tablet / netbook U1 Hybrid, which ran Windows when docked and Lenovo's Skylight Linux in tablet mode? And then Lenovo killed Skylight in favor of Android and put everything on hold? Well, it's back -- and we just got some serious hands-on time with production-ready Chinese versions of what's now being called the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid with LePad tablet. Things have substantially changed for the better in the past year and since we saw a pre-pro model last month -- in addition to Lenovo's skinned version of Android 2.2 (called LeOS, sigh), there's now a newer 1.3GHz Snapdragon in the LePad and an 1.2GHz Intel Core i5-540UM in the U1 base, with an optional i7 available. Switching from Windows to Android just requires disengaging the latch on the base -- the flip to Android is basically instantaneous, while getting back to Windows takes a few seconds. The U1 base is much nicer than the unit we played with last year -- it's been restyled and features a chiclet-style keyboard and dimpled trackpad. Best of all, the LePad now features a 10.1 1280 x 800 capacitive multitouch display, instead of the floppy resistive unit we saw last year. Both pieces are pretty thin individually, but docked up it makes for a pretty chunky laptop -- but you are getting two machines for the price of one.
Now for the bad news -- the LePad will run for about $520 when it arrives in China this quarter, but the full U1 kit will run $1300. There's also no US availability or pricing right now -- and Lenovo told us the U1 won't hit the States until it runs Android 3.0, so we could be waiting months while the company reskins the OS. And we might have to wait even longer for Lenny to retool the LePad to meet that supposed dual-core CPU requirement -- but then, it's already been a year. We can wait a little longer, we suppose. You know, for love. Video and PR after the break.