Lenovo ThinkPad X301 review

£1774
Price when reviewed

The Lenovo ThinkPad X300 was a breath of fresh air when it was released early in 2008: a sub-1.5kg laptop that somehow included a sizeable screen and optical drive.

Now, just over a year later, we see the next step in its evolution. There are no fundamental changes with the X301, just nips and tucks designed to make it better suited to life on the move in 2009.

The first enhancement is the processor, with the 1.2GHz SL7100 in the X300 replaced here by the 1.4GHz SU9400. Coupled with 2GB of RAM (there’s one DIMM socket free), it returned 0.78 in our benchmarks, compared to 0.67 from the X300. Truth be told, we’d hoped that Lenovo would opt for a faster processor still, but undemanding users can certainly use the X301 as their main system.

it_photo_27915

Another nice evolutionary touch is the DisplayPort that graces the X301’s rear. The D-SUB still found on most laptops is starting to show its age, but many manufacturers held off switching to DVI – in part because of its limited resolution support.

DisplayPort has no such worries: you can connect screens right up to 2,560 x 1,600 with the X301, and still benefit from a digital connection (including audio). That said, Lenovo plays it safe by also including a D-SUB connector.

We’re a little disappointed that Lenovo hasn’t seen fit to squeeze in an eSATA port, sticking instead with three USB connectors: two on the left-hand side, the other at the rear.

Aside from this, there are only a pair of mic and headphone jacks plus the Gigabit Ethernet port; digital camera enthusiasts should note the lack of flash memory card slots.

They should also note that Lenovo hasn’t improved the screen. Just as with the X300, this LED-backlit affair is neither the brightest or most colour accurate of panels, and you have to position it just so – at a 100-degree incline – to get perfect contrast.

The 1,440 x 900 resolution is about right for the 13.3in screen diagonal, but we wouldn’t have complained if the resolution had been higher still – or if Lenovo had found a way to increase the screen size at the expense of the rather wide bezel.

We’re also just a shade disappointed by the keyboard. It seems odd to bemoan its quality when this remains one of the best designed key layouts you can find – note the large Enter key and the well separated navigation keys (eg Home, End, PgUp, PgDn) – but it doesn’t have the glorious feel of the best ThinkPad keyboards. And, dare we say it, it’s just a shade rattly.

One thing we can’t criticise is the build quality. As with the X300, if you pick this laptop up by the corner it feels solid as a rock with no hint of a creak. You could smite your worst enemy with it and still have confidence it would be in perfect working order afterwards.

Our review sample includes a solid-state disk too, which has obvious benefits when it comes to ruggedness: one less moving part is always welcome. Add the fingerprint reader, spill-resistant keyboard, Trusted Platform Chip and three-year warranty (albeit return-to-base) and it includes all the features most business travellers will want.

it_photo_27914

Plus, as with all new ThinkPads, there’s an HSDPA wireless modem inside. You get a Vodafone SIM in the box, which includes a free 30-day trial to its mobile broadband service, so when you throw in Bluetooth, GPS and 802.11 draft-n WiFi it’s undeniably well connected.

Most important of all, the X301 will keep on going. With a six-cell unit inside, this laptop stormed along for 6hrs 31mins in our light-use test, and if you choose to implement all of Lenovo’s draconian battery-extending measures this can creep even higher.

Warranty

Warranty3 year(s) return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions317 x 236 x 22mm (WDH)
Weight1.520kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core 2 Duo SU9400
RAM capacity2.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free1
SODIMM sockets total2

Screen and video

Screen size13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal1,440
Resolution screen vertical900
Resolution1440 x 900
Graphics chipsetIntel GMA 4500
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs0
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs1

Drives

Capacity128GB
Spindle speedN/A
Optical disc technologyDVD writer
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0

Networking

Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a supportyes
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapteryes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchyes
Wireless key-combination switchyes
Modemno
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)3
PS/2 mouse portyes
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks2
SD card readerno
Memory Stick readerno
MMC (multimedia card) readerno
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad, trackpoint
Speaker locationBelow keyboard
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
TPMyes
Fingerprint readeryes
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use126
Battery life, heavy use396
Overall application benchmark score0.78
Office application benchmark score0.83
2D graphics application benchmark score0.82
Encoding application benchmark score0.67
Multitasking application benchmark score0.79
3D performance (crysis) low settingsN/A
3D performance settingN/A

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows Vista Business
OS familyWindows Vista

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos