Lenovo ThinkPad X1 review

23 Jun 2011

Sterling build and stunning performance, but the ThinkPad X1 is far from perfection

Price when reviewed: 
1,655(£1655 inc VAT)
4

The ThinkPad X1 has landed. Aiming to bring a slice of thin and light loveliness to a boardroom near you, Lenovo's latest laptop isn't just a ThinkPad-branded Macbook Air-wannabe; it’s a no-compromise business ultraportable.

It looks every inch the archetypal ThinkPad. The classic design remains in full effect: a sea of soft-touch matte black plastic stretches inside and out, the red trackpoint set afloat in the middle of a backlit keyboard. Lenovo has brought it subtly up to date, though, with every last spare gram of plastic shaved off, and its chamfered edges lend it a subtly sporty edge.

A tough nut

Surprisingly, it isn’t quite as light as Lenovo’s previous 13.3in ultraportable, the X301, but the 1.71kg X1 is still highly portable. Crucially, the build quality is top-notch too. Grappling with the X1 reveals precious little flex for such a slimline figure, and a closer look reveals a laptop designed to survive tougher environments than the average office.

Keyboard drain holes allow the X1 to shrug off liquid spills, while the sheet of Gorilla Glass across the 13.3in display promises to resist more violent assaults. We can certainly see why Lenovo’s marketing materials describe it as “MILSPEC-level rugged”.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 - front

Yet, sat next to the razor-thin likes of Samsung's 9003XA or Apple's Macbook Air, the X1 begins to look a bit thick around the middle. It's all a question of priorities: while those ultraportables sacrifice power for attention-seeking slenderness, the X1 houses a speedy Core i5 CPU. This, the pricier of the two available models, partners a 2.5Ghz Core i5-2520M with 8GB of RAM and a 160GB SSD. That combination makes for a seriously quick laptop: the ThinkPad X1 scored 0.7 overall in our benchmarks – blindingly fast for a sub-2kg ultraportable.

As you'd rightfully hope, this power goes hand-in-hand with business-friendly features. On the software side, Lenovo’s suite of ThinkVantage applications prove genuinely useful. The decision to push most of the connectivity to the rear makes for neat cabling on a desk, and while we're pleased to see eSATA, USB 3 and mini-DisplayPort, among others, the only disappointment is the absence of a docking connector – a silly oversight.

Still, Intel's vPro platform promises to make the IT department’s job a little easier, and in tandem with a fingerprint reader should help keep passwords and the like under lock and key. There's no shortage of network connectivity, either, and dual-band 802.11n, an unlocked Ericsson 3G modem and Gigabit Ethernet cover all the bases.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,379
Price inc VAT £1,655
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 2
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 3yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 337 x 231 x 22mm (WDH)
Weight 1.710kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-2520M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM67 Express
RAM capacity 8.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 3000
Graphics card RAM N/A
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive none

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 0
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad, trackpoint
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.0mp
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 4hr 38min
Battery life, heavy use 39min
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.79
Responsiveness score 0.72
Media score 0.56
Multitasking score 0.69

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied Lenovo ThinkVantage suite