Hands on with the ThinkPad X240: Two batteries are better than one

Hands on with the ThinkPad X240: Two batteries are better than one

Summary: The ThinkPad X240 uses Lenovo's Power Bridge technology to provide hot swappable batteries to keep you running for up to 17 hours.

ThinkPad X240 side profile
ThinkPad X240 (Image: Lenovo)

The ThinkPad X240 from Lenovo is a powerful laptop with Haswell inside that uses an internal battery in conjunction with a second battery to keep the road warrior working for hours. There are two external battery options that can keep the X240 running for up to 17 hours.

The X240 is not the thinnest nor the lightest notebook you'll find, but the weight is just over three pounds so it's very portable. It's a ThinkPad so Lenovo has packed mil-spec ruggedization in a small form.

Hardware specifications as reviewed:

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.6 GHz (Haswell)

  • Memory: 8 GB

  • Display: 12.5-inch IPS, 1366x768, touch option

  • OS: Windows 8.0 (reviewer upgraded to 8.1 for review)

  • Storage: 256GB SSD

  • Camera: 720p webcam

  • Ports: 2-USB 3.0, 1-USB 2.0, audio combo, mini DisplayPort, VGA, 4-in-1 SD/MMC card reader

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, mobile broadband

  • Battery: 3-cell internal (23.2 Wh), 3-cell external (23.2 Wh), optional 6-cell external (72 Wh); up to 17 hours

  • Dimensions: 12.02" x 8.19" x 0.79"

  • Weight: 3.2 lb
ThinkPad x240 closed
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The 12.5-inch IPS display on the ThinkPad X240 is not the brightest on the market but it is a decent screen. It's surprising the resolution is so low in this day and age of high-res screens. There is a touch option (currently $280) for the display to allow taking full advantage of Windows 8.

I have gotten so accustomed to using Windows 8 laptops with touch that I found myself tapping on the screen for a good 10 minutes before I realized this unit did indeed have the touch option. The touch screen is very well calibrated and touch control is very precise, something lacking on other laptops.

The X240 hardware is typical of the ThinkPad line, very solid and well constructed. The lid can be opened a full 180 degrees and the hinges are very durable.

ThinkPads are famous for good keyboards, and this one is one of the best. The chiclet keys are very tall, and the key travel feels like keyboards of old. Touch typing is as fast as can be and it is a joy to use.

ThinkPad x240 keyboard
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The smooth trackpad works well and has a 5-point button integrated into the pad. I do find that I keep inadvertenly activating Windows 8 edge gestures so I need to deactivate those if possible. There is a red trackstick in the middle of the backlit keyboard and there are three mouse buttons for use with the stick that are at the top of the trackpad and clearly marked.

The Haswell Core i5 processor in the review unit keeps the X240 running fast. This is the best performing ThinkPad I've used, and I've used a lot of them. Even with lots of apps running, things happen instantly, and scrolling in apps is smooth.

Power Bridge

ThinkPad X240 bottom
ThinkPad X240 with 3-cell battery (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The ThinkPad X240 is one of several laptops with Lenovo's Power Bridge technology. The notebook has a 3-cell internal battery and a battery bay on the bottom that accepts either another 3-cell battery or an extended 6-cell battery. Whichever battery is plugged into the bay, the two batteries work in conjunction. I'm seeing almost 8 hours of battery life with a 3-cell plugged in, and over 15 hours with the 6-cell battery.

The 3-cell battery fits flush with the bottom of the X240, and the larger 6-cell extends out the bottom of the laptop and creates a slight lift at the back. This creates an excellent ergonomic typing angle for the notebook.


The ThinkPad X240 is one of the finest notebooks of the product line. It is a solid work laptop that is designed to keep the mobile professional working for hours. That work will benefit from the great keyboard designed for productivity.

The X240 starts less than $900 but when you bump up the configuration it can get expensive. The review unit as configured is $1,555, making it a top dollar laptop. That's a lot of money but it's clear the ThinkPad X240 is a lot of laptop.

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Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Lenovo, Windows 8

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  • depends on what you mean by "top dollar"

    By Mac standards $1555 is near-entry level
    • For a lot of people

      $1000 is high end these days. Anything running into 4 figures is too expensive to consider.

      That said, my last laptop was around $1500, I was looking at a MacBook Pro, but that came out at $3500 and didn't have the specs I wanted. In the end, I went with a Sony for less than half the price, because it had what I needed - I got a faster processor, BluRay and a higher resoluion display (this was before Retina came along). I am lucky, I am OS agnostic (I'm writing this on an iMac), I used OS X, Windows and Linux on a daily basis, so I buy what makes the best value for money.

      My original iMac 24", with a lecturer's discount, came out at only 20% more than an equivalent desktop + 24" display. Today, the Macs aren't competitive, especially as I am no longer a lecturer at the Uni. The design is nice, but other manufacturers offer a lot more for a lot less. Over $1,000 for an Apple Logo, OS X is a heck of a price premium.

