Lenovo Thinkpad X220

Lenovo's latest ultraportable is a long-running dynamo with a great keyboard.

Lenovo's Thinkpad X220 ultraportable, replacing the X201, is sure to be a hit with ThinkPad fans -- as well as most everyone else. It's fast, light, has a great 12.5-inch display, and continues the company's tradition of superb input ergonomics with an innovative button-less touchpad and long-stroke keyboard. It also offers excellent battery life that you can stretch to a whopping 23 hours with a bottom-mounted battery slice. The downside? Not much really. The boxy, business-like appearance and somewhat cluttered keyboard deck might lack the sex appeal some users are looking for.

Exact pricing for the various Thinkpad X220 configurations are unavailable at this time: the starting price should be $979, with additional costs for better CPUs, SSDs instead of standard hard drives, and more RAM. CPUs range from an Intel Core i3 to an i7, the unit accepts up to 8GB of system memory, and storage options start with a 160GB hard drive and end with a 160GB SSD. The aforementioned 12.5-inch, 1366 by 768 display is available in two flavors: one with and IPS panel for wider viewing angles, and one without.

Our $1299 test unit with its 2.5GHz Core i5 2520M, 4GB of DDR3 system memory, and 7200 RPM, 320GB hard drive turned in an outstanding 122 WorldBench score. Not only that, but its integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU actually managed playable frame rates in some of our lighter gaming tests: 41 frames per second at 1024 by 768 in Unreal Tournament 3 with medium detail, and 32.5 fps with high detail. 1080p movies, even the high bit-rate variety, play smoothly as you could wish. Performance for any task outside of enthusiast gaming and high-end 3D workstation applications is of no concern with the X220.

Some of the keys are a tad odd on the Thinkpad X220, such as the extra-large Esc and Delete keys above the main alpha keys. Unlike other vendor's keyboard quirks they help, not hinder your typing. As usual for Lenovo, the long-throw feel of the keyboard is nothing short of excellent. The touchpad is a button-less design -- you press down on the right or left front edge to click, which makes it easier to use than standard buttons when you're using the thumb and forefinger of one hand. There are two normal buttons above the touchpad, and Lenovo's TrackPoint eraserhead pointing device is also in attendance. Mute buttons for the dual microphones and 720p Webcam join the volume rocker and ThinkVantage (toolbox) buttons at the top of the keyboard deck.

The X220's battery life is outstanding and may be enhanced with options. Our test unit with its 6-cell battery ran for a cool 7 hours and 15 minutes. You may also opt for 3-cell and 9-cell main batteries, for lesser weight or greater run times respectively, and add a bottom-mounted $179 battery slice. This adds .4 inches of thickness but nearly doubles battery life to over 14.5 hours. For world travelers, the extra 1.6 pounds of weight and bulk will be an acceptable trade-off.

The ports and connectivity on the X220 are top-notch. There are three USB ports, one of which is powered even when the laptop isn't turned on for charging cell phones and the like. Optionally, with the i7 CPU, one may be USB 3.0. There are also an Express Card slot, SD card slot, Wi-Fi switch, VGA port, and gigabit Ethernet port. A dock is available with a multi-burner, Bluetooth is on board and the Wi-Fi is dual-band 802.11n (2.4GHz and 5GHz). Our test unit also arrived with IBM's biometric finger-swiper to facilitate security.

If there's anything you should be wary of with the X220, it's the number of "value-added" applications and unnecessary background processes. The Windows 7 Professional operating system has just about every software feature you need for a laptop, yet a quick glance at the Windows task manager revealed nearly 90 processes running and nearly 30 percent memory usage -- without one user application running. One or two of the background apps are worthwhile, such as the one that shuts down the hard drive in case of a fall or the Bluetooth manager, but additional battery meters ad Wi-Fi handlers are generally useless. A trial version of Norton Internet Security, as well as Microsoft Office 2010 Starter are bundled.

ThinkPad users won't find anything mind-blowingly different about this latest addition to the X2xx series, but the improvements are noticeable and all enhance the usability of the unit. If you're not looking for a laptop that is super-sexy or trying to get away on the cheap, the X220 is the best thing going in an ultraportable.

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Jon L. Jacobi

PC World (US online)
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