Dell Latitude X1 and IBM ThinkPad X41 Comparison (pics)

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by Andrew Baxter, New York USA

There’s just something about the letter “X” isn’t there?  It’s always used in Algebra.  In Star Wars it’s the X-Wing fighter that saves the day.  X-men?  In the world of computers, manufacturers tend to use it in their model series names for products they think are a bit special, and ultraportable computers tend to get the “X” branding quite frequently.  Witness the Sony VAIO X505, Dell Latitude X1 or IBM ThinkPad X41 ultra thin and ultra portable notebooks for instance.  Today we have a quick comparison and picture overview of the latest “X” laptops on the market, the ThinkPad X41 and Latitude X1.

That’s right, I’m lucky enough to have two of the coolest new ultraportables available sitting on my desk at the same time.  Seeing as they’re both so small, the Dell X1 being 2.5lbs and the ThinkPad X41 being 2.7lbs and both having 12.1″ screens, there’s plenty of room on the desk for two laptops.  The more the merrier whether it be laptops or people!

IBM X41 and Dell X1 Basic Specs and Configuration Options (text in blue indicates review unit configuration when there is a choice available)

 Feature  IBM ThinkPad X41  Dell Latitude X1
Screen 12.1″ TFT XGA (1024 x 768)  12.1″ TFT WXGA (1280 x 768)
Processor Intel Pentium M LV 758 (1.50GHz, 90nm technology, 2MB L2 Cache, 400MHz FSB)  Intel Pentium M ULV Processor 733 (1.1GHz)
Dimensions 10.5″ x 8.3″ x 1.06″ (Width x Depth x Height)  11.26″ x 7.7″ x 0.98″  (Width x Depth x Height)
Weight 2.7lbs with standard battery  2.5lbs with standard battery
Ports 2 USB 2.0 (also 1 IBM Powered USB 2.0), Infrared, expansion bus (for optional ThinkPad X4 Ultra Base Doc); external display; AC adapter; RJ-11 modem port;RJ-45 ethernet port; audio: headphone/line-out, external microphone  2 USB 2.0 (also 1 USB port used as Dell D/Bay connector), external display, AC adapter, RJ-11 modem port, RJ-45 ethernet port, audio: headphone/line-out, external microphone, IEEE 1394 FireWire
Hard Drive: 1.8″ 20GB, 30GB, 40GB or 60GB @ 4200RPM  1.8″ 30GB or 60GB @ 4200RPM
OS: Windows Home/Pro  Windows Home/Pro
Slots: 1 PCMCIA card slot, 1 SecureDigital card slot 1 SecureDigital card slot, 1 CompactFlash card slot
Memory:  256MB or 512MB/1536MB PC-4200 DDR-2 SDRAM 256 MB or 512MB, upgradable to 1.28GB maximum
Expansion:  ThinkPad X4 UltraBase dock (optional)  Dell D-Bay optical drive (optional)
Wireless:  Intel 2200BG 802.11 b/g (Intel 2916ABG alsooffered)  Intel 2200BG 802.11 b/g

Now, although these laptops are of a similar weight and have the same screen size, there is a difference in dimensions of these laptops.  When you’re dealing with smallness it’s pretty important to talk about where your size is coming from — a shorter screen and less notebook depth can sometimes make the difference as to whether you are/aren’t bumping the persons seat in front of you on the plane. 

The Dell Latitude is actually a widescreen notebook, and so to accomodate this wider screen you get a wider body as can be seen in the following images:

IBM ThinkPad X41 on top of and flushed on the right side with the X1, you can see the X1 is wider as it sticks out on the left (view larger image)

The same picture from above, again you can see the X1 is wider than the X41 (view larger image)

IBM makes the X41 deeper than the Dell X1 though, this is very visible in the below image:

Dell X1 resting on top of IBM X41, now it is revealed the X41 has more depth and a taller screen (view larger image)

IBM X41 (left) and Dell X1 (right) back to back, notice the X41 has an extended life 8-cell battery sticking out in this image (view larger image)

IBM X41 (left) Dell X1 (right) keyboard comparison (view larger image)

From the above images we can see that the X41 has more depth and is taller with its screen up.  The extra depth on the X41 has the advantage of providing us with more keyboard real estate. IBM uses this extra space to give an excellent keyboard and typing experience.  However, the fact that the X1 is slightly “shorter” and has less depth will mean you can easily tilt the screen back a little further if you’re in cramped conditions on an airplane, something to consider unless you fly 1st class or business all the time.