      The problem is exacerbated here in Europe, because Apple kit is usually 20 - 30% more expensive than Apple kit in the US, before sales tax - and other manufacturers don't seem to add such a price premium to their kit.
  • Still pricey

    I can see why PC's are not selling. They will never win that stigma that a PC should be cheaper then a Mac. Just like you will never accept a cheap Mac. A expensive PC will always receive a healthy dose of doubt. Especially with a OS like Windows 8. This to me is priced too high for its hardware setup.
    • Price

      ThinkPads are High-end Business Computers, so if you are price sensitive consumer then there are plenty of other PC brands to choose from. That's the beauty with non-monopolized software/hardware eco-systems
    • ThinkPads sell very well, actually.

      It's business-class hardware, after all.

      If someone's never used a good Windows machine, then you'll probably have the same mindset as you.

      Mac hardware is roughly mid-tier, or prosumer level, alongside the Dell XPS and most gaming notebooks.

      Enterprise-hardware however, is the best of the best, consisting of rugged notebooks, office laptops, and workstations.

      Those in the lower-middle class may not see them as often, but you'll definitely find these in places like hospitals and management facilities.

      Windows 8 or not, these machines won't turn away anybody.
  • X240 joins a history of great X2xx Thinkpads

    I had an X200 and recently replaced it with an X230. Wish I had waited for this one. Both the X200 and the X230 have been very reliable. In fact I just found a used X220 for my wife - Yes they are expensive, but they are light and work very well.
    • All hail the X2xx

      I'm writing this on an X201, my 5th or 6th Thinkpad and probably the best computer I've ever owned. It's small and light but still powerful and the keyboard is a joy to use. Plus I've always loved the Trackpoint.
  • Does it scale?

    If I have a couple of friends who are X240 fans, can I collect their batteries and get fantastic battery life?
    • Does it blend? (nt)

    • Yes

  • solid workhorse of a tablet

    I'm still waiting to be able to "shop the specs" for the X240 Tablet on the Lenovo site (not up yet, still stops at X230T) and I'll tell you why. I bought an X220T in Feb, 2012, so as to have a modest (or so I thought) touchscreen laptop for a Win8 book I was working on at the time. I started out with 4 GB 320 GB HD i7 set-up. These Lenovos are not only absurdly easy to work on, you can get Lenovo's own service manuals for them from their support pages and there are LOTS of DIY YouTube videos showing you how to perform most upgrades yourself. Today, my unit has a 128 GB OCZ Vortex 4 SSD, a 256 GB mSATA Plextor SSD, and is maxed out with 16 GB RAM. I did all those upgrades myself, and they took less than 10 minutes total to accomplish. With an extra 6-cell battery (James is right about the ergo-advantages of its bumpy exterior projection) I get about 10 hours of battery life running at full tilt. It makes a completely acceptable traveling desktop replacement for me, except that the 1366x768 resolution is too small for heavy duty multi-window writing work (at home, I RDP into it through my desktop and get to see it work on a 27" screen, which is vastly preferable). These are great, great machines and though their not light, svelte, or especially sexy, they work well for traveling writers like yours truly. If I like what I see when I go "spec shopping" on the X240T, I'll buy one and swap components with the X220T to bring it completely up to snuff.

    One more thing: the X220T is old enough to lack USB 3.0 ports (the X240 should have 2 or 3 of them). I purchased a StartTech PCI-e card from Newegg for about $25 that gave me two USB 3.0 ports in a modest form factor. For external backups or faster flash drives, works like a charm, too.

    Best Thanksgiving wishes to one and all,
    • I agree

      I have an X220t, and I think that one way to look at it is that I made a very good choice for a solid computer.

      I'm having a devil of a time, though. I know that if I got a smaller, lighter computer I'd be likely to use it in more circumstances. Yet, it's not clear what combination will really work best.

      My litmus test is always the Congress for the New Urbanism, which is important only in that I generally go from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM for five days straight. First, I want something I can take notes on. Second, I need to pull up all kinds of contact information instantly. Third, I need to be able to show unpredictable sets of photos, drawings, spreadsheets, and so on. Third, I need to scan & OCR documents on the fly. Fourth, I need all this stuff for up to 16 hours at a time, and need to recharge each night.

      So far, this requires a smartphone with replaceable battery and charger, as well as my X220t, plus a second charger, battery, and power brick.

      It's easy to imagine some lighter machine doing some of this stuff, but there's nothing that can do it for so long and have the power for OCR-ing, etc. For another example, I was able to stitch several lousy photos into a wide-angle image and stick it into a presentation while I was on the Salt Lake City light rail.

      I guess I'll just congratulate myself for my good purchase until product design catches up with fast 15-watt processors.
      • Third, lost count.

  • James: Disabling TouchPad Gestures...

    I have a new Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro 13. I am very happy with this machine except for the problems you noted with accidental touchpad gestures sending Windows 8 off on a screen panic.
    Can you figure out how to disable these? I have been working on this for days and can't figure it out.
  • Good

    Depending on what you say, the battery life of this Thinkpad is really good! But sometimes there's emergency. I'm looking for portable charger that can charge this. My Lumsing power bank can only charge phones...
  • who need vga port?

    I can't understand why laptop manufacturing vendors still include VGA ports, I would like to see a x240 with dual miniDP