Quick look at the Lenovo ThinkPad X230 (hands-on)

Quick look at the Lenovo ThinkPad X230 (hands-on)

Summary: The ThinkPad X230 is an ultraportable laptop with a great keyboard worthy of the ThinkPad name.


The Lenovo ThinkPad X220 made such a good impression on me when I reviewed it last year I jumped on the chance to get my hands on its successor, the X230. It's only been here a few hours but the ultraportable already shows what makes ThinkPads the top of the Windows notebook heap.

See also: ThinkPad X220 review: Awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery life

The 12.5-inch IPS display is the perfect size for portability and functionality while mobile, although the standard resolution of 1366x768 might not be enough for some. The matte screen is viewable from almost any angle, and the IPS display means you can view this thing outdoors. The outstanding display can be opened all the way flat behind the laptop, making any viewing angle possible.

The first thing you think of when you think ThinkPad is the keyboard as Lenovo excels at getting those right. The X230 is no exception as the chiclet style keyboard has great spacing to go along with a good key layout. This is the best keyboard I have used to date on an ultraportable notebook.

Lenovo has addressed one complaint about the previous model by putting a backlight on the keyboard. This can be toggled among two different brightnesses and an off state. The old ThinkPad light by the webcam above the screen is still there for those who prefer that method of lighting the keyboard.

The trackpad on the X230 is very good, so good I haven't plugged a mouse into the laptop as I usually do. Those looking for the familiar red trackstick made famous by Lenovo on the ThinkPad will not be disappointed, as it is there too. There are three mouse buttons between the keyboard and trackpad for those who prefer clicking, or you can push the buttonless trackpad if desired.

The X230 looks to provide about seven hours of battery life under normal circumstances based on my usage so far. There is also a slice battery option like that of the X220 that could take that to the 20 hour mark, for those who need the most time away from the power outlet.

The ThinkPad X230 starts at about $1,200, so it's not quite as cheap as Intel thinks Ultrabooks should be. It's a little thicker than most of them, too, but still very portable for taking the X230 on the road. I will offer further coverage of this laptop as I get more time with it.

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Lenovo, Mobility

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  • Looks nice

    I've played with an X220 here at work and really liked it. I still own and frequently use a Lenovo X61. There's nothing like a Lenovo as far as keyboard feel goes. I was assigned an HP here at work and never use it. I abosultely despise the keyboard.
  • So we shouldn't expect any further coverage from you then?

    [i]I will offer further coverage of this laptop as I get more time with it.[/i]

    After all, you've proudly claimed that you use nothing but iPad because using anything else means your arms get tired as you reach across the keyboard to tap the screen. Oh wait, wrong argument. That argument is reserved for Windows tablets. For iPad, that argument needs to be ignored. Oops. We'll let that one slide.

    Can you please get one of your colleagues to review this laptop? After all, I want to read reviews from people who actually use the thing. You are post-PC James. You have no use for a heavy Windows laptops with fans and no touch screen and weakling arms, right?

    • Don't misquote me

      I've never said I "use nothing but iPad" so don't claim that to be the case. I use all sorts of tech and will continue to do so. I'll review it too.

      Thank you.
      • I'm glad...

        I'm glad to hear you say that sir. I know you and ZDNet have been pushing a pad (and with you IPad) revolution. However, when you look at an ultra light like this with 20 hours of battery life, better processing power and more storage, which would you logically go with? I understand the boot up from stand by is also 2 seconds.

        Whether it be IOS, Windows, LINUX, or something else. Hardware like this is superior for business use and businesses do not have to invest in massive rewrites of applications to support it. In short, the ROI for an ultra light like this is faster than any IPad, or even Android.

        I still see a great future for Pads, but not as a full time business tool.
  • Made famous by Lenovo?

    "Those looking for the familiar red trackstick made famous by Lenovo on the ThinkPad will not be disappointed, as it is there too."

    If I recall correctly, the ThinkPad and the little red button in the middle of the keyboard is something IBM came up with. Lenovo bought IBM's PC division back in 2004 and has benefited from that.