Notice that IBM does not offer a touchpad solution, but rather a pointing stick (TrackPoint) and two mouse buttons plus a scroll button that you can hold in and then push the pointing-stick to scroll through a document.  Some people will miss having a touchpad, others love this TrackPoint solution — take your pick.

Instead of writing a long documentary on all the differences and similarities between the X41 and X1, I’m going to highlight in bullet format what I think are most important of these…there are more than what’s listed and you can ask questions or research to find more of them, but this is a good start:

Key differences between X1 and X41

  • The X41 has a 1.5GHz processor as opposed to the Dell X1 1.1GHz processor, this is a large speed difference
  • The X1 is lighter by .2lbs, which translates to 7.4% lighter than the X41
  • The X1 has a widescreen XGA format, the X41 is regular XGA format

Screen comparison, the X1 on the left has widescreen format whereas the X41 (right) is standard (view larger image)

  • The 0.98″ thick X1 is slightly thinner than the 1.04″ thich X41 (according to the specs at least), but look at the image below and you can’t tell the difference, and I certainly can’t measure or feel it.  Both are 1.0″ thick in my book after rounding is done!

Looks about the same thickness to me (view larger image)

  • The X41 has a PCMCIA card expansion slot for a whole slew of expansion options, the X1 does not offer this slot
  • The X1 has a CompactFlash slot, the the X41 does not
  • The X41 has latches for closing the lid down, the X1 relies on hinges to keep the lid closed
  • The X41 has metal hinges, the X1 does too although they are encased in plastic and not quite as sturdy (but still very good)
  • The Latitude X1 has a regular touchpad, the X41 uses a TrackPoint solution
  • The X41 can be configured with a biometric fingerprint reader that can be used to substitute for Windows login, there is no such option on the X1
  • The X1 keyboard has a Windows key, the X41 does not
  • The X41 is built with titanium reinforced plastic for an extremely sturdy case, the X1 case is sturdy but not quite so
  • The X1 is grey, the X41 is black (duh)
  • The X1 has an ExpressCharge feature that assures that in an hour you can get 80% charge, X41 offers no such charge guarantee
  • The X41 has better wireless performance because the wireless antenna is housed in the screen case area for better signal reception, the Latitude X1 antenna is in the main body.
  • The X1 offers “Strike Zone” shock absorber for the hard drive, IBM X41 also has cushioning for hard drive protection and also Active Protection System software to detect falls and remove write/read head from the hard drive during a fall (this protects against data loss).
  • The X1 starts at a price of $1,598 while the X41 starts at around $1,900
  • The X1 has a FireWire port, the X41 does not
  • The X1 must be purchased directly from Dell.com, the X41 can be purchased directly from IBM.com or other online resellers

Key Similarities between the ThinkPad X41 and Latitude X1

  • Both have 3 USB 2.0 ports
  • Both have modem, ethernet, video-out, AC, headphone, microphone ports
  • Both have an SD card slot
  • Both have a 1.8″ size hard drive solution that tops out at 60GB 4200RPM as the highest offering
  • Both have surprisingly good and easy to use keyboards for the size (although the edge does go to the ThinkPad in terms of sturdiness and ease of typing, but if you like the Windows key to be there then the Dell keyboard might win your heart)
  • Neither have any type of built-in optical drive, you have to carry an extra external replicator or media bay to have a DVD/CD drive
  • Both offer either Windows XP Home/Pro
  • Both come with standard 3-year warranty with purchase direct from the company
  • Both come with nice and bright screens that are not glossy but of the matte form
  • Both are really light and a breeze to carry around and a pleasure to use
  • Both are Centrino machines
  • Both use integrated graphics solution from Intel (although the IBM has the more recent and better Intel solution)

I’m working on a full review of each of these laptops, but for now there might be some that would like to know which I recommend buying.  Well the answer to that is simple, buy the one which has a model number that begins with an “X” and ends with a “1” of course!  Not very helpful?  Well, each person will find certain features they care about more than others and price differences are more of a concern to some, so you decide which notebook fits you best.  We have first thoughts on the Dell Latitude X1 posted and the ThinkPad X41 posted so take a look at those too and if you’re debating between these two ultraportables then maybe the upcoming full reviews will be helpful.

Pricing and Availability

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