Comfortable backlit keyboard; Good sound for the size; Strong performance; Solid security ; Useful bundled software
Short palm rest ; Heavier than some 13-inch competitors
The Lenovo ThinkPad X230 pairs a new backlit keyboard with a fast third-generation Core processor and long-lasting batteries, making it a very good business ultraportable.
Lenovo's ThinkPad X200 series of 12-inch ultraportable notebooks has long been known for its strong combination of power, portability and unmatched battery life. The new ThinkPad X230, $1,249 as configured, continues this tradition, offering a speedy new 3rd Generation Core Series CPU and a revamped island-style keyboard as the major changes to this lightweight laptop.
DesignThinkPad aesthetic, you'll appreciate the way the X230 looks. With its raven black color, soft-touch lid and square-angled chassis, it's hard to tell this new ThinkPad from both direct predecessors like the X220 and cousins like the T420. The main aesthetic difference is the isolated keyboard. Like the X220, the top and bottom of the X230 chassis are made from magnesium alloy. There is no internal rollcage like you'll find on ThinkPad T series notebooks.
At 1 inch thick and 3.4 pounds with its default 6-cell battery, the ThinkPad X230 isn't light or thin enough to be considered an official Ultrabook, but it's certainly small enough to fit in your bag or on your lap without weighing you down. Some competitors are just a little more svelte; by comparison, the HP Folio 13 ultrabook weighs just 3.2 pounds and is 0.8 inches thick, while the 13-inch Toshiba Portege R835 is just 1.1 inches thick and 3.2 pounds. We don't know yet how much weight and thickness the 9-cell battery or optional battery slice will add to the X230's profile.
The optional backlight -- a first for the ThinkPad X200 series -- allows you to toggle between four settings: off, low, high and overhead light. In our tests, the low brightness settings was more than adequate for a dark room while the high brightness setting was really quite intense. Some users will prefer the overhead light because it also illuminates the touchpad and deck.
Using the the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we got a reasonable 84 words per minute, but with a higher-than average 2-percent error rate, because our wrists were uncomfortable.
TouchPad and Pointing Stick
The ThinkPad X230 stayed pleasantly cool throughout our tests. After streaming a movie at full screen for 15 minutes, the keyboard measured 87 degrees, the touchpad clocked in at just 81 degrees and the underside was a reasonable 92 degrees Fahrenheit. We consider temperatures under 95 comfortable.
Display and AudioASUS ZenBook Prime (423 lux) but comfortably above 219 lux ultraportable average. When we watched a 1080p trailer for "The Avengers" on the X230, images were sharp but colors such as the red in Iron Man's armor were a bit muted. Colors stayed true at 45 degrees to the left or right, but began to wash out at wider angles. Lenovo says it will also offer a dimmer 200-nit screen option when the X230 goes on sale.
We wouldn't recommend you use the X230 as a home theater, but thanks to its Dolby Advanced Audio v2 software, the two bottom-mounted speakers offer accurate playback. When we streamed the bass-heavy disco tune "Forget Me Nots," all the instruments sounded true but not particularly rich. The hard rock "Rainbow in the Dark" sounded worse, because the high-pitched guitars really pushed the X230's mediocre speakers to their limits. Still, for a business notebook, the Thinkpad X230 sounds quite good.
Ports and Webcam
On PCMark07, a synthetic test that measures overall system performance, the ThinkPad X230 scored a strong 2,838, well above the ultraportable notebook average of 2,476, though less than the HP Folio 13 and its older 2nd-generation Core i5 CPU (3,167).
The ThinkPad X230's 320GB, 7,200-rpm Hitachi hard drive booted into Windows 7 Professional in a speedy 37 seconds, considerably faster than the 50-second ultraportable notebook category average. The drive took a modest 2 minutes and 47 seconds to complete the LAPTOP File Transfer test, a rate of 30.5 MBps, lower than the 45.2 MBps category average, but typical for a notebook with a 7,200 rpm hard drive. Lenovo will also sell the ThinkPad X230 with 128, 180 and 256GB SSDs or a 32GB mSATA cache drive.
When it comes to transcoding video, the X230's 3rd Generation Core Series CPU really shines, due to Intel's built-in Quick Sync video processing technology. The notebook took just 16 seconds to convert a 5-minute HD video to iPod touch format using Cyberlink Media Espresso, 10 seconds faster than the 2nd-Generation Core i5-powered Toshiba Portege R835's 26-second time.
The ThinkPad X230 took just 4 minutes and 29 seconds to complete the LAPTOP Spreadsheet Macro test, in which we use OpenOffice calc to match 20,000 names with their addresses. That time is nearly half the 9:26 category average and way faster than the 5:16 offered by the Portege R835.
The ThinkPad X230 series is more than good enough for watching or editing HD video. The X230 scored a solid 4,854 on the 3DMark06 graphics benchmark, comfortably ahead of the 3,416 category average.
When we played the mid-range game "World of Warcraft" on the ThinkPad X230, the notebook managed a fairly good 41.3 frames per second on default settings, but that number dropped to an unplayable 19.8 fps when we turned the special effects up. .
However, Lenovo offers both a 9-cell battery and an optional battery slice, which the company claims can provide 24 hours of endurance. We'll update this review after we've had the opportunity to test the X230 with the expanded capacity batteries.
Update: We've tested both the 9-cell and the sheet battery. With the 9-cell option alone, the X230 lasted just over 12 hours. The 6-cell battery and the sheet combined for a runtime of 15:29. Adding the sheet battery to the 9-cell power supply helped the X230 to last an amazing 20 hours and 46 minutes.
Users can configure the notebook with a choice of Intel 3rd-generation Core series CPUs, up to 16GB of RAM, hard drives up to 500GB and SSDs up to 256GB capacity. You can also opt for an extended, 9-cell battery and optional battery slice, both options we recommend.
Software and Warranty
For the past couple of years, Lenovo has been including its touch-friendly, SimpleTap UI environment on most of its ThinkPads, whether they have touch screens or not. While SimpleTap started out as a way for ThinkPad users with touch screens to change simple settings like volume and brightness, it now includes three screens full of mini-apps that correspond to popular websites and services like Wikipedia, Facebook and Paypal. In fact, the new SimpleTap interface, which launches either when you tap its tray button or double-tap on the touchpad, looks somewhat like Windows 8's Metro UI.
Though most of the SimpleTap tiles simply launch their associated websites in a browser window, that browser window sometimes sits within the SimpleTap UI, making this a more immersive and customized experience. In truth, most non-touch screen users will pass this alternative UI over in favor of regular Windows 7, but we found it both interesting and attractive.
Lenovo bundles the ThinkPad X230 with a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor. For a fee, you can add additional years to the warranty or including accidental damage or theft protection.
VerdictThinkPad X1 Carbon. However, if you want the ultimate in business endurance, the X230 is a truly compelling choice.
|CPU||2.6-GHz Intel Core i5-3320M|
|Operating System||MS Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)|
|RAM Upgradable to||8GB|
|Hard Drive Size||320GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||7,200rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Optical Drive Speed|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Wi-Fi Model||Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2200|
|Touchpad Size||2.9 x 1.7 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||ExpressCard/54|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||DisplayPort|
|Card Slots||SD memory reader|
|Warranty/Support||One year standard parts and labor|
|Size||12 x 8.1 x 1-inches|