We're barely three months into the new year, and we've already seen Apple's remarkably slim competing with Toshiba's . Both were very strong contenders for the top spot on our list of -- until this week, when we got our hands on the Lenovo ThinkPad X300.
The newest addition to the ThinkPad X series incorporates the best of the MacBook Air -- 13.3-inch display, full-size keyboard, thickness less than 25mm -- with the best of the Portege R500 -- solid-state hard drive, thorough selection of ports -- while also adding its own great features, such as a built-in DVD burner, WWAN connectivity and GPS.
The base model of the ThinkPad X300 will cost around a hefty £1,856 and will be available shortly from Lenovo online retailers. Much of that price can be attributed to the laptop's 64GB solid-state drive, which promises faster application launch and boot times as well as a longer lifetime than a traditional hard drive with moving parts. Unlike the MacBook Air, which comes in a low-cost configuration with a traditional spinning hard drive, the ThinkPad X300 is available only with a solid-state drive.
Our review unit included a few upgrades -- twice as much RAM as the base configuration, plus WWAN, GPS and an extended-life 6-cell battery -- that brought the price to £1,979. That's high, even for a laptop as light as this, but still below the cost of a MacBook Air equipped with a solid-state drive.
The X300's ThinkPad DNA is evident in its instantly recognisable black, square-edged case, but at 318 by 19 by 231mm and weighing 1.4kg, it's simply the sleekest ThinkPad yet.
The biggest criticism of the ThinkPad X300 is its price: the base configuration costs £1,856 and goes up from there. But innovative design, thorough features and cutting-edge components don't come cheap, and the ThinkPad X300 is truly unique in its balance of portability and usability.
Aside from the laptop's dimensions, the design changes with the ThinkPad X300 have been incremental. The laptop still features a rectangular black case built around a magnesium 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 changes that make the X300 more attractive. 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 X300's display bezel includes a 1.3-megapixel webcam and a noise-cancelling digital microphone for Web conferencing. The matte-finish display itself features a 1,440x900-pixel native resolution that's sharper than that of the MacBook Air and other similarly sized screens, resulting in text and icons that are smaller than you'd expect.
The sharper resolution doesn't cause 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 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 work day, a keyboard can make or break a thin-and-light. The ThinkPad X300 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 thin-and-light laptops from other manufacturers. After conducting an entire morning's work -- and writing this review -- on the ThinkPad X300, we still don't feel like we've been typing on a laptop. We love it.
Lenovo decided to include both the red rubber-head TrackPoint pointing stick and a touchpad on the ThinkPad X300. 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?