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
Our $1,399 test unit came armed with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2520M, integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics, Windows 7 Professional (32-bit), 4GB of RAM, and a 320GB 7,200RPM hard drive. Throughout our testing, we had no problem juggling email, web video, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, all while downloading movies and a slew of Word documents and PDFs. Our test unit booted up in 49 seconds, which is decently fast for a Windows laptop. Indeed, the X1's score of 7,787 on PCMark Vantage, a performance benchmark, is in the same ballpark as -- if not slightly higher than -- what we've seen from other Core i5 systems we've tested recently.
The X1 has an integrated Intel HD 3000 cards, which notched 3,726 on 3DMark06. That was good enough for us to play Angry Birds
at full-screen without any stuttering, though it's a lower score than we've seen from other laptops with thee same graphics card, such as the Toshiba Satellite E305, which garnered a 4,547 on the same test. Then again, we assume for anyone considering this system, gaming is not priority numero uno.
| || PCMarkVantage || 3DMark06 |
| Battery Life |
| Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (Core i5-2410M) || 7,787 || 3,726 || 3:31 / 6:57 |
| Samsung Series 9 (Core i5-2537M) || 7,582 || 2,240 || 4:20 |
| 13-inch MacBook Air (Core 2 Duo, GeForce 320M) || 5,170 || 4,643 || 4:45 |
| ThinkPad X220 (Core i5-2520M) || 7,635 || 3,517 || 7:19 |
| ASUS U36Jc (Core i5 / NVIDIA GeForce 310M) || 5,981 || 2,048 / 3,524 || 5:30 |
| Dell Vostro V13 (Core 2 Duo) || 2,687 || 556 || 2:39 |
| Toshiba Portege R705 (Core i3-350M) || 5,024 || 1,739 / 3,686 || 4:25 |
| Notes: the higher the score the better. For 3DMark06, the first number reflects score with GPU off, the second with it on. |
It's important to know that while you can customize the RAM, storage, and wireless options, the processor is non-negotiable. Lenovo confirmed that US customers can only buy the X1 with that Sandy Bridge Core i5 processsor, although it'll be available in other countries with 2.1GHz Core i3-2310M and 2.7GHz Core i7-2620M CPUs. In case you're curious, the most tricked-out configuration you'll be able to buy in the states -- one with 8GB of RAM, a 160GB SSD, and Gobi broadband module -- will ring in at $1,799 without the slice battery.
Battery life and software
According to Lenovo, the X1's non-removable battery will last about 1,000 cycles, after which point it should reach 80 percent capacity. Like the rest of the hardware, it's protected by a three-year warranty. Although the company promises you can squeeze up to ten hours of battery life out of the X1's svelte body, you'll have to attach a 35.5Wh slice battery ($150) before you even think of testing that claim. As it is, the six-cell / 38.4 Wh standard battery promises a modest max of 5.2 hours.
In our battery rundown, which entails playing a movie at 65 percent brightness with WiFi on, we got three and a half hours of juice with the standard battery. That's more than an hour less than what we got out of the most recent MacBook Air on the same test, though admittedly, the Air didn't fare nearly as well in PCMark Vantage. The slice boosted the X1's longevity to seven hours, but that extra piece of hardware makes the system even thicker than a two year-old ThinkPad T400s
we happen to have lying around.
That's a taxing test, of course, and not necessarily indicative of how you use your notebook. When using the X1 to surf the web, read blogs, and play Angry Birds for Chrome at full screen, we got around four and a half hours of with the six-cell battery. Still, we noticed the battery life rating in the system tray plummet as soon as we even clicked on the browser tab for Angry Birds
. After ten minutes of play, the estimated amount of time we had left dropped by 40 minutes. Skype calls, too, drained the battery faster than garden-variety web surfing -- after a 45-minute call, our remaining battery life rating had sunk about 30 percent. But as soon as we switched to a less intensive activity, such as responding to emails, the battery life estimate started to tick up.
On the plus side, Lenovo wasn't kidding about the fast-charging battery. The company's RapidCharge technology promises to rebound from 0 to 80 percent in just 30 minutes. Indeed, in our test we saw the battery life shoot up to 62 percent in under 20 minutes. It's just too bad that AC adapter will be a necessity for so many people using this thing while out and about.
As you'd expect with a business machine, the X1 is nearly devoid of bloatware, though it does come with a few pre-installed programs, including Skype 4.2 for Business, Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, Norton Internet Security 2011, and Windows Live Essentials. And, as you'd expect, Lenovo bundled its ThinkVantage suite of utilities, which monitor system problems as well as metrics like power management. These programs are easy to navigate -- and not too intrusive.
As you can probably tell, we like the X1. A lot. It's as thin and durable as it is ergonomically sound, it performs briskly, and particularly thanks to those strong speakers, we can see people snapping this up even if their lives aren't scheduled around meetings and business trips. But for some people, that short battery life -- and, to a lesser extent, the glossy display -- could be heartbreaking deal-breakers. On the one hand, we'll be the first to admit that our battery test is more grueling, perhaps, than your daily routine. And the slice helps, though it piles $150 on top of the price, and gives the laptop a chunkier profile, which defeats the purpose of splurging on a notebook this slim. Despite this flaw, we found ourselves interacting with it as more than just a corporate black box, but our personal notebook. In that regard, the X1 hits its mark.