Product Review: Ultra-light laptop

24 Jun 2008

Small is beautiful with the new ultra-light X300 laptop from Lenovo.

A man I know – who knows these things – recently opined that laptops are the new mobiles. When I see the array of ultra-portable machines and accessories hitting the market, I’m inclined to agree. Everyone has them, they are increasingly personalised and are getting lighter.

Despite all the who-ha over Apple’s MacBook Air that fits in an envelope, and some snazzy machines from Samsung that are equally light, the emphasis in the months ahead will be on small and affordable. In a few weeks, Carphone Warehouse will be introducing its EEE PCs with nine-inch screens that will sell for less than €500.

So small is beautiful again. Thank goodness. For a long time PC makers were pushing everything from cinema-wide high-def screens for home cinema and all manner of multimedia into laptops that were just as heavy as a desktop computer.

Some, ridiculously, were meant for home entertainment only, which defied the notion of a portable computer.

The X300 from Lenovo is not quite as small or iconic as the MacBook Air, but it is still a very light machine that could just about slip into an A4 envelope.

What I like about the X300 is its neatness and economy of space and that it doesn’t sacrifice any functionality just to be small.

For example, it still comes with a disk drive and has two USB ports, which instantly gives it more firepower than the waif-like Air. It also comes with an extremely vivid 13.3-inch display, 64GB of disk storage and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor.

But what clinches it for me when comparing this the X300 with competitors is the fact that it also sports a recordable DVD drive.

Appearance-wise, the device still sports the old IBM – cough – I mean Lenovo, black livery and red rubber nipple, but users of these devices aren’t so flighty to buy on appearances alone.

The X300 is a sturdy little machine that has 10 hours of battery life and makes the ideal workhorse.

However, it also lends itself to being a consumer-friendly device that allows for digital entertainment and communication, ranging from Wi-Fi to videoconferencing and recording YouTube videos via the tiny webcam discreetly embedded on the screen.

Lenovo’s X300 put me through the usual battery of questions on boot-up, ranging from connectivity to security, upgrades and finally user enrolment. At the end, I was amazed I wasn’t asked if I wanted to be a scientologist.

In the end, the laptop revealed itself to be a fast, efficient and ultimately a neat, ordered device that allows for speedy booting up and shut-down so you can run between meetings and not miss a beat.

While the device starts at €1,995, and is therefore initially more expensive than competing devices like the Air, the full computing power, recordable DVD and extra USB slots make it all worthwhile.

Pros: Light but sturdy and powerful

Cons:Old-fashioned appearance

Price: From €1,995

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years