The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 is not an ultrabook by Intel’s trademark definition, but has been included in this group test as an example of another thin-and-light model that could be an alternative for someone who wants a portable, functional laptop. 

There's plenty to recommend the X1. It's fast, scoring 126 points in WorldBench 6, and although this isn't the best score in the group – that goes to the 13in MacBook Air with 130 points – it isn't far off.

The keyboard is very good indeed. There are none of the problems of cousin U300s; keys are decently sized, accompanied by nice big right Shift, Return and Backspace buttons. 

There's more storage on the 320GB hard drive than the SSDs of solid-state ultraportables, although this comes with its own problems.

The traditional hard drive can't match the data access times of an SSD, despite its 7200rpm rating. And the hard drive’s moving parts means it’s noisier and more fragile than solid-state storage.

But the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 has some advantages over the other contenders. There are more connectivity options on the X1 than regular ultraportables, for a start. There's a combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port, USB 3.0, HDMI, gigabit ethernet and a Display Port available.

Other inclusions are a fingerprint reader and switch to turn wireless connections on and off. 

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 is not without its problems. For a start, the touchpad is just a bit too springy, which makes double-clicking more awkward than it should be. The display, though it does a good job with colour depth, is very shiny – as is the bezel around it – meaning that reflections can be a problem. 

It also isn't a looker by any stretch of the imagination. However, it is of sturdy build, as you'd expect from a ThinkPad.

The Lenovo X1 is a good example of a Windows-based thin and light laptop that isn't an ultrabook. It's certainly quite good value for money. There's no optical drive but there are a number of features that you won't find on any of the competition. It's not especially pretty, so if you're looking for sleekness you could look elsewhere.

Otherwise, we think it's probably a better bet than most of the ultrabooks – it's just a shame about the poor battery life and the glossy screen.

Ben Camm-Jones

NEXT PAGE: Original PC Advisor review >>

Lenovo bills the ThinkPad X1 as the thinnest ThinkPad yet. At around 23mm, it’s fairly thin if a little chunky compared to most other ultraportables. It’s built for speed and durability, and the Windows 7 Professional OS betrays the intended business audience.

Two processor options are on the table for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1: Intel Core i3-2310M at 2.1GHz or Core i5-2520M at 2.5GHz.

We tested the latter, with 4GB of memory and 320GB hard disk, all selling for around £1200. Our sample also included an optional clip-on battery which fastens to the underside.

With just the internal (and non-removable) battery, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 lasted for 6 hours (246 mins) in MobileMark 2007 Productivity.

With the extra 36Wh power pack, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 stayed alive in the same test for around 8 hours (491 mins) total.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1: Performance

Overall speed was good, almost as fast as a 13in MacBook Air. It scored 120 point in WorldBench 6 against the Apple’s 122 points. The Lenovo trails because of slow storage, a 2.5in SATA hard disk, where the Air is pure solid-state. You can find the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 with an SSD if you look around. We've seen it selling for £1666 with 160GB SSD and 8GB RAM.

Build quality is quite sturdy, with a rubbery matt black coating that aids grip. At 1.7kg it’s reasonably light, rising to 2.1kg with the extra battery pack.

Lenovo’s specs describe the ThinkPad X1 as having a 16mm chassis. Where not sure what Lenovo's marketing department is using for a ruler: at its thinnest at the front, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 measures 18.5mm thick, rising to 23mm at the back.

Strap on the extra battery and you’re looking at a 38mm wedge. We've stepped well clear of ultraportable territory now.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1: Display

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1's 13in LCD screen is glazed with an extra sheet of alumino-silicate Corning Gorilla Glass, often favoured for modern smartphones.

While it may be quite tough and scratch-resistant, we’d question its value here. Laptops never experience the abuse of keys and pocket change rubbing against their screens; and placing a pane of glass in front of the LCD reduces screen legibility at a stroke with its mirror-like sheen.

Behind the glass, the 1366 x 768 resolution panel is well-judged for a 13.3in screen, although some may prefer higher resolution. But a 16:9 letterbox ratio could be less attractive to business users, as it would be to home users wanting to watch films in widescreen.

