Hands-On With The Lenovo ThinkPad X300: MacBook Air Killer?

X300 Held UpThis morning when the much-anticipated, 0.7-inch thin Lenovo ThinkPad X300 arrived in our offices, we gathered around the sleek, black piece of high-tech goodness as though it were The Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. While bossman Mark Spoonauer got face time with the X300, I had the benefit of diving into the system to share my initial impressions. Booting the 3.4-pound X3oo took just shy of a minute, which is commonplace with Vista machines, but a bit disappointing for a system that packs a 64GB solid-state drive; I hoped for a far more blazing start up time. Microsoft Word and other apps loaded about as fast as you’d see with a standard HDD. Shutting off the machine, however, was a completely different experience, as the X300 powered down in just 10 seconds.Between our startup and shutdown times, I actually got to explore the machine a bit and was quite impressed with the build. Keyboard and Pointing Devices Keyboard on X300The full-sized keyboard is one of the best in the biz, with responsive, raised keys that are quite conducive to touch typing. The touchpad is a bit on the small side, but ThinkPad users will most likely prefer the two pointing options that are available. While I’m no pointing stick maestro, I found it easy to navigate the screen and click on icons and links. Video and Audio Stereo speakers are built into the base of the X300 that provide a decent level of volume. While they aren’t the loudest, the speakers’ close-to-user positioning has an immersive quality.The 13.3-inch widescreen display isn’t as glitzy as the MacBook Air’s, but we figure business users won’t mind. Windows Vista Business with Service Pack 1 runs under the hood, but the X300 can be outfitted with XP. Performance The Lenovo X300 notched a score of 1,470 in our 3DMark03 test. It’s not breathtaking graphics muscle, but should be good enough for most folks’ day-to-day use. More test results to come. Battery Life Levono rates the X300’s battery life at 4 hours and 13 minutes when running Vista, and 4 hours and 48 minutes with XP. We’ll share our numbers as soon as the X300 finishes MobileMark 2007 in our lab. GPS, Ports, Mobile Broadband Lenovo offers GPS capability when you purchase mobile broadband, which should work with Google Maps and other map programs. Keep in mind that you’ll need line of sight for this to work; it’s unassisted GPS.Our configuration came three USB 2.0 ports, Verizon mobile broadband, and a 7mm DVD burner. You also get a full Ethernet port and VGA port–no adapters required. There’s no need to be selective with what you plug into a lone USB port, and no need to share optical drives with others. The only thing we don’t like is that the Wi-Fi switch is on the back of the system. Outlook The X300 looks to be everything that the MacBook Air strived to be and much more. For $2,936 you get a really thin, 3.4-pound system that offers a removable battery, an optical drive, built-in EV-DO, plus two more USB ports. Apple’s ultraportable is more striking and sports a faster 1.6-GHz CPU, but it costs about $160 more when equipped with an SSD and doesn’t have nearly as many features. Stay tuned for more updates on this hot notebook as we put it through the paces.

X300 DVD Drive Open

Contents of X300 Box

X300 Bottom

X300 Side View

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  1. ronnie Says:

    Does the w300 com with a HDMI port. If not will there be one in the future?

  2. Nathan Says:

    The X300 (not W300) doesn’t come with HDMI, there are no plans to release a version with HDMI in the future.

  3. max Says:

    Well, this is a real shame cos it may be small but it doesn’t have the mac o.s on it so there is basically no use for it

  4. John Says:

    Funny, because OS X seems to have no use for me.

  5. joe Says:

    dumb ass the mac book air is thinner than that!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Jon T Says:

    Looks no different to any other Thinkpad.

    Thinkpad and Windows is just so…90’s!

    All just yesterdays technology. Yuck.

  7. Mike Says:

    OS X is just a luxury. no one needs it. and thiner doesnt mean any thing when u cant play a dvd when u r on the road.

  8. Nemo Says:

    number applications available for windows is way more than OS-X. and without RJ-45, optical drive and other ports Mac Air bullshit

  9. BlueFusion Says:

    You can run windows on macs dumbasses. Get a macbook pro and dual boot it with XP for the best machine money can buy. Performance and compatibility.

  10. Dan Says:

    Excuse me, someone wants to wire up a -sub- notebook to a network? Or spend $3K to watch a DVD?

    Look, there are legitimate reasons to both like or dislike either model, but there are a few -non- reasons that people seem to bandy about and they’re petty/silly.

    Both models run Windows, so that’s a non-issue. The MacBook Air has an available ethernet adapter for those commuters who occasionally run into an older business that doesn’t have a wifi cloud. It comes with micro DVI adapters as well, for those who present off their laptop.

