Lenovo Skylight Preview: Letting the Light In

Up on the Roof

Up on the Roof

Lenovo's latest gadget is one that doesn't quite fit in the usual categories, mostly because it really doesn't. That's right; the Lenovo Skylight is billed as a smartbook, a cross between a smartphone and a netbook, which leaves us scratching our head trying to figure out just exactly what it is.

Unlike your usual Intel Atom based netbook, the Lenovo Skylight uses an ARM-based Qualcomm Snapdragon processor like those found in mobile phones, while using a customized Linux-based operating system that's also dubbed as Skylight. And like a smartphone, the Skylight smartbook is supposed to have an always-on function that works simply by pressing the power button to instantly power up the smartbook. Although in our trials, it seemed more of a quick boot on the engineering unit as opposed to Lenovo's advertising claims for the retail unit. We'll find out for sure in the near future when the Skylight is ready for retail.

Fresh from its run at CES, we've managed to get our hands on a working engineering build of the Skylight, and the first thing we noticed was how thin and light the unit is. The second thing we noted was its shape - it's not your regular angular portable device. Instead, the Skylight packs plenty of curves in its design that is unusual for a traditional netbook/notebook device, which the Skylight competes with from a form-factor perspective.


The Lenovo Skylight engineering unit we managed to obtain. There's some mention of its internal hardware on the sticker, but we aren't quite sure if they are the final specs.


On the inside however, the smartbook curves don't hold up quite as well with the huge bezel surrounding the screen. It's an unfortunate aspect that Lenovo has tried to mitigate by using a frameless look, and after some time, you'll stop noticing the bezel. The smartbook's base sported a familiar looking chiclet style keyboard design that we just saw on the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13, and the typing performance seemed just as good too. Just below that is a generously sized trackpad that makes the Skylight a very easy to navigate device. This is also the reason for the extra space around the screen at the top which matches up to accommodate the extra large trackpad at the bottom of the device.

We can't quite agree with the large bezel around the screen, but it does make sense if you look further down, towards the base...

The keyboard takes the chiclet design of the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13 and makes for a great typing experience for a machine of its size. Notice the spacious and large trackpad? That's what justifies the extra thick bezel of the screen though.

Popping out from the top of the Skylight is the strangely elongated flash drive. Our unit only had a 4GB drive, but we're guessing the final retail units will have a larger drive. We assume this design is to facilitate easy sharing of contents of the Skylight to any other device such as your desktop PC.



Software wise, the Skylight, as mentioned comes loaded with its customized OS, the Lenovo Skylight based on the Linux platform. There are some Mac OSX similarities especially the dock area, and features plenty of apps to use for movie playback, web browsing, photo viewing and more. Our experience with the OS was buggy and sluggish, but since it's an engineering sample, the Skylight gets a free pass for now. Hopefully the finished product will deliver a smooth experience.


A look at the Skylight OS which felt sluggish in our use, but do note it's just an engineering unit at the moment, so we can't really evaluate the device or the OS in full just yet.

 

Lastly, we haven't talked much of the unit's specs because much of it remains unconfirmed. Here's what we've compiled of the Skylight's specifications that we know to-date but may not reflect the final actual retail product:-

Lenovo Skylight Rough Specifications

Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon processor 1GHz
Operating System
  • Lenovo Skylight
Video & Display
  • 10.1-inch
  • 1280 x 720
Storage
  • 20GB with 2GB online
Input/Output Ports
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • SD Card slot
Misc
  • 10h battery life (Manufacturer's rating)
Dimensions
  • 252mm (L) x 201mm (W) x 16mm (H)
  • 887g