Lenovo ThinkPad X220
A business ultraportable is only as good as its user experience, a fact that Lenovo is well aware of. The company has made tremendous strides with its X-Series laptops based on this idea, and it continues to do so with its latest Lenovo ThinkPad X220 ($1,299 direct, 4 stars). An improved keyboard, made up of larger keys, is made possible by widening what is now a 12.5-inch widescreen, yet the X220 is even lighter than its predecessor, the Lenovo ThinkPad X201 ($1,625 direct, 4 stars). Factor in the new Intel Core i5 i5-2520M CPU, basedon Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform (now known as second-generation Core processors) and fantastic battery life and the ThinkPad X220 easily earns an Editor’s Choice in the business ultraportable category.
Lenovo is fortunate in that the bulk of its laptops are bought by IT managers who care more about the specs than the look of the laptop. The all-black frame doesn’t appeal to the senses as much as the aluminum-clad HP EliteBook 2540p ($1,629 direct, 4 stars) or silvery Dell Vostro V130 ($900 direct, 3 stars). If you’re looking at it from a consumer standpoint, the X220 is too uniform and lacking in color. What isn’t visible to the naked eye, however, is its brawn. The X220 is subjected to a series of military torture tests before it goes out to the customer, involving moisture, vibrations, drops, and extreme temperature resistance, to name a few. Its outer frame and inner skeleton, furthermore, are crafted from solid magnesium, not cheap plastic. Despite its ruggedized exterior, the X220 still only weights 3.3 pounds. It’s lighter than the HP 2540p (3.9 lbs), Dell V130 (3.6 lbs), and Lenovo X201 (3.8 lbs).
The 12.5-inch widescreen is wider and bigger than that of the 12.1-inch screen of the Lenovo X201, resulting in a shift to a 16-by-9 aspect ratio (from 16-by-10) and to the more common 1,366-by-768 resolution. It’s a slightly smaller screen than the 13-inch one found in the Dell V130 and Sony VAIO VPC-Z1390X ($3,800 direct, 4 stars), but a very capable and productive size nonetheless. If past X-series keyboards were considered great in the past, this one will surpass them. The X220’s new keyboard is essentially the one you’ll find in its 14-inch and 15-inch siblings. The Escape and Delete keys are twice their original size. It’s a magnificent typing experience, to say the least.
The X220 is equipped with dual pointing devices—a pointing stick and touchpad—like the Lenovo X201 and HP 2540p. What you’ll notice immediately is that the second pair of mouse buttons is now integrated into the touchpad, like with the Clickpad model Apple made famous (only a lot smaller). The surface area of the touchpad, as a result, has increased significantly so there’s more dragging space from top down and left to right. However, you better get use to navigating with a single finger (for dragging AND clicking). The mouse cursor is unresponsive if you have two fingers on the touchpad at the same time., but that’s if you use the touchpad. Most users will prefer the signature pointing stick, which comes with its own soft, dedicated mouse buttons located above the touchpad.
Type = Ultraportable, Business, Small Business
Processor Name = Intel Core i5-2520M
Operating System = Microsoft Windows 7 Professional =
Processor Speed = 2.5 GHz
RAM = 4 GB
Weight = 3.3 lb
Screen Size = 12.5 inches
Screen Size Type = widescreen
Graphics Card = Intel HD Graphics 3000
Storage Capacity (as Tested) = 320 GB
Networking Options = 802.11n
Primary Optical Drive = External
Two very notable features are now part of the X220 family. The DisplayPort, a cousin of HDMI, is more “about-time” than revolutionary, but it’ll give presenters a way to simultaneously stream audio and video in digital form. There is also VGA aboard as another video output option. The Webcam now has an HD sensor, which lets you video conference in a 1,280-by-720 resolution (720p). That’s three times the resolution of the previous iteration’s Webcam. The EliteBooks have just transitioned to HD Webcams as well. An optical drive is only available as external attachment sold separately by Lenovo (price still pending), unlike the integrated ones found in the HP 2540p and Sony Z1390X. An ExpressCard slot is a rare find these days, but Lenovo somehow found room for it in the X220.
The X220 includes the gamut of wireless connections, including the latest, longer-range Intel WiFi chips, Bluetooth, GPS, 3G (via Gobi), and 4G technologies. It’s equipped with a 320GB, 7200rpm hard drive, the fastest spinning hard drives available on ultraportables, with upgrade paths to higher capacities or solid state drives. Otherwise, the three USB ports, Ethernet, and an SD card slot are common finds in most laptops.
Lenovo Thinkpad x220It’s a big deal when Intel switches to a new architecture, which not only encompasses the processor, but everything around it. The X220 is one of the first business ultraportables to receive a second-generation 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2520M processor. Since it’s the first to arrive on my bench, every ultraportable around it will be that much slower (they all use previous-generation processors). It scored 2:25 on Handbrake and 2.82 on CineBench R11.5 tests—both processor-intensive tests—beating out the Sony Z1390X (Handbrake: 2:49, R11.5: 2.19) and completely dominating the Dell V130 (Handbrake: 4:37, R11.51.29). In an overall test like PCMArk Vantage, the X220 (7,719) beat the Lenovo X201 (7,083) by a 9% margin.
Better yet, the X220 can now handle 3D games without a discrete graphics chip, as the integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 is more than 4 times as powerful as the previous iteration, as indicated by 3DMark06 tests (4,083). With more-advanced titles, like Crysis and Lost Planet 2, however, you’ll need to crank down the eye-candy.
To be a reliable travel companion, the X220, above all, has to make battery life its top priority. With a 63WH battery (6-cell) battery, it scored an impressive 8 hours 40 minutes. Although the Lenovo X201 lasted 9:36, it did so with a much bigger battery (94WH). The X220 sells a separate 6-cell battery slice ($179) that spans the entire base of the laptop and should give you an additional 6 to 8 hours, on top of the 8 hours you’re already getting. With the standard battery alone, it outlasted the Dell V130 (3:02), Sony Z1390X (5:19), and HP 2540p (8:02).
The Thinkpad X220 comes with a standard 1 year parts and labor warranty. Repairs can be done on-site and sent back the next business for an additional $39. You can also extend warranty services from 2 to 4 years.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X220 is an amazing piece of engineering when you factor in all the features it squeezed into a 12-inch frame. It enlarged the keyboard and screen, while shedding some weight in the process. As a road-bound ultraportable, it had to be the most battery efficient in its class—and it was. Until the other laptops in this review transition to new Intel architecture, the X220 is the fastest business ultraportable and in a league of its own.
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