Lenovo ThinkPad X300 Ultraportable Notebook
Upgradeability: Access to the ThinkPad X300's integrated components was mixed. There was no easy access to the integrated wireless components or processor, yet access to the memory DIMM slots was easy with the removal of two screws and an access panel on the underside of the system. Even more readily accessible was the solid-state hard drive, which could be removed by removing a single screw and cover between the headphone/microphone jacks and the USB ports. Once the cover was removed, the drive slid out easily by pulling a tab attached to it.
Keyboard & Touchpad: The Keyboard and UltraNav pointing devices both worked well and offered a comfortable, versatile feel in both respects. Being a person who suffers with hand pain due to repetitive stress, it was very helpful to be able to change pointing methods whenever desired. Having two options helped break things up and vary the repetitive motion so it didn't cause discomfort as easily as a single input option might. The Keyboard had a solid feel that gave just the right response to our keystrokes. While the system only measured 9" deep, there was plenty of room for large hands to rest comfortably in front of the keyboard when typing. We did find the touchpad area a bit small for our liking, but it didn't impede proper usage.
Display: After using many high-gloss displays, the ThinkPad X300 seemed a bit flat initially, with its matte finish. Once we settled in and started working with the system, however, we found the screen quite clear and easy on the eyes. The 1440x900 native resolution was a good fit for a screen of this size, offering plenty of desktop space to work with.
Speakers & Sound Quality: The speakers and audio quality of the ThinkPad X300 were surprisingly good. The audio was clear while not surprisingly lacking in bass considering the size of the speakers. While these speakers are small, they did offer decent volume levels, although anyone looking for premium audio quality will want a quality pair of external speakers. But for those using the system for teleconferencing or requiring basic audio needs, the ThinkPad X300 is well equipped.
Heat & Noise: One benefit to a low power system is that it will generate less heat and therefore lower fan noise, which is exactly the case with the ThinkPad X300. The system runs very cool, even for extended periods on your lap and the fan noise is hardly noticeable. We were quite pleased with this aspect of the ThinkPad X300, where the system didn't generate uncomfortable levels of heat or distracting fan noise ever during our testing of the product.
System Recovery: System Recovery may seems like a straight forward topic, but as we reviewed the options Lenovo offers, it brought up a number of points to consider. First, the ThinkPad X300 does not come with any disks whatsoever, relying solely on ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery 4 to either restore a particular software title or restore the system to its factory defaults. The process is very straight forward and works as designed by simply pressing the ThinkVantage button during the boot process and following the prompts. While this is fine for those needing to recover their system, what about the unlikely event that the solid-state hard drive fails or perhaps a knowledgeable user might want to do a fresh install of Window Vista Business? Since the system doesn't come with any CDs whatsoever, we considered this to be a major strike against an otherwise excellent product, leaving users to order a replacement CD separately as needed. While this is not the most convenient method for the consumer, there is another angle to this line of thinking. First, considering solid-state hard drives don't have moving components, it's a safe assumption that this reduces the likelyhood of a drive failure. Now factor in that Lenovo deems this the "Greenest' Thinkpad ever", it makes sense that disks are provided on an as needed basis. Not only does Lenovo not produce thousands of CDs that in many cases will not be needed, they are not producing thousands of CDs that will ultimately end up in a landfill and they've saved the energy and materials needed to produce these CDs. While it's not the most convenient approach for the individual user, they are not out of luck and in the bigger picture, it seems maybe Lenovo is doing the responsible thing, willing to take a little negative press for not including CDs with their products but sending a bigger message in the end.