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The laptop with two brains: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Hybrid doubles down on CPUs

Lenovo's top-of-the-line, thin, business-targeted ThinkPad gets bumped-up processors and graphics, as well as its own tabletlike separate instant-on Qualcomm processor.

Remember the Lenovo ThinkPad X1? Last year's uber-high-end semithin and semirugged business laptop has gotten a 2012 refresh with the ThinkPad X1 Hybrid, adding an idea that we definitely haven't seen before: this Intel Core i-series-powered computer has its own separate Qualcomm dual-core processor for viewing media in a battery life-saving mode called IMM, or Instant Media Mode.

ThinkPad X1 Hybrid: beefed up, and now with a whole separate instant-on processor.
ThinkPad X1 Hybrid: beefed-up, and now with a whole separate instant-on processor. Lenovo

The idea's not unlike a hybrid, so to speak, of ideas such as automatically switching discrete graphics and quick-launch OS environments that have gone out of fashion as of late in laptops. Lenovo's IMM claims to bump battery life to 10 hours when in that Qualcomm processor-powered Linux-based OS. A dedicated, separate 16GB SSD acts as storage in this mode.

According to Lenovo's press release, the experience is not unlike using a smartphone: quick startup and access to media, long battery life, and charges are necessary less often. It's more like a giant folding smartphone that runs Windows and has a keyboard. The idea of IMM seems more palatable in a tablet-hybrid laptop than in a larger laptop like the X1: after all, many ultrabooks are quick starters already.

Weird? Absolutely. Useful? It remains to be seen. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Hybrid is about as pricey as its 2011 predecessor, starting at $1,599. It will be available in Q2 2012, although big-spending executives could get an ultrabook for nearly half the price. Of course, for the extra money, you are getting quite a lot more horsepower than in an ultrabook: a 2.7GHz second-gen Core i7, and up to 8GB of RAM and 160GB of SSD storage. Then there are the business-targeted bells and whistles, such as integrated 3G, a low-light HD Webcam, keystroke noise suppression for conference Web chat, and the other ruggedized elements that have been around since last year's X1: a roll-cage chassis, a Gorilla Glass-covered screen, a spill-resistant keyboard, a RapidCharge battery that powers to 80 percent charged in 30 minutes, and an optional slice battery.

Check out the photos above. Don't expect anything eye-catching: to the casual eye, the new X1 looks nearly identical to last year's non-Hybrid version.