Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Review

Chinese multinational company, Lenovo, was established in 1984 and specialises in desktops, notebooks, servers and has, over the years, become renowned in business, consumer and IT circles for its ThinkPad and IdeaPad brands.

We took a good look at Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 business-class laptop and put it through its paces, as well as tested some of Lenovo’s claims.

Design and Build Quality

The first thing you’ll notice when taking it out of its packaging, apart from the modest 3kg it weighs, is its thin, compact size which is cleverly complemented by the velvety matte finish embellishing all laptops in Lenovo’s X-series.

Claiming to be a lightweight but rugged device, the X1 sports a carbon-fibre rollcage on the inside and a Gorilla Glass-protected glossy display.

The device’s rugged intent is brought into question with its finish. Smooth matte finishes are notoriously prone to noticeable scuff marks. But keeping that in mind, the finish goes a long way to accentuating the device’s professional appeal.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard has three back-light settings which are effectively on, bright and off. It professes to be spill-resistant. While I have no intention of pouring my drink all over it to determine how well this works, there are two slits beneath the keyboard that allow for liquids to seep through.

The keys are slightly larger than what you may be accustomed to and aren’t fully embedded into the keyboard, which means that the back-light doesn’t only light up the keys but also creates a halo effect around them.

It’s disappointing to note that the X1 does not have a numeric keypad, which, while understandably sacrificed to achieve its slim appeal, is something which one would expect to be a staple for any professional, business-class laptop.

The three-button touchpad is easily the most uncomfortable thing I’ve had to endure yet. It, in addition to the three buttons above it, functions as left and right mouse buttons.

Like most touchpads, it acknowledges gentle double-tapping as a click and is also fairly resistive to movement. It’s not long before users are faced with negotiating a fragile balance of pushing hard enough for the touchpad to track their gestures while trying to not push too hard or to tap too soon and unintentionally click on something. The lack of a scroll sidebar on the touchpad is also agonising.

Fortunately, the X1 carries Lenovo’s red joystick for manipulating the cursor which is great for those times when the touchpad is being irritating.

The volume buttons on the right side of the device require a bit of effort to push. Touch-sensitive buttons would have been preferable on a model in this price-range.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1

Hardware

Our review unit shipped to us with a 2nd generation Intel Core i5-2420M CPU running at 2.5GHz, 4GB of DDR3 1333MHz and a typical Intel HD Graphics accelerator. However, the X1 offers customers a couple of other meaningful hardware options:

Processor

  • 2nd generation Intel Core i7-2620M (2.70 GHz, 4MB L3, 1333MHz FSB)
  • 2nd generation Intel Core i5-2520M (2.50 GHz, 3MB L3, 1333MHz FSB)
  • 2nd generation Intel Core i3-2310M (2.10 GHz, 3MB L3, 1333MHz FSB)

Hard Drive

  • HDD 250GB OPAL/320GB (7200rpm)
  • Intel 80 GB Micro Solid State Drive (can be combined with HDD. Not available with WWAN)
  • 128GB SSD
  • Intel 160GB SSD

The integrated Intel graphics card is not upgradable. There is also no optical drive to be had with the X1 and, considering its 16mm base thickness (and 21.3mm including the display when closed), that’s not surprising.

While the X1 touts a pair of Dolby Home Theatre v4 stereo speakers, they are painfully tinny and distorted at louder volumes.

Another unfortunate limitation is that the X1 has only one DIMM slot, meaning that it can never hold more than 8GB of RAM.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1

Display

In line with the other sacrifices which have been made to keep this device as compact as possible, it carries a 13.3-inch HD 16:9 display with a native resolution of 1366×768.

The Gorilla Glass doesn’t seem to be any different to that which most glossy displays make use of. The clarity is as good as one would expect and while Lenovo touts it as being completely scratch resistant, I have no intention of endangering my pay cheque to test this claim.

High-definition video plays off quite nicely on the device and there is little-to-no backlight bleeding during dark scenes.

Performance and Battery Life

One of the interesting claims made by Lenovo is that the X1 can use a feature called “RapidCharge” to charge the battery to 80% in 30-minutes. I think mileage may vary depending on the age of the laptop, but within half-an-hour, the device managed to charge almost completely.

Even more surprising is the fact that four-and-a-half hours later, after bombarding the device with YouTube, word processing, Skype and an episode or two of Black Adder, it finally signalled that it needed electrical sustenance.

While the X1 makes excellent use of what hardware it has and lives up to its capabilities and Lenovo’s advertising, it’s hard not to feel disappointed at its occasional video stutter when multitasking or when something loads in the background, a problem due to the integrated graphics processor.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1

Connectivity and I/O

The X1 comes standard with an Ethernet port, one Mini DisplayPort, one HDMI port, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, one eSATA/USB 2.0 hybrid port and a 4-in-1 card reader.

A fingerprint scanner is also embedded just below the keyboard on the right and a low-light sensitive HD webcam is integrated in the display. Both can be used with the default Lenovo software for security.

The webcam can be used by the software to detect if someone is using the laptop and to automatically log out of Windows if not.

For folks who want 3G connectivity via their cellular provider, a SIM card slot resides in the back for added connectivity.

WLAN is standard but customers have the option of Ultimate-N 6300, Advanced-N 6205, Wireless-N 1000 and Advanced-N with WiMAX 6250 chipsets. Bluetooth 3.0 is also optional.

All the ports apart from the memory card slot, one USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack which are all neatly covered, reside at the back of the unit.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1

Conclusion and Affordability

The recommended retail price of the X1 is R15,000 – likely to raise a few eyebrows for a device with no optical drive, very limited hardware customisability and a touchpad from hell.

However, its lightweight, elegant design, its gorgeous matte finish and its sharp display with a great battery life definitely make up for that.

In the end, it’s a device that largely depends on the needs and wants of the buyer.

Personally though, R15,000 is a bit much for such a limited device.

Likes

  • Small, thin and lightweight.
  • Elegant matte finish.
  • Sharp, clear display.
  • Excellent battery life and recharge times.

Dislikes

  • Too expensive.
  • Clunky volume adjustment buttons.
  • Disastrously uncomfortable touchpad.
  • No numeric keypad.
  • Very limited hardware customisability.

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Review