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Looking around the X300's slim chassis reveals considerably more features than Apple managed to squeeze into the MacBook Air, but not quite as much as I've come to expect from a ThinkPad. On the right edge is the expansion bay, which comes filled with a DVD writer. If battery life is paramount to you, you can slot a three cell battery into this bay to augment the main battery pack - this will cost around £90, which is pretty reasonable and makes it an attractive upgrade.
At the left is a brace of USB ports, along with headphone and microphone ports. At the rear is a third USB port, an Ethernet port, power socket, D-SUB port and a hardware switch for the wireless adapters. It's great to see Lenovo placing the power, D-SUB and Ethernet ports at the rear, which is where you'd logically want them, rather than having a load of cables sticking out of the side of your notebook. Obviously the trend for having the battery pack at the rear of laptops has resulted in rear mounted ports being something of a rarity - the battery on the X300 sits underneath the wrist rest, in case you were wondering.
You've probably noticed from the last couple of paragraphs that there is no PC Card or ExpressCard slot in the X300, which does limit expansion somewhat. That said, with HSDPA built in, there's not much else that you'd want to put in an ExpressCard slot right now, and even then, you've got three USB ports to play with - most ultra-portable machines only have two (or just one in the case of the MacBook Air). The lack of a memory card slot is more disappointing, especially since the X series ThinkPads have traditionally sported an SD card slot, and in fact used to include a CompactFlash slot prior to that.
ThinkPads also benefit from Lenovo's ThinkVantage features, which help ensure a safe and secure user environment. I remember when IBM introduced its Rapid Restore and Recovery utility, allowing IT managers to schedule regular backups without the end user even realising that it was happening. Lenovo has been continually improving the back-end utilities under the ThinkVantage moniker, although some of it is more aimed at the end user than IT manager these days.
Pressing the ThinkVantage button brings up a sidebar menu with shortcuts to useful utilities. The Maintenance tab gives quick access to disk defragmentation or system update, while the Security, Protection and Recovery tab will let you backup your system, recover it or manage your login security (password or biometric).
But the X300 also carries Intel's Centrino vPro branding, so it's also jam packed full of all of Intel's remote management, diagnostics and maintenance functionality. Intel's vPro technology is a great addition for business notebooks, especially the fact that infected machines can be quarantined, cleaned and reinstated to the network completely remotely. The Centrino vPro branding will definitely make the X300 more attractive to the big corporate buyer, where centralised management is a prerequisite.
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