Screen and Speakers
The 13.3-inch screen on the ThinkPad X1 is a HD (1366 x 768 resolution) screen with a “Super Bright” backlight rated at 350 nits. The panel is extremely glossy but that is in no small part due to the addition of Corning Gorilla Glass which protects the screen from scratches and damage that would break a typical notebook screen. The Gorilla Glass also gives the screen lid more rigidity than it would have otherwise. I am sad that the X1 doesn’t have an IPS panel similar to the one available on the X220. IPS panels have better viewing angles and the screen on the X1, while bright, simply doesn’t look as good unless you’re looking at it from straight ahead.
Speaker quality is good for a thin business notebook and the maximum volume output is loud enough to fill a large meeting room with clear sound. The audio performance is more than good enough for a basic video conference or webcast and also works fine for watching a Netflix Watch Instantly movie. Lenovo teamed up with Dolby to include Dolby Home Theater v4 audio (tuned stereo speakers, headphone output and audio processing software) to deliver a better multimedia experience. For the most part, I’d say it works. The sound from the X1 is better than what I heard from the X220, but I suspect the X1 would sound even better with larger speakers that are pointed upward to direct sound toward the user.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The new LED-backlit keyboard on the ThinkPad X1 is likely to be an instant “love it” or “hate it” feature among ThinkPad owners. Fans of the traditional ThinkPad keyboard will probably cringe at the sight of a Chiclet-style keyboard, but I have to say that the engineers at Lenovo have likely created the best Chiclet keyboard I’ve ever used. I liked the keyboard on the X100e and X120e and these keys are a logical evolution of the Chiclet-style keyboard used on those ultraportable notebooks. The keyboard on the X1 largely delivers the firm typing surface, spill-proof design and perfect individual key throw we’ve come to expect on ThinkPad keyboards.
In short, this isn’t your father’s ThinkPad keyboard … but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I cannot, however, sing the same praises about the buttonless trackpad on the X1. Like the keyboard, I suspect many X1 owners will have a love/hate relationship with the classic red TrackPoint and buttonless touchpad: They will love the good old TrackPoint but hate the touchpad. I don’t know if it was merely a driver issue with the Synaptics touchpad or a more complex hardware issue, but the right touchpad button often didn’t respond correctly during our testing period.
On a happier note, the buttonless touchpad provides a larger surface area than a touchpad with separate buttons. This makes a big difference if you use touchpad gestures in Windows or while browsing the web since it means you can fit multiple fingers on the touchpad.