ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

Summary: I have a lot of laptops come through Mobile News Manor, my home office, and rarely does one hit on all cylinders like the newly announced ThinkPad X220 from Lenovo. Here's a tour of the X220.

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I have a lot of laptops come through Mobile News Manor, my home office, and rarely does one hit on all cylinders like the newly announced ThinkPad X220 from Lenovo. The X220 couples a sterling ThinkPad keyboard with a buttonless trackpad that works well, and adds a slice battery option that provides up to 20 hours of operation on a single charge. I have been using the X220 for almost a week, and it is with great reluctance I will be sending it back to Lenovo at the end of the evaluation.

The ThinkPad X220 is a thin and light notebook with an attention to detail that will delight road warriors. I am finicky about keyboards but the one on the X220 is as good as they get. This keyboard fits the hands like a pair of custom-fitted soft leather gloves, and makes data entry not only easy to do but comfortable, a rarity on notebooks.

Lenovo has opted to continue using the special 12.5-inch display it originally included on the IdeaPad U220, and it works well on the X220. The screen is slightly wider than 12.1-inch displays commonly used, and handles the resolution well (1366x768) while yielding a little extra room to spread out the keyboard.

Check out ThinkPad X220 photo gallery with slice battery option


Image Gallery: Check out ThinkPad X220 photo gallery with slice battery option. Image Gallery: Samsung Focus Image Gallery: Samsung Focus browser

Hardware specs as reviewed

  • CPU: Intel Core i5, 2.5 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB
  • Storage: 320 GB, 7,200 rpm
  • Display: 12.5-inch, IPS wide-angle, 1366x768
  • OS: Windows 7 Pro, 64-bit
  • Slots/ ports: 3-USB, DisplayPort, ExpressCard 34mm, SD (multi-format), VGA, audio
  • Battery: 6-cell, 63 Wh
  • Connectivity: WiFi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth
  • Webcam: yes
  • Dimensions: 12 x 8.13 x approx. 1 inch (depends on battery attached), < 3 lbs.

Lenovo has provided all of the amenities one expects in a ThinkPad, and has raised the bar with two special features that set it above the pack. The trackpad on the X220 has no buttons, and it is the first laptop I have used besides the MacBook series where this works perfectly. This trackpad is unusual in that it has a ribbed surface that curves over the front lip of the notebook, which makes the buttons integrated into the front of the trackpad easy to click. I find it a very good tracking/clicking solution, and haven't connected an external mouse yet. The famous ThinkPad red trackstick is also present, with buttons.

The second feature is an optional one, although reasonably priced at $179. The slice battery (6-cell) attaches to the bottom of the X220 like a dock, and adds almost 10 hours of battery life while adding a little bulk and weight. I am seeing over 15 hours of battery life with this battery attached to the notebook (including 6-cell battery), making it a solid traveling companion. This is the first laptop I have tested that could be taken on a two-day business trip with the power adapter safely left at home.

The X220 is available with 3 different battery sizes, from 3-cell to 9-cell. The unit I am testing has the 6-cell battery which is providing 7 hours of battery life with no aggressive power management. Lenovo claims 23 hours of battery life is available with the internal 9-cell battery coupled with the slice battery. My testing indicates a solid 20 hours should be possible with that combination.

The slice battery weighs about a pound, and is at first glance appears to be very thick. This is deceiving, as it is designed to fit around the edge of the notebook so that it adds little thickness to it when attached. The design is well done, as once attached to the notebook the battery is not noticeable. The battery seems to be part of the notebook.

According to Lenovo the ThinkPad X220 is compatible with all T, L, and W series docking stations, but I suspect most buyers will go for the slice battery. The slice is easy to attach to the laptop, and has a dedicated power jack that charges both the slice and the laptop. There is also a battery fuel gauge for the slice that shows the charge level at the press of a button. I estimate this battery adds about a pound to the laptop when attached. The X220 weighs less than 3 pounds without the slice in place, making it very easy to carry with or without.

The ThinkPad X220 is available through the Lenovo web site starting at $979 without the slice battery. That option adds another $179 to the purchase price, but personally I find the benefits to be worth it. I usually find one or two things about laptops I review that fall short of expectations, but there is nothing about the X220 I do not like.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility

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94 comments
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  • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

    This doesn't seem like a terribly appealing successor to the X201s' higher pixel density and slightly smaller overall size. <br><br>Unfortunately, it seems that much of Lenovo's recent product has been dictated by whatever display scraps other manufacturers leave behind, as the X201s was discontinued soon after launch due to a shortage of displays and i7 processors. Meanwhile, many of the high res options on other machine lineups meant taking a step back to ANCIENT CCFL lit screens.<br><br>This thing has impressive battery life, but rarely am I untethered that long, and the overall build of the machine looks a little cheap. Not impressed with Lenovo these days.
    Playdrv4me
    • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

      @Playdrv4me

      Oh really!

