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Lenovo ThinkPad X200: Business Friendly

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If you’ve been schlepping around a too-heavy, too-slow notebook for too long, Intel and Lenovo have given you even more reasons to buy a better laptop. The new ThinkPad X200 is Lenovo’s latest ultraportable notebook, a three-pound hatchling that’s ready to fly thanks to Intel’s new Centrino 2 mobile-PC platform.

The X200 replaces the ThinkPad X61, slotting below the rave-reviewed but hyper-pricey ThinkPad X300 in Lenovo’s lineup. Instead of the latter’s 13.3-inch display, the X200 is built around a 12.1-inch screen that gives the system a footprint about the size of a sheet of paper.

Its slim profile tapers from less than an inch to 1.4 inches thick, and its light weight makes it easy to tote to meetings or slip in your bag. The exterior is the familiar ThinkPad matte black; it won’t turn heads, but does give an appropriately professional impression.

Beauty on the Inside

While the X200’s exterior is buttoned-down, its sex appeal lurks on the inside. Intel’s Centrino 2 platform marries the latest generation of speedy Core 2 Duo processors to a faster front-side bus (1066MHz, up from 800MHz in previous Centrino solutions), which helps eliminate performance bottlenecks at the system level.

Centrino 2 also delivers an improved WiFi wireless chip including 802.11-DraftN support, as well as embedded Gigabit Ethernet networking and improved integrated graphics via a faster Graphics Media Accelerator X4500HD chip with hardware-based high-definition video decoding. Intel boasts that Centrino 2 both improves notebook performance and extends battery life.

Indeed, in our informal testing, the Core 2 Duo P8400-powered (a 2.26GHz processor with 3MB of Level 2 cache) Lenovo generally outperformed other ultraportables in the three-pound weight range, launching and running applications at speeds traditionally reserved for larger laptops. A 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU is an option.

If you spend a lot of time away from an electrical outlet, you’ll also appreciate the X200’s battery life, which Lenovo estimates at 3.2 hours with the standard four-cell battery and more than nine hours with a 9-cell battery that hikes system weight to 3.6 pounds.

Business-Friendly Features

The ThinkPad has other features a business pro would crave. Unlike other ultraportables, which make you suffer with an undersized keyboard, the X200’s keyboard is full-sized, with the famous feel and responsiveness long a hallmark of ThinkPad portables. Lenovo also provides dedicated volume and mute buttons (no more fumbling with a Fn-key combo) as well as the handy ThinkLight, a white LED above the screen that gives off just enough light to illuminate the keyboard in a dark room.

The 12.1-inch, 1,200 by 800-resolution screen is bright and exceedingly sharp. Compared to its X61 predecessor’s 1,024 by 768-pixel panel, the widescreen aspect ratio keeps the height of the panel fairly squat, which makes the X200 ideal for use on an airline tray table. You can equip the X200 with an 80GB, 160GB, or 320GB hard drive; a 200GB, 7,200-rpm drive with Full Disk Encryption; or a 64GB solid-state drive (SSD) that uses indestructible flash memory instead of spinning platters. If you’ve ever had a traditional hard drive die on you, the allure of an SSD is obvious.

With the exception of FireWire, the X200 has all the ports you’re likely to need, including three USB 2.0 ports; a VGA connector for hooking up a projector or monitor; modem and Ethernet jacks; and a PC Card slot. Options include a fingerprint reader for added login security, a Webcam for videoconferencing, and a five-format memory-card reader.

Lenovo also offers optional wireless broadband, which lets you connect via cellular carriers’ high-speed networks; the WWAN option has a handy option of its own in GPS navigation. If you often find yourself paying for wireless access at airports, hotels, and other WiFi hot spots — or find yourself someplace without WiFi altogether — this feature can pay for itself quickly. Intel UltraWideBand and WiMAX are scheduled to appear later in 2008.

The Tradeoffs

While the X200 has a lot going for it, it does necessitate a few tradeoffs typical of the ultraportable class. First and foremost, unlike the pricier X300, the notebook doesn’t have a built-in optical drive. You’ll have to invest in a USB-based external drive or opt for Lenovo’s snap-on UltraBase accessory, which adds a modular bay for a CD-RW/DVD-ROM, DVD±RW, or Blu-ray drive or a second battery second hard disk.

The small size of the X200 also means there was only room for the familiar ThinkPad TrackPoint pointing stick, not the touchpad most portable users have grown accustomed to. And while the notebook’s built-in speaker is fine for personal use, you’ll want to rely on your projector’s speakers if you’re given a presentation in any but the smallest conference room.

But these compromises can be said of most every three-pound PC, and the X200 does away with two of the biggest shortcomings of previous examples: so-so performance and a cramped, substandard keyboard. Even better, the base configuration starts at a reasonable $1,199. Considering its cutting-edge features and horsepower, that price makes the ThinkPad X200 a bargain to boot.

Adapted from SmallBusinessComputing.com.

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