capsule review

Lenovo ThinkPad X300 Ultraportable Laptop

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Lenovo ThinkPad X300 Notebook

    PCWorld Rating

    This ultralight packs a decent punch and has more than enough features for the weight-conscious business traveler.

Lenovo's buttoned-up ThinkPad X300 ultraportable laptop computer may not have the MacBook Air's superslim, spartan style, but from rock-solid construction to piled-in perks, this notebook--with a street price of $2696 at time of testing--offers just about everything that matters to the business traveler.

The Air and the X300 do have some similarities. They both have crisp 13.3-inch displays, although the X300 has a higher resolution--1440 by 900 pixels versus 1280 by 800--and with both, you can get a 64GB solid-state drive (it comes standard with Lenovo's machine, but tacks about $1000 onto the Air's price).

Whether you're afraid of dropping your laptop at the airport or accidentally spilling some coffee on the case, the X300 is built like--and resembles--a black-box recorder. The keyboard is spill-resistant, and the textured carbon- and glass-fiber exterior is supposed to protect the innards. Unlike most ultraportables, the unit has both an eraserhead and a touchpad. The keyboard feels great, with full-size keys.

The X300 is a little on the chunky side for a true ultraportable--just over an inch thick and weighing 3.4 pounds (4 pounds with an AC adapter) versus the Air's 3-pound heft. Then again, you can pop a disc in the ThinkPad's integrated, paper-thin, 3-ounce DVD drive and watch movies (the Air's optical drive is an external model).

The X300 has a decent amount of power for an ultralightweight notebook--in fact, it performed surprisingly well against other ultralight models. With a 1.2-GHz Core 2 Duo L7100 processor and 2GB of RAM, it scored a 64, outpacing the MacBook Air by a healthy 7 points in our WorldBench 6 benchmark tests. On the other hand, the X300's performance is exactly average compared with the broad field of ultraportables we've tested. It also posted an average score in our battery life tests, lasting 4 hours, 22 minutes on a charge.

Another thumb in Apple's eye is the X300's many features. Here you have a notebook not much thicker than the Air, yet not only does it manage to include a DVD drive, it also has three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA-out port for an external display, a Webcam, headphone and microphone jacks, and an ethernet port. The Air has a Webcam, but it has only one USB port, and you have to use an optional adapter to connect via ethernet.

To make life even easier, the X300 has the one shortcut key to rule them all--the ThinkVantage button. Most notebooks have some sort of shortcut to helpful utilities or a "For Dummies..." version of the control panel. However, the ThinkVantage button accesses by far the most helpful, complete, and concise collection of such tools. You can use the button to access a backup utility, to set security protocols, or to find a wireless data connection, and if your computer won't boot, the button will make the computer boot a small non-Windows OS from a hidden hard-drive partition, after which you can diagnose problems and even download drivers, if necessary.

And when you do start searching for wireless connectivity options, you are fully covered with the X300: The notebook has built-in support for 802.11a/b/g/n, wireless WAN, wireless USB, and Bluetooth. Finally, it has the "gee-whiz" feature of the month: GPS (somewhere, an army of travelling salesmen are cheering over that addition).

What the ThinkPad X300 lacks in style, compared with the Air, it more than makes up for with better features and more functionality.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This ultralight packs a decent punch and has more than enough features for the weight-conscious business traveler.

    Pros

    • Many excellent features in a tiny frame
    • Includes both touchpoint and trackpad

    Cons

    • Expensive
    • Somewhat dull-looking
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