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Hardware

Lenovo ThinkPad Stack, a New Take On Modular Mobile Peripherals (hothardware.com) 72

MojoKid with word of The Stack, a new peripheral product from Lenovo that has a ThinkPad logo emblazoned on each component, writing In a nutshell, this is Lenovo's take on a line of peripherals that all work with one another and stack together via a custom connector. It applies the modular computing concept to the world of peripherals, which could be an ideal place for a set of modular products to actually make an impact in the market. The Stack's initial four products include a wireless router, a 1TB USB 3.0 hard drive, a Bluetooth mic + speaker combo unit, and a 10,000mAh battery pack / charger. The foursome is sold for just under $390, though each component can be purchased separately as well. The sheer size and weight of the package is impressive. While it's appropriately dense, it can fit into even the smallest saddle bag, taking up minimal room in a frequent flyer's carry-on. In testing, the Stack's individual components offered respectable performance results as well.
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Lenovo ThinkPad Stack, a New Take On Modular Mobile Peripherals

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  • I hope they've verified that nothing bad happens when you stack the speakers module directly above or below the HDD module and then play music at top volume for a few hours :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Have you ever tried to erase data from a hard drive with a magnet [kjmagnetics.com]? There's a reason physical destruction is often used when high security is required. There are commercial degaussers [semshred.com] available, but playing music on a loudspeaker isn't going to do a thing.

    • I hope they've verified that nothing bad happens when you stack the speakers module directly above or below the HDD module and then play music at top volume for a few hours :)

      And vice versa: I wonder if the noise-reducing microphone is specifically tuned to reject the vibration noise of the rapidly spinning plates (which frequently spin up/down, don't forget) that it will be physically coupled to.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      I hope they've verified that the stack isn't running Lenovo's bug-riddled value-add software, otherwise you'll end up sharing your HDD with the whole Internet, not just your speakers and keyboard.
  • It's all stuff you could get elsewhere or should already have in the machine. Wake me up when it's an actual, full computer.

  • by mattventura ( 1408229 ) on Friday December 11, 2015 @11:19PM (#51103701) Homepage
    A device released in 2015 with a pricetag of nearly $400 with modern goodies such as 802.11ac still only has 100mbps ethernet?
    • It's not even a device - just parts of a device that, with other parts, can make a computer. Buy a laptop instead - you'll get all the missing bits, like a screen and keyboard, and portability.
    • by darkain ( 749283 )

      Not just 10/100 without gigabit... This thing has USB 3.0 and no gigabit! Even USB 2.0 is basically half-gigabit speeds. Totally agreed, what's the point of something this expensive in this day in age with this major limitation? If we wanted a cheap limited toy, we've already got Raspberry Pi and plenty of over low powered tinker toys for far cheaper.

      • USB 3 is for data storage, which benefits from faster speeds. Network speeds faster than 100mbps are unlikely to be useful during a business presentation. You'd have a different device if you needed that, this one is for being able to give presentations on a whim by the client. The sort of thing that usually stays in the trunk of the rental car.

        If you wanted a toy, you'd buy a cheap consumer toy like the Raspberry Pi. This is a business tool and would really suck as a toy. Almost any $20 toy is going to be

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      A device released in 2015 with a pricetag of nearly $400 with modern goodies such as 802.11ac still only has 100mbps ethernet?

      It's not as shocking as you may think - we were looking at getting a few laptops as loaners when people travel - nice modern Skylake ones with i7 processors. We actually found some decent machines with decent screens and processors and all that. We were just about to place the order when we noticed the Ethernet was... 10/100. This was a non-starter as we required gigabit (what, was t

      • On the other hand, keeping individual device speeds done helps prevent users killing the network. I know, traffic management can be done digitally, but having 10/100 instead of gigabit on the device is basically fool-proof, and if you're running an office of 200 non-technical users on a single network connection, there will be a significant minority of fools in there that think it's OK to download stupidly large files in the middle of the working day.
        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          On the other hand, keeping individual device speeds done helps prevent users killing the network. I know, traffic management can be done digitally, but having 10/100 instead of gigabit on the device is basically fool-proof, and if you're running an office of 200 non-technical users on a single network connection, there will be a significant minority of fools in there that think it's OK to download stupidly large files in the middle of the working day.