    If you value absolute minimal size (thickness) or pure speed, you’ll go with a MacBook Air. If you want to go with a larger, built in feature set and you’re willing to sacrifice speed, you’ll go with the X300. (Hey, it does include EV-DO support)

    But for heaven’s sakes, don’t tell me that anyone would buy a $3K to use as a portable DVD player and don’t tell me that anyone bought -any- subnotebook to use (primarily) on a -wired- network. Neither the MacBook Air or the X300 were made with that use in mind. To paraphrase Steve Jobs, “Shop Different”

  11. Daniel Z Says:

    Cant see why people dont get it:

    A, 1 USB VS 3 USB. this is especially consider that 1 usb need to be used for Ethernet AND optical! on the Levono you can have a mouse + a remoable hard drive, and leaves the last one free for maybe a USB sound card /headset or whatever,

    B, no Optical VS DVD. the convenience of having a DVD drive far exceeds just playing movies, there are tones of other things you may do – install most applications, burn movies DVD, music CD etc. having an add-on (that need to be bought seperately) just dont cut it. do you Air owners intend to keep this add on in your laotop case at all times? remote drive is as useful as infra-red backin the days.

    C, no Ethernet VS having it. ethernet is still way faster than wireless for transfering large files, and in times when your wireless dont work because profile/certificate need update etc. again, the need of an adaptor that cost extra is just very inconenient.

    D, battery choice, for the target customers who buy light laptop because they are on the run all the time, 1 unchangable battery VS multiple interchangeable batteries, need I say more?

    E, Price, even with all above disadvantages, the Apple Air is still more expensive.

    I am OK with someone saying ” i will still buy Air because I like its styling and I think MS windows sucks and OSX is God’s gift to men” – all good, that is personal preference. but blindly argue that “if you need these features Air dont have then you are just backward” – is just being an ignorant idiot.

  12. Dan Says:

    There’s no question that the battery issue weighs in favor of the Lenovo. Apple made a very interesting decision, regarding that choice. A replaceable battery might have introduced a few extra millimeters to the case, so that’s a questionable call on Apple’s part, no doubt, and a very fair criticism

    I have to strongly and completely disagree with a few other points though: We are past the age of optical drives in subnotebooks. Sorry, we are. Even Lenovo acknowledges that elemental fact with the X61 series of notebooks and tablet PCs (not only are DVD-RW drives sold separately; they’re quite expensive). Need to install software? Either hook your machine up to an external optical drive (that can stay at your base office… seriously, how many times do you find yourself installing software while you’re on the road?) or, in the case of the MacBook Air, install the software wirelessly, using another computer. That’s a killer feature. Remote drive works and it works well… I’ve witnessed it and it’s brilliant.

    File transfer: how large can these files be? You only have a 64 MB SSD in the X300 and the same drive as an option in the MacBook Air… For power users, people who are exchanging large graphics or video assets, sure, you need the flexibility of a wired ethernet connection, but you wouldn’t have picked either of these two units for their small screens, their integrated video cards, their -highly- limited storage, or their (for those purposes) unusably slow processors. You’d also likely want a built in optical drive and firewire ports. In other words, you’d want a mobile desktop replacement.

    USB ports are the basis for an intriguing discussion. Mice (Wired? Really?), dongles, removable hard drives… useful at times, but did you really buy a 3 pound laptop so that you could carry up to five pounds of accessories? In any event, with Bluetooth here and Wireless USB on it’s way, I don’t think that there’s any question that while we’re discussing the merit of adding USB ports to ultra-portable notebooks, the future is wireless and, in this case, port-less.

    As I see ultra-portables in everyday use where I work, these are used by people who don’t introduce the computer to their own desks more than once a week, let alone to a familiar wired network. The wired network as a mainstay is antithetical to ultra-portably usage.

    And that’s what we’re talking about, right? Ultra-portables… units that strip everything that’s non-essential to the actual act of computing, for the sake of a savings of size and weight.

    If you want ports and optical drives and built-in this, that, and the other, why would you spend close to $3,000 for an ultra-portable, to which you have to add accessories? Isn’t that madness? If you’re a PC user, get yourself a still-very-small Dell Vostro 1400. If you’re a Mac user, get yourself a baseline MacBook. With either choice, you’ll pocket around $2K in savings -and- you’ll get a far more powerful computer with longer battery life than either the MacBook Air or the X300.

    I couldn’t care less about the OS argument here. I’m not “defending” the Air nor am I knocking MS Windows because it happens to be on the X300.

    In fact, in substantial favor of the X300, it does feature an EV-DO card, which is sorrowfully lacking in the Apple laptop.

    I simply return to my original point: who buys an ultra-portable for the purpose of watching movies on DVD? Who buys an ultra-portable to use primarily on a wired network? I never argued those points in -favor-of the MacBook Air… only against the notion that those are two variables that belong on an ultra-portable at all. In reference to the article itself, it mentions that the X300 is everything that the MacBook Air “strived to be and much more”. I’d argue that “the more” makes it less valuable as an ultra-portable, especially in light of the sacrifices that the “more” exacts on the unit.

