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Hands on: Can the ThinkPad X1 take on the MacBook Air?

Brian Nadel | May 20, 2011
Lenovo is trying to pick up a more style-conscious audience with its new ultrathin laptop.


At a Glance

Lenovo ThinkPad X1
Price: $1,399; $1,549 with optional snap-on battery
Pros: Good performance, backlit keyboard, fast charge time, durable display, three-year warranty
Cons: Heavier than MacBook Air, sealed battery, no VGA port

To prevent a spill from becoming a disaster, the keyboard has two prominent drain holes at the bottom so that liquids will flow out of (rather than into) the system.

The ThinkPad X1 comes with three USB ports (one more than the MacBook Air); one is USB 3.0-complaint while another doubles as an eSATA connector. There's also a combo headphone/microphone jack, volume controls, and mute buttons for microphone and speakers.

In addition, the ThinkPad X1has both HDMI and DisplayPort connections. Like most other ultraslim systems it lacks a separate VGA port, but you can purchase a DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter for $35.

It also comes with a wired Gigabit Ethernet connection, plus 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0. You can also purchase an optional 3G module for $125; it can be either a Sierra Wireless Gobi module for connecting with AT&T, Sprint or Verizon 3G networks, or an Ericsson module for connecting with AT&T's 3G HSPA network.

Top performance

In our tests, it all adds up to a top-performing executive-class notebook. The system's 1,275 score on PassMark's PerformanceTest 7.0 benchmark suite is double the score of the Dell Vostro V130 and even passes the Asus U36JC, which was the fastest ultrathin notebook in our February roundup. In fact, the ThinkPad's overall performance score roughly matches the score of the less stylish Lenovo ThinkPad L420 business laptop. (We couldn't test it against the MacBook Air because PerformanceTest is a Windows-only test.) But some of its individual components didn't test as well as the overall system; the ThinkPad scored a run-of-the-mill 2.83 and 8.55 on CineBench's processor and graphics tests.

The ThinkPad X1's 5,800mAh battery lasted for 3 hours and 47 minutes with the keyboard light off and 2 hours and 26 minutes with it on, while continuously playing videos off of a USB drive. That's nearly twice as long as the Vostro V130's running time of 2 hours and 21 minutes, but short of the MacBook Air's four hours on a charge.

When it's time to power up, the X1's battery can get to 80% of capacity in 30 minutes and can attain a full charge in 50 minutes with the system running. That's about half the time for a typical notebook. Unfortunately, like so many other ultraslim systems, the main battery is sealed inside and can't be swapped on the road.


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