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Lenovo intros budget-priced IdeaPad Z series, new U-series laptops

Non-ThinkPad news: the IdeaPad Z-series offers up affordable entertainment laptops, while new U-series machines include upgraded ULV processors from Intel.

The Lenovo IdeaPad U160: an 11.6-inch screen, but the components of a fuller-powered laptop. Lenovo

Beyond the quite well-known ThinkPad line, Lenovo's consumer-oriented IdeaPad series gets slightly less attention. Sometimes it can be hard to pick out differentiating features among IdeaPad lines, but they're generally a pretty attractive, affordable, and well-featured bunch of notebooks.

Furthering the budget side of the IdeaPad brand, Lenovo has announced a new Z series of laptops that angle themselves as affordable entertainment portables, with a starting price of $649.

The IdeaPad Z560 head-on. Lenovo

The three announced models--the 13.3-inch Z360 and 15.6-inch Z560 and Z565--have 16x9 aspect ratio HD screens, Dolby enhanced audio, pre-set OneKey Theater II AV settings for optimized media modes, and new Intel Core i-series processors (up to a Core i7-620M) paired with Nvidia GeForce graphics (up to a GeForce 315M) in the Z360 and Z560, and storage options up to 8GB of RAM and a 640GB hard drive. It sounds good, although we wonder what one would cost with the configurations we'd prefer.

Taking a page from many laptop manufacturers lately, the IdeaPad Z565 offers up an AMD processor paired with ATI graphics (up to an AMD Phenom II quad-core/ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470), presumably at a lower price. Blu-ray is also available as an option, giving all the ingredients to turn a Z-series IdeaPad into a pretty good media laptop.

The U-series IdeaPads are known for being a bit more austere but stylish, ultraportable with a bit of a corporate feel. The IdeaPad U350, which we reviewed last year, had a great design and a metal finish.

The U160, U460 and U460s have textured aluminum lids, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ambient light sensors for controlling screen brightness. The U160 has an 11.6-inch screen and weighs under 3 pounds, but can be equipped with a next-gen Intel ULV processor up to a Core i7-640UM, and up to 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. It also comes with built-in 3G, but only integrated Intel graphics.

While the U160 has a clean white look inside, the 14-inch U460 and 460s have a brushed-metal design that matches the look in the Z-series and that we loved in the U350. The U460 uses standard-voltage Intel Core i-series processors, while the U460s, like the U160, has a ULV processor.

All of these new IdeaPads will go on sale starting in the near future (June/July).