Heat and Noise
Noise levels were mostly a non-issue with the X1 as long as you weren’t seriously stressing the system. During the 3DMark benchmark tests we noticed the system fan was loud enough to be mildly disruptive in a quiet office or classroom setting. The best way I can describe it is the fan sounds like someone is using a hairdryer somewhere on the second floor of a two-story house. You’ll notice the fan noise when you’re stressing the graphics but it isn’t as loud as what we hear on gaming notebooks with discrete graphics cards. Just like its smaller X220 sibling, the X1 deliveres relatively low exterior temperatures considering the impressive level of performance in our test configuration. All temperatures shown below are listed in degrees Fahrenheit:
The ThinkPad X1 with Intel Core i5-2520M processor delivered 5 hours and 51 minutes of battery life with the built-in battery. Our standard battery life test sets the screen to 70% brightness, wireless active and continuously refreshing a website on a 60-second interval, and Windows 7 set to the “balanced” power profile. This is roughly the same battery life that we obtained from the Apple MacBook Air and several consumer 13-inch notebooks. Unfortunately, it’s substantially less battery life than what the ThinkPad X220 delivers with its 6-cell battery which has a higher watt-hour rating. I also suspect that the 350-nit rated screen on the X1 drains the battery faster than the screen on the X220 which isn’t as bright.
Battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):
Lenovo was also kind enough to send us a review sample of the optional slice battery. The slice battery costs an additional $179 and makes the notebook look and feel significantly thicker near the back edge of the notebook and raises the typing angle on the keyboard. The slice adds roughly 5 hours of battery life to the X1. During our standard battery drain test, the X1 with integrated battery and external slice kept running for 11 hours and 18 minutes. I have little doubt this could have been extended even longer if the Wi-Fi was off and the screen brightness was turned down.
Although I’m happy to see an extended-life slice battery I’m not particularly happy with the latching mechanism. The locking tabs just don’t feel particularly durable and I feel paranoid about how I handle the X1 with the slice battery attached. I didn’t experience any real-world problems with the locking mechanism … it simply doesn’t “feel” as durable as we’ve come to expect from ThinkPad notebooks and accessories.
At the end of the day, the team at Lenovo did a very good job developing a ThinkPad that offers the durability, performance and features that we’ve come to expect from a ThinkPad and combining them with the stylish design elements that appeal to many consumers and IT buyers. If that is your measure for success, then the ThinkPad X1 is indeed a winner.
However, the X1 is not exactly “perfect” either. The use of an arguably weak integrated battery, and a glitchy buttonless touchpad are things that will likely displease long-time ThinkPad loyalists. Although the bright 350-nit screen helps you see the screen outdoors and Gorilla Glass helps protect the screen from damage, I would have liked to see a matte screen option and an IPS panel for better viewing angles.
While we’re on the topic of the Gorilla Glass, it certainly increases the weight of the notebook and makes this “thin and light” laptop more like a “thin and not-so light” notebook compared to a 13-inch MacBook Air which weighs roughly a full pound less than the X1.
I personally can’t overlook the great build quality, excellent performance and numerous ports that Lenovo packed into the X1, but I’m worried these fantastic features might be overlooked by shoppers who are trying to decide between a thin and stylish laptop like a MacBook Air and a full-featured business ultraportable like the ThinkPad X220.
- Thin design with lots of ports
- Excellent performance
- Bright screen with Gorilla Glass
- Integrated battery
- Glossy screen
- Annoying touchpad issue