New ThinkPad X30 – Some Thoughts

Got the new X30 ThinkPad finally (they almost pulled an ‘Apple’ on me, more below), and I’ve had a chance to use it for a few days. Here’s some thoughts.

  • First, it’s small. The Bluetooth and WiFi inserts add .2lbs to the base 3.5 lb weight, but at 3.7lbs total going weight when I bring the computer here and there, wow. It’s about the same weight as an equivelant book of the same size.
  • Second – it’s the size of a textbook, a thin (1 inch tall) one. Smaller dimmensions length and width-wize when compared to my dearly departed ThinkPad 570E. A bit thicker though.
  • Third, I see IBM never stands still on the tiny improvements to the user experience – here’s stuff that’s on the new notebook that wasn’t on the 570E: Thinklight – a little white LED light built into the lid that lights up the keyboard just enough that you can see all the keys. Easy to use power button – no more double guessing how to power the unit on or off. Compact Flash slot (type 1 and 2) built in – SWEEEEEET. Built in browser buttons for forward and reverse in ANY browser (yes, works in Mozilla as well as IE). Titanium lid that’s coated with a very minimalist rubber coating – the tactile feel of picking up this thing is amazing. Firewire, though only 4 pin (ie, non-powered) port. Two USB slots, though only 1.2 version, not USB 2.0.

One thing I really like is how bulletproof this computer seems. Although I had little cause for genuine concern, I was always a bit leery of the 570E’s amount of “flex” in the casing, especially the LCD lid – I could bend it quite easily. Picking up an opened 570E from the edge of the keyboard portion would also exhibit flex.

Not so with the X30 – it is rigid like no notebook I’ve tried before – absolutly no flex in the body or lid. I also like how the entire notebook outer casing seems to have a tactile, grippy coating of micro-thin rubber. I’m not sure how this will wear and tear, but from the get go the computer feels very secure in your hands as you handle it and move it from place to place.

Another thing I like and didn’t think was possible is how they seem to have improved on an already great keyboard (and by far and away the industry’s best). The feel from the X30 keyboard is so sweet. Nice solid feel to the keys, good distance between keys, even for my big mitts, and the travel (how far they press down) is great considering the diminuative size of this computer.

Okay, before you think it’s all guns and roses, uh, a bed of roses, there are a few things I’m not terribly happy about (but maybe I’ll get used to).

I don’t like how bluetooth and WiFi seem to compete with each other on this system. WiFi is my primary wireless tech – bluetooth is for a future phone I will buy (Sony Ericcson T68i). But the stupid bluetooth network connection icon will always say disabled, but will never go away.

Second, and mainly a software issue, undocking is not very elegant – on the 570E, I press a button, undock, and walla, everything’s fine. On the X30, I press the undock button, and the computer goes through conniptions for about 15 seconds, and half the time, drops out of my encrypted WiFi connection. Boo.

Third, IBM dropped the ball on not having a simple on-off switch for WiFi. WiFi is a battery eater, and it’d be good to have an easy way to turn it off. Nope… it’s a software deal. But since I don’t want my taskbar’s running programs area (the place next to the clock) to have umpteen visible icons, I shut that one off. Other notebooks have a WiFi on/off switch, and even my ThinkPad X30 has a bluetooth on off switch – why no WiFi solution?

But it’s early days yet. So far battery life is amazing – over 4 hours this morning doing some high intensive work (photoshop is a battery drainer) on one charge. Sweet.

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