Lenovo X1

Lenovo’s new X1 laptop weighs in to the crowded ultra-light laptop segment, bringing a long pedigree of build quality, robustness and understated design along with it.

Features

The newest in Lenovo’s line of executive laptops continues the lineage Lenovo grabbed from original Thinkpad creator IBM. The X1 retains the signature black design, soft yet highly graspable rubber coating and bullet-proof build.

Like most 2011 notebooks, the specs are fairly high. The X1 features a second-generation Intel 2.5GHz Core i5 processor, 4GB memory, an Intel 160GB solid state drive, Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, and a 13.3 inch SuperBright LCD screen.

Lenovo sees this as a premium notebook designed for executives, so it has a little bit extra on other highly spec’d 2011 notebooks, such as a carbon-fibre rollcage and a spill-resistant keyboard. You’ll also find a built-in battery that can’t be replaced but does offer an eighty percent recharge in a speedy 30 minutes.

And because we’re talking premium, the X1 has a fair share of extras. We’re specifically talking about backlit keys, 3G access with a SIM card slot, fingerprint scanner, two types of input – a trackpad and the little red intellipoint nipple that IBM and Lenovo notebooks have had for ages, a screen protected by scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass, a hinge capable of letting the screen extend to 180 degrees, one USB 3.0 port, one combination USB 2.0 and eSATA port, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet and a 720p HD video camera for video conferencing.

Performance

The Lenovo X1 is branded as a computer for executives, so you’d hope the experience is one that would leave you impressed. For the most part, Lenovo succeeds, offering a laptop that looks simple, professional and feels well built – very well built.

From an aesthetic point of view, the X1 doesn’t draw attention to itself. Pulling from its ThinkPad heritage, this simple matte black laptop that doesn’t attempt to win your heart with a metallic finish or a bevelled edge. It may well be a direct competitor to Apple’s 13 inch MacBook Air, but this is one laptop that doesn’t try to be thin and sexy. It’s simple, sleek, and otherwise unnoticeable, and yet there’s something inherently brilliant in that.

Moving beneath the looks, the X1 is built very solidly. While we don’t suggest you do this, we dropped the Lenovo X1 at least 20cm to a hard-wood floor while turned on and it survived. We’re told it can survive quite a fair bit of punishment, with Lenovo’s PR rep going so far as to even suggest that you can stand on it. Why you’d stand on your computer, we have no idea, but to survive the weight of an average businessman is an impressive enough feat.

Under the hood, Lenovo has equipped one of the latest Intel Core i5 processors, a 160GB solid state drive, 4GB of RAM and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. This combination of parts makes the X1 a snappy little machine, providing more power than its diminutive package might suggest.

We spent most of our time surfing the web with multiple tabs open, writing documents, and listening to music – typical activities for any notebook user, regardless of profession. The Intel Core i5 had no problems tackling this, and given the technical specifications, we suspect it will handle a considerably higher workload.

Typing on the Lenovo’s keyboard is – as usual with Lenovo – nothing short of superb. The keyboard has an almost perfect feel to it and is better than many of the desktop keyboards we’ve used.

Sadly, not everything is close to perfection in Lenovo’s little beauty. We took issue with a few things, notably the battery and the trackpad.

Despite the X1’s press release being worded as “up to 10 hours”, we didn’t get much more than four hours out of the X1, and this was while we were surfing the web over WiFi and writing documents. Hand the X1 some more resource intensive tasks – such as watching video – and you can expect the battery life to drop further. In fact, the 10 hours suggested by Lenovo can only be reached if you purchase the External Slice Battery.

Given the $2,759 price tag, the battery performance, or lack thereof, is underwhelming. The extra battery pack can be purchased from Lenovo Australia for $185, a purchase we’re told will bring the promise of ten hours of life, but will also increase the thickness and weight of the X1.

The upside to Lenovo’s battery woes is that the company has implemented a new ‘Rapid Charge’ system than can get the battery from zero to eighty percent in as little as 30 minutes, reaching full charge in just a little more than half an hour past this point. This fast charging will recover some of that much needed battery life when you’re on the go, but it’s a shame the battery can’t survive for very long as it is.

Then there’s the trackpad, the second of the two pointing devices found on the X1. While the textured one-button trackpad is a nice addition, it doesn’t always give you the smoothest movement while clicking. Lenovo has also tried to give the trackpad a sense of multitouch, but outside of two-finger scrolling, it’s probably best ignored. Pinch to zoom – as seen on the MacBook laptops – is slow and clunky here, providing an experience that really needs some tweaking.

Conclusion

While it might be close to perfection, the X1 manages to make us question whether the price tag is all that reasonable. Business executives may be willing to hand over two thousand dollars – but we’re not sure if they should, considering the battery life and trackpad.

There’s no doubt that there are parts of this laptop that impress us, namely the build quality, selection of connections, and power lurking underneath, but it’s an especially worrying fact when a laptop targeted at executives and professionals wouldn’t last a flight over the Pacific.

On the plus side, Lenovo has made the X1 a customisable laptop, allowing you to purchase (at the time of ordering) a regular 320GB laptop hard drive instead of the SSD and ditch the 3G modem, which – for us – didn’t work anyway. These changes could go a long way to giving you a better deal, especially considering you’re still getting a ‘premium’ laptop but saving several hundred dollars on the price.

However, if the idea of a strong and thin laptop is your idea of heaven, you’ve definitely found a perfect partner, but make sure that you’re OK with bringing the AC adaptor around, because the X1 needs it.

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