Lenovo X300 + Windows XP SP3

I recently purchased a Lenovo ThinkPad X300 to use as my primary computer as they had a massive clearance sale, managed to score one for half-price. I won't go into details on the machine's specs and features, there are enough reviews out there as it is. I'll instead just list some of my thoughts and experiences as I started using this machine.

Firstly, the machine came pre-loaded with Windows Vista Business. I've tried to stay away from Vista thus far due to all the negative feedback and because it doesn't provide enough motivation to switch from the stable XP Pro. Additionally, I see Vista as a poor choice for this machine for three reasons:
  • The X300 runs on a 1.2GHz Intel ULV CPU, i.e. less processing grunt then typical laptops in the same price-range. Vista is commonly believed to be more processor intensive, even though this has probably been benchmarked to death and results sit on both sides of the fence. Nevertheless, I'd prefer to take my chances with a well-configured Windows XP on this one.
  • The X300 comes with a 64GB SSD hard-drive by default. This negates the advantages of turbo caching in Vista. 
  • Additionally, Vista pre-loads common applications in memory to speed up launch times, etc. This may work for those who always use just a hand-full of applications, but will cause more slow-down for those using RAM intensive software (try running 3 different Eclipse-based development environments and a VM). The SSD drive negates the advantage of this pre-fetching in the first place as applications can be loaded much faster in general.  
The first thing I did when I got the machine was format it, partition it into 3 20GB chunks and put on a fresh copy of Windows XP Pro with SP3. The installation was fast. Blazingly fast. Likewise when performing the software updates after I got my internet connection working. I've never seen a computer get through 31 updates as quickly as this one did. Fantastic! Boot-times are also amazingly fast. Twenty-five seconds from POST to having my wireless connection established and Google Chrome up, and this is after putting on all the patches and bloating it up with all the ThinkVantage stuff. Installing applications is similarly swift - this thing got through a full install of Office 2003 and Visio 2003 in two or three minutes. 

Having said all that however, I did encounter a few nuisances whilst installing the countless drivers from the Lenovo site to restore functionality to all the devices packed in this little thing:
  • Clicking either of the top-two buttons above the TrackPad will cause the TrackPad to freeze for a second:
    • Very frustrating issue which leads to jerky and unresponsive TrackPad usage when using the top buttons.
    • Work-around is to only use the bottom two buttons when using the TrackPad for pointing.
    • There's a thread about this and other TrackPad issues on the Lenovo forums here.
  • After installing all Windows updates and all drivers from Lenovo site, you're left with an Unknown PCI Device which windows keeps detecting and trying to install after every reboot:
    • Seems to be a problem with the Intel Matrix Storage Manager driver from the Lenovo X300 site.
    • Downloading and installing the driver directly from Intel here seems to fix the issue.
  • ThinkVantage button does not work even after installing all packages from the Lenovo site:
    • Turned out that I missed a few, ThinkVantage button needs ThinkVantage Productivity Centre
  • Presentation Directory Fn+F7 did not show the resolution pick-list menu but rather cycled displays:
    • I was missing yet another ThinkVantage pre-requisite, the System Interface Driver.
    • Not much will work without this one actually. The reason I missed it is that the Lenovo X300 driver site only lists the Vista version. 
  • ThinkVantage Fingerprint Software & ThinkVantage Client Security Solution are apparently two different things:
    • The first will allow you to login to Windows using the fingerprint scanner, and that's about it.
    • The latter has a full-blown password manager that lets you configure the fingerprint scanner to work with any password, even on online websites.
      • Client Security Solution has no support for Google Chrome yet so pretty useless to me.
  • ThinkVantage Access Connections unstable and non-functional:
    • The pre-reqs for this are the full Intel Wifi package (not just the driver) and the ThinkVantage Power Manager package (again, not just the driver) and the ThinkVantage HotKeys package...sigh.
After finishing all of the above (over six hours in total due to the listed issues) I took an image of the entire C drive using Norton Save & Recover 2.0 (similar to Ghost, performs a full disk clone directly from Windows, targeted more towards the home consumer market). Remember to disable the virtual memory and delete the pagefile.sys before the imaging to keep the size down, and re-enable afterwards to avoid random freezes and blue-screens. 

