There's no hiding the fact that the first images of the Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid amazed us, and now after seeing the device we can say the feeling was well-founded -- the detachable resistive multitouch display worked better than we ever expected for such an early preproduction unit. Check the mouthwatering gallery below and then head over the break for full impressions and a few videos showing off the U1's finer points.
When closed the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid looks like a regular laptop, and with a rounded aesthetic and a red shimmery paint job it's a nice looking one. Under the lid there's chiclet-style keyboard surrounded by a fun rubberized palmrest with integrated touchpad. When docked, the U1 looks and feels like any other snazzed-up laptop, with an Intel CULV processor and a 128GB SSD running Windows 7 Home Premium. You actually wouldn't know there's a slate hiding in there -- until you pull it out and watch it switch to Lenovo's Skylight UI, a process that was smooth and quick for us. Lenovo says the goal is for the full switch to occur in under 3 seconds, and the U1 delivered, as far as we could tell.
The slate itself is essentially a touchscreen version of the Skylight smartbook: it runs the same Skylight OS on a similar Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, and it seems to be pretty quick, though there's a bit of lag in between switching windows. (To be fair, we were playing with a super-early pre-production unit.) The GUI is slightly different than the Skylight -- it's built around a six-panel interface, which can be customized with email, calendar, RSS, and social media widgets, and there's a second four-panel screen with image, music, video, and e-reader widgets that's especially finger friendly. The tablet also turns into a pretty good e-reader; we flipped to portrait it to read a preloaded PDF and the accelerometer kicked right in.
How's the touch experience? Well, the resistive 11.6-screen supports multitouch, (Lenovo wasn't saying where it came from) and though it was responsive, it was far from flawless; we had to double tap a few times to make sure our touches registered. It's also a little bit loose, although we expect that'll be cleared up by the time the U1 ships. The on-screen keyboard is big enough for entering a URL here or there, but you're not going to want to type an email on it. Unfortunately, the screen itself was pretty abysmal, with terrible horizontal and vertical viewing angles -- it basically disappeared at 45 degrees off axis. That's probably not optimal for a hand-held device, and we're hoping Lenovo sorts that out before release.