Ultralights aren’t for everyone, but with the ThinkPad X220, Lenovo sure is doing its best to make the case that they can be.
This latest version of its super-slim executive standby is ThinkPad doing everything it does best. Still impossibly portable — at 3.3 pounds despite the bumped-up 12.5-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel display — Lenovo packs in everything a traveling professional (or just about anyone else) is likely to need.
The centerpiece is a new Core i5 Sandy Bridge processor, which upends the middling performance we usually expect from an ultralight. Benchmarks trounce just about everything we’ve tested of late — save for a few recent-vintage high-end machines — and they completely blow historical ultralight benchmarks out of the water, beating most machines with the last-generation chip by 30 to 40 percent.
What’s more remarkable is that the chip’s beefed up integrated graphics gave us a solid gaming experience on the machine, too, with performance clocking at or above what you’d normally get with a lower-end discrete graphics processor. Much has been said about the joys of Sandy Bridge already, of course, but to see it put to good use in such a compact machine is almost beyond words.
Beyond the i5, the machine’s specs are totally up to code: 4 GB of RAM, 320-GB hard drive, SD and ExpressCard slots, and three USB ports (one chargeable). There’s no optical drive and while there’s no HDMI port, there is a DisplayPort socket, so plan your cabling accordingly. The keyboard is outstanding and typical of the ThinkPad brand. Audio isn’t particularly inspiring but it’s good enough for a machine of this stature.
Lenovo trumpets the X220’s better-than-average battery life, but in our testing, it hit a mere 4:53 using the six-cell battery. Hardly epic, but that’s still good. There are a few battery options available as upgrades if you want to stretch your work time.
I reserve just one complaint for the X220 and that is the touchpad design. The textured surface is pleasing to the touch, but Lenovo has foregone separate buttons in order to maximize the size of the touchpad in a very cramped area. The bottom portion of the touchpad wraps around the end of the palm rest, and to click you press on these corners of the pad. Unfortunately, something’s off with the engineering of this: The pad misses clicks all the time, and it makes the cursor stutter badly when you’re (subconsciously or not) resting a thumb on the pad as you prepare to click. Great idea, but the execution isn’t there.
At $1,300, it’s certainly on the higher end of prices for modern laptops, though it isn’t obscenely expensive. We’ve seen higher price tags for bulkier machines that didn’t come close to performance like this.
Photo courtesy of Lenovo
Update: The original version of this article mis-stated the size of the X220’s screen. It measures 12.5 inches diagonally. The article has been updated with the correct size.
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