We routinely give ThinkPads high praise for their comfortable keyboards, sturdy build and solid performance. With the ThinkPad X230 Tablet ($1,349 as tested), Lenovo adds a rotating touchscreen to the X230, making it a good fit for workers who need to input data either via touch or pen. Equipped with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM, this ThinkPad is no slouch in the performance department, either. But with Windows 8-powered devices just around the corner, is this Windows 7-powered convertible still relevant?
Lenovo's ThinkPad X230 Tablet has the tried-and-true look of a proper ThinkPad. The lid is covered in a soft-touch black coating that keeps fingerprint smudges at bay. In the top right corner is the ThinkPad logo and opposite that is a sunken silver Lenovo logo. In the bottom left corner of the lid are status lights for battery life and sleep mode. As with previous ThinkPad convertibles, the X230's 12.5-inch lid can be rotated180 degrees and pushed back to turn the system into a tablet.
Surrounding the display is a black plastic bezel that has a series of touchscreen controls at the bottom left and a fingerprint reader on its right. On the left side of the X230's keyboard deck are buttons for mute, a volume rocker, microphone mute and ThinkVantage. Opposite those you'll find the X230's power button.
Measuring 12 x 8.1 x 0.75 - 1.05 inches and weighing 4.2 pounds, the ThinkPad X230 Tablet is a fairly light notebook even with its optional 6-cell battery pack. The battery pack also made holding the X230 in tablet mode much easier, a real plus for people who work on their feet.
Lenovo says the X230 Tablet has also been battle-tested to survive almost anything a business user can throw at it. The convertible features Lenovo's Roll-Cage Technology, which means that some of the more sensitive internal parts get a solid-steel covering. A spill-resistant keyboard helps ensure that the occasional coffee spill won't force you to put your system out to pasture.
Display and Audio
The ThinkPad X230's 12.5-inch 1366 x 768 multitouch display had a slightly grainy look to it. Images were on the fuzzy side, especially while viewing video. While watching a trailer for Liam Neeson's latest revenge-fest, "Taken 2," we had a difficult time making out characters as they skulked through darkened alleyways. Viewing angles were also a bit shallow, with images washing out at about a 45-degree angle.
The X230 Convertible Tablet's display brightness rating of 215 lux was also relatively low, causing the screen to be overwhelmed by sunlight while using the system outdoors. The average ultraportable registers 223 lux. The good news is that you can order this convertible with an outdoor display for $50 more.
Conversely, we were thoroughly impressed with the performance of the X230's display-mounted speakers. Iron and Wine's "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" sounded perfectly balanced, with both highs and lows coming through clearly. The sound quality is a result of the X230's Dolby Advanced Audio v2 software, which allows users to choose between a host of preset sound settings, or choose their own custom settings.
Touch and Pen Input
With its multitouch display, the ThinkPad X230 Tablet can be used as a standard laptop or as a tablet. During our time with the system, the touchscreen offered accurate and responsive feedback. The screen offers two-finger touch support, allowing users to swipe through photo galleries by flicking two fingers across the screen, as well as perform two-finger rotate and pinch-to-zoom gestures. Scrolling down Web pages was a cinch.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that Windows 7 was never made with touch in mind, the general user experience is lacking. To overcome this obstacle, Lenovo has included its SimpleTap software, which presents a desktop with large tiles corresponding to each piece of software you have installed on your PC. Unfortunately, despite being presented with an initial menu that appears touch-friendly, you'll eventually make your way back to the standard desktop version of the app.
When using the included active stylus, handwriting recognition was rather impressive despite our atrocious handwriting. The pen features a pressure-sensitive tip, as well as right-click function and eraser tip that works with supported applications.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The ThinkPad X230 Tablet features Lenovo's new backlit Precision-style keyboard. Key travel and feedback were top-notch. We were so comfortable using the ThinkPad's keyboard that we notched 80 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test. Our average usually sits around the 74 to 76 word range.
You get two backlight settings on this keyboard, on and off. Lenovo's standard X230, on the other hand, offered four options, allowing you to raise or lower the intensity of the backlight. Our only complaint is the too-short wrist rest.
The ThinkPad X230 Tablet's 3 x 1.6-inch textured UltraNav clickpad felt undersized when using multitouch gestures such as two-finger scrolling. We also noted that the touchpad would, at times, have a hard time recognizing our input. When navigating the desktop, however, the clickpad was very responsive.
Like all ThinkPads, the X230 Tablet features the company's trademark TrackPoint pointing stick. The stick proved accurate and well-balanced during our testing, allowing us to quickly transition from typing to using the pointer without having to pull our hands away from the keyboard.