The LCD itself is very bright, but has a strange patina of fine grid lines when viewed closely. We found this a little distracting and suggests Lenovo hasn't selected the best quality LCD available.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1: Other Features

Powering the screen is Intel’s integrated graphics from the Core i5 chip, a safe choice for a thinnish ultraportable. In our FEAR game test, we saw an average of 13fps at Maximum detail.

Two USB ports are available, a USB 2.0 behind an annoying plastic flap on the left, ready to tear off anytime, and a USB 3.0 at rear behind the screen. Also along the rear edge is an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort and gigabit ethernet. Another flap conceals a slot for 3G modem SIM card.

On the right side is an SD card slot, and a hatch to give easy access to the internal hard disk.

With the lid open, we’re in familiar Lenovo territory – a great tactile keyboard with dished keys, trackpoint steerer in the centre; and new to Lenovo, a buttonless touchpad.

Similar to Apple’s trackpads, it loses traditional left/right click buttons, leaving you to click in either corner of the whole touchpad for mechanical clicks. The pad has a dimpled texture for the fingertips.

Andrew Harrison

NEXT PAGE: Original Computerworld review >>

Known for its straightforward business laptops, Lenovo is adding a touch of style with its new ThinkPad X1.

With a footprint of 13.2 x 9in (337 x 231mm), the Lenovo ThinkPad X1's jet-black case is 0.4in wider than two other 13.3in rivals, the Apple MacBook Air and the Dell Vostro V130; at 0.8in thick, it’s a tenth of an inch thicker than the Air's super-slim profile.

Add in its 340g AC adapter, and the 1.7kg Lenovo ThinkPad X1 hits the road with a 2.04kg travel weight – not bad, but 140g heavier than the Vostro V130 and nearly half a kilo heavier than the Air.

Lenovo style

Style counts for a lot with these premium lightweight notebooks. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1's angular black plastic case contrasts strongly to the MacBook Air's sleekly rounded aluminum skin; which you like better is strictly a matter of taste.

We do like the feel of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1's rubberized coating; it keeps the laptop from slipping while being carried.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 comes with 4GB of memory. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 is powered by a second-generation 2.50GHz Intel Core i5 processor that offers TurboBoost technology, letting it sprint to 3.2GHz for short-term bursts. This compares favourably with the Air's current 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo chip (which is antiquated by comparison).

The ThinkPad X1 review unit came with a 320GB hard drive and a 160GB flash storage module (which costs extra).

To protect the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 from injury, it includes a wrap-around internal frame and a display made of Corning Gorilla Glass.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1's 13.3in display is powered by Intel's HD 3000 integrated graphics chip, and offers 1366 x 768-pixel resolution. We found the screen to be bright, rich and clear in a variety of lighting environments. Like many premium notebooks now, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 comes with a backlit keyboard; the bluish glow has two brightness settings. However, be aware that using it can cut battery life by about 20 minutes.

Pointing to the keyboard

Along with something bluish, the ThinkPad X1's keyboard offers users something old and something new. It still has a pointing stick in the centre of the keyboard (a nice holdover, for those that need them, from the old IBM ThinkPads), but the touchpad has been tweaked.

Rather than having separate keys for right and left clicks, it has areas for right and left clicks at the bottom of the touchpad itself. It took us a little time to get used to it, but it worked well.

To prevent a spill from becoming a disaster, the keyboard has two prominent drain holes at the bottom so that liquids will flow out of (rather than into) the system.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 comes with three USB ports (one more than the MacBook Air); one is USB 3.0-complaint while another doubles as an eSATA connector.

There's also a combo headphone/microphone jack, volume controls and mute buttons for microphone and speakers.

In addition, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 has HDMI and Mini DisplayPort connections. Like most other ultraslim systems it lacks a separate VGA port, but you can always buy a DisplayPort-to-VGA adaptor.

Also on board the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 is a wired gigabit ethernet connection, plus 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0.

Computerworld Verdict

All told, the ThinkPad X1 is a high-performance bargain that could outdo the MacBook Air if only it weighed a pound less.

You can also purchase an optional 3G module; in the US it’s offered with either a Sierra Wireless Gobi module, for connecting with AT&T, Sprint or Verizon 3G networks; or an Ericsson module for connecting with AT&T's 3G HSPA network.

