I used this approach when looking the Acer Aspire One, so I’m going to continue along with the "5 things I like / dislike" theme. Today’s review target is the Lenovo X301, which was provided to me on loan for 30-days. It’s definitely light and thin, but it’s also relatively expensive with a starting price of over $2,500. It compares to devices like the MacBook Air and the Samsung 360X, both of which are priced similarly when closely configured. There’s plenty to like about the Lenovo, so here’s my fave five.
Run-time and battery options: OK, that’s really two things if you want to nit-pick, but they’re related items. The review unit I have is equipped with a 6-cell battery that has a capacity of 43.2 W/hr. 4.5 hours of standard, non-stop work is what I’m seeing on the Vista device when working with WiFi on. Lenovo also includes their Battery Stretch solution which is something I’d love to see all other notebook manufacturers adopt. Essentially, the device smartly shuts off or reduces power to several components like Bluetooth, display brightness… even the display refresh rate is minimized to help. You can configure Battery Stretch and the software will extrapolate the run-time savings or loss in terms of hours and minutes.
All in all, a great solution and I came close to six hours of run-time on a charge when using Battery Stretch. The integrated optical drive can also be swapped out for an additional 3-cell battery for greater run-time. With Battery Stretch and the extra 3-cell battery, I’d expect between eight and nine hours of computing time, which is outstanding for a relatively light package. While you could manually manage the same devices that Battery Stretch uses, I like the all-in-one "turn it on" approach.
Here’s the X301 with battery out of and in the device. It adds nearly no extra depth to the X301.
Weight and size: Speaking of a relatively light package, the thin device is easy to tote at around three pounds. It still takes up a good footprint on a desk, but when traveling, this helps distribute the weight making it feel like I was carrying a lighter device. Put another way: my netbook feels downright "clunky" because it weighs nearly the same but the weight is more concentrated in a smaller footprint. There’s something to be said about carrying a super-thin device. I like it more than I thought I would, which actually scares me. Here’s the X301 and the MSI Wind next to each other: both weigh around the same.
Display and resolution: My home office setup is a 15-inch MacBook Pro with 1440×900 resolution. The 13.3-inch display on the X301 offers the same res and I like it better. I can’t put my finger on it, but I feel that for me, that resolution in the smaller display is the perfect combination. The X301 is also a matte finish and LED backlit. My MBP screen is glossy and not LED backlit, so the X301 looks noticeably brighter. Plus it looks better and is more usable in direct sunlight.
Wireless utility: This actually applies to the Lenovo ThinkVantage set of utilities in general, but since this device is equipped with radios for Bluetooth, WiFi and WiMAX, I’m singling out the "Access Connections" software. Simply put, it’s a very effective utility to manage your wireless radios and find connectivity options. Some of it is eye-candy to be sure, but we all like eye-candy, right? From the one utility, you can easily modify connections, find access locations and more. Dare I say: it’s actually fun to use.
Aside from the look and feel I like about it (yes, I’m easily amused), you can also get detailed radio information and perform various diagonstics. It also reminded me that I need to speak to the neighbor three houses down. A router SSID of "Netgear"? C’mon, that’s just lazy and asking for trouble! ;)
Best. Vista. Experience. Ever.: The X301 isn’t the most powerfully specified device on the market, but Lenovo seems to have made this a great combination of components to work with Vista SP1. I’ve recently said to James that this device has provided me with my best ever Vista experience. The 1.4 GHz Core 2 Duo (SU9400) is ultra-low voltage to help with battery life, but any potential lack of performance is offset by the 64GB SSD drive and integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics. We’ve often said that mobile devices struggle with Vista, but I can’t make that claim with the X301. I’m not suggesting it’s the only mobile device that offers a pleasant Vista experience, but I am saying that I’m thoroughly enjoying the use of Vista on the X301. It’s responsive and stable. It’s also a good example of great compromise: you can use a relatively hardware-hungry OS but still see excellent battery life.
There’s actually much more to like about this device but I’ve limited myself to five things. So I won’t mention the great trackpad, the excellent Lenovo keyboard or just how amazing it is to see an integrated optical drive in a device that is so darn thin. Nope… I won’t even bring those features up. ;)
Now I need to find five things I don’t like, which might be a bit of challenge. Even worse, the X301 has been so enjoyable and portable that I feel a nagging "thin and light" bug eating away at my netbook tendencies. Thank goodness we’re almost into the holiday season so I can make my list for Santa.