If there was a formal black tie function this season, and all of this season’s notebooks were invited, only the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 would be allowed entry. Dressed in the unmistakable ThinkPad matte black, the slinky little 13.3-inch machine running on a Core i5-2520M at 2.5 GHz (review unit) oozes sophistication not seen anywhere else. The latest offering out of the X-series in the venerable ThinkPad line, the X1 also showcases several of Lenovo’s latest innovations. Most of these innovations (unique only to Lenovo) have been a result of intense research and development with Microsoft, so you know you have something good here.
Maximum performance was coaxed out of the X1 by making sure the software and hardware were in complete sync with each other. This results in technology like the "RapidBoot", which boasts 20 second start-up times as well as 5 second shut-down times. While most of the X1's blazing speed seen can be attributed to the 160GB solid-state drive (SSD) that the higher-specced review unit has, note that the combination of the new Sandy Bridge platform and a new SSD (these drives advance pretty fast over a short span of time), the notebook was capable of achieving performance not seen on previous generation of notebooks even if they featured SSDs. For those who are confused with the split of the original ThinkPad line, all you have to know for this review is that the X-series represent the ThinkPad brands’ ultra-portable line. For a little more background, you can read the event coverage we did a while back here. So let’s start with dissecting this corporate bad-boy, beginning with the outlook of the X1.
The design and appearance of laptops are akin to seasonal changes, and we’ve seen quite a few over the years. But the ThinkPad, inspired by IBM’s slogan at the time "Think" and introduced in 1992, has always retained the 'black slab' look. This seemingly uninspired black rectangular block (to non-fans) is actually the result of a collaboration between IBM’s then head designer, an Italian designer, and a Japanese IBM designer. Simply put, it just fits anywhere, be it in the office, the jungle, the desert, space and at home. And believe us when we say ThinkPads have been in every possible scenario imaginable. That’s because it’s not just a business notebook, ThinkPads are also the preferred notebook of storm-chasers, journalists, explorers, soldiers and even astronauts. While this sounds like a marketing line, that's the real world.
The reason is clear. It’s built to just start doing whatever you want it to and last, thanks to the roll cage that protects much of the machine. It would also be safe to say that at the time of writing, the ThinkPad X1 is the epitome of the ThinkPad series, with all the latest bells and whistles from Lenovo’s research labs. It’s decked out in the familiar matte black finish, which does it’s job well as an oil repellent. That means no fingerprints, no dirt, no sand, keeping its smart looks no matter where it may be.
Purists however may choose to exclude the ThinkPad X1 from the ThinkPad hall of fame, because of the lack of an iconic feature -- the latch in the front that keeps the lid down. Well you won’t see us complaining about that because the ThinkPad X1 is just keeping with the times. The hinges on the machine are also tight enough keep the lid closed when you need it to. Most of the ports are also found behind the laptop, which for convenience's sake, cause minimal interference to the space on the side, allowing you to have notepads or documents there.
Speaking of connectivity, we noticed another strange exclusion choice made by Lenovo for a business notebook - the lack of a VGA port. Given that most businesses, especially the larger ones, are slow to adopt new technology like HDMI and Mini DisplayPort. But the ThinkPad X1 comes with a many options, and among them, would be a port replicator dock that supports an analog VGA or digital DVI monitor, at up to HD resolutions. Unfortunately this is going to cost you more, along with any other alternatives you might want to consider such as USB graphics adapters or even HDMI to VGA converters.
If you find that you need immediate access to a USB port, fret not because there is one on the left side of the notebook. That and a 3.5mm audio jack is hidden behind a cover to allow for a clean look and feel, without any unsightly ports showing. It could also be there just so that dust and sand won’t jam up the ports. On the right, there is an SD card slot, for quick transferring of files. However if you assume that the cover mentioned earlier is to protect against foreign matter clogging the ports, then the exclusion of a cover for the SD card slot is quite puzzling.