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Lenovo launches Chromebook and ThinkPad updates

A pair of $440 5i Chromebooks are bound to please.

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lenovo chromebook flex 5i-13

The Lenovo Flex 5i-13 Chromebook. Welcome to the Abyss (Blue).

Drew Evans/CNET

Mobile World Congress starts next week in virtual Barcelona and Lenovo has dropped quite a few new products in advance of the show. That works out to a handful of meat-and-potatoes upgrades to Chromebooks and mobile workstations, as well as a boatload of basic tablet refreshes and accessories. I'll just hit the highlights.

There are a few bright spots, like its clever USB-C Wireless Charging Kit for notebooks. Lenovo previously launched it for use with just a few models of its own laptops, but now it's been modified so that it can work with any 13 or 14-inch laptop that can use a 65 watt charger. It consists of a bar you connect to your notebook's USB-C power port and run along the bottom and a charging pad that you just plop the whole thing on. It'll cost $140 when it ships in October.

Most of the other accessories are me-too-ish, but a new webcam has a neat magnetic mount -- unfortunately, it only works with Lenovo's own monitors at the moment -- new wireless mice (which includes a vertical model) and an ergonomic keyboard stick out. The mice and keyboard use UV-coated cork on some of their surfaces, which not only looks cool, it provides a soft-touch surface that's easy to clean. The first of the accessories will start arriving in July.

Lenovo Wireless USB-C charging kit

USB-C Wireless Charging Kit

Drew Evans/CNET

And, of course there are updated midrange Chromebooks, for that rather nebulous marketing segment of buyers who need something for "schoolwork and entertainment." They're the 13-inch Flex 5i 2-in-1 and its almost identical-on-the -inside 14-inch clamshell alternative, the 5i. In addition to updates with up to 11th-gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 processors and more storage and memory, both have full HD screens. But there's now an optional OLED upgrade for the Flex. They're both $440 and you can greet them with enthusiasm starting this month.

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Now that Intel has rolled out its 11th-gen H-series vPro business CPUs, it's time to stick 'em in all the buttoned-down ThinkPads. Lenovo's refreshes include a redesigned ThinkPad X1 Extreme -- we're up to Gen 4 -- that incorporates anti-fingerprint paint and a reworked carbon-fiber weave lid that looks more carbon fibery thanks to rotating the weave 37 degrees rather than 90 degrees. And don't forget narrower screen bezels! That's the magic which has turned the 15-inch laptop into a 16-inch with a 400-nit sRGB 2560x1600 screen. It still weighs less than four pounds and has a 5G option.

The base configuration costs $2,149, which feels a bit steep for a laptop without a discrete GPU. If you fork over more you can configure it with up to a GeForce RTX 3080. It lands in August.

Like many competitors, Lenovo's also introducing some more budget-priced models with AMD Ryzen processors; the ThinkPad L13 Yoga Gen 2 is its first and will have a starting price of under $1,000. You know what that means. It means $999. Coming at you in August.