I’d like to see in the next offering. By the looks of the new X1 Yoga, it looks like Lenovo listened to every way I had suggested. Of course they had already made those decisions before I used it, but I liked how it worked out.
Lenovo introduced a new keyboard for the X1 Yoga which is a ‘rise and fall’ type of keyboard which will help with its use as a tablet. When Lenovo makes any changes to a keyboard, they agonize over it so I’m expecting some good things from it, not some arbitrary feature adder.
The improvements are not limited only to the new X1 Yoga but also the X1 Carbon which now features Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C, LTE-A connectivity for always on capabilities, WiGig Wi-Fi connectivity, Windows Hello face login via infrared camera and a new silver color. Yeah, all that, for real. Lenovo also expanded on the awesome modularity of their X1 tablet by adding the optional integrated projector capability and expanded external battery which makes it the ultimate presentation tablet. The new X1 Carbon will start at $1,349 and the X1 Yoga will start at $1,499 with both being available in February 2017 and the X1 Tablet will start at $949 and be available starting in March. I am very excited about the improvements in the X1 and believe buyers will be, too.
Phab 2 Pro updates
Finally, to the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, which is already available and our resident AR and VR expert, Anshel Sag, is in the process of reviewing. The Phab 2 Pro is Lenovo and Google’s first Tango-based device which is Google’s own platform for AR. While it remains to be seen what other devices will support Google Tango, this is a clear illustration of Lenovo’s leadership with the world’s leading smartphone software provider. Every week, the Phab 2 Pro gains more and more devices that expand both its enterprise, education and gaming applications and expand the usefulness of AR in ways that people may have not thought of before. Lenovo’s commitment to the Phab 2 Pro is unwavering and I expect that they will continue to work with Google and developers to expand the usefulness of the Tango platform and applications. At the show they reiterated their commitment to Android and Tango and also leaned into a few applications like iStaging, Matterport and Hot Wheels Track Builder to show off progress.
I really like to see Lenovo taking risks like entering the smart home device market and getting a lot more serious about the gaming market with Legion. No, they’re not first to market here, but Lenovo brings certain regional and operational advantages to the table few in the U.S. realize and give them credit for. The improvements to the X1 were huge and I can’t wait to see if the experience lives up to the excitement of the announcement. It’s important for Lenovo to do better in the premium space and they know it and the company is coming on strong. Finally, while there wasn’t a lot of news on the Phab 2 Pro, it’s very innovative to begin with so reiterating what they announced and showing app progress was smart. All in all, it was a good product showing for Lenovo.