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ThinkPad - it's a powerful brand. For a generation of business users it signifies reliability, quality and refinement. And, since all the guys and girls in suits know and love them, it's a good thing to be seen carrying one around. Before I get too carried away talking about "brands" or god forbid "leveraging paradigms" (leveraging tool sold separately), this reputation isn't the result of just smart marketing, it has come through years of considered design and listening to what users wanted out of their notebooks.
Naturally enough, many business users want and require an ultra-portable and it's the ultra-portable ThinkPad X61s that I'm looking today. Weighing just 1.37kg with dimensions of 268 x 211 x 20mm (WxDxH) it certainly qualifies for the category, with a 12.1in 4:3 aspect screen that'll please those users who still haven't accepted the widescreen revolution. Indeed, though I'd generally criticise a notebook for maintaining this aspect, in a model this size it actually works rather well.
That said, though I have no problem with the aspect ratio of the screen, the 1,024 x 768 native resolution is somewhat restrictive and frankly a throwback to a bygone age. To put this in perspective, the standard resolution of a 12.1in 16:10 display would be 1,280 x 800, which means that with the X61s you're getting less horizontal and less vertical desktop space than you would with the likes of the Dell Latitude D430. Indeed, the D430 is the most obvious competition here, which means the X61s will have to go someway to depose what is an excellent option for corporate users.
In design, though, there can be few complaints because although the formula hasn't changed much of late, very little needs changing. Riyad has already spoken of the timeless nature of the ThinkPad matte black finish and it is no less timeless on the X61s than it was on the ThinkPad T61, which we looked at back in August. It is this and design touches like the over-hanging screen clasp that help create a look that is definably sleek and low profile.
There also lots of practical touches. For instance, the way the TrackPoint buttons are hinged has always been a stroke of pure genius, while the keyboard remains one of the best in the business thanks to a perfect amount of travel, crisp and tactile keys and a superb layout. This makes using the X61s an absolute joy, a factor that has always been key to the success of the ThinkPad.
Another is build quality, which is studiously excellent as ever. Despite being small and not claiming any great ruggedness, everything about the X61s inspires a level of confidence. This is enhanced by hard drive shock protection, while security is dealt with via a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) with a Fingerprint Reader providing authentication. Among other things the TPM will encrypt data and will only allow access when authenticated through a fingerprint or password, while it's also possible to set boot-up and BIOS passwords to prevent any nefarious interference.