Lenovo ThinkPad X220 review: Lenovo ThinkPad X220

Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Average for category [ultraportable]
Video VGA plus DisplayPort VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone jack, built-in mic Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/54 None
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, optional mobile broadband Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive None None

As with most ThinkPads, the X220 is highly configurable. There's an option to make one of the USB ports a USB 3.0 port (sorry, no Thunderbolt yet), and WiMax 4G and Gobi antennas are also available. CPU options run from Core i3 up to Core i7, but as the X220 is not officially for sale yet (look for it in April), Lenovo hasn't said exactly how much each of these options will cost.

The Intel Core i5-2520M CPU in our test unit was more than fast enough to make this system stand out. While not as speedy as the quad-core 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro, the X220 did very well in our benchmark tests, beating out most pre-Sandy Bridge laptops, even high-end desktop replacements. If you have any trouble getting the expected performance out of this laptop, do what we did and check all the power settings in the ThinkVantage software and make sure Intel's Turbo Boost Technology is enabled.

With the new Intel platform, you also get vastly improved integrated graphics. Previous Intel onboard graphics could barely play 3D games, but the ThinkPad X220 ran Unreal Tournament 3 at 1,366x768-pixel resolution at 60.2 frames per second, which is more than acceptable for mainstream gaming. Your mileage may vary in newer games, of course, so be prepared to dial back the resolution and detail settings in any laptop without discrete graphics. And besides, this is a business laptop, so you probably shouldn't be playing games on it anyway (or at least don't get caught).

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Juice box
Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Avg watts/hour
Off (60%) 0.25
Sleep (10%) 0.59
Idle (25%) 5.67
Load (05%) 16.91
Raw kWh Number 21.65
Annual Energy Cost $2.46

Annual power consumption cost

Lenovo has always prided itself on offering excellent ThinkPad battery life, and Intel has made lofty claims about the power efficiency of its second-gen Core i-series platform. Put those together, and battery expectations are lofty indeed. So it's a good thing that the X220 ran for 6 hours and 41 minutes in our video playback battery drain test, which is an excellent score for any laptop, and especially for one that demands no real performance compromises. The 15-inch MacBook Pro ran for about 25 minutes longer, and last year's ThinkPad X201 was also in the same ballpark, but this is still pretty rarefied air.

Lenovo ThinkPads generally include a standard one-year mail-in warranty, which may not be adequate for a mission-critical computer. Trading up to next-day on-site service is $39 for one year or $219 for three years, with several other service tiers and terms available. In addition to the onboard ThinkVantage troubleshooting and driver update apps, the Lenovo Web site offers the same information, but an actual tech-support contact number can be hard to find (although chances are your company IT team would handle any problems with the system). If you do need to call Lenovo, try this 24-7 support line: 1-800-426-7378.

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Lenovo ThinkPad X220
Windows 7 Professional (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 2520M; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated)/1696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 320 Hitachi 5,400rpm

Apple MacBook Pro - Core i7 Sandy Bridge 15.4 inch - 2.2GHz
OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard; Intel Core i7 2.2GHz; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6750M / 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 750GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Intel (Sandy Bridge) whitebox
Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-2820QM; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 160GB Intel SSD

Apple MacBook Pro - Core i7 M620 15.4 inch - 2.66GHz
OS X 10.6.2 Snow Leopard; Intel Core i7 M620 2.66GHz; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce GT 330M + 256MB Intel GMA HD; 500GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Lenovo ThinkPad X201
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.53GHz Intel Core i5 M540; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 64MB (Dedicated)/1,273MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 320 Hitachi 7,200rpm

Asus U36J
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.53GHz Intel Core i5 M460; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 310M + 64MB (Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Seagate 5,400rpm

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Tablet 4299 - 12.5" - Core i7 2620M - Windows 7 Pro 64-bit - 4 GB RAM - 320 GB HDD

Part Number: 42992SU Released: Apr. 1, 2011

MSRP: $2,883.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Apr. 1, 2011
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Resolution 1366 x 768 ( HD )
  • Weight 3.7 lbs
  • Hard Drive 320 GB HDD / 7200 rpm
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000
About The Author

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets, while also writing about games, gadgets, and other topics. A former radio DJ and member of Mensa, he's written about music and technology for more than 15 years, appearing in publications including Spin, Blender, and Men's Journal.