For years, many people felt that buying a ThinkPad meant sacrificing looks for durability. But the truth of the matter is that Lenovo has been experimenting with design, including machines that come in various colors (besides black, I mean) and at least one that had a titanium lid. The striking butterfly keyboard on the IBM-era ThinkPad 701 even earned it a place in New York Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.
The ThinkPad X1 may be Lenovo’s most eye-catching laptop to date. With a bold, angular design — not to mention impressive thinness and a bevy of new features — the X1 spits in the face of today’s all-curves laptops and says: Yeah, to hell with it, we really liked Tron.
The bold design choice will be love-it-or-hate-it, but I suspect most shoppers who would consider ThinkPad at all will ultimately fall for its charms. That said, in actual use I found myself torn over the wedge-like design. It is very striking but it sacrifices a bit too much usability in its quest for head-turning looks.
The biggest problem is that ports on both sides are impossible to get to without flipping the computer onto one edge. This is a particularly big problem for ports on the left side — a USB port and a headset jack — which are inexplicably covered with a plastic flap.
Fortunately, there’s plenty to like in this mostly top-notch machine. It is reportedly (more on that later) the thinnest ThinkPad ever, packing a 13.3-inch (1366 x 768 pixels) screen into a 3.8 pound package — about a pound heavier than the 13-inch MacBook Air. The feature set is worthwhile and impressive, including a 2.5-GHz Core i5 CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and a 320-GB hard drive.
The ultrabright screen is made of infinity Gorilla Glass, and Lenovo has stuffed the machine to the gills with extras, including its new RapidCharge battery (giving you an 80 percent charge in half an hour); a spill-resistant, backlit keyboard; and MIL-SPEC certification.
Ports in addition to those mentioned above include one USB 3.0 port, one combo eSATA–chargeable USB port, HDMI and a mini DisplayPort. There’s an SD card slot on the right side and a user-accessible SIM card slot on the back, too, for (optional) WWAN features.
Performance is exemplary: Benchmarks meet or beat those on some of the highest-end rigs we’ve tested in the last year — thanks largely to the inclusion of the Sandy Bridge–class microprocessor. Sure, gaming is hardly a standout, but considering the computer has integrated graphics, it’s surprisingly capable in a pinch.
So what about the negatives? Battery life is an outright flop: 2 hours, 44 minutes, which pales next to what you’ll get from most lightweight machines without optical drives. You can adjust some sliders to stretch the battery longer, but performance suffers.
And I’m extremely confused how Lenovo can claim the machine is just 16.5 mm thick: Unless my ruler is somehow defective, it’s at least 22 mm thick — 28 mm if you include the little plastic offset nubs on the bottom. Which I do. Also, bafflingly, while the X1 has a pretty quiet keyboard, Lenovo’s supposed noise-suppression technology that “ensures only your voice is heard in a web conversation” simply didn’t work in my Skype tests.
While the X1 is a sleek and supersvelte machine that shouldn’t need any truth-stretching braggadocio, it makes you wonder if anyone is policing the marketing department. The price tag is also high — $1,400 — but that’s not unexpected. You’re getting a high-end build with the X1, with power to spare and a design that impresses. Now if only everything actually worked as promised …
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