First Impressions: Lenovo ThinkPad X1, available starting May 17

Summary:The much anticipated ultra-portable 13.4" Lenovo ThinkPad X1 mixes business with pleasure. Here is my first impression of this laptop.

I got a chance to play with a Lenovo ThinkPad X1during the unveiling in New York last week so here are my takeaways from my brief meeting with the 13.4" ultra-portable business laptop. Check this post for a more extensive review and gallery, and this post for details on the X1's specs.

What I liked:

  • Curved and extra-large chiclet keys: At first glance, I didn't notice that the keys on the X1 are chiclet style because they curve (also known as "smile") like traditional keyboards. The width of each key even looks wider than those of a full-size keyboard, so those with larger digits should be able to type like a pro on the X1. According to the Lenovo reps, the company takes its keyboard design very seriously and it shows.
  • Noise-cancelling built-in microphone: Lenovo claims that the embedded mic can create a vacuum of sound so only the speaker's voice will be transmitted to the other side, making for extremely clear conversations even in a noisy environment. Now, I did not get to demo this feature first hand so I cannot verify if this is true but this feature could be valuable for users who need to connect with the office and family but are frequently on the road.
  • Textured matte finish across the wrist rest: There is nothing worst than feeling your wrists stick to the wrist rest below your laptop keyboard after a long day of typing. With the lightly textured material on the X1that covers the wrist rest area, it makes you want to linger and keep working. (Maybe not such a good idea after all!)
  • Matte finish over all: No more staring at all the fingerprints that congregate on your laptop while you're trying to concentrate on your work. The matte finish from top to bottom of the X1 makes this a very low maintenance device, which is perfect for people who have better things to do than clean their laptops.
  • Slim profile: At less than the height of a penny, the X1 is definitely sleek and packs a lot of technology within a thin case.
  • Spill-resistant keyboard: The Lenovo reps pointed out two small holes in the keyboard lead directly to the bottom of the laptop to me. This way, should you accidentally spill your coffee onto your keyboard, the liquid should be funneled to those holes to exit the laptop, therefore minimizing the damage to the rest of the laptop (at least that's the idea).

What I didn't like:

  • No easy to access to the RAM: Although the Lenovo reps assured me the laptop can handle up to 8GB of RAM, there is no dedicated compartment for the RAM that you can access to upgrade the part yourself. The bottom of the X1 is essentially a single piece of material so the only way to open up its guts is to undo all the screws.
  • Internal battery: While I understand the company has patented a new way to recharge 80% of the battery in only 30 minutes ("RapidCharge"), I personally don't like laptop batteries that are inaccessible externally because I like to remove them to lighten my load whenever possible. In addition, this battery is only good for three years or 1,000 charge cycles so that says to me the X1 will involve additional servicing costs in the future. I guess that's why you can opt for the upgrade to a ThinkPlus® 3-Year Sealed Battery Warranty.
  • Weight: Perhaps the Corning® Gorilla® Glass adds to the perception that the X1 weighs more than other 13.4" laptops, but when I got a chance to hold the X1, it felt rather heavy in my hands despite only weighing 3.7 pounds per its press release. For a laptop that has a solid build with non-plastic feel, some heft is to be expected so this may not be a deal breaker for you.

The ThinkPad X1 is available for order starting tomorrow, May 17 from lenovo.com and partners. The i3 model starts at $1,399; pricing for the i5 and i7 versions has yet to be announced.

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Lenovo, Mobility

About

Gloria Sin is a New York-based freelance journalist who writes about the tech toys that you can't live without for ZDNet. She has little patience for poorly designed user experiences, and is not afraid of opening the guts of her own machines for repair or hacking her gadgets for new uses.She has written for FastCompany.com, Popular Scienc... Full Bio

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