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Summary:

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, […]

Lenovox301I 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.

X301batterystretchsettings

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.

X301batteryout

X301batteryin

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.

X301msiwind

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.

Accessconnections

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.

X301windowsexperienceindex

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. ;)

X301opticaldrive

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.

 

  1. That looks like one sweet notebook.

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  2. This laptop is on my wishlist. Going from an older Lenovo t40 it should be a nice step up in nearly everything except for weight.

    So I’m interested in the things you didn’t like about it…. would be good to know before I purchase.

    Thanks!
    Brent
    http://www.geektonic.com

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  3. Oh if only Lenovo did this as a tablet.

    Good luck with your Xmas list. I’ve been dropping laptop hints here and there hoping to sow a seed that will flower around Xmas time but I don’t think it’s working just yet :)

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  4. Thanks for the great write-up, Kevin. Does the optical drive have a latch or quick disconnect? The X300 required a screwdriver to remove the drive and install a second battery. Also, any chance you or James will be reviewing the X200 tablet?

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  5. brent, I’m going to struggle with a complete list of 5. That should tell you something. ;)

    Jake, you can reap what don’t sow… keep dropping hints, I say!

    nomo, the optical drive still requires a screwdriver for removal. :( I wouldn’t be surprised if we got our hands on an X200 Tablet PC, but we’ll see. It might actually be good to get one sooner rather than later. The longer I use the X301, the more I want one. ;)

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  6. Nice.

    I’ve never used a Lenovo but was always a big fan of the ThinkPads, a few of which I’d used.

    If I had that kind of money in my budget I might have got the MacBook Air, especially given its excellent updates a week ago. But the Lenovo and the Voodoo Envy might have been considered as well.

    Meanwhile, I settled on a compromise new MacBook. Relatively small footprint, 50% heavier (4.5 lbs), but pretty darn thin. With a 2.4GHz processor, NVIDIA graphics, 4GB RAM and a 320GB drive it’s an incredibile performer, all for nearly a grand less than the others. The display is great, though I’d love 1440×900 resolution, and hoped Apple would go that route. Alas, it was not to be. On the other hand, I’m happy they kept to the 16:10 aspect ratio instead of 16:9.

    I’m thrilled with this machine. Still, it sucks we have to make compromises, doesn’t it? :-)

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  7. Tom, I saw that you had gone the new MacBook route, the same as James did. We’ve said for years that mobile tech is all about compromise and I see very few compromises with the X301. Sure, some more horsepower under the hood would be nice, but it would be offset by less battery life. This device is a nice series of compromises… so much so, that you don’t feel like you’re compromising anything.

    The Air still has my attention as well, but I’m not sure I can compromise on the lack of a removable battery. Right now, I can work for 8 to 10 hours without carrying an AC adapter and I really don’t want to get away from that use case if I can help it. I’d have to with the Air, but I don’t with the X301.

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  8. Although this one was on my wishlist, I bought a X60S. The only things I miss compared to the X301 are the intergrated DVD-burner and the larger screen. I upgraded my X60S with 4 GB of RAM and a 320 GB 7200 rpm Scorpio Black drive and this gives me a 5.8 subscore for the harddisk. Even the graphics card is a bit faster and has a score of 3.5
    The X60S feels fast, looks fast and is fast. Glad I choose Lenovo again. Now let’s until the price of the X301 drops a bit more and then it is mine :-)

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  9. Although this one was on my wishlist, I bought a X60S. The only things I miss compared to the X301 are the intergrated DVD-burner and the larger screen. I upgraded my X60S with 4 GB of RAM and a 320 GB 7200 rpm Scorpio Black drive and this gives me a 5.8 subscore for the harddisk. Even the graphics card is a bit faster and has a score of 3.5
    The X60S feels fast, looks fast and is fast. Glad I choose Lenovo again. Now let’s until the price of the X301 drops a bit more and then it is mine :-)

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  10. just got the x301 at work, will probably have to install XP on it (company policy), I can give some more feedback on the X301 with XP later if you wish. have not been able to test the X301 yet, but it looks darn nice and it feels incredibly light.

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