Lenovo ThinkPad X220 review – adored for a bunch of reasons

Mark November 8, 2013 Reviews 2 Comments

The X220 is the latest entry in the X200 series, which is one of Lenovo’s success stories. Computers from this line had great battery life and above average performance, suiting more than one type of user. The 12.5 inch X220 takes the game a step further and comes with a faster processor and some improvements in terms of functionality. But are these good enough reasons to spend $1300 on it and not wink at the competition? Stay tuned and find out from our review.

In terms of specs, it goes like this:

  • 12.5-inch Premium HD (1366 x 768) LED Backlit Display (IPS)
  • Intel Core i5 CPU- 2.5 GHZ, 3 MB cache, 3.2 GHZ with Turbo Boost)
  • 4 GB DDR3 (1066 MHZ, upgradeable to 8 GB)
  • 320 GB hard disk drive (7.200 rpm)
  • Intel HD graphics ( 64 MB)
  • Intel Centrino 6205 WiFi
  • Blue tooth 3.0 + EDR
  • Ports: SD/SDHC card slot, USB 2.0, headphone/mic jack, display port, ethernet, Express Card, VGA
  • Operating system: Windows 7 Professional (64 bit)
  • Size: 12 x 8.1 x 1.25 inches
  • Weight: 3.4 pounds

It’s a pretty standard configuration, as many laptops go for the Core series from Intel and bundle together as much RAM as possible, as this is one of the cheapest components. The video card is nothing very impressive, but a better configuration would have skyrocketed the price.

Design

If you’ve seen a ThinkPad, you’ve seen them all. The design is virtually the same as other notebooks from the series, the main difference being that the computer is lighter and thinner than its predecessors, especially the X201, which was 0.2 pounds heavier and 0.25 inch thicker.

The battery doesn’t disrupt the design too much, but if you add the extra battery slice, you will have to carry around an extra 1.5 pounds on a 0.6 inch bigger device. The lid has a rubberized finish and in the middle there’s the metallic Lenovo logo. The rest of the notebook is covered in black plastic, the only touches of color being the iconic red Track Point and the blue enter key.

Simple and solid, just as every ThinkPad entry

Simple and solid, just as every ThinkPad entry

Keyboard and touch pad

The keyboard of the X220 has very soft keys that come with a concave shape. This way, it’s like you only gently swipe on a key and the command is sent. You don’t have to push all the way down and extenuate your wrist before too long. Some keys, like the Esc and Delete, are bigger than the average and that’s a very good thing, considering you’re using them quite often. A less fortunate design feature is the very narrow palm rest, which is only 2.5 inch wide. Most of the time you will have your wrists going over the edge and this might prove highly uncomfortable over time.

For moving around with the cursor, you have two options. First, there’s the very accurate TrackPoint stick, which lets you navigate on the screen without having to move your hands away from the keyboard. Second, you can use the 3 x 1.75 inch touch pad, which supports multi touch and comes with a textured finish. Overall, it’s easy to use and fairly precise, but it has some issues when it comes to palm rejection. If you’re using the TrackPoint and your palm touches it, you might get conflicting forces fighting for control over the cursor.

The keys might look cramed, but writing is as seamless and comfy as it gets. Well, if you don't count the small palm rest

The keys might look cramed, but writing is as seamless and comfy as it gets. Well, if you don’t count the small palm rest

Display

The X220 has a 12.5 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel resolution screen, built with IPS technology. This means that the screen has good and many viewing angles, and colors don’t lose consistency when you look at it from a side. This would have been a perfect screen is the resolution would have been something like 1280 x 800, not the mainstream 1366 x 768. It’s a standard we have on laptops and notebooks for a while now and they don’t offer the same versatility for watching documents and web pages as a higher resolution screen. But overall, there isn’t much complaint about the actual display, as videos and photos look great on it even when looked at from strange angles.

Hardware and performance

The X220 comes with a Corei5 processor, which is able to cope with most demanding applications, like video editing. Synthetic tests placed the overall performance of the X220 as being two times better than the ultraportable notebook category, beaming past respectable machines like the 13 inch MacBook Air and the HP Elitebook 2740p. The 7.200 rpm hard disk drive was able to boot Windows in under 50 seconds, which is good enough, I might say. Of course, the boot time would be lower if the notebook would have a SSD drive instead of the traditional HDD.