      Q. "What kind of laptop have you got?"

      A. "A Lenovo X220"

      If I heard myself saying these words, I'd have to commit suicide.
      Graham Ellison
      • Dude ... you're soooooo right.

        @Graham Ellison The day I say that this laptop 'rocks' is the day i deserver to die... this thing sure is uglier than a machete fight in an elevator. Seems like Lenovo inherited bad taste from IBM.
        fredyrosal
  • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

    Could you explain why the lack of HDMI port doesn't fall into the "fall short of expectations" category?
    BSalita
    • It would, if the subject of review was something from Apple

      @BSalita: for others, requirements are quite lax.

      As to battery life, search no further than: "HyperMac external battery boosts MacBook Air life to 38 hours -ZDNet ."
      DDERSSS
      • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

        @denisrs

        Sure... though that option is $499.95 on the Mac, and appears to be some sort of a plug in instead of something that mates to the laptop. I'd guess the $199 option on the Mac is about equal to this one at $179.
        Badgered
      • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

        @denisrs

        The article is about a Lenovo ThinkPad. Please take your Apple garbage posts elsewhere.
        Hallowed are the Ori
      • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

        @denisrs The Hypermac adapter will soon be unavailable due to the connector they use and the fact they won't be able to get them anymore.

        The slice probably uses a pretty standard connector.
        I12BPhil
    • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

      @BSalita I never use one, that's why. Some folks may find the DisplayPort useful. YMMV as with all devices, not all devices fit all.
      JamesKendrick
      • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

        @JamesKendrick I would find straight HDMI out more useful since it also carries audio. One could plug straight into a large display and use the speakers without extra spaghetti.
        I12BPhil
      • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

        @I12BPhil You do realize that most display adapters with DisplayPort output can put out Dolby/DTS/PCM 7.1 audio over the DisplayPort output, right?
        nix_hed
    • Re: Could you explain why the lack of HDMI...

      @BSalita

      Display Port to HDMI adaptor? Lots of computers are starting to go that route where the have a display port and adaptors to go to DVI or HDMI.
      bobiroc
      • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

        Yup, this is quite true. Unfortunately, you can't have an HDMI and run an adapter to DisplayPort. The problem with the adapter plan is that road warriors will almost certainly have to have an adapter to get to a projector (HDMI or DVI although thankfully the VGA is still there). I haven't actually seen a DisplayPort projector myself, although I'm sure they'll be common in the future.
        dfung1
  • Ho Hum

    This model is just another evolution of an otherwise conventional design philosophy. Nothing novel. Nothing mind-blowing. The attachable external battery is NOT a smart feature. I mean come on - Nobody is going to buy a compact notebook for it's small size and then bulk up the weight with an external battery! And why no SSD drive? I'm thoroughly unimpressed.
    anthonymaw
    • Why?

      @anthonymaw
      Then why do I get the feeling that if Jobs had introduced this model, everyone would be gushing about how "Apple does it again! A thin-and-light laptop most of the time, and an endurance champ when you need it! Can Apple do anything wrong?!!"
      Dorkyman
      • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

        @Dorkyman
        Look back at an Apple laptop from 8 years ago.... that's innovation, this thing look exactly like my old IBM think pad, can't they at least give us color options like blue or red??
        Hasam1991
      • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

        @Hasam1991 I would make a comment involving choosing the red pill but I don't think I could pull it off.
        Bucky24
      • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

        @Hasam1991 Who the hell cares about colors? It's a frivolous "feature". Personally, I prefer a laptop that looks professional, that I can actually take into meetings. Guess what? Your apple laptop doesn't really give you any color options either for a Mac Book Pro (Who buys Macbooks anyhow)...
        snoop0x7b
      • RE: ThinkPad X220 review: awesome keyboard and 20 hour battery

        @Dorkyman Dude, what makes you think Jobs would have introduced a model like the X220? Besides, I've never known "everyone" to gush about Apple introductions.
        GeoffMichael
      • Pretty thin logic here; seems you need a...

        @Dorkyman stress pill to relieve you of your hateappleitis.
        godsfault