The Lenovo ThinkPad X301 is an ultraportable laptop with a 13in screen.

Ultraportables are the cool if expensive segment of the laptop world, first witnessed as lightweight notebooks for the business user. Chinese company Lenovo is now a standard-bearer for such high-end corporate laptops, continuing the trusted ThinkPad line after it bought IBM's PC manfacturing division four years ago.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X301 stands forward as the brand's very finest thin 'n' light sub-notebook, a 13.3in-screen laptop 26mm thick and weighing 1.5kg. Unlike some lightweight notebooks, it takes a capable dual-core 1.6GHz Intel processor, with 128GB SSD for storage, and 2GB of DDR3 RAM.

If you expect your business laptop to forsake aesthetics in order to cram in as many features as thought necessary, the Lenovo ThinkPad X301 will not disappoint. While reasonably thin at just over an inch thick, it's somewhat angular and sharp-cornered, with spiky catches sticking out the screen bezel with the lid up.

Once the Lenovo ThinkPad X301 is open, you'll notice a matt 13.3in widescreen display, usually an improvement over any gloss screen, although this example never quite gets bright enough and suffers poor contrast.

As you might expect of a ThinkPad, the Lenovo ThinkPad X301 has a touchstick mouse steerer dropped in the centre of the keyboard, joined by a regular trackpad. We found the trackpad usable enough, and its matching click buttons nicely placed on the chassis' edge. The keyboard is a precision-feeling item but a little noisy to type on, liable to annoy fellow first-class carriage commuters. But probably not as much as the very loud and threatening BLEEP sound that is emitted when you close or sleep the X301.

The lightweight construction is down to a mix of glass- and carbon-fibre panels over a magnesium chassis, all finished off in dull black paint that nonetheless preserves your fingerprints all over the casework. This paint is liable to mark easily on contact with anything hard in your carry bag. An electronic reader of your fingerprints is also included next to the touchpad.

The combination of Intel Core 2 Duo processor, fast DDR3 RAM and a solid-state drive bodes well for raw performance, and in WorldBench 6 tests it scored 78 points, making it comparable to a regular 2GHz laptop. It's battery life is a disappointment, though, lasting less than three hours in MobileMark 2007 Productivity (177 mins). An audible fan was blowing most of the time the Lenovo ThinkPad X301 was booted.

Conspicuous by their absence are any card readers, neither SD card nor ExpressCard; but the Lenovo ThinkPad X301 can boast one feature rarely found on any ultraportable: a DVD±RW drive, with a tray that pops out the right. Other onboard connections included three USB, ethernet, plus DisplayPort and VGA video out.

3D graphics performance is unsurprisingly poor, taking the best graphics processor that Intel makes, the GMA 4500MHD. Modern 3D games will not be a part of the business user's free-time itinerary - we measured 6fps in the FEAR game test.

A great raft of software is included, such as the usual trial versions of antivirus and Microsoft Office, plus utilities to control wireless and security. As with most such Windows bloatware we found the laptop performed more efficiently once this had all been painstakingly removed.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Lenovo ThinkPad X301: Specs

  • 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9600
  • 3MB L2 cache
  • 800MHz FSB
  • 13.3in (1440x900) LED backlit matt LCD display
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Business SP1
  • 128GB SSD
  • 2GB (1x2GB) 1066MHz DDR3 RAM
  • Intel GS45 Express chipset
  • Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics with 384MB system RAM
  • DisplayPort, VGA
  • DVD±RW tray-load drive
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/draft-n
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • fingerprint reader
  • headphone out, mic in
  • stereo speakers
  • built-in mic
  • webcam
  • 4000mAh/43.2Wh li-ion battery
  • 231x318x26mm
  • 1524g
  • 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9600
  • 3MB L2 cache
  • 800MHz FSB
  • 13.3in (1440x900) LED backlit matt LCD display
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Business SP1
  • 128GB SSD
  • 2GB (1x2GB) 1066MHz DDR3 RAM
  • Intel GS45 Express chipset
  • Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics with 384MB system RAM
  • DisplayPort, VGA
  • DVD±RW tray-load drive
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/draft-n
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • fingerprint reader
  • headphone out, mic in
  • stereo speakers
  • built-in mic
  • webcam
  • 4000mAh/43.2Wh li-ion battery
  • 231x318x26mm
  • 1524g

OUR VERDICT

The Lenovo ThinkPad X301 has a built-in optical drive and several data ports, where most ultraportables are lacking. Conservative businessman may find what they're looking for in this traditional yet lightweight laptop, although it is overpriced for the build quality and performance it delivers.

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