LAS VEGAS—Lenovo announced a major overhaul of its top-of-the-line ThinkPad business laptops at CES on Monday, adding support for the Amazon Alexa voice assistant and other consumer-friendly features that could elevate the ThinkPad from stodgy board room veteran to status symbol ultraportable.
Perhaps the most noteworthy addition to the X1 Carbon laptop and the X1 Yoga are far-field microphones that give them the capability to listen to spoken commands from as far as 13 feet away. These aren't the first such microphones in a laptop, but they will become immensely more useful later this year once Amazon's new Alexa app for Windows 10 rolls out. The X1 series will then function just like any other Alexa speaker, allowing you to ask questions and make requests of the assistant even when the laptop is closed.
The microphones already work with Microsoft's Cortana voice assistant, but Alexa is far more capable, with thousands of third-party skills.
Another significant ThinkPad X1 enhancement: displays that support High Dynamic Range (HDR), which broadens the screen's contrast and makes colors appear more vivid. Dolby Vision (but not the competing HDR10 standard) will be available on the X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga following a software update later this year. HDR is still in its infancy on TVs, and until now it has been completely absent from PCs.
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At a press briefing at CES on Sunday, a Lenovo representative explained that the company expects most business customers will stick with the regular full HD (1,920 by 1,080) displays, and that HDR will really be most intriguing for early adopters who are buying an X1 as their personal computer.
Another addition to the X1 lineup is an integrated physical webcam cover. If you're worried about hackers hijacking your webcam, just slide the plastic tab to cover the lens, rather than placing a sticker over it and dealing with the sticky residue when you remove it.
The new X1 Carbon (starting at $1,709) and X1 Yoga (starting at $1,899) will be available later this month. In March, Lenovo will also announce an updated ThinkPad X1 Tablet (starting at $1,599), a detachable Windows tablet in a new 13-inch, ruggedized form factor that meets MIL-SPEC durability standards. The tablet also includes an optional Dolby Vision screen, but not the far-field microphones.
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