I’m working from the local Toyota dealership over EV-DO this morning as our hybrid is due for service. Due to the stellar battery life and light weight, I toted along the svelte loaner X301 from Lenovo. I already shared the five things I liked about it, even though that list could have gone on quite a bit longer. Since the notebook is sitting right in front me while we wait for our 50,000 mile service, the car’s that is, now’s a good time for the other side of the coin: the five things I don’t like. So here they are, not necessarily in order.
It makes other Vista laptops feel inferior. Yes, it’s sad but true. I mentioned prior that using the X301 has been the best mobile Vista experience I’ve had yet. And that’s just not fair to all of the other Vista notebooks out there. Some of them have gone so far as to stealthily send me a defensive and berating e-mail when their user wasn’t looking. "It’s just not fair," one chunky-monkey of a notebook said to me. "How can something that skinny run Vista so well? The X301 is only widening the gap between sexy, slim devices and us regular, full-figured machines." Obviously, any reply I could have given would just rub salt in the wound, but shame on Lenovo for offering the X301 and giving other machines a complex.
The third USB port is far too convenient… if not dangerous. Unlike many other small and light notebooks, the X301 offers three USB ports. With three choices, I often find myself wasting precious minutes trying decide which to use and that doesn’t help my productivity. To make matters even worse, the third USB port is waaaaay in the back. Yup, it’s in the chassis in the back next to the power port, DisplayPort and Ethernet jack. I keep putting my 3G USB adapter back there and there’s two issues with that. First, I keep forgeting that I even use a 3G adapter because it’s out of sight. Makes me feel like one of those folks who think that everything belongs in it’s proper place. Second, I’m afraid that I’m going to hurt someone across from me with the USB adapter sticking out. Really, I don’t need a lawsuit over that…
The fan barely runs. Heck, I often can’t tell if there is a fan on the X301. As if that isn’t maddening enough to my ever curious mind, it gets worse. Hello, Lenovo: do you not realize that it’s nearing the winter season where I live? Just yesterday we had our first sight of snow flurries and I had to turn up the heat in our home. Why? Because the stinkin’ fan (if there even is one) on the X301 didn’t kick on at all to provide me a warm, gentle breeze. Just for the record: we heat our home with propane, so it’s not uncommon for us to fire up a few laptops during a cool night. You’re killing my heating bill, folks.
The battery life is hurting my marriage. That six-cell battery combined with the Lenovo Battery Stretch settings are bad, bad, bad. In case you missed it, I just got married earlier this month. I want to spend more time at home with my bride… not less. I don’t travel with an A/C adapter when mobile, so in the past, I’d be welcomed home in as little as two to four hours or so. You know… when the battery goes, so do I? Now I’m gone for nearly six hours and my new wife is questioning why. If someone in Lenovo’s review department can shoot a note to Barb and assure her I’m not having an affair with anything other than the X301, I’d sincerely appreciate it. While you’re at it: give her a heads up that it could be worse. If the loaner laptop came with the additional 3-cell battery in lieu of the thin optical drive, I’d actually be gone for a full workday. She’d never believe that in a million years.
I’m typing too fast. Why, why, why did Lenovo put such a good keyboard on this device? I haven’t used a better keyboard on a notebook ever and people are complaining. Cries of "You’re responding to e-mail too fast and clogging up my Inbox!" have reached me (you know who you are) and I simply can’t defend myself. I also notice that faster typing leads to more typing and more typing is building up the muscles in my hands. Going back to the very serious marriage reference above, did you fail to realize I have a new ring? Put another way Lenovo: if my fingers keep getting bigger with this keyboard workout my ring is sure to be replaced by a bigger size before my first anniversary. If that happens, I’m sending you the bill.
OK, OK. So that’s not really five actual things I don’t like. Fact is, for my usage requirements, the X301 doesn’t have much to dislike! One real issue with the unit is the obvious one and that’s the price.You can easily spend $3,000 on a nicely specified model and you’d be hard pressed to spend under $2,600. You’ve got to have the coin for this package and if you’re going to spend that much, you’ll want to plan on keeping this device for a good two to three years minimum. Unless you’re independently wealthy, which I’m not. I upgrade devices often than most, but my rule of thumb is to get at least a year of use for every thousand dollars spent. Using that model, I personally wouldn’t buy the X301 unless I felt it could happily meet my needs for three years.
Others might be questioning the performance of the device as well. After all, this X301 runs Vista on an ultra-low voltage 1.4 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU paired with 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD drive. If you’re looking for a full-time desktop replacement and you do CPU or graphic intensive work, then the X301 might not be for you. For just about everything else I’ve thrown at it in my daily workday, it’s a champ. No, it’s not the fastest notebook out there by a long shot, but it’s not meant to be. In my opinion, Lenovo has found a near-perfect compromise between everyday computing performance and great battery life. Isn’t that what the ideal mobile device should offer?
I realize that my requirements differ from yours. And I have no doubt that you or I could nitpick to find ways to improve the X301. In the end though, this is an outstanding mobile device. I don’t believe in calling something a "perfect device" because of the varying requirements we all have. But the X301 is pretty darn close for me.