RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Is Lenovo’s global drive to increase sales starting to pay off as 2008 comes to a close? Well, sales are up, but market share is down, according to the latest statistics from analysis firm Gartner.

In figures released Tuesday for the third quarter, Gartner reported that Lenovo increased global shipments by more than 500,000 from a year earlier, to 5.9 million units. However, the Morrisville-based company’s market share slid to 7.3 percent from 7.8 percent. That’s still good for fourth place behind HP, Dell and Acer. But Acer, following its acquisitions of Gateway and Packard Bell (which Lenovo wanted) is pulling away, with shipments topping 10 million.

Lenovo’s shares increased 8.1 percent from 2007. However, HP is up 15 percent, Dell 11.6 percent and the combined Acer-Gateway-Packard Bell a whopping 47.3 percent.

Lenovo has spent millions on marketing worldwide this year, from a spend-fest at the Summer Olympics in China (country of the firm’s birth and its largest market) to World Cup Soccer, the NBA and Formula 1 racing. The company continues to ship new models, from players in the red-hot mini (“netbooks”) market to razor-thin “Airs” and desktops.

Reviews have been, for the most part, very positive about the new machines, too, as we noted Tuesday and continue to point out today.

But is the Lenovo’s strategy of targeting consumers and small businesses going to pay off, especially now that the world is entering an economic slowdown?

Why you mull your own answer, on with the reviews:

“ … Lenovo proves that by sitting back and learning from the mistakes of others, it can put together a solid, classic product that ranks among the best in its class.”

“This over-nine-pound monster is loaded in every way you can imagine and a few you probably can’t.”

“Only a few netbooks have gotten it right so far, and the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 ($469 direct) is one of them.”

“It gets nil points for style, but if you need a business-like ultraportable that’s also fast enough to be your main PC, the X200 is a great choice.”

“To my knowledge, nothing else on the market offers the W700’s concentration of photographer-friendly features.”

“ …it may be up to someone else to make my ‘perfect photographer’s notebook’ a reality.”

“Don’t let the glossy lid fool you, there are a lot of familiar ThinkPad touches that make it a good bet for business users.”

“…these mobile workstations outperform many desktops and even the fastest gaming laptops. …”