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By Mike Joubert 2 November 2009

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When IBM manufactured the first ThinkPad laptop in 1992, the ThinkPad brand became synonymous with high-quality, workhorse-like machines. A legacy developed around the ThinkPad range, so much so that certain people will buy nothing else but a ThinkPad.

When the Chinese computer brand Lenovo purchased IBM’s computing division in 2005 they put a lot of effort into maintaining the respectability of ThinkPad and taking it forward. This now culminated in the ThinkPad X301, an ultra-portable laptop so scrumptious that it will undoubtedly become the object of desire for many ThinkPad fans.

Size and weight

The first thing that struck us about the X301 is its size. It’s wonderful to see a ThinkPad squeezed into such a small body. This ultra-portable laptop comes with a 13.3" screen with LED backlight, it weights just 1.42 kg and at 23 mm think it’s the thinnest ThinkPad ever.

The weight of the laptop is partly due to the solid-state drive (SSD) technology on offer which replaces the regular hard disk drive. SSD carries some pros and cons, with the pros being that the machine is dead quite, boots up really quickly and it’s also less prone to damage on impact. The cons are that at this stage SSD technology it is still expensive and size will cost you. The model we tested only had 128 GB worth of space, which for business purposes should be ok, as long as you don’t want to copy movies and too much music. 

Intel inside

Lenovo didn’t skimp on the technology inside with the X301 running on the Intel Core2 Duo SU9400 processor (1.40 GHz, 3 MB L2 cache, 800 MHz), with the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD also present. Our model contained 2 GB worth of RAM which we thought might struggle to cope with Vista Business but handled it without hassle. Overall the machine gave a wonderful Vista experience, and we’re quite sure that it should handle Windows 7 even better.

Connectivity

As far as connectivity options are concerned the X301 offers the whole gamut, since it includes not only Wi-Fi but also HSDPA connectivity via SIM card and of course Bluetooth and a LAN port. Included on the side and back are three USB ports, a VGA connection and a DisplayPort to connect to other monitors or displays. We would have loved to have seen a SD card reader but alas one wasn’t included.

The DVD-burner on the side came as a bit of a surprise, since a lot of the ultra-portable laptops do not include one. Apart from this you have a full-size keyboard, video camera and keyboard light. As a bit of a bonus you even get good quality onboard speakers, which are loud enough not to worry about hooking it up to external speakers. It of course also includes Lenovo’s ThinkVantage software which allows you to manage your wireless settings, configure battery life, rejuvenate your system as well as back-up your data.

While the Lenovo ThinkPad X301 should set any ThinkPad fan’s heart racing with its ultra-portable design, lovely processing power and SSD, its price puts it in the range where selling one of your kidneys might just cover it. The RRP on the X301 is a whopping R24 999.  

PROS
Solid state drive, HSDPA connectivity via SIM, DVD burner, ultraportable.
CONS
Price, 128 GB SSD capacity is a little small, and it should have come with Windows 7.
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