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Lenovo ThinkPad X200 review: Lenovo ThinkPad X200

Lenