Lenovo ThinkPad X230 review: Lenovo ThinkPad X230

The 12.5-inch display definitely feels smaller than that of a 13-inch laptop, but it's a solid step up from the more common 11-inch screen. At 1,366x768 pixels, this is the same resolution you'd find on nearly all 11- to 13-inch laptops, and a good number of 14- and 15-inch ones as well. Lenovo's screens are always clear and bright, with good off-axis viewing, and the X230's screen is no exception: that's a good thing, since the X230's screen hinge opens up a full 180 degrees. Even better, as it's a business laptop, it has a matte screen, which is better for glare-free reading (a feature sadly almost impossible to find in a consumer laptop).

Stereo speakers, a high-quality Webcam, and better microphones than you'll find on the average laptop give the X230 an edge for anyone considering heavy Web conferencing.

Lenovo ThinkPad X230 Average for category [ultraportable]
Video Mini-DisplayPort, VGA VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone combo jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, ExpressCard/34, SD card reader 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional Gobi 3G/4G LTE, WiMAX Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive None None
Sarah Tew

As with most ThinkPads, the X230 is highly configurable. New to this year's update are more USB 3.0 ports, and a Mini DisplayPort to go alongside VGA. WiMax 4G and Gobi antennas for 4G LTE or HSPA are also available. CPU options run from a 2.4GHz Core i3-2370M up to a 2.9GHz Core i7-3520M. Storage options include either a 250 or 320GB hard drive, or an SSD up to 256GB. Lenovo hasn't provided prices on all these configurations yet, but stay tuned for an update once the systems formally go on sale.

Our configuration as sent by Lenovo rings up at a lofty $1,249, which includes a 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5-3320M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive, and Windows 7 Professional. That's a lot to pay for a laptop with no dedicated graphics and no SSD storage.

Intel's latest third-gen "Ivy Bridge" Core i-series processors have never been touted as offering a major performance leap over last year's Sandy Bridge predecessors, and that's proven here. In our benchmark tests, the ThinkPad X230 had modest multitasking improvements over last year's X220 (which had a second-gen 2.5 GHz Core i5-2520M CPU). In single-task tests, the improvement margin grew even slimmer. It's worth upgrading to newer CPUs assuming prices are equivalent, of course, but you shouldn't go buying this year's version if you already have last year's processor.

Much has been made of Intel's next-generation HD 4000 graphics, including by myself. On this system, the improvement is harder to appreciate. Street Fighter IV played in native 1,366x768-pixel resolution at 19.7 frames per second -- hardly eye-popping. Other games play relatively well with graphics settings toned down. Then again, you're probably not meant to be playing games on your ThinkPad, assuming it was office-issued. Those wanting more oomph will still want to seek out dedicated graphics, which aren't an option on the X230.

Last year's ThinkPad X220 had a truly excellent 6 hours and 41 minutes of battery life. You get a little less this time: the X230 lasted for a still very good but not as excellent 6 hours and 4 minutes, with an included removable six-cell battery. Lenovo offers a nine-cell battery upgrade as an option, but the battery life on the X230 is still better than many ultrabooks. With proper management, it'll last a full work day.

Lenovo ThinkPads generally include a standard one-year mail-in warranty, which may not be adequate for a mission-critical computer. Several other service tiers and terms are available, including at-home service and accidental damage protection. 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.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo Thinkpad X230
512 
Intel Ultrabook (Whitebox)
641 

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo Thinkpad X230
167 
Intel Ultrabook (Whitebox)
203 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo Thinkpad X230
100 
Intel Ultrabook (Whitebox)
130 

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo Thinkpad X230
364 
Intel Ultrabook (Whitebox)
306 

Annual energy consumption cost
Intel Ultrabook (Whitebox)
$3.56 
Lenovo Thinkpad X230
$3.57 

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Where to Buy See all prices

Lenovo ThinkPad X230 Tablet 3438 - 12.5" - Core i5 3320M - Windows 7 Pro 64-bit - 4 GB RAM - 320 GB HDD

Part Number: 34383TU
MSRP: $2,393.00 Low Price: $2,379.34 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • CPU Intel Core i5 (3rd Gen) 3320M / 2.6 GHz
  • Resolution 1366 x 768 ( HD )
  • Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Edition
  • Weight 4 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4000