There’s an option to go for a 80 GB SSD drive and pair it with a mechanical hard drive for storage, but this will cost you a little more. The on board Intel HD graphics card will get you through HD playback and video intensive tasks, but you shouldn’t think about gaming. Well, some older games and Flash games might work, but newer entries will not work with the anorexic graphic card. We’re not holding this against Lenovo, as many notebooks come with integrated video cards in order to keep costs down.

Good screen, might have been better

Good screen, might have been better

Connectivity and ports

Even if it’s a rather small notebook, the X220 has enough ports to suit all needs. On the right you have a SD card slot, Ethernet port, an audio jack and a power USB port, which lets you charge third party devices even when the computer is off. On the left, there are other two USB ports, VGA port, DisplayPort, and an ExpressCard/54 slot. The X220 has a webcam that supports 720p recording, but the overall quality is rather poor. The contours of the faces are clear enough, but colors are sort of washed off, even after you play along with the settings for a little while. There are even moments when the camera stops working completely and you have to reboot the computer to get it back on. Still, this is a less esential point and if you really need perfect video with the web cam, you can always buy an external one.

Heat, noise, speakers

The X220 delivers less heat than its predecessors, as running a HD video for more than a quarter of an hour, the keyboard had a temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and the bottom of 91, being overall a very comfy machine. The same with noise, as the machine is mostly silent, especially because of the fascinating keys. In terms of audio, the X220 is not a music power house, but it had enough power and clarity to fill a medium sized room. Also, bass sequences are a little clearer than on other notebooks.

Yep, ports.

Yep, ports.

Software

The OS on this is Windows 7 Professional and besides that you get some utilities dealing with battery control, wireless control and password protection. The battery manager lets you manage even the smallest detail when it comes to the juice maker, while the Screen Reading Optimizer modifies the brightness of the screen and switches to portrait mode in no time. There are also a bunch of smaller programs you probably won’t need, and Lenovo has the common sense of letting you choose if you want them installed or not. Thumbs up.

Battery life

The standard 6 cell battery will last for 8 hours, which is pretty great. This was achieved on a test involving browsing the web over WiFi, so it might be lower if you spend most of your time watching videos. Additionally, you can go for the 9 cell battery, which has an impressive life span of almost 13 hours. If that’s not enough, for $179 you can get the battery slice to go with the 6 cell version and you’ll be up and running for more than 15 hours!

Great design- but it's a ThinkPad, so we shouldn't be that surprised

Great design- but it’s a ThinkPad, so we shouldn’t be that surprised

Pricing, configuration and availability

The cheapest version comes for $979 in the US, although the version we talked about costs $1299. The cheapest version comes with a Corei3 CPU, while our unit sported a Corei5 version, but you can go as far as Corei7. In terms of HDD, you can choose between 160, 250 and 320 disks, both in 5400 and 7200 rpm or you can go for the more expensive SSD, which come in in 128 or 160 GB versions. Batteries include 6 and 9 cell versions and for an additional $179 you can get a battery slice, which brings a fair amount of extra hours of running time.

Conclusions

The X220 is a very serious contender on the ultraportable market, as it packs great processing power in a very small package. The design is mostly great, with a fantastic keyboard and good touch pad, although the palm rest is a little small. The web cam is not top notch, but it’s a dismissible flaw, if we look at the big picture- fast, flexible, light, with a great battery.

Update: Our friends from gadgetroad.com have a brand new review of this mini laptop, as they had the chance to play with the Core i7 version. Check their video hands on below.

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About The Author

Mark is an Editor here at tlbhd.com . He's studying Screenwriting and Production in "sunny" London and in his spare time, he works as an IT editor for a couple of mobile publications, like this one.

2 Comments

  1. FreeFrag April 11, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Is there any chance you might get your hands on one of the new Lenovo laptops? Especially the Lenovo G470, really hoped to find a review or at least a hands-on of it, so far sadly none of those.

  2. Vela Faltu August 13, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Great Review. Thanks.

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