Last month we reviewed Samsung’s Series 9 ultraportable notebook and found that, while it offered an exceedingly svelte and fashionable form factor, there was a performance trade-off to all that stylishness. Lenovo’s 13-inch ThinkPad X1 represents a completely different approach to ultraportability.
We’re not suggesting that the X1 eschews aesthetics. In fact, it takes the ThinkPad’s classic matte-black look-and-feel and jazzes it up with a few cosmetic updates, such as an edge-to-edge glossy screen, an island keyboard, blue-LED keyboard backlighting, and angled edges. But still, the overall motif is no-nonsense. There’s no mistaking that this is a business notebook.
Gorilla Glass protects the edge-to-edge screen on the X1 from suffering nicks and scratches.
The X1’s build quality is all business, as well. The notebook might be just an inch thick, but it’s no dainty flower. It weighs 3 pounds, 13.3 ounces without the power supply, and it feels solid, making Lenovo’s claims of mil-spec compliance wholly believable. The edge-to-edge LCD screen is topped with Gorilla Glass, meant to withstand the rigors of regular use.
The X1’s CPU is also pretty burly—for this class. The Core i5-2520M runs at a 2.5GHz base clock, with Turbo potential up to 3.2GHz. Not surprisingly, it handily trounced the 1.4GHz Core i5-2537M in Samsung’s Series 9, by more than 90 percent in three out of four content creation benchmarks. It gave the 2.13GHz Core i7-640LM in our zero-point notebook a pretty sound beating too, for that matter. The one anomaly was in Quake III, which is essentially a CPU test these days. Our only explanation for why the X1 performed 30 percent worse than our zero-point here is that it’s hurt by its single-channel RAM. All 4GB are on one DIMM, and there isn’t a slot for a second. We’ve found that, for the most part, the large caches in Core 2 and Core ix chips keeps memory bandwidth from being a problem, but certain things, such as the very old Quake III, are sensitive to it. The improved prowess of Sandy Bridge’s graphics processor shined through in our Quake 4 benchmark.
We’re happy to see that Lenovo didn’t let space concerns keep it from equipping the X1 with a 2.5-inch hard dive—in this case, a 320GB, 7,200rpm model. This allows for cheaper and more capacious upgrade options than a 1.8-inch drive would. We’re sorry, however, that there’s no optical drive in the mix, particularly when thinner and lighter ultraportables have managed that feat.
The X1’s battery life was strong in our tests. The notebook played a looped video file for three-and-a-half hours on power-saving mode before pooping out. We were even more impressed with how quickly the battery recharged—more than 80 percent in 30 minutes, thanks to Lenovo’s Rapid Charge technology.
Yes, the ThinkPad X1 is a serious machine for serious ultraportable computing, although its ultraportability is on the heftier side and its computing doesn’t include optical duties.