Lenovo Thinkpad X201
12.1 in 1,280x800 display, 1.4kg, 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-520M, 2.00GB RAM, 320GB disk, Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
We weren't able to get our hands on the upcoming version of the Lenovo ThinkPad X201 (called the X201s) which has the new ultra-low-voltage Core i7 processor. However, as these run at very slow clock speeds, we think most people will be happier with the X201's Core i5 520M. It scored an excellent 90 overall in our benchmarks and amazingly also lasted almost six hours in our light-use battery test.
We're big fans of Lenovo's design, which hasn't really changed much in the last ten years. The lid has a rubberised finish and has a lip on the top edge that overlaps the bevelled edge of the case, so it fits snugly when closed. There's even a small light built into the lip that illuminates the keyboard.
Another stand-out feature of ThinkPads is their excellent keyboard, and the X201 is no exception. The keys are comfortably shaped and have a light, crisp action that provides plenty of feedback. Our only gripe is the placement of the Function key to the left of the Control key. As well as a small touchpad, there's a touch stick. Both are responsive, although the touch stick's buttons take up space that could have been used for a larger touchpad.
Like many business laptops, the X201 has a 12.1in, 16:10 aspect ratio screen, rather than the more common 16:9 found on consumer laptops. The 1,280x800 resolution may give you an extra 10 per cent of vertical space, but you lose out on horizontal resolution. The matt finish helps reduce reflections from overhead lights, but it dulls colours somewhat. Colours were accurate, though, and contrast was good, with better vertical viewing angles than many laptops we've seen recently.
Lenovo has opted not to include an HDMI output - there's only analogue VGA. It's also one of the few laptops we've seen recently that still includes a modem, presumably for those who still travel to countries that don't have widespread broadband connections. A full-sized ExpressCard/54 slot lets you add a range of peripherals or extra ports.
With Hyper-Threading, the dual-core i5 520M processor appears as four cores in Windows, and Turbo Boost overclocks the processor on the fly to boost single-threaded applications, which explains the great score of 113 in our image-editing test. This puts the X201 on par with the average desktop PC, and means it will run most applications easily.
There's no dedicated graphics chip however, so it's not suitable for games. The integrated graphics are just powerful enough to decode Full HD content, although the screen can only display 720p content pixel-for-pixel. If you want to watch the odd movie, the internal speakers are surprisingly clear and loud although, as you'd expect, they lack bass.
While the business features won't appeal to the average consumer, the ThinkPad X201 is the fastest laptop here, with decent battery life, a comfortable keyboard and excellent build quality. We only wished it had an optical drive and a better warranty (it has just one year of return-to-base cover). If you aren't interested in games and but want a portable laptop with excellent application performance, the ThinkPad X201 is a fine choice and wins an Ultimate award.