Lenovo ThinkPad X1 review: first look
It’s already made its stateside debut, but over in good ol’ Blighty Lenovo has finally shown off its latest business ultraportable, the 13.3in ThinkPad X1.
From the off, it’s an unmistakeably classic ThinkPad. A sea of smooth matte black – magnesium alloy top and bottom – stretches all around, interrupted only by the occasional flash of red. It’s seriously slim, too, measuring just 17mm thick and adding a claimed 1.7kg to your laptop bag.
All the ThinkPad hallmarks are in place. The trackpoint glares from the centre of a backlit Scrabble-tile keyboard whose concave keys have travel and feel in abundance. Even though the multitouch pad integrates the mouse buttons into its bottom edge, they too deliver a quality feel with every click.
Display-wise, we’re not convinced by the rumours that Lenovo were going to employ a premium IPS panel. With a fair amount of contrast shift evident in the its vertical viewing angles, this looks more like a decent TN to our eyes. Still, it’s good enough: it didn’t look to offer the natural colours of a Macbook Pro, but strong contrast puts it well ahead of the disappointing panel on Sony’s VAIO S Series. Brightness hits a claimed 350cd/m2 and cranking the ThinkPad X1’s display up to maximum was enough to make us believe that figure.
The decision to employ a layer of Gorilla Glass left us conflicted, however. While the extra resilience is welcome, the glossy reflective finish isn’t. Even under the fairly dim lighting of last night’s event, you can see the lights glaring back in the picture above. And the 1,366 x 768 pixel resolution? That’s downright disappointing – given a choice, we’d have the 1,440 x 900 resolution of the old X301 back in a flash.
Still, the toughened display is well in keeping with Lenovo’s design brief. At 1.7kg, there’s no question the X1 is a slightly chunky ultraportable, but it feels like one that’ll survive years, rather than months, on the road. A fingerprint reader and TPM 1.3 chip deliver the data security you’d expect from a proper business portable, and the hard-disk drop sensor and spill-proof keyboard (you can see the drain hole in the picture below) help guard against physical disasters.
Performance and connectivity sees the ThinkPad X1 play its trump cards. Sandy Bridge takes pride of place, and there’s no recourse to the low-voltage variants: it’s a 2.5GHz Core i5-2520M. Lenovo’s employed the full-fat Intel vPro chipset, too, with all of its remote manageability benefits. All the usual ports and connectors line up sensibly at the laptop’s rear – there’s an SD card reader, one USB 3 and one USB 2 port, eSATA, Mini-DisplayPort and HDMI – and Gigabit Ethernet, dual-band 802.11n and optional integrated 3G tick every networking box going.
Lenovo claims five hours of battery life from the lithium-ion cell, with the optional battery slice doubling that to the ten-hour mark. That’s a mite underwhelming, but with Lenovo’s RapidCharge battery technology charging each battery to 80% capacity in just 30 minutes, the X1 looks like it’ll have the chops to survive the longest working days.
While it is genuinely impressive to see how much Lenovo’s managed to pack into the X1, it comes at a price that’ll make a serious dent in anyone’s IT budget. Insight UK have the X1 on pre-order with a Core i5-2520M, 4GB RAM and 250GB hard drive for £1,226 inc VAT, and the top-end 160GB SSD and 8GB RAM model reaching £1,663 inc VAT. One thing’s for certain: with Sony’s similarly priced VAIO Z Series due for an imminent relaunch, and the ThinkPad X1 slated to start shipping in June, this isn’t going to be the only premium ultraportable vying for a piece of your IT spend in the upcoming months.
We’re looking to squeeze a final review unit out of our Lenovo contacts in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for the definitive PC Pro verdict.