          Most offices have internet speeds that are way less than

    • Yeah, you are reading it wrong, you're comparing it to general purpose devices when it is a special purpose business tool that doesn't benefit from internet connections faster than 100mbps. This is not a backup router for your subnet, this is a portable device that only has a router so that it can connect to VPNs from different places without having to be mucking around reconfiguring your laptop for each site you visit.

      $400 is practically free, for a business tool. What does a portable projector cost? If it

      • If $400 is free for a business tool, then surely a $402 gigabit version would also be free.
        • If there is one for free, and one for $2, and they have the exact same capabilities, you haven't convinced me that it is worth even $2.

          The reality is that when you're trying to add higher frequencies in a small device like this, it can actually end up being months of redesign by a whole team. And the product isn't even proven. The nonsense people speculated about interference between the radio and the speaker is silly, but managing interference within the circuit can be difficult with gigabit switching spee

  • Can you stack GPU boards in a SLI configuration?

  • How lame can you get? Put in gigabyte networking and a SSD. Then it might be worth the money.

  • it's cute enough that i'd want it to work, but i have trouble thinking that it will, outside of a niche business traveler segment.

    let's price it independently and be generous: $30 for the battery; $70 for an external 1TB spinny; $50 for the speaker; ~$100 for a good portable multiband router, for $250.

    i guess if i really needed all of those things (who needs a portable wifi router these days?) and didn't already have any of them, i might consider paying the extra if the proprietary ports with exposed perpen

    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      Those pins are the biggest weakness. Especially if this device is designed to be used while on the road (with being tossed in a suitcase with all the lint, dist, and who knows what else in the suitcase that can corrode or damage those contacts.

      I am reminded of the Motorola Atrix and Atrix 2. Great technology, allowing one to use their phone as a bare-bones Linux desktop with the adapter. However, when Motorola tossed that technology, nobody else supported it, so at best it is useful as a mention for hist

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by gmack ( 197796 )

        A much bigger weakness will be Lenovo's desire to DRM the crap out of it like they already do with their wifi cards and batteries. I had to hack the bios on my
        Lenovo laptop to make it boot with an "unauthorized wireless card" and since then they have gotten worse. My friend's laptop refused to charge until he removed the battery management crapware they installed that expired a perfectly good battery and the laptop itself refuses to charge third party batteries. I will never buy another Lenovo product a

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          ". I had to hack the bios on my Lenovo laptop to make it boot with an "unauthorized wireless card" and since then they have gotten worse."

          Changing a BIOS setting from Secure Boot to legacy mode isn't "hacking the BIOS", even over on digg.com You are also confusing Trusted Computing with DRM. DRM has nothing to do with driver signing.

          • by gmack ( 197796 )

            You have never tried this have you? If you add a third party wireless card to a Lenovo laptop, it fails the boot before it ever gets to the OS level. I had to take the card out and flash with a custom bios image and then put the card back.

            In fact, the only part of what I said that was even close to OS level software dependant, was the battery expiry. My friend's laptop won't even charge a third party battery if it's off.

            • "You have never tried this have you?"

              I'm typing on my Lenovo Yoga 2 running Fedora Core in Secure Boot mode . I have entered into the BIOS on literally thousand of computers installing all manner of hardware, have made custom BOISs, and have a working UEFI Virtual Machine that I built using source code from tianocore [tianocore.org] (UEFI Driver Developer Resources with EDK II), so I guess I'd have to say your guess was about as far off as humanly possible. If you had used your head you would have disabled secure boot p

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          I swapped the 3G wireless and WiFi wireless cards in my Lenovo and saw no issues. They do lock down drivers for security, but I had no problem with loading up the new cards, once I properly loaded the manufacturer drivers. I was planning on going from my current E530 to a new Y70. Maybe it's different across their different lines, but the Thinkpad E530 had no issues with 3rd party wireless and RAM (I never swapped the battery. 3+ years, and still working well, and never found anyone who made a larger ca
  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Saturday December 12, 2015 @12:07AM (#51103795)

    I like the form factor of these accessories. However, it would be nice to have some sort of standard:

    1: If the bus has to be something new for multiplexing, the connectors should have a high insertion/removal cycle rate like USB, and can handle dust and other office environmental items.