The image size turned out to be around 2.5GB compressed, so perfect for storing on a DVD and/or Live Mesh. Oh, by the way, did I mention this thing was fast? The image took less the 4 minutes to create, including a full post verification check. The solid-state drive is fantastic! All those online benchmark reviews that say it doesn't make a difference are full of it. This system is faster in normal operations than my previous beefed-up T61p (the CPU is twice as slow however so I wouldn't expect to see zippy performance in say video conversions or rendering).

Nevertheless, all-in-all this is a really nice machine! Highly recommended if you can still get the clearance price for it (got mine for just under $2k AU). Only thing missing is the WWAN module...

UPDATE: After all the praise given above I just experienced two freezes, i.e. system is completely unresponsive to all user input including cursor movements and keyboard commands. Only way to regain control was to do a force shutdown. Skimming through some online forums it seems a number of people have had similar issues. Some success has been reported with the latest bios update (1.0.9). I've flashed my system with this and haven't had any problems for around 5 days now.

Comments

  1. can you help me? I'm installing a fresh clean copy of win xp on my new lenovo x300 but can't get any futher from setup beginning, xp setup does not recognize ssd hard disk...

    I have a floppy connected via usb, and have extracted all Intel Matrix Storage Drivers but when I load them nothing really happens, the drive stay unrecognized, what am I missing?

    ReplyDelete
  2. solved, sorry...

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's a very good point which I forgot to mention. The Windows XP install CD will not be able to detect the X300 SSD hard-drive, not even an SP3 slip-streamed disk.

    There are many ways to solve this, using a USB floppy with the correct drivers is one way, or using nLite to make a new WinXP CD with the drivers on it is another.

    But BY FAR the easiest way is to simply go in the BIOS, go to Config --> Serial ATA (SATA) --> SATA Controller Mode Option and change the property from AHCI to Compatibility. Then simply restart with the WinXP CD in and it'll just work!

    Proceed to install Windows as normal and install all the drivers from the Lenovo site, then when everything is up and running in Windows, just go back and change the setting to AHCI again (not sure what difference it makes, if any).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for the play-by-play on the Windows XP + X300 experience. This is exactly what I was looking for.

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hope it helps. I've also installed Ubuntu 9.04 on a second partition and I have to say the experience was very good. I might put up a post on that when I get some time, but basically Ubuntu detected everything (par finger scanner) right out-of-the-box!

    ReplyDelete
  6. i have a problem regarding the sound driver :S

    it tells me sound max HDMa not enabled or installed everything else is running great except the volume buttons :S can help me with that 2 what driver to install

    aibrahimagic@aubih.edu.ba

    thx :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. HiGuys, good post as I am about to buy one X300 and it's going to be a second hand laptop but still 2 years warranty left. I will be playing a lot with the box so just need to know whether I can install Windows 7, Windows 2008 R2 etc and later CentOS for my RHCE exam. The one I am planning to buy has got 64SSD and 2GB RAM so just thinking whether is that worth purchasing. If I get that box I will increase the box. Just tell me whether this would be a good buy or not if I can get it for $1400 Australia dollar with 2 year warranty. Please email me someone to unified@live.com.au, Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  8. For the sound drivers, I'll assume you've already installed the audio drivers from http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/MIGR-69378.html#audio.

    To get all the buttons working properly you need to install most of the Think* add-ons. Try Power Manager, Hotkey Utility, Lenovo System Interface Driver, ThinkVantage Productivity Center and any dependencies I may have forgotten.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yeah thanks i got it working but after i did the update to SP3 :S after i updated he recognized the sound card and the HDA so i was able to install the sound driver now 1 more thing is left ;D
    in device manager there is some unknown device

    intel ICH8M-E LPC controller !?!?

    aibrahimagic@aubih.edu.ba

    Thx i tried to download this stuff but couldnt or maybe was to upset xD so i didnt see it :/

    ReplyDelete
  10. I believe Intel ICH8M-E LPC controller is the storage drivers, try installing Intel Matrix Storage from http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/MIGR-69378.html#hdd

    ReplyDelete
  11. that trick with the Intel Matrix Storage Manager driver was INCREDIBLY helpful. Me and my IT department have been trying to figure this out for 3months until i stumbled onto your website. wow -- we wouldnt have solved this one so THANKS a million. Corey Davis

    ReplyDelete
  12. You are the MAN :)))

    Thx Admir

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Wkhtmltopdf font and sizing issues

Import Google Contacts to Nokia PC Suite

Can't delete last blank page from Word