updated 05:00 pm EDT, Mon May 16, 2011
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 official
After numerous leaks, Lenovo tonight brought out its first halo notebook in years through the ThinkPad X1. The 13.3-inch system is the thinnest ThinkPad to date at no more than 0.83 inches but promises to trump the MacBook Air by overcoming the usual barriers in the class. A new generation of Lenovo's high-power, low-noise "owl wing" cooling fans lets it use full-power Core i3, i5, and i7 processors while still keeping up to five hours on its regular battery.
Its weight isn't as comparable at 3.7 pounds versus 2.9.
The ultraslim also delivers on a rare ultra-quick battery charge. Much like some MP3 players or phones, RapidCharge can bring the X1 up from drained to an 80 percent charge in just half an hour, or 2.5 times faster than other ThinkPads or most notebooks. Lenovo's Jason Parrish told Electronista that the technique doesn't artificially shorten the life of the battery and that it should last about 1,000 full charge cycles, or about three years of frequent use.
An external battery slice can take advantage of RapidCharge itself and doubles the longevity to 10 hours. In a break from Lenovo's usual habits, though, the main battery is sealed in and will need a qualified technician to swap out, much like Apple's pack. More computers beyond the X1 will get RapidCharge, many of them in 2012, Lenovo told us.
The design is both billed as tough as regular ThinkPads while acknowledging that many users care about using systems for home as much as work. It still uses a magnesium alloy frame with a 'rollcage' to stay strong. Corning's Gorilla Glass also makes an unusual appearance in a notebook and makes the screen more resistant to pressure and scratches than the usual notebook display; Lenovo also vows a much brighter screen at 350 nits instead of the usual 200 to 250. A backlit keyboard is a first for this class of ThinkPad, and video output has dropped the stereotypical corporate-friendly VGA in favor of HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, and Intel's over-the-air WiDi.
The X1 is due to start at $1,399 with a 2.1GHz Core i3 and an unspecified Intel SSD, most likely a 160GB model. Shoppers can get one online through Lenovo and others on May 17.
Lenovo's launch is its second real design attempt at countering the MacBook Air and its first from-scratch model made since the Air existed, the original X300 series having been developed at the same time. The system has always had a loyal base but struggled to match even the Air's relatively low numbers due mostly to price: initially going for $2,799, it was a full $1,000 more than the original Air and almost always cost more.
In discussing the X1 with us, Parrish said he had "seen people make those comparisons" to the Air with the new model but pointed to clear differences between the ThinkPad and its Mac challenger. The full-speed processor, toughened frame and "world-class" keyboard justified getting an X1, he said.