    2: Preferably, use a standard bus. USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt can use the same connectors, so using that and having either an enclosure or a base unit handle power would be useful. I have seen many custom multiplexed buses. What results is that finding parts for them becomes next to impossible. At the extreme, use Infiniband.

    3: Maybe move to a rack/enclosure system. This would limit the height of accessories... but having the connector in the back, only connected after being properly aligned, would provide a reliable way to remove/insert items. An added bonus is that for computers like MacBooks that only have a USB 3.1 port, it means only one power plug for all the devices and the laptop.

    4: Perhaps some engineering for larger devices in the stack. Having the ability to have a disk array with 2-5 3.5" hard disks so one has a RAID protected place to stash files, would be useful.

    In general, I like the idea of being able to stack devices... but I've seen this before, and usually the ports used are proprietary, and sooner or later, wind up discontinued. I'm reminded of the TI-999/4A's sidecar expansion bus as one example.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How the HELL is this news for nerds? This is at least a 6 month old product so is not flipping new..

    review of said products from early August...

    http://www.lenardgunda.com/2015/08/12/thinkpad-stack-review/

  • by Anonymous Coward

    via a custom connector

    Boom. Dead. If it's that good of an idea make it usable to more than just your own hardware. Why does no one ever learn from the Sony Betamax?

  • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Saturday December 12, 2015 @01:45AM (#51103951)

    It applies the modular computing concept to the world of peripherals, which could be an ideal place for a set of modular products to actually make an impact in the market.

    This is nothing new. Companies love to create modular products with their own proprietary connectors. Locking-in customers into their platform is the holy grail for them.

    Never mind that this idea would probably gain lot more of traction if they actually made it an open standard, but of course, Lenovo is not going to do that. That's now how they think. Lenovo would prefer that this modular project falls flat on its face instead of opening it up to other manufacturers to use.

    • by Burz ( 138833 )

      Even if they're an open design: Why, exactly, do we need different ones? This looks like a typical attempt to drive sales based on a geek-fashion buzzword like "stacking".

    • It isn't about lock-in, the use case is basically a modular business dongle set. You're not locked in, because the role this device fills is that of a portable dumb-terminal to display your presentations at random times/locations.

      It wouldn't make sense as a standard, because the use case is really narrow. There wouldn't be enough devices sold that fit the port for it to be worth all that effort.

      If there should be a standard, the first question is, what use case has broader appeal? If there is one, then once

      • It isn't about lock-in, the use case is basically a modular business dongle set. You're not locked in, because the role this device fills is that of a portable dumb-terminal to display your presentations at random times/locations.

        I disagree. If it requires you to buy multiple systems of the same brand, it's a lock-in.

        • You can't claim lock-in without making an argument about difficulty of switching to a competitor.

          Here, you can replace any individual device with a commodity generic and everything works the same. It doesn't plug, but why does the plug create lock-in? An expansion port traditionally is discussed in the context of lock-in because when you buy those peripherals then you also have to keep buying computers that have the port. So that is clear lock-in, because without the port you can't use the devices.

          In this c

    • by ksheff ( 2406 )
      No kidding. The IBM PCjr had expansion "sidecars" that were similar to these in concept.
  • by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Saturday December 12, 2015 @02:17AM (#51103969)

    I was just saying: what my computer really needs is more proprietary connectors! Thanks, Lenovo!

  • by John Bresnahan ( 638668 ) on Saturday December 12, 2015 @02:18AM (#51103971)

    The Texas Instruments TI99/4 had this back in 1979...

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wik... [wikipedia.org]

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  • Let me get this straight, the entire point of this "Stack" is to have a battery-powered, wi-fi storage device for mobile professionals ?

    So like:

    - WD My Passport Wireless
    - Corsair Voyager Air
    - Seagate Wireless Plus
    - Sandisk Connect Wireless
    - LaCie Fuel

    Except the Lenovo one is ten times the size with a bunch more failure points. Or, you know, a person could just carry a regular laptop and/or USB hard drive.

    This is $400 of dumb.

  • They suck. Cheap plastic pieces of shit.

If you push the "extra ice" button on the soft drink vending machine, you won't get any ice. If you push the "no ice" button, you'll get ice, but no cup.

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