Lenovo laptops have always had a niche set of buyers and the ThinkPad series, in particular, has more or less had cult following right since its inception by IBM. This has been much before Lenovo purchased the brand. ThinkPads have always had a culture of superior build, reliability and brilliant performance but does the ThinkPad X220 live up to those expectations? Read on to find out.

The X220 comes with a 12.5-inch HD screen

The X220 comes with a 12.5-inch HD screen

Design and Build Quality
The ThinkPad series have always maintained a uniform design throughout the years as they’re intended for business professionals, so don’t expect any flashy stuff from the X220. The laptop continues the trend of the earlier ThinkPads with the boxy black design and the rubberized matte exterior. The all-black surface doesn’t attract any dust or fingerprints and this notebook has durability written all over it.

Brilliantly sturdy hinges

Brilliantly sturdy hinges

ThinkPads are known for their ruggedness and this one is no different. The only noticeable metal on the X220 is in the hinges and the weight is a mere 1.4 kg which includes the protruding battery pack as well. Now, that’s pretty light for a laptop that is reinforced with a superior chassis. The hinges are quite sturdy and the magnetic latching ensures there’s no wobble or vibration when you change the viewing angles of the 12.5 inch IPS panel screen. Like the earlier series, the X220 has a 180 degree wide tilt angle.

For connectivity, Lenovo have included a VGA port, DisplayPort and an Express Card slot along with three USB 2.0 slots. There’s the Ethernet port as well as the headphone and mic jack both integrated into a single slot. The heat vents are located on the back and sides of the laptop and a sharing dock is located underneath that allows users to share work areas with other ThinkPad T, L and W laptops. An important thing to notice is that no HDMI port has been included.

The heat sink and power slot is located at the back

The heat sink and power slot is located at the back

Despite it being a 12.5-incher, Lenovo have managed to keep the size of the keyboard standard. Also, the Esc and Delete keys are double the size of the rest of the keys and hence there’s easy access to them. Like the previous models, the blue coloured Enter key stands out from the remaining keys. Also, Ctrl and Function keys have been interchanged. The previous and next slide keys are located above the directional keypad, which has depressions underneath for quicker navigation. The keyboard lacks backlighting but a tiny light on the top is provided for those night typing sessions. It’s easy to get an idea of who Lenovo is trying to target this laptop at by just looking at the placement and size of the keys – easy for PowerPoint slides, quick e-mail access and web surfing. Two LEDs on the outside display of the laptop shows if it is on battery mode or is hibernating. On the inside, there’s the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and memory usage status LEDs. It also has a Wi-Fi toggle switch that might come in handy whilst saving battery during long hours of travelling.

Overall, design as well as build is top notch and the X220 and ThinkPad series continue to set the standard for what a no-nonsense professional looking laptop should be like.

Keyboard is brilliant but trackpad is glitchy

Keyboard is brilliant but trackpad is glitchy

Features
The Lenovo X220 comes with the latest Intel Sandy Bridge Core i5 processor running at a clock speed of 1.4 GHz. The model we reviewed had a 128GB SSD, which is a tad less in terms of storage requirements. As for the RAM, this notebook comes with 6GB out of which 5.89GB is available to users. The X220 ships with 64-bit Windows 7 Professional operating system and Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 graphic card. There's no dedicated graphics cards out here, but as mentioned earlier those wanting a ThinkPad will rate improved battery life more than superior graphics and hence the integrated card.

For connectivity, the options are pretty standard with Wi-Fi ‘N’ capability, Bluetooth 3.0, SD card slot and the Express Card slot. Connections to secondary displays are available via the VGA port or the display port. There are dual microphones with noise cancellation that might prove to be useful during VOIP calls. Power-off USB charging has been included as well which might be useful for those wanting to charge external peripherals on the go.

Slim and light at 1.4 kgs

Slim and light at 1.4 kgs

Lenovo have pre-installed a host of features and applications as part of the Think Vantage Toolbox that allow users to check system status and perform rescue and recovery options. The inbuilt data shredder application allows users to permanently delete data from their laptop to make it irretrievable. Also included is the Active Protection System that detects sudden changes in motion and temporarily stops the notebook’s hard drive to help protect valuable data. There’s a fingerprint scanner as well that besides providing additional security options, allows users to access bookmarked websites by swiping their fingers.

The X220 notebook we reviewed doesn’t come with a webcam, an HDMI port or USB 3.0. The absence of latest USB version might not be a big deal really but, the absence of a camera (video conferencing, anyone?) or HDMI might be a deal breaker for some.

ThinkVantage Toolbox

The ThinkVantage Toolbox Application

Performance
Boot up times on the ThinkPad X220 are extremely quick and it takes around 21 seconds before you’re logged into Windows. We got the laptop to run eight different applications at a time and there was no apparent lagging and hence multi-tasking isn’t a problem. The viewing angles of the screen are quite wide owing to the IPS panel.  The keyboard is extremely comfortable to type on and the keys have a soft feedback, which will facilitate those requiring it for long hours of typing. There’s noise suppression as well, that eliminates the irritating ‘click’ sound. Manoeuvring on the screen using the trackpoint is quite smooth and we preferred it over the trackpad.

We'd recommend the trackpoint over the trackpad

We'd recommend the trackpoint over the trackpad

On the down side, the trackpad quality wasn’t the best. Sometimes it was smooth but at other times it was a little erratic and glitchy. Secondly, there’s little space for hand rest so that might be a problem for those having even slightly bigger hands. Also, the bottom of the laptop did get a little heated up during our battery test.

We’ve run a few synthetic benchmarks on the X220 and the performance of the SSD in particular, is noteworthy. A score of 22678 is five times the average score an HDD will get. Here are the scores of the benchmarks we’ve run:

Performance Chart

Performance Chart

A few details for the average user wanting to go for the X220 – on a comparative basis, you’ll get a similar spec’d laptop at a much cheaper price. Alternatively, in this price bracket, the Dell XPS 15z will clearly beat the ThinkPad in terms of performance. So, it’s imperative to know what exactly you require from your laptop.
 
Battery Life
The Lenovo X220 comes with a 9 cell battery. Battery Eater Pro gave us three hours and 37 minutes with high performance mode activated. Under normal usage, the laptop will easily cross six hours usage. Those using the laptop during travel will no longer have to worry about it running out of juice in a couple of hours. Charging times are around an hour and a half and that’s pretty quick as well. The battery lives of most ThinkPads have been brilliant so far and the X220 continues that trend.

The X220 - catering to a niche audience

The X220 – catering to a niche audience

Verdict
Let’s get this clear, the Lenovo X220 caters to a very selective audience – business professionals and executives who don’t need the extra frills (read: 15.6-inch HD LED Widescreens, Blu-ray DVD writer, dedicated graphics card, HDMI, etc) in their laptop. What they do need is long lasting functionality, worry-free battery life and constant performance all encompassed in a sturdy chassis so there’s easy and quick access on the go. If you care about specs more and are looking for a personal laptop for general multimedia use, head over to our Dell XPS 15z review or something in a similar category. But, if the above mentioned points are crucial to your check list, the Lenovo X220 is a good buy.

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