Lenovo is updating the cutting edge of its ThinkPad notebook line with the X301 laptop, which will include new, low-volt Intel processors and a larger solid-state drive option, and builds on the company's much-talked-about ThinkPad X300 notebook.
Lenovo released the original ThinkPad X300 laptop in February and the ultrathin notebook received a number of favorable reviews and drew comparisons to the Apple MacBook Air. The X300 and the X301 each measure less than 1 inch thick and offer a 13.3-inch LED backlight display. Both laptops also weigh about 2.9 pounds.
The MacBook Air, the Lenovo ThinkPad X300 line and even the recently released Dell Latitude E4200 notebook, which weighs 2.2 pounds and has a 12.1-inch display, are beginning to show the limits of how far PC vendors are willing to push mobility in both the consumer and enterprise markets.
While these types of ultrathin, ultraportable laptops remain an expensive alternative to more mainstream notebooks that weigh more and have larger displays, vendors are continuing to tinker with their laptop designs in order to keep bringing these types of cutting-edge designs into the market in an attempt to distinguish their products from other notebooks.
IDC defines the ultraportable category as laptops weighing less than 4 pounds and with a 12-inch display or smaller. However, the types of ultraportable notebooks that Lenovo and Apple have developed are more robust than the types of low-cost notebooks or "netbooks" that use the Intel Atom processor or chips from Via Technologies.
Where Lenovo has made improvements is with the Intel processors. The ThinkPad X301 offers a pair of not-yet-released Intel ultralow-volt processors that the PC vendor lists as the U9300, which has a clock speed of 1.2GHz, and the U9400, which has a clock speed of 1.4GHz. The two chips have 6MB of Level 2 cache and a 1066MHz front side bus.
The original X300 used an Intel SL 7100 processor with a clock speed of 1.2GHz and 4MB of L2 cache. These newer low-volt Intel processors are not listed on the company's Web site and Lenovo did not disclose the chips' thermal envelope.
In addition to the new processors, the Lenovo X301 will support DDR3 (double data rate 3) memory, which consumes less power and is faster than standard DDR2 memory. Intel introduced DDR3 memory support when it released its Centrino 2 platform in July. The memory options are 512MB, 1GB or 2GB of RAM.
The other significant improvement to the ThinkPad X301 is its data storage capacity. While the original X300 offered a 64GB SSD, the X301 offers a choice of either an 80GB or 128GB SSD.
The X301 will also have DisplayPort and VGA video ports to support multiple displays. The X300 and X301 both offer the option of an ultrathin optical DVD burner that measures 7 millimeters.
The Lenovo X301 is available Aug. 26 for a starting price of $2,599. The 128GB SSD option will be available in September.