Microsoft’s Pluton safety processor debuts on AMD chips in new Lenovo ThinkPad laptops

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New ThinkPad Series Z laptops from Lenovo will include Microsoft’s Pluton security processors in an AMD CPU. (Lenovo Image)

Lenovo unveiled two new laptops made out of materials including recycled aluminum and “recycled black vegan leather,” delivered in packaging made from compostable bamboo and sugarcane. But beneath the environmentally friendly hardware there’s another innovation: Microsoft’s Pluton security processor.

The new Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 and Z16, announced Tuesday at the International CES tech show in Las Vegas, are the first PCs to be unveiled with Pluton since Microsoft announced the security architecture in November 2020. Pluton takes security technologies that otherwise exist in a separate hardware component in Windows PCs and integrates them directly into the central processing unit.

In this case, the CPU is the new AMD Ryzen PRO 6000 Series processor.

AMD CEO Lisa Su in the company’s CES presentation Tuesday.

“Our co-development work with Microsoft eliminates entire attack vectors on notebooks, better protecting critical data like system credentials, user identities, encryption keys and personal information,” said AMD CEO Lisa Su in the company’s CES press briefing Tuesday morning. “The Pluton processor, combined with our other security features, delivers the most innovative security in a PC processor.”

Pluton is modeled after the chip design that Microsoft introduced with the Xbox One in 2013. The company also uses the technology its Azure Sphere processors for Internet of Things devices.

It’s “designed to store sensitive data, like encryption keys, securely within the Pluton hardware, which is integrated into the die of a device’s CPU and is therefore more difficult for attackers to access, even if they have physical possession of a device,” as explained in a post by David Weston, Microsoft director of enterprise and OS security. “This design helps ensure that emerging attack techniques cannot access key material.”

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Lenovo says the Z13 and Z16 will be available in May, starting at $1,549 and $2,099, respectively.

Microsoft calls this the “start of the Pluton journey with the Windows ecosystem,” saying other hardware makers and chip companies are also working to integrate Pluton into upcoming products. Intel and Qualcomm took part in the original Pluton announcement along with AMD in 2020.

In other processor news out of CES, Microsoft and Qualcomm said they are working together to develop new custom chips for augmented reality glasses.

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