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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 - Connectivity and Usability

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score:


Connectivity on the X1 is unsurpassed by business standards, and even for a consumer laptop only its lack of LightPeak/Thunderbolt (as found on the Air and VAIO Z) prevents it from leading the pack. For starters, on the wireless front you get Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi N and, for an extra £91, optional 3G (mobile broadband).

Unusually, most of this ThinkPad's physical connections are found around the rear, with the few ports at the left side protected by a rubber flap, which also helps to maintain its streamlined looks. Under this you'll find a microphone/headphone combi jack and single USB 2.0 port. The right houses a wireless switch and SDXC card reader, as well as a removable panel for easy hard drive access.

At the rear we have Gigabit Ethernet, a SIM card slot, USB 3.0 port, combi eSATA and USB 2.0 port that also offers sleep-and-charge, and both HDMI 1.4 and mini DisplayPort for video. That's a great selection that covers almost every base. Our only complaint is that the X1's inward-sloping slides make the USB 2.0 port mounted there difficult to get at, and we're not sure how necessary the rubber flap is, for while it offers great protection against dirt and dust, the ports at the rear aren't protected at all.

The good news continues when it comes to usability. The ThinkPad brand's reputation with keyboards is of such a consistent standard that we could safely predict that the experience in this regard was going to be pretty good. What we couldn't predict is that the example found on the X1 is not only the best keyboard on any ultraportable we've ever used, but one of the best keyboards on a laptop, period.

Though its styling suggests chiclet, the keys offer all the size and feel of a regular keyboard. Their matt finish and slightly concave shape means fingers rest in them naturally and you never hit a nearby key by mistake. Apart from Lenovo's signature quirk of placing the Fn key to the left of Ctrl (though you can switch this around in the BIOS), layout is close to perfect. In a nod to maintaining its looks the traditional blue Enter key is now standard black.

The best thing about this keyboard though is its flawless feedback. Each key offers far more travel than we're used to from a slim laptop, just the right amount of resistance, and a click that's defined without being noisy. There's also absolutely zero flex. It's simply the next best thing to typing on a desktop keyboard, and superior even to previous Lenovo efforts like that of the X220 Tablet.

And the good keyboard news doesn't end with its ergonomics. White backlighting can be turned on or off using the space-bar, a system we prefer over the light sensors used in most rivals. Also, in a demonstration we attended earlier this year, Lenovo spilled a glass of water all over the spill-resistant keyboard and the laptop still worked fine afterwards, so most spills certainly shouldn't be an issue.

While the button-integrated, multi-touch touchpad (which Lenovo calls a 'clickpad') isn't bad by any means, it just doesn't match up to the superlative keyboard. Its large, textured surface is not unpleasant, and – unlike earlier non-Apple examples of touchpads that integrate their buttons – it's quite usable. However, compared to the frosted-glass masterpiece found on the Samsung Series 9 and Series 7 laptops, it isn't as responsive, pleasant or as usable, with clicks being stiffer and easier to get wrong, and its dimpled surface more wearing.

Of course, with ThinkPads the touch- or trackpad isn't your only choice for moving your cursor about, as you also get a TrackPoint. This red, rubber-topped mini joystick is located in the centre of the keyboard and operates with the tip of a finger. While it does take a little getting used to, after a while it's quite easy to operate. It comes with three responsive buttons, one of which is exclusively used for scrolling.


May 20, 2011, 12:29 am

The big advantage of the Air for me is the 30 days of standby time and the instant on from standby. This is the big differentiator between the Air and iPad and my somewhat aging windows laptop which I need to turn off between usages and takes around 2 minutes to turn on and about 45 seconds to switch off.

It would be great if reviews could cover this very important aspect of mobile computing usability. Makes a huge difference if you can quickly open up the laptop, check a website and put to sleep quickly with stop and start of air travel.


May 20, 2011, 2:04 am

Given the level of advance in technology, it is not very reasonable to compare a model with something (MacBook Air) which is already six months old. The new Air will be out in the next month or two. It will have Thunderbolt for fast connectivity.

While it is nice to have the possibility, it would be interesting to see the battery life with a Core i7 chip inside.


May 20, 2011, 5:01 am

If we look back to thinkpad x301, it fall short in many features - heavy, low resolution screen, no optical drive. How could Lenovo design an ultra-modern ultra-portable like that - a piece which is heavy (even without an optical drive) and low resolution especially when it's meant for business people. It is wondering why they wanted to make sure followers are able to get same pleasure as you watching movies!!! So they put some extra bricks in it!!! Slimmest and lightest thinkpad ???


May 20, 2011, 6:35 am

Looks like I'll be buying another X61s. All good things come to an end pretty much like this site.


May 20, 2011, 2:07 pm

In fairness, modern Windows laptops also offer instant-on from standby and can last for a good while in that mode. Admittedly it's not 30 days but it's still several days which is more than adequate for normal usage.


May 20, 2011, 2:54 pm

If you take the bonus points away it ends 8 each. Is it possible they were added in so the Lenovo won?


May 23, 2011, 4:15 pm

No, it's not. It's simply a fact that some aspects of the X1 are significantly better, just as the Air wins out by quite some margin in others. Don't forget that we've given the Air bonus marks for size, design and its touchpad.

As mentioned in the conclusion, if you're after design, the Air is still the way to go, but if you want power and features, it doesn't begin to match up - something Apple's iminent revision should fix :)


May 23, 2011, 7:38 pm

In every comparison with MacBooks, reviewers tend to forget that they(all Mac computers) can also run Windows. This is the single most important reason for converting users from PC to Mac because you get the best of both operating systems.


May 24, 2011, 8:04 pm

Too bad it's only a resolution of 1366x768, despite the expensive IPS screen. A bit more overview would have been nice.


May 24, 2011, 9:13 pm

Lenovo is one of the very few companies nowadays that offer some decent products to people. My opinion is that almost every other laptop or desktop computer is better than a Mac. Apple is constantly at the bottom of the technology ladder for decades.
1366x768 is high resolution for this screen size. Higher resolution than this makes things only worse.


September 15, 2011, 6:55 pm

"Last, but not least, the hinge, which allows the screen to fold all the way back till it's as flat as the laptop's base (a handy feature unique to ThinkPads)......"

handy feature unique to ThinkPads???? Certainly not...my Vaio SZ 2006 model screen can fold all the way as flat as the laptop base....and its great because it gives more angles if the neck gets tired or even let it fit right in to laptop stands such as made by logitech......in fact the inability to fold to flat level is why i resisted buying the latest mac book air 13".....

So not just ThinkPads.....but Vaio too (at least the SZ)


September 15, 2011, 7:59 pm

True, I was aware of that VAIO (as we reviewed it), but it's a very old model. I'm sure there have been a few others over the years too, but I'm not aware of any current laptops that allow it (certainly not the latest VAIOs), and not only was I comparing to machines that are actually available to buy, but aside from the ThinkPads there's no range where it's a consistent feature (as far as I'm aware - happy to be wrong here :)

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