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Lenovo ThinkPad X301

>> Saturday, February 7, 2009

Like all ThinkPads, the ultraportable X301 features a rectangular black case built around a sturdy chassis. There's still a blue ThinkVantage button above the keyboard, a fingerprint reader below it, and a keyboard light on the top edge of the display. However, ThinkPad fans will notice small touches that make the X301 a bit more attractive than other ThinkPads.

The lid and wrist rest feature an appealing soft matte finish the ThinkVantage, power, and mute buttons glow when pressed and the front edge is devoid of any ports or switches. In addition to the keyboard light, the ThinkPad X301's display bezel includes a 1.3 megapixel Webcam and a noise canceling digital microphone for Web conferencing.

The matte finish display itself features a 1,440 x 900 native resolution that's sharper than that of the MacBook Air and other similar size screens, resulting in text and icons that are a bit smaller than you'd expect. So far the sharper resolution hasn't caused tremendous problems, though we did find ourselves pumping up the font size on a newspaper's Web site so we could read a lengthy article.

We also zoomed in a bit when working on documents and spreadsheets. The trade off more screen real estate for multitasking and, when it's time for a break, beautiful video.

Given the amount of typing the typical executive does through the course of the workday, a keyboard can make or break an ultra portable. The ThinkPad X301 actually uses the same keyboard found on Lenovo's 14 and 15 inch models which is to say, not the condensed keyboard found on previous X series models and many ultra portable laptops from other manufacturers. After conducting several days' work on the ThinkPad X301, we still don't feel like we've been typing on a laptop. We love it.

Lenovo decided to include both the red eraser head TrackPoint pointing stick and a touch pad on the ThinkPad X301. The decision is understandable many ThinkPad users are viscerally attached to their TrackPoints, while other users can't stand it, so why not include both methods? However, the double sets of mouse buttons seem to run counter to the overall theme of simplification that the ThinkPad X301 embodies.

In order to make room for the TrackPoint's buttons, the touch pad is placed rather low on the wrist rest, with its buttons near the laptop's front edge. Fortunately, the ThinkPad X301 is thin enough that we could use the touch pad with our wrist resting on a desk surface or on our leg, when the laptop was in our lap. Of greater concern is the fact that, during our lazier typing moments when our wrists dropped to the wrist rest, we were likely to graze the touch pad and accidentally misplace the cursor.

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