Lenovo ThinkPad X1 £1292
15th Jul 2011 | 09:59
A tough and powerful ultraportable but with disappointing battery life
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 review: Overview
Lenovo is well known for its ThinkPad range, a collection of rather serious-looking business laptops that often do their job in an efficient, if unexciting, manner.
When we first laid hands on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1, we were definitely impressed. The conventional plain black design remains, but the firm body measures just 27mm at its thickest point and weighs a mere 1.8kg, making it effortlessly portable.
This is also one of the most rugged ultra-portables we've seen. Sure, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 lacks the immediate beauty of the Samsung 9 Series or Apple MacBook Air, but it's solidly built in all areas, from the impressively tough lid to the rubberised frame. We're a sucker for rubber, which helps with grip and means no pesky fingerprints.
Unlike the fragile-feeling Sony SB Series, we're confident that this 13.3-inch PC laptop can survive a drop from a desk.
Not only can the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 survive a few whacks on the move, it can also handle accidental spillage. We witnessed a glass of tap water being poured into the keyboard by a gleeful marketing bod, which made the laptop shut down to protect its vital components. After tilting and shaking it to get rid of the water, we left it a short while then tried the power button. To the marketing bod's further glee, it powered up without a whimper.
When we got back to TechRadar HQ, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1's keyboard was thankfully dry again. We spent a couple of hours bashing out a lengthy exposition and were impressed by the comfort it offered. Each key is firmly set, poking through individual holes cut in the chassis, isolation-style. Even better, they're backlit for ease of use in the dark.
It's a great board for touch typing, although the arrow keys are a little cramped and we occasionally hit the PgUp/PgDn keys by accident. Our only other complaint is the corner position of the Fn key, which indents the left Ctrl key. We often hit Fn by mistake when using Windows shortcuts, which never failed to be bloody annoying.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1's touchpad is rather ropey, its bevelled surface proving unresponsive to our swipes and prods, while the mouse buttons are unfortunately integrated into the bottom corners. Lenovo has also built in its trademark 'nipple' pointing stick, which protrudes from the centre of the keyboard. We can't stand the thing, but others may disagree.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 review: Specifications
ThinkPad laptops always have a good range of features, aimed at business types, and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 is no exception. To the right of the touchpad you'll find a fingerprint scanner that can be used to log you into Windows and even your favourite websites. It's a good alternative to remembering passwords, if your memory is as bad as ours.
A SIM card slot at the back allows you to access the web while roaming, and you have standard built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi if you're in range of a wireless network. Other ports include HDMI and DisplayPort connections for attaching monitors or projectors, and a SATA port that doubles as a sleep-and-charge USB port, for charging portable devices with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 powered down.
You only get 320GB of storage, but there are few laptops this slim that offer more. This should still satisfy most people, although anyone who wants to carry around a large media collection would be advised to get a portable external drive. There's also no built-in DVD drive.
Although the Lenovo ThinkPad X1's screen is rather compact, at just 13.3 inches, it's also vibrant enough to bring photos and films to life. HD movies look fantastic, and even sound great thanks to the surprisingly powerful built-in speakers.
We were particularly impressed by the wide viewing angles, and it's bright enough to make working all day a comfortable experience. Unfortunately the Super-TFT coating means annoying reflections appear when it's used outside.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 review: Performance
One of Intel's latest Sandy Bridge processors, a Core i5 2520M running at 2.5GHz, is the brains behind the Lenovo ThinkPad X1. We expected great things from our benchmark tests, and sure enough this laptop delivered.
The whopping Cinebench score of 10918 was only recently bettered by Dell's incredible XPS 15z, which packs an Intel Core i7 CPU. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 will happily run anything you want, and last you quite some time to come. We noticed no slowdown even when running the most demanding editing suites and memory-crippling software.
Unfortunately, there's no room in the Lenovo ThinkPad X1's slender body for a dedicated graphics card. While Intel's Sandy Bridge processors do a decent job of handling image rendering, more than doubling the performance of the previous generation chipsets, it's still nowhere near enough power to play the latest games on anything resembling a decent detail setting.
Still, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 is a business machine at heart, and you definitely have enough graphical grunt to edit your media with applications such as Corel VideoStudio Pro. If you do want to kick back and relax, you'll at least be able to play older games such as Left for Dead 2 and stream HD video.
The battery uses Lenovo's RapidCharge technology, which recharges to 80% in a very impressive 30 minutes. However, we found the battery drained just as quick. If you watch a film on your hard drive with the screen turned up to full brightness, you'd better make sure it's a short one – our review unit died after just 107 minutes.
If you dim the screen and restrict your usage to web browsing or bashing out a chapter of your novel, you'll get another hour before the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 dies. It's still not massively impressive though, considering its ultra-portable status.
3DMark 03: 7765
Battery Eater 05: 107 minutes
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 review: Conclusion
Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 business laptop may look familiar, but it's impressively slimmed down from previous models and also reassuringly rugged. But can this ultra-portable hold its own in an increasingly competitive market?
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1's rubberised body is solid as well as slender, and can take a few knocks or drops and come back fighting. We were particularly impressed by how well it coped with water spillage, powering down quickly and returning to normal as if nothing had happened.
The latest Sandy Bridge Core i5 technology provides stunning performance, coping with any software we threw its way. Features are plentiful, from the built-in 3G roaming support to the integrated fingerprint scanner.
We loved the Lenovo ThinkPad X1's vibrant 13.3-inch display, with its rich colours and excellent viewing angles, while sound quality is surprisingly strong from the built-in speakers. And all this comes in a slim and light package that can be carried around everywhere you go.
The lack of dedicated graphics on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 is a shame, but you can still watch HD films and run media editing suites. More of a sin is the battery, which dies in less than two hours when watching films on the move.
Although the backlit keyboard is well-sized and comfortable to use, the indented Left Ctrl key made using Windows shortcuts a real pain. We also found the Lenovo ThinkPad X1's touchpad awkward to use at times. It's not as responsive as we'd have liked, and the integrated mouse buttons are a downer.
Finally, if you want an ultra-portable laptop for working outside, bear in mind the reflective glossy screen coating.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 presents a tantalising combination of impressive power and ruggedness that should appeal to anyone seeking a regular travel companion. Just don't expect it to last long without a power socket.