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Lenovo continues to break ThinkPad mold wide open

New processors and plenty of swiveling screens mark Lenovo's ongoing quest to play with the venerable ThinkPad brand, as evidenced by the W701DS and X201.

Since Lenovo took over the ThinkPad brand in 2005 from IBM, for the most part the line has kept its iconic, no-nonsense form intact. Love it or hate it (and many do love it), that branding has originally a far more recognizable part of Lenovo than the name Lenovo itself.

Years later, Lenovo has gotten some wind in its sails with a number of IdeaPad laptops and innovative computing products, and perhaps this has fueled some of the inevitable changes away from the ThinkPad as we generally know it.

Most recently, Core i7 updates to the dual-screen workstation W701DS and X201 ThinkPads not only add some serious computing muscle, but also offer some experimental riffs on ThinkPad ownership.

The W701DS, an update to last year's W700DS, is a massive laptop with a secondary discrete 10.6-inch display that folds out of its primary 17-inch color-calibrating screen. Core i7-920 Extreme or Core i7-820 QM Quad Core CPU options paired with Nvidia Quadro FX 3800M or 2800M graphics provide a top-tier desktop-level environment, along with a right-hander-designed Wacom digitizer and pen built in beside the touch pad.

Prices start at a nosebleed-inducing $3,799, although a version of the W701 without a second screen starts at a relatively bargain-priced $2,199.

Meanwhile, a very portable X201 is an update to the X200 ThinkPad we reviewed a few years ago, adding a touch pad and far faster processing into its sub-3-pound frame, with Core i5 and Core i7 CPU options. The 12.1-inch screened X201 starts at $1,199, or $1,599 for a thinner-framed X201S model.

A convertible-tablet version of the X201 starts at $1,549 and comes with the same host of expandable options, adding support for both pen and finger-touch interactions and including some of the Lenovo SimpleTap touch widgets we've seen in other touch-enabled ThinkPads.

While the biggest changes in both models are the updated processors, we can't help wondering if the ThinkPad brand is destined to continue fracturing and evolving into new directions, as exhibited by the entirely different-looking ThinkPad Edge seen earlier this year.

Then again, maybe Lenovo is just trying to get back to the ThinkPad's roots, which were edgy to begin with:

Both models go on sale in March. We have received a handful of new Lenovo models here at CNET, and will be reviewing them as soon as possible.

(Via Lenovo)