    BTW, it's called a TrackPoint. Track Stick is the term used by Dell.
    • Yes IBM

      Yes, IBM first came up with the ThinkPad, including the little red nubby thing. They sold it all to Lenovo years ago as you pointed out.
      • Wow...

        You're redefining my opinion of you with a) the original article and b) you're comments. Kudos, Mr Kendrick.

        As an aside, you're making me seriously consider this for my next device.
      • IBM, red

        It's curious why IBM who usually painted things in blue is using red for the TrackPoint. While, HP for example are using blue colored TrackPoint. :)

        I have always wondered however, whether this is IBM or Synaptics design...
  • nice but pricy

    I've wanted an X120e ever since a visit to Fry's Electronics earlier this year. This is the same external configuration. I spent a while with the one in the showroom, and it has the best laptop keyboard I've used. And topping it all off is the joystick pointer which I got used to with my first ThinkPad back in the 1990s.

    Shame the X230 is about 3 times the price of the X120e.
  • X220

    I've been using an i5 X220 with the IPS screen option for the past 4 months. Purchased at a discount from the Lenovo 'Outlet' (listed as a new unit). I also use a Macbook Pro (13) as part of my 'tool-set'. The X220 IPS screen is brilliant, and laptop a solid device. I've since added an SSD (new Crucial 7mm unit). Both X220 and Mac are great tools, but I've come to love the IPS screen & keyboard on the X220.
  • Quad Core Options?

    Now that there's a 35 W quad core, will there be an option to upgrade to it on the X230?
  • Is it quiet?

    If you use frequently the X220 what is the noise level? Is the fan on all the time? Also do you think there will be X230 with Trinity CPU?
    • The X200 series is for Intel

      The X100 is the AMD series. I would expect the next model to be the X140e, but the X130e is only just now shipping in volume. I don't expect the X series in AMD to have a Trinity APU unless they put a very low-voltage chip in it - and a cheap one, considering their target pricepoint. I would imagine that the first Trinity-based ThinkPad's will be in the ThinkPad Edge series, probably as full-sized notebooks with optical drives. Eventually we'll see some ultra-thin notebooks with it, but I doubt those will ship right away. The ThinkPad Edge series isn't bad though. They are surprisingly light for their size. The E525 series is the way to go IMO. The low-end E2-3000M APU model sells for $499CDN (likely less in the US) and it's a nice machine. If you want more power but don't care if it's a ThinkPad, check out Lenovo's Z575 series for more Llano models with a cheaper price. You should watch both series for price drops and new models.
    • X220 Noise?

      In a no-noise environment I occasionally hear the fan cycle. Other than that, silence (the SSD helps). If there's ambient noise, I don't hear anything from the laptop.
  • Looks like

    a card punch machine. Neat historical pastiche!
    Tony Burzio
  • Lenovo is the one likely to take Win8 tablets into the enterprise

    They play ball with the enterprise logistics supply lines. Consumer focussed Samsung and Apple do not.
  • The Trackpad

    I wonder, how is the trackpad on this laptop compared to the Macbook's? It looks way smaller, smaller than the trackpad on the Macbook Air even.

    Having used the Macbook trackpad, I can hardly use the trackpad on any other notebook.
    • the differences

      Coming from an apple trackpad you will find the surface to be small and very rough. I guess you would probably give up on using it at all.

      Since your post was 3 months ago, have you had a chance to check it out for yourself? If you did, I would really like to hear your thoughts. Cheers.
  • X220 trackpad

    I do find the X220 trackpad real estate a bit tight. Especially as compared to the MBAir/Pro's 'glass' pads. I also note that the X220 pad to be overly sensitive to finger touches at times. I generally use a wireless mouse vs. trackpad.
  • Thanks for an excellent article. A very useful addition would be...

    ... finding out if the device will upgrade to Windows 8. The manufacturers should know this by now, and it would in their interest (and the consumer) to know if all of the devices will upgrade.