ThinkPad X220 can't really be distinguished from the other X Series laptops Lenovo's released pretty much on an annual cycle, but there's much more than meets the eye with that there ultraportable. The 12.5-inch machine is filled to the brim with the latest and greatest technology, including a new Intel Sandy Bridge Core i5 processor, an IPS display, and a six-cell battery. And if you look even closer, Lenovo's made some small tweaks to the touchpad and keyboard, which make more difference than you'd ever think. The point is, that all-too-familiar ThinkPad can deceive you with its boring business looks, but it's arguably one of the best laptops we've ever tested. Hit the break to find out why we think it's so laudable.
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Lenovo ThinkPad X220 review
- Extremely comfortable keyboard
- Superb battery life
- Great performance
- Clickpad can be a bit wonky
- Design may feel outdated to some
- Can get pricey with configuration options
Look and feel
Yet despite its rigidity and powerful internal organs, the X220, like the X200 and X201 that came before it, is still incredibly light. The 1.25-inch chassis weighs just 3.6 pounds, and that's including its six-cell battery. Strapping on the slice battery adds an extra 1.16-inches in thickness and an extra 1.4 pounds to the overall package. The upside is that the extra battery fits pretty flush with the system, and thus doesn't block any of the important ports -- things like a trifecta of USB jacks, an Ethernet port, headphone connector, and VGA / DisplayPort sockets. There's also an ExpressCard 54 and four-in-one card slot. We should also note our review unit came with a single USB 3.0 port, but that's only available on certain configure-to-order models.
Keyboard, touchpad, and screen
As with most ThinkPad's there's no shortage of navigation options on the X220 -- unsurprisingly, Lenovo's still not giving up on its pointing stick and touchpad combo. The famed red nub resides smack in the middle of the keyboard, but the bigger news is the new ClickPad -- effectively a touchpad with integrated mouse buttons. The pad itself still has those slightly raised braille-like bumps, but because the buttons are integrated, the surface is longer and wider than the previous X200. (Lenovo says it's actually 45 percent larger now.) That said, the 3.0 x 1.95-inch pad still isn't as spacious as we'd prefer, and it makes for a pretty restricted experience. The pointing and clicking functionality isn't half bad, but the multitouch sensitivity was lacking. Even when we updated with new drivers, it wasn't all that responsive to two-finger scrolling or pinch-to-zoom gestures. So, ironically, despite the two modes of navigation, we actually opted to add a third into the mix – our Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX.
You wouldn't know it by looking at it, but Lenovo has poured a commendable amount of blood, sweat, and tears into a few new video conferencing aspects, so we figured they were worth a deeper look. The 720p webcam served up crisp images of our mug in Skype – so crisp, in fact, that our caller was quick to point out our lack of makeup – and the new noise canceling mics, which are designed to suppress keyboard noise, proved superior to the one on our MacBook Pro. We recorded a quick bit of audio on both systems, and while we could make out the clicking of the keys on the ThinkPad, it was certainty less noticeable than the recording on our MacBook Pro.
Performance and graphics
On the graphics front, Lenovo's stuck it out with Intel's lowly integrated HD graphics, and the truth is the IGP will be perfectly fine for light video editing or HD playback. Still, the benchmarks below show that Intel's definitely been able to pack some more graphics punch into its new HD graphics options. It's no discrete card, but you weren't really planning on using this one for gaming, were you?
|Lenovo ThinkPad X220||7635||3517||7:19|
|MacBook Pro (Core i7-2720QM, Radeon 6750M)||8041||10262||7:27|
|ASUS U36Jc (Core i5 / NVIDIA GeForce 310M)||5981||2048 / 3524||5:30|
|ASUS U33Jc-A1 (Core i3-370M, GeForce 310M)||5574||1860 / 3403||5:10|
|Toshiba Portege R705 (Core i3-350M)||5024||1739 / 3686||4:25|
HP Pavilion dm1z (AMD Zacate E350)
|ASUS Eee PC 1215N (Atom D525 / NVIDIA Ion 2)||1942||181 / 2480||5:42|
|Dell Inspiron M101z (dual-core AMD Neo K325)||2572||1311||3:35|
|Notes: the higher the score the better. For 3DMark06, the first number reflects score with GPU off, the second with it on.|
We should also impart that the standard voltage processor doesn't leave you with a sweaty machine. The X220 stayed relatively cool during our usage, and even when we fired up some Hulu, it didn't start to warm our laps.
And that's just with the standard battery. So what, you ask, about that whopping slice battery up there? What does that add? About another seven hours, if you can believe it! That's right, on our video rundown test with both batteries strapped on, the system ran that standard definition video on loop for 14 hours and 30 minutes. Technically, that means this system could last you an entire flight from New York to Taipei. Yep, it's a lot of cord-free time, but don't forget that that slice will set you back an additional $179 and add a bit of weight to your carry-on.