Lenovo ThinkPad X1 review

Is Lenovo's super-slim ThinkPad X1 a match for the MacBook Air?

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1

For

  • Ultra sturdy
  • Great performance
  • Screen

Against

  • Terrible battery life
  • Iffy usability
  • Tight storage

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 is being pitched as a classy and super-slim business machine to match Apple's svelte MacBook Air range of laptops

One of our most memorable recent press events was the launch of Lenovo’s ultraportable business laptop, the ThinkPad X1.

The memorable moment came after a lengthy presentation, when a marketing bod produced a glass of water and gleefully poured it into the X1’s keyboard.

This act of sabotage would have cut short any other demo, but not this one. After tipping the laptop on its side and draining the water from a corner, the marketing bod waited a minute and pushed the power button.

Sure enough, the fans whirred and the screen flickered into life.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1: Design

At first glance, the X1 isn’t anything special. The plain black design is conventional at best, but look a little closer and you’ll notice the frame measures just 27mm at its thickest point.

It also weighs a mere 1.8kg, making it effortlessly portable.

This is also one of the most rugged ultraportables we've seen, from the impressively tough lid to the rubberised frame, which makes it easy to grip and hides pesky fingerprints.

Lenovo boasts that the X1 can survive a drop from a desk, and we’re sure that’s no exaggeration.

You can even use this machine outside during the great British summertime, thanks to the water-resistant innards.

The chiclet-style keyboard is firmly set and backlit, so you can tap away in the dark if the mood takes you.

Unfortunately the left Ctrl key is in an odd position, indented by a Function key, which is annoying if you use Windows shortcuts.

The touchpad is also irritatingly unresponsive. Lenovo’s trademark pointing stick (which is often referred to as a ‘nipple’, for obvious reasons) can be used instead.

However, we find this even more irritating than the touchpad as it’s far too sensitive and jerky.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1: Features

To the right of the touchpad, you'll find a fingerprint scanner that can be used to log into Windows.

Plenty of business laptops come with this feature and it’s a decent alternative to memorizing stupidly complex passwords.

If you’re constantly on the move with work, the built-in SIM card slot allows you to access the web while roaming. You also have standard built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi, for those Starbucks moments.

A rather meager 320GB of storage means you can’t carry a huge media collection with you, but should suit anyone who just needs to work on the go.

There's also no built-in DVD drive, so you’ll need to buy a USB drive if you plan on installing software from discs.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1: Screen

Although the ThinkPad X1's 13.3-inch screen is rather compact, it's also vibrant enough to bring photos and films to life.

HD movies look fantastic, and even sound great thanks to the surprisingly powerful built-in speakers.

We were particularly impressed by the wide viewing angles. The panel is also bright enough to make lengthy work sessions a comfortable experience.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1: Performance

One of Intel's latest Sandy Bridge processors is the brains behind the ThinkPad X1, and the resulting performance is exceptional.

This laptop will happily run anything you want, and should last you many years.

We noticed no slowdown even when running the most demanding editing suites and memory-crippling software.

Unfortunately, there's no room in the ThinkPad X1’s slender body for a dedicated graphics card.

Thankfully Intel's Sandy Bridge processors do a decent job of handling image rendering, so you can edit your photos and movies and even play older games.

The battery uses Lenovo's RapidCharge technology, which recharges to 80% capacity in a very impressive 30 minutes.

However, we found the battery drained just as quick once you pull the plug.

If you watch a film on your hard drive with the screen turned up to full brightness, you better make sure it’s a short one - our review unit died after just 107 minutes.

If you dim the screen and restrict your usage to browsing the web or bashing out your vampire romance novel, you’ll get another hour before the ThinkPad X1 dies.

Considering this laptop is built for travel, however, there are only two words for this kind of result: big pants.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1: Verdict

The ThinkPad X1 is a tantalising combination of power and ruggedness that should appeal to anyone after a regular travel companion.

It’s just a massive shame that the battery dies so fast, and usability isn’t as strong as we hoped.

Love: Can withstand a beating and provides excellent performance for an ultraportable.