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Lenovo's throwback ThinkPad Twist (hands-on)

Convertible laptops have featured spin-around fold-down screens for years, but the ThinkPad Edge Twist breathes some new life into the old design.

Now playing: Watch this: Hands-on with Lenovo's throwback ThinkPad Twist laptop

Just because Lenovo's new Yoga and its 360-degree hinge offer a slick, new approach to the convertible laptop, the older rotating-hinge design doesn't have to disappear completely. Combining the rotating screen and Windows 8's tablet-style positional awareness, Lenovo's new ThinkPad Edge Twist, announced tonight, has some unique appeal for education and small-to-medium business buyers.

Lenovo is playing up the Twist's flexibility.
Lenovo is playing up the Twist's flexibility. Lenovo

Where older, spinning-hinge laptops typically offered three different positions for the display -- standard laptop-style, tablet-style, and rear-facing -- Lenovo designed the Twist to support a fourth, tent-style mode. Here, the screen is inverted, and the Twist ends up looking like a digital sandwich board.

Lenovo's Yoga ultrabooks and their sleeker hinge can do the same, but the 12.5-inch Twist's $849 starting price, compared with $1,049 for the 13-inch Yoga, offers a more affordable entry point for a convertible Windows 8 touch-screen laptop with presentation-friendly screen size.

In a brief hands-on with the Twist, it felt more or less like other rotating hinge designs. The hinge felt sturdy enough, and the display moved smoothly, without feeling too loose. It only swivels on one direction, though, and it can feel awkward to handle when the screen is between positions. Of the two designs, the Yoga's 360-degree hinge was preferable in that it offered almost the same range of positions (the Yoga can't turn off center from the keyboard) through a simpler mechanism.

As with all four of Lenovo's new laptops, the Twist's touch screen was responsive, and reoriented itself appropriately and with reasonable speed when I moved the display around.

Otherwise, the Twist fits the mold of the modern, sub-$1,000 Windows ultrabook. Lenovo says it measures 0.79 inch thick, weighs 3.48 pounds, and offers 7 hours of battery life. The display is coated with anti-smudge-treated Gorilla Glass, and it starts with a third-generation Intel Core i3 CPU and a 500GB hard drive.

Options include a solid-state drive and CPUs up to Intel's Core i7 family. Like many newer laptops, the Twist lacks an optical drive, although it does come with USB 3.0 jacks, and both Mini-DisplayPort and -HDMI outputs. It goes on sale with Windows 8 on October 26.

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