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Lenovo announces new small-biz laptops, updates ThinkPads

Today Lenovo announced the ThinkPad SL series for small businesses as well as updates to its entire ThinkPad line.

ThinkPad SL500
ThinkPad, now in shiny Lenovo

As Intel officially launched its long-awaited Centrino 2 platform, Lenovo was announcing a boatload of laptops, all of which will feature Centrino 2 components. The wave of new systems includes nine ThinkPad models: three in a brand-new SL series targeted at small and medium businesses; a new X series ultraportable; updates to the existing R series and T series; and a portable workstation in the newly minted W series.

The SL series is arguably the biggest news of the launch. Occupying the middle ground between more-corporate ThinkPads and the ultra-small-business-oriented Lenovo 3000 line, ThinkPad SL series laptops feature a glossy black cover (gasp) and otherwise familiar design. The famed ThinkPad keyboard and TrackPoint are there, as are the Webcam, WWAN, and Bluetooth options you'd expect on a business-oriented laptop. Less expected, but still welcome, are the optional GPS (which we saw with the ThinkPad X300 earlier this year), HDMI port, and optional Blu-ray recordable drive.

All three SL series models are built on the latest Core 2 Duo processors, with a choice of Intel X4500 or 128MB Nvdia GeForce 9300 graphics. The 13.3-inch SL300 (prices starting at $899), which adds a backlit-LED display to the list of features, will be available August 5. The 14.1-inch SL400 and 15.4-inch SL500 (prices starting at $799) are available today.

Also of note in today's announcement is the long-awaited update to the ultraportable ThinkPad X series. The 3-pound X200 ditches the standard-aspect display of its predecessor, replacing it with a 12.1-inch wide-screen display. The wider case means room for a wider keyboard; the X200 incorporates the same keyboard as (larger) ThinkPad T series laptops.

Additional features include WWAN, Webcam, and GPS options, plus the option for a 64GB solid-state drive. As with its predecessor, the ThinkPad X200 sacrifices the optical drive to achieve maximum portability (though you can get a DVD burner in the company's UltraBase docking station). And the little guy really is meant to be carried everywhere, considering Lenovo's promise of a 9-hour battery life with the the new 9-cell battery. The ThinkPad X200 starts shipping on August 5; no word yet on pricing.

Other ThinkPads announced today include the 14.1-inch R400 and T400, the 15.4-inch R500 and T500, and the 15.4-inch W500 workstation, with starting prices ranging from $799 to $1,999.

In addition to new hardware, Lenovo also unveiled the ThinkPlus Secure Business support package, which incorporates next-day on-site warranty service, product repair or replacement in the event of spills, drops, or electrical surges, and online data backup. More information is available at the company's Web site.