Lenovo fitted the X230 Convertible Tablet with a redesigned internal fan that helps keep temperatures nice and cool. After streaming a 15-minute Hulu video, the X230 Tablet's touchpad measured 80 degrees, while its keyboard was at just 83 degrees. The system's underside was a bit warmer at 90 degrees, but that's still well below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X230 Tablet has all of the ports a business user could ask for. On the system's right side is a USB 2.0 port, Smart Card slot, Ethernet jack, headphone jack, stylus holder and lock slot. The left side includes two USB 3.0 ports, a DisplayPort, Wi-Fi switch, VGA port and ExpressCard/54 slot. The underside of the X230 features an expansion slot for use with a docking station.
The ThinkPad X230 Tablet's 720p webcam provided relatively clear images when viewed in a well-lit room. Small details such as facial wrinkles were a bit hard to see -- something many users will be happy with -- but overall the webcam was able to reproduce colors accurately and keep up with our movements. When we tried using the webcam with a bright window to our back, however, the image became washed out.
This tablet is powered by a 2.6-GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-3320M processor, 4GB of RAM and a 320GB 7,200-rpm hard drive, which means it will handle all of your business needs with aplomb. We ran updates to Norton Internet Security and installed Flash and Spotify while surfing the Web without any system slowdown.
The X230 scored just below average on the PCMark 7 test, which measures overall Windows performance. The convertible notched 2,796, compared with 2,854 for the typical ultraportable.
The X230's 320GB 7,200 rpm hard drive booted from a cold start in an impressive 34 seconds. That's 9 seconds quicker than the ultraportable average. We attribute the Lenovo's quick startup speed to a combination of its speedy hard drive and its RapidBoot Shield software, which improves boot performance by controlling which programs run during the startup process.
This notebook took a relatively lengthy 3 minutes and 26 seconds to complete our LAPTOP File Transfer test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed media files. That equals a rate of 24.7 MBps, much slower than the category average 56 MBps. To be fair, though, this average includes several laptops with faster solid state drives.
The ThinkPad X230 Tablet impressed on our OpenOffice spreadsheet test, matching 20,000 names with their corresponding addresses in just 4 minutes and 25 seconds. The average ultraportable notebook takes 8:18 to complete the same task. The X230 also crushed our video transcoding test, converting a 5-minute HD video to iPod Touch format in just 17 seconds, blowing away the category average of 1:57.
Because it's a business notebook, the ThinkPad X230 Tablet wasn't designed to handle serious gaming. On the 3DMark11 test, a synthetic benchmark that measures a system's graphics performance, the X230 scored a modest 624. The average ultraportable gets 814.
The heaviest gaming you can expect to get out of the X230 is a bit of "World of Warcraft." On autodetect the game ran at a decent 36 fps, though that's 10 fps behind the category average.
If you're concerned about data theft, you'll be happy to know that Lenovo has equipped the ThinkPad X230 Tablet with a fingerprint reader. The fingerprint reader software allows you to register up to 10 to 20 fingerprints that you can then use to power on your system even when it's shut down.
Our ThinkPad X230 Tablet came with a 6-cell lithium-ion battery, a a worthwhile $10 upgrade. With this option Lenovo's convertible lasted an impressive 7 hours and 50 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 40 percent brightness. That's almost an hour longer than the average ultraportable. The 3-cell battery will save you some weight, but you'll have to recharge more often.
Software and Warranty
Lenovo packed the ThinkPad X230 Tablet with its usual collection of business-friendly programs, including the aforementioned SimpleTab and RapidBoot Shield. The Enhanced Backup and Restore provides users with a quick and easy way to back up their important files or restore them as needed. Lenovo Solutions for Small Business allows users to configure when the system enters sleep automatically, the types of devices that can be plugged into the USB ports, when automated updates should run and more.
Lenovo also provides access to Nitro Pro 7 PDF creator and trials of Microsoft Office and Norton Internet Security.
The X230 Tablet is backed by a one-year warranty with 24/7 tech support. See how Lenovo fared in our Best and Worst Brands Report.
Like most Lenovos, the ThinkPad X230 Tablet is available in a variety of configurations. Our $1,384 version came with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i5-3320M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB 7,20 rpm hard drive, integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000, a 6-cell battery, 720p webcam, backlit keyboard and a fingerprint reader.
If you're interested in a more powerful system, you can opt for a 3.6-GHz Intel Core i7-3520M processor, 16GB of RAM and a 180GB solid-state drive for $2,489. If that's too rich for your blood, you can strip out the webcam, fingerprint reader and backlit keyboard and drop down to a 3-cell battery and Core i3 CPU for $1,149.
Lenovo's ThinkPad X230 Tablet is a strong business notebook with a comfortable keyboard, long battery life and a display that responds well to both touch and pen input. Provided your business uses applications that can benefit from this versatile design, it's a strong choice. Those looking for something lighter running Windows 8 may want to wait for the ThinkPad Tablet 2. But if you want a full-power Core processor inside your convertible, the ThinkPad X230 is a very good choice.