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Lenovo-brand PCs aim to Think for less

First Lenovo-branded PCs to appear stateside follow lead of IBM's ThinkPad design philosophy--for much less. Photos: The first Lenovo-branded PCs

Lenovo waded into the U.S. computer market without its ThinkPad life preserver on Thursday, banking on easy-to-use PCs as its edge over better-known rivals.

The Chinese company introduced its Lenovo 3000 series PCs, aimed at small and medium-sized business customers, at a launch event in New York.

As first reported by CNET News.com, the lineup of desktops and notebooks bear the Lenovo brand, not the ThinkPad or ThinkCentre brands it picked up in its acquisition of IBM's PC business last year.

Lenovo-branded PCs

Lenovo-branded PCs will now appear in countries around the world, not just in China. Other launch events were held worldwide on Thursday to showcase the new models.

As the first major product launch to emerge from the combined company, now the third-largest PC vendor in the world, the 3000 series PCs are a very important step in Lenovo's history, said Sam Bhavnani, a principal analyst at Current Analysis.

"At some point, they have to rip that IBM Band-Aid off," he said. The question is whether PC buyers will accept the Lenovo brand without the ThinkPad tag, he said, but noted that small and medium businesses have shown a willingness to embrace previously unknown brands, such as Acer.

The company's purchase of IBM's PC business gave it a group of talented PC designers who were responsible for the ThinkPad's image as a high-end notebook. The marriage of that group with Lenovo's focus on low-cost products has produced a series of models that put PC management tools similar to the ones found in ThinkPads and ThinkCentres into more-affordable PCs.

The 3000 series PCs have Lenovo-developed software tools that help owners recover from virus outbreaks, manage operating system updates, and connect to wired or wireless networks, Lenovo said in a press release.

"This is something none of the other guys are focusing on," Bhavnani said.

Lenovo is looking to compete against vendors such as Acer, which have come into the U.S. market promising high performance at a low price. But the Chinese company has an advantage in the wealth of high-end PC technologies it can bring down to lower-priced PCs, Bhavnani said.

Detailed configurations for the J100 and J105 desktops, as well as the C100 notebook PC, can be found on Lenovo's Web site. The desktops use processors from both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, while the notebooks are all-Intel. Prices range from $349 for the cheapest desktop and $599 for the cheapest notebook, to $799 and $999 for more-powerful models.