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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.

Lenovo's $150 snap-on wedge battery can provide an extra 3,200mAh of power (and adds half an inch of thickness and 8 oz. of weight). With both batteries attached, the laptop ran for 6 hours and 2 minutes; using some judicious power management settings, the machine could probably work through the bulk of a cross-country flight.

On top of Windows 7 Professional, the system comes with a slew of ThinkVantage utilities for adjusting just about every aspect of the X1's operation. It also includes Office 2010 Starter and Dolby Home Theater software.

The X1 comes with a three-year warranty -- which is very nice, considering that most laptops come with a one-year warranty. (For example, a three-year warranty adds $250 to the Air's price.)

All told, the ThinkPad X1 is a high-performance bargain that could outdo the MacBook Air if only it weighed a pound less.

How I tested

To see how the ThinkPad X1 compares to other executive-class systems, I used it for several hours daily for a week to write with, update a website, give presentations and work through my backlogged email.

I measured and weighed the system. To test its travel readiness, I put it on a mock-up of the typical airplane seat-back table tray to see if it fit.

While on the road, I connected it to public Wi-Fi networks and a mobile hot spot. I also used it in my office with Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections.

I looked at overall performance with PassMark's PerformanceTest 7.0 benchmark test. The software exercises the major components of the system, including processor, hard drive, 2D and 3D graphics, and memory; it then compiles the results into a single score that represents its performance potential.

I also ran CineBench 11.5, which benchmarks graphics and processor performance. The software renders several photorealistic 3D scenes that stress the processor and graphics card by manipulating up to a million polygons and then reports scores for each.

Finally, I measured battery life. With a USB drive containing six HD videos connected to the laptop, I set Windows Media Player to shuffle through all the videos until the ThinkPad ran out of power while PassMark's BatteryMon charted the battery's capacity.

All tests were run three times with the results averaged.


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