Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (1291-23M) ultraportable laptop

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 review: A 13in semi-rugged ultraportable with a full-voltage Core i5 CPU

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (1291-23M)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (1291-23M)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (1291-23M)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (1291-23M)
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5


  • Semi-rugged design
  • Full-voltage Intel Core i5 CPU
  • Solid state drive


  • Touchpad could be better
  • Had problems recognising SIM cards
  • Could use more premium features

Bottom Line

The ThinkPad X1 is the type of laptop that no reviewer wants to give back to the vendor. It feels solidly built and great to use, but it could be better. In particular, its touchpad needs refinement, it could use more premium features such as an ambient light sensor, and Lenovo needs to make sure that all of its features work perfectly straight out of the box -- the 3G modem in our review model didn't recognise our SIM cards.

Would you buy this?

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 is one of the best 13.3in ultraportable laptop on the market. It's a no-compromise solution that features a full-voltage Intel Core i5 CPU, integrated mobile broadband, plenty of fast connectivity options, and it's very comfortable to use. It's also very strongly built, which also makes it a tad heavy, and some of its features (such as the integrated 3G modem) still need work.

The stand-out features of the ThinkPad X1 are its thin, wedge-like design, which is 26mm at its thickest point at the rear and 19mm at the front (these measurements include the rubber feet on the base), its sturdy build quality and its fast performance. It also includes many consumer features; it's not a typical business-oriented laptop, but instead a laptop that caters to both business users and home users.

You get consumer features such as an HDMI out port, a glossy screen, a backlit keyboard and fairly decent sound capabilities for a small laptop. This is countered with business features such as a fingerprint reader for security, integrated 3G mobile broadband (Ericsson F5521gw that can supply speeds up to 7.2Mbps), and a DisplayPort that can be used to plug in to a high-resolution monitor. Furthermore, the X1 comes with TPM 1.2, as well as a vPro chipset that IT managers can take advantage of in situations where remote management of the laptop is required.

Connectivity features

You get a good allotment of ports and slots considering the small size and thin chassis of the X1. The right side is populated by an SD card slot; the left side has a concealed USB 2.0 port and a combination microphone and headphone port; the rear has a Gigabit Ethernet port, a concealed SIM card slot, a USB 3.0 port (using a Renesas Electronics controller), eSATA (this doubles as a USB charging port) and it's also where the aforementioned HDMI and DisplayPort interfaces are located. The USB charging port can be used to recharge USB devices (such as the iPhone) even when the notebook is powered off. It's similar to the Sleep-and-Charge feature in Toshiba notebooks.

To use the inbuilt 3G modem, you can use either Windows 7's own networking features or the ThinkVantage Access Connections software that Lenovo supplies, but this has to be installed manually. The modem is meant to work with any carrier, so theoretically, all you have to do is insert the SIM of your choice. However, the SIM card reader on our test model did not work. We tried it with activated cards for Telstra, Vodafone and Optus networks, but none were detected by the system. This also means that we couldn't use the GPS function.

Other features of the X1 include dual-band Wi-Fi (Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205), Bluetooth, a high-definition webcam and Intel Wireless Display (Wi-Di) capability.

Design and build quality

The build quality of the laptop is the toughest we've seen from the current crop of 13in ultraportable models. The X1 is actually a semi-rugged laptop that has a hardened body, a magnesium chassis, Gorilla Glass screen protection and a spill-resistant keyboard. Data integrity is aided by the inclusion of a solid state drive (SSD) rather than a mechanical drive that could be damaged from jolts and vibrations. A drawback of the semi-ruggedness is that the X1 does feel slightly heavy. At 1.7kg, it's a little heavier than we expected it to be when considering its size, the lack of an optical drive and the inclusion of an SSD.

The laptop feels very sturdy when you pick it up from either end and there is no bend at all in its chassis. The Gorilla Glass in front of the screen is immune to scratches and it protects the LED-backlit LCD screen from sharp implements and flying projectiles. There is some bend in the lid, but only slight puddling appeared on the screen when we applied torsional movement. The hinges are metal and they allow the screen to travel all the way back so that the screen can lie flat on a desk.

We love the inclusion of physical buttons for the volume to the right of the keyboard. There is also a blue button that brings up the ThinkVantage software interface, which contains a whole gang of applications for managing the laptop. A physical Wi-Fi toggle is located on the right side.

The X1 doesn't get overly warm after it's been running for a few hours, so it's fine to use on your lap while typing or browsing the Web (disclaimer: we tested on a couple of Sydney's coldest days of the year). However, if the vents are blocked, then it will warm up quicker than usual. A fan kicks in when the laptop is under load and it makes a somewhat high-pitched whirring sound as it pushes air through the vent on the left side of the chassis. It's the only noise that emanates from the chassis, as there is no mechanical drive. It wasn't bothersome during our tests, and it wasn't a constant sound either, as it would switch off again when the system was cool enough.

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