In fact, though, by the end of our testing period we had come to prefer the pointing stick and its accompanying mouse buttons. The nub has a pattern of fine raised dots and was wide enough to cradle our finger comfortably. It also has a low rise -- lower even than the keys surrounding it - so we didn't struggle with our finger falling off the nub while we moved the cursor around. The pointing stick is also well-spaced from the matching buttons, which meant clicking with the thumb of that hand felt natural. As for the buttons, they provide good tactile feedback and make nary a sound -- all without feeling mushy. As an added convenience, you can disable the trackpad by pressing a function key built into the left side of the space bar.
Display and sound
As we said, the X1 has a 13.3-inch, 350-nit display fashioned out of edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass. We think that scratch-resistant panel is a brilliant addition, and hope more notebook makers start incorporating it. The one trade-off, though, is that in adopting Gorilla Glass, Lenovo traded a matte, easily viewable display for a highly reflective one. The screen is glossy in a way that's likely to irk and disappoint a lot of people -- not least among them, ThinkPad loyalists. While we were watching a movie, the screen was too reflective from the sides, and appeared washed out when we viewed it head-on, with the lid pushed down. Worse, it'll pick up fingerprints just from you opening and closing the lid.
To Lenovo's credit, of course, it appears to have opted for a reflective panel for the sake of durability -- a noble cause if ever there was one. In other words, there's no evidence its design team jumped on the glossy-is-sexier bandwagon. Unfortunately, the X1's resolution is limited to 1366 x 768. It's a shame, especially since the X301 was offered with a 1440 x 900 option. The X1's pixel count will be sufficient for web surfing and word processing, but it's disapointing that the company would cut the pixels on a laptop it hopes will be sexy and versatile enough to strike a chord beyond the boardroom.
The X1's Dolby speakers are loud enough that even with the sound set to the median volume setting we often felt compelled to take it down a notch (or several). The quality ain't bad either -- especially for a laptop this small. Songs by Michael Jackson, James Brown, and Sam Cooke sounded lively and multi-faceted. Jim Morrison's vocals in "Touch Me," meanwhile, come through as forcefully as The Doors surely intended them to. In short, this isn't the overwhelming tinniness you might have resigned yourself to. Particularly because this system can withstand spills and manhandling, we'd have no qualms about trotting it out to play DJ at our next party.
Performance and graphics
Look and feel
Even with some contemporary touches, the X1 still looks -- and feels -- like a ThinkPad. It comes decked out in a soft, rubbery finish that should seem familiar to anyone who's handled an X Series notebook. This time around it coats each and every surface, including the sides, making the design feel that much more seamless. While that finish isn't a big part of the durability equation (more on that in a bit), it goes a long way in making the X1 feel like the premium notebook it is.
Lenovo also took ThinkPad's classic boxy shape and chiseled it down into something more tapered. The chassis (13.3 x 9.1 x 0.65-0.84 inches) isn't as cartoonishly thin as the MacBook Air, and because of its wedge profile the X1 will particularly suffer in comparisons that dwell on the back end of the chassis, near the hinge. Still, it's near-impossible to look at it and not appreciate how trim it is, especially toward the front where the lid opens. At 3.7 pounds, it feels heavier than we gathered from those leaked shots (especially this one
). But let's be clear: this thing is easy to grab one-handed.
On the inside, the X1 uses the same RollCage construction as previous ThinkPads to make the chassis rigid. This laptop does do away with a latch enclosure, though. On the one hand, this helps the notebook achieve that clean look, but we can see it disturbing folks who take comfort in hearing their lid click into place. Given how solid the body feels, though, we didn't notice ourselves handling it any more gingerly than we would have it there were a latch. Should the notebook not hold up, it's covered under a three-year warranty -- fairly standard for business machines.
Lenovo also took the volume and mute controls you're used to seeing above the keyboard and instead placed them along the right side of the deck. With the exception of a memory card slot and covered 3.5mm headphone jack and USB 2.0 ports, you won't find any openings on the sides or front lip of the laptop. The rest -- a 20V AC port, USB 2.0-eSATA combo, USB 3.0 port, HDMI-out, a DisplayPort, and a covered SIM card slot for optional 3G connectivity -- neatly line the back edge. The bottom of the notebook is fairly clean, thanks to that non-removable battery, though you'll still find a smattering of screws and assorted openings. The back side is studded with four rubberized feet, which make the laptop comfortable to type on when placed on a flat surface.
The X1 also steps up to a 720p webcam. As you can see in the still photo below, the image quality is bright with vibrant, accurate colors. The camera also picked up a fair amount of detail, such as the shine in our hair and the texture of our skin, though even after we resized the picture for this website, you can still see graininess in the dim hallway in the background.
Keyboard and touchpad
Although not much has changed in the way of materials and durability, the X1 does
get a facelift in the form of a chiclet (and backlit!) spill-resistant keyboard, coupled with a buttonless touchpad. Rest assured, though: Lenovo hasn't mucked with the secret sauce that makes its keys so comfy to type on. Everything about them -- their concave shape, the sturdy panel, the officious click
they make -- remains superb.
And while you might feel ambivalent about Lenovo once again
going with an integrated touchpad, know that this is one of the better ones we've tested. The textured pad feels wonderful and makes a satisfying low-pitched sound when you press it -- one of our favorite details. And the two-finger scrolling just works
in a way that it too often doesn't on other gesture-enabled trackpads.
That's not to say the touchpad is perfect, though. It incorporates the same Synaptics technology found in scads of other laptops, including the Toshiba Satellite E305
, whose imprecise trackpad cost it points in our review. With the X1, too, we had occasional moments where the pad registered a right click instead of a left. On the whole, though, we felt in control of both our clicks and our scrolling.