Lenovo ThinkCentre X1 review
Lenovo’s answer to the iMac is sharp-suited and ultra-slim
The all-in-one desktop PC scene has been dominated by Apple so comprehensively, and for so long, that the rest of the industry must wonder if it's worth bothering to produce their own competing computers. There's still a steady trickle of other manufacturers producing machines, though, and the Lenovo 24in ThinkCentre X1 is the most interesting to come along in ages.
From the front, the X1 looks appropriately and deceptively bland. In typical Lenovo fashion, the front of the ThinkCentre X1 is finished in unadorned black - the wireless keyboard and mouse supplied with the machine are equally plain in appearance. There's the signature red highlight or two here the dot above the 'i' on the ThinkCentre logo in the bottom left corner of the front bezel and a red scroll-wheel on the wireless mouse but that's it as far as visual interest goes.
Have a look around the back, however, and it's an entirely different story. From front to back, the X1 is impressively slim, measuring an improbable 11.8mm at its thinnest point. Instead of aping the flat Apple foot, Lenovo has tried a refreshingly different approach with the look of the stand.
The ThinkCentre X1 is supported by a 13mm steel bar protruding from a heavy circular base, and it's positioned such that the screen appears to float above the desk. From this perspective, the ThinkCentre X1 is a very sharp-looking machine; in fact, we prefer it to Asus's rather lumpen iMac-like Zen AiO.
While the iMac's stand has remained unchanged for years, it is at least quite flexible. You can tilt and swivel it single-handed with ease. While the tilting motion on the X1 is a little stiffer than it is on the iMac, it's still easy enough to accomplish single-handed. The X1's tilting motion, or what passes for it, is much more janky so much so that it made us less inclined to fuss with it.
The X1's design is hardly devoid of practicalities though. Instead of positioning all the ports and slots at the back, a pair of USB ports, the SD card slot and the 3.5mm headphone jack live on the left side of the X1, so you don't have to reach around the side, swivel the entire computer around or stand up and peer over the top to plug stuff in as you do with the iMac.
There's a sliding cover on the webcam for those concerned with protecting their privacy. And Lenovo is keen to promote the durability of the ThinkCentre X1, claiming it has been tested to withstand ten years of office dust while still running "error free".
No need for Zuckerberg-style masking tape here
However, it's the finishing touches, like the aformentioned smooth tilt and swivel motion, that make the iMac so good, and this is where the X1 falls behind. That stand, thin though it is, wobbles dramatically if you so much as nudge the screen.
Those wireless peripherals, while usable enough, are deeply uninspiring when it comes to both look and feel. To put it plainly, they feel both cheap and nasty.
The quality of the 23.8in screen continues the theme of practicality with a dose of disappointment. The 1,920 x 1,080 resolution IPS panel is coated with a semi-matte finish that's remarkably efficient at reducing glare from overhead office lights. Even angled directly up so it catches the light directly, it's possible to see the onscreen image clearly through the reflections.
However, it can't compete with the iMac or the Asus Zen AiO for brightness, sharpness and colour accuracy. The first item on this list isn't too problematic. In an office environment, the ThinkCentre X1's 194cd/m2 maximum brightness is ample; in fact, you should probably be dialling it down from this level to avoid straining your eyes.
However, the Full HD resolution simply isn't high enough to compete with the similarly priced competition. Stretched across 23.8in, the X1's IPS panel is able to deliver a pixel density of only 93ppi, which means the pixel structure is plainly visible from normal working distances. Its colour accuracy isn't brilliant, either, looking surprisingly crude for such a costly all-in-one PC.
With a screen as disappointing as this, we had hoped for blistering performance given the description on Lenovo's website of the X1 as "thin as a laptop, as powerful as a desktop PC."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn't quite as impressive as Lenovo makes it sound. Indeed, the internals come straight from Intel's mobile range, with even the most powerful model (the one reviewed here) having only the dual-core, 2.6GHz Core i7-6600U and 8GB of RAM. Compared with the Asus Zen AiO, which uses a slightly underclocked full desktop chip and 16GB of RAM, and the Broadwell-based 4K 21.5in iMac's 3.1GHz Core i5-5350H quad core processor with 8GB of RAM, it looks a bit underpowered and only managed a relatively middling score in our benchmarks.
Still, the X1 feels snappy and responsive in general use, something that is no doubt helped along by our review unit's 256GB Samsung SSD. It isn't the quickest flash storage on the planet, but it's still far better than a mechanical hard disk. And if you can't spring for the SSD, it's good to see that even the cheapest ThinkCentre X1 comes equipped with a hybrid drive as standard, so responsiveness shouldn't suffer too badly if you trade down.
In the end, the Lenovo ThinkCentre X1 is a curious mixture of the good, the great and the downright frustrating. It's aesthetically very pleasing, but the bundled keyboard and mouse are a letdown. It feels highly responsive, but actual performance is limited compared with Asus's super-fast Zen AiO. The screen, while highly impressive from a glare reduction point of view, isn't good enough for any kind of colour-critical work.
It's by no means bad, but there are few substantially compelling reasons to opt for the Lenovo ThinkCentre X1 over other all-in-one desktops besides looks and the highly glare-resistant screen.
Although not entirely a case of style over substance, the ThinkCentre X1’s main point of appeal is nonetheless its striking appearance
|Processor||Dual-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U|
|Front/side USB ports||1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3|
|Rear USB ports||3 x USB 2|
|Graphics card||Intel HD Graphics 520|
|Display||23.8in IPS, anti-glare|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Pro|
|Warranty||Three years on-site|
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