Top performance

In our tests, it all adds up to a top-performing executive-class notebook. The system's 1275 score on PassMark's PerformanceTest 7.0 benchmark suite is double the score of the Dell Vostro V130 and even passes the Asus U36JC, which was the fastest ultrathin notebook in a recent Computerworld roundup.

In fact, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1's overall performance score roughly matches the score of the less stylish Lenovo ThinkPad L420 business laptop.

But some of its individual components didn't test as well as the overall system; the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 scored a run-of-the-mill 2.83 and 8.55 on CineBench's processor and graphics tests.

The ThinkPad X1's internal 38.4Wh battery lasted for 3 hours 47 minutes with the keyboard light off, and 2 hours 26 minutes with it on, while continuously playing videos from a USB drive.

That's nearly twice as long as the Vostro V130's running time of 2 hours and 21 minutes, but short of the MacBook Air's four hours.

When it's time to power up, Lenovo says the ThinkPad X1's battery can get to 80% of capacity in 30 minutes and can attain a full charge in 50 minutes with the system running. That's about half the time for a typical notebook.

Unfortunately, like so many other ultraslim systems, the main battery is sealed inside and can't be swapped on the road.

Lenovo also sells a snap-on wedge battery specified at 35.5Wh. This adds half an inch of thickness and 8oz weight. With both batteries attached, the laptop ran for 6 hours 2 minutes.

On top of Windows 7 Professional, the system comes with a slew of ThinkVantage utilities for adjusting just about every aspect of the X1's operation. It also includes Office 2010 Starter and Dolby Home Theater software.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 comes with a three-year warranty – which is very nice, considering that most laptops are covered for one year.

How we tested

To see how the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 compares to other executive-class systems, we used it for several hours daily for a week to write with, update a website, give presentations and work through email.

We measured and weighed the system. To test its travel readiness, we put it on a mock-up of the typical airplane seat-back table tray to see how it fitted.

While on the road, we connected it to public Wi-Fi networks and a mobile hotspot. We also used it in our office with ethernet and Wi-Fi connections.

We looked at overall performance with PassMark's PerformanceTest 7.0 benchmark test. The software exercises the major components of the system, including processor, hard drive, 2D and 3D graphics, and memory; it then compiles the results into a single score that represents its performance potential.

We also ran CineBench 11.5, which benchmarks graphics and processor performance. The software renders several photorealistic 3D scenes that stress the processor and graphics card by manipulating up to a million polygons and then reports scores for each.

Finally, we measured battery life. With a USB drive containing six HD videos connected to the laptop, we set Windows Media Player to shuffle through all the videos until the ThinkPad ran out of power while PassMark's BatteryMon charted the battery's capacity.

All tests were run three times with the results averaged.

Brian Nadel

Lenovo ThinkPad X1: Specs

  • 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2520M (3.2GHz Turbo)
  • 13.3in (1366 x 768) LCD
  • Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM
  • 320GB 2.5in SATA HDD
  • Intel HD graphics
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • fingerprint reader
  • 3G modem
  • HDMI
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA/USB 2.0
  • SD card slot
  • webcam, mic
  • headset jack
  • non-removable 38.4Wh battery
  • 337 x 232 x 18.5-23mm (38mm with extra battery)
  • 1761g (2143g with extra battery)
  • 3-year warranty
  • 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2520M (3.2GHz Turbo)
  • 13.3in (1366 x 768) LCD
  • Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM
  • 320GB 2.5in SATA HDD
  • Intel HD graphics
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • fingerprint reader
  • 3G modem
  • HDMI
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA/USB 2.0
  • SD card slot
  • webcam, mic
  • headset jack
  • non-removable 38.4Wh battery
  • 337 x 232 x 18.5-23mm (38mm with extra battery)
  • 1761g (2143g with extra battery)
  • 3-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

For corporate customers, familiar Lenovo fare such as spill-resistant keyboard, fingerprint reader and integrated 3G broadband may be useful. And ThinkPad old-timers will value the trackpoint mouse steerer. Against the best of the competition though, this Lenovo ThinkPad X1 falls short in size, weight, longevity and build quality. And the glass screen is a retrograde step that seriously dimishes screen quality.

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