Lenovo Slims Down the ThinkPad

The much-anticipated ThinkPad X300 offers a number of features that the company hopes will appeal to enterprise customers.

Lenovo is rethinking the ThinkPad.

After much talk and favorable review in the Wall Street Journal, Lenovo announced Feb. 26 that the company is ready to sell the ultrathin ThinkPad X300 laptop, which weighs less than 3 pounds but comes with a hefty $2,800 price tag.

While the new ThinkPad X300 has already drawn comparisons to Apple's MacBook Air, the two laptops are geared toward different customers, according to several analysts. Lenovo, which is based in Raleigh, N.C., is pitching the X300 as a durable machine for "road warriors" and corporate executives on the go. Apple's latest Mac is designed for the company's traditional customers as well as small-business users.

"This solution is for the road warrior and business-class users who value the types of innovations that we have included," said Tom Ribble, director of ThinkPad marketing, who added that Lenovo plans to incorporate some of the technologies found in the X300, such as SSDs (solid-state drives), into other ThinkPad laptops later this year.

Lenovo developed the X300 with an eye toward making an extremely thin, portable laptop that also could withstand the wear and tear of the road and constant travel. Instead of using a typical magnesium alloy frame, engineers used a combination of carbon and glass fibers that helps reinforce the structure, giving the PC flexibility without adding more weight to the frame.

IDC analyst Richard Shim said portability is the X300's greatest strength, which goes back to the types of materials Lenovo used with the roll cage.

"The alloys that they used are much more rigid," said Shim. "When companies look for these thinner systems, they try to get them down to a certain weight, and they skimp on the features in order to get the weight down. With Lenovo, they found a way to deploy the reliability and features you want in a ThinkPad."

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The one major drawback to the X300, according to several experts, is the price, which can expand to more than $3,000. Ribble declined to comment on whether Lenovo will drop the price after the initial launch.

The X300, which is less than 1 inch thick, offers a 13.3-inch LED backlight display and weighs 2.9 pounds with a standard three-cell battery that offers about 4 hours of life. If a user decides to add the options that will boost the battery life to up to 10 hours, those extra battery components will add another half pound to the weight.

The Lenovo X300 and the MacBook Air both use an Intel Core 2 Duo SL 7100 processor, which offers 4MB of Level 2 cache, and an 800MHz front-side bus and a thermal envelope of about 20 watts. The Mac offers two different processors, with clock speeds ranging from 1.6HHz to 1.8GHz, while the X300 offers only one processor that runs at 1.2GHz.

Both laptops also offer 64GB SSD drives, which cut down on moving parts and conserve battery life. The MacBook offers a standard hard disk drive with 80GB of data capacity as well.

Lenovo offers several features required by enterprise users, including three USB ports, an optical DVD burner that measures 7 millimeters, 4GB of memory, and support for both WLAN (wireless LAN) and cellular-based WWAN (wireless WAN) networks. In addition, the new X300 will support Intel's "Eco Peak" technology, which will be available later this year and integrates both WiMax and Wi-Fi technology into the silicon.

The X300 will also support Intel's vPro Technology, a bundle of chips and other hardware technology aimed at making it easier to manage and secure a large fleet of corporate PCs.