    Significantly less processing power. Noticeably thicker case. 14% heavier unit (when equipped with a battery that gives you computing time equivalent with the MacBook Air).

    Unless they meant, “and much more” as a criticism.

  13. chao Says:

    Well, how about battery? After 2, 3 year, you wont be able to change your Air’s battery! It definitely a huge issue as a laptop!

  14. Dan Says:

    No question, that was the topic of the very first paragraph in my last post… Apple definitely made a questionable decision with the battery. They were willing to bet that ultra-portable users care more about squeezing every last millimeter of thickness more than they care about the utility of a replaceable battery.

    Now to be technically accurate, in the long term, you -will- be able to change the battery… you’ll just need to take the unit to an Apple store. That doesn’t speak to the convenience of carrying an extra battery with you when you need a quick swap.

    It’s a fair criticism of the iPhone and iPod as well, but the Air is certainly a -very- different animal and I don’t know how that battery/design issue will affect users or sales, long-term. I have little doubt that a market will pop up to provide people with replacement batteries and instructions about how to make the swap yourself… such businesses already exist to service iPod users, but even so, such a swap will require more effort, time, and surgery than just popping a battery off and throwing a fresh one on. Furthermore, its a safe bet that replacing a battery yourself will almost certainly void the warranty.

    Maybe Apple is right to make that sacrifice, but I’m not clear on that topic, myself. It’s fair to criticize the unit for that…

  15. Robbie Says:

    stupid windows, stupid OS X, stupid fights over which is better. hey hey i know the answer. LINUX!

  16. Dan Says:

    …leave it to a Linux fan to stir up a fight where this isn’t one. (if that was just an attempt at sarcasm or humor , I’ll apologize now).

    We weren’t extolling or debating the virtues of Mac versus Windows here; only discussing the merits of each laptop on it’s hardware.

    A user is able to run Linux on either machine.

    …so back to the topic?

  17. benny Says:

    It’s dog ugly and compromises speed and screen quality for a couple of USB ports and a DVD that noone will use.
    Ah, the tables are turned … why all these compromises when you can also have a Macbook Air without compromises at all (pun intended).

  18. Jai B Says:

    Well, if you were to ask me, are you willing to subject a macbook air to severe physical punishment? Well, the rationale for buying a Thinkpad X300, or any Thinkpad for that matter, is not only to maximize your mobile computing experience. Any thinkpad is built to take any physical punishment known to a laptop. And the Thinkpad X300 clearly wins the battle in the ultraportable laptop wars. Because you’re paying US$3000 not only for the SSD, the slimmest DVDRW drive in the market today (the same i think with the Toshiba Portege, which has an integrated DVDRW drive), and for all the bling-bling that you could think of. You’re paying such huge amount because of the technology inside a Thinkpad that makes it popular not only to the business realm but also to anyone who want a sturdy, quality laptop. Yes, you heard me right, a rock solid laptop that will endure any punishment you throw to it.

  19. Dave Says:

    Right!! No one ever installs software from a dvd drive these days.

  20. Dan Says:

    Well, while the IBM ThinkPad certainly gained a reputation for sturdy longevity, you will not be able to convince my service department of the reliability and longevity of the Lenovo ThinkPads. My service guys are simply overwhelmed with failing T61s… I will -not- grant road-warrior reliability status to the Lenovo X300 until there is -ample- evidence that it’s as strong a performer as the IBMs from which they are descended…

    Sturdiness and longevity are characteristics that we do not have the evidence required to compare these two laptops… Get back to me in a year about this topic.

    And yup, Dave, it would seem from my experience, that you’re right… We couldn’t get more than a quarter of our x60 users to buy (or use) an optical drive. There’s such a difference between full sized laptop users and small and ultra-portable buyers… Our T60/61 users don’t understand how you can use a laptop without an optical drive and our X60/61 users can’t understand why laptop users would want to carry around a device they use a rare fraction of the time?

  21. smallbox Says:


  22. Nic Says:

    As I write this on my old trusty T42, I will not be buying this notebook. Nor will I be buying the Apple. Personally, I think the Apple is for people who know nothing about computers, but like either the style or are a bit arty-farty. Being a non-arty techie, I always loved the tough IBM laptop, and have been constatly been amazed and IBMs service in keeping them running. I have not owned a Lenovo and am not convinced they will be as good.

    My next laptop will be a Panasonic Toughbook. Hopefully my experience will be as ood as that with IBM!

  23. Mr Smith Says:

    Anyone spending 3 k for a laptop they plan to use in business is not a very bright business man. Anyone using a mac for business is either new or has business in the porn industry. They both suck nut sacs if you want something cute and ultraportable just look at the acer iconias, dual screens at half the price!

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