Codenamed after a Japanese sword, the "Kodachi", Lenovo's new ThinkPad X300 is indeed both slim and sharp, and offers some of the latest in notebook technology with one of the smallest chassis available on the market. It's not fair to call it a competitor for the MacBook Air, but the X300 is a very attractive alternative if you're more concerned with function than you are with style.
With a 13.3in LED back-lit screen (1440x900 resolution), a weight of just 1.5kg and a thickness of just 19mm at its thinnest point, the Lenovo X300 is quite a sexy option, even with its plain black-and-red business design. The housing for the screen is made from a sturdy carbon- and glass-fibre material, while the base is made from a magnesium alloy, so the notebook remains light but feels very strong. However, regardless of what you think of the outside, you have to be impressed by the specifications.
Inside this notebook is the cutting edge of what's available in portable computing. Among its features is a HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) adapter, allowing users to take the X300 on the road and stay connected. This feature is included in quite a few new products, and we welcome any that do. Currently Lenovo's deal restricts this card to be used with Vodaphone accounts, and subsequently to Vodaphone's maximum network speed of 3.6Mbps, though the adapter is capable of higher speeds.
The X300 also includes a 64GB solid state drive (SSD). Solid state technology is still very expensive and comprises a large portion of this notebook's $4000 price tag, but offers greater data security and faster read speeds. It's also a 1.8in drive, where a regular mechanical drive is usually 2.5in. Thanks to its size and lower heat emissions, the SSD has contributed greatly to Lenovo's slim design.
The CPU on-board is a an Intel chip known as the L7100, an ultra low voltage processor running at only 1.2GHz with an 800MHz front side bus. This chip can also be found in the Fujitsu Lifebook P8010 we recently reviewed. It's not a very powerful CPU, but helps maintain lower temperatures in this slim design chassis. With 2GB of DDR2 RAM also installed, the X300 gets a little extra oomph.
One notable feature is the X300's optical drive, which isn't always found on other thin products, such as the MacBook Air. Ports-wise Lenovo has skimped out a little to maintain the size, but a D-Sub port and three USB 2.0 ports are all available. A webcam is also built into the screen for video conferences. Fans of Lenovo's track pointers won't be disappointed, but those looking for a touchpad have also been thought of, as both options are available.
The screen has good brightness and contrast levels, so it's comfortable to view. Our biggest concern is with the hinges, which seem to be way too loose for a brand new product. Even a few light bumps were enough to make the screen tilt on its hinge. This problem may be unique to our review model, so we recommend trying this out in a store before handing over the cash.
As a ThinkPad, the X300 includes Lenovo's ThinkVantage software. ThinkVantage is a centre for all your maintenance needs. Using ThinkVantage you can back up or restore your system, update drivers and manage your wireless connection among many other features. When starting the X300 for the first time it informs you that it's already configured to get new drivers monthly and make a system restore point monthly. These settings can be altered later. We like that it does this, but there's also a shameless plug for Microsoft Office with a discount.
In our benchmarks, the X300 did well considering its low power hardware. In WorldBench 6 it scored an even 60. This isn't a great score, but is good for a 1.2GHz CPU and should be enough for most business applications. In our MP3 test the X300 took 143sec using iTunes. Using Cdex, a single-threaded application, took 203sec.
In the battery test we got good results, though not as impressive as Fujitsu's P8010. Using our DVD rundown test we drained the battery in 108min. This is a worst-case scenario, so using the notebook normally will generally last longer. If you're finding you need extra time it's possible to get a hot swappable battery that replaces the optical drive.