Let's face it, sometimes looks do matter. And while Lenovo's business-friendly styling has never been unattractive (at least in our opinion), there are those out there who need a bit more visual flair than the stark black color that characterizes the entire Lenovo lineup. I can't say the new gray color adds that much visual flair by merely climbing up the monochromatic scale a bit, but the real story here is that the S431 is Lenovo's latest sub-$1000 touch notebook bearing the Thinkpad brand.
We only got a few minutes hands on with the S431, but it was immediately apparent that this isn't your ordinary Thinkpad. Aside from the new color, which is only visibly distinctive when surrounded by a sea of black cases, the S431 actually offers a number of Lenovo's latest technological innovations. Don't expect twisting, folding, or detachable goodness here; this Thinkpad is all notebook at heart, although optimized for Windows 8, thanks to the built-in, multipoint touchscreen.
The build quality is top notch as usual for a Lenovo laptop, offering similar mil-spec construction and rigid construction. However, it did feel a little different, and that's due, in part, to the aluminum LCD cover, which is sand blasted and smooth to the touch. It feels premium, but doesn't feel like a Thinkpad... Thinkpad owners will know what I mean.
While not trend setting, Lenovo is maximizing the display size for the case body, cramming a 14" LCD display in a 13" frame. The company says the "aesthetic exterior includes beveled edges on the front and side, giving the illusion that the PC is floating and making the 20.5 mm frame look even thinner." I can't say I picked up on that, but it does look good.
Lenovo tries to bring the simpler styling under the lid, offering a single, five-button trackpad over the traditional dedicated buttons for the Touchpoint nub and click pad underneath. The six-row, Thinkpad-class keyboard is back-lit, and offers buttons for Windows 8 shortcuts.
Lenovo boasts a 3rd Gen Core processor that is 15 percent faster than previous iterations (of what we don't know), up to 8GB of RAM, and 500GB of storage. The company also claims nine hours of battery life, which, given its size and weight, seems unrealistic for a 3rd gen part (although I'd love to be surprised).
The S431 also gets the distinction of being one of the first Thinkpads to support Lenovo's OneLink tech, which enables users to connect to a dock with a single cable for everything... power, video, audio, etc. It's incredibly innovative and simple, and given Lenovo's continued push into convertibles and tablets, I would expect OneLink to find its way into future products.
According to Lenovo, the ThinkPad S431 will be available in June 2013 from business partners and on www.lenovo.com. Pricing starts at $699. The ThinkPad OneLink dock is available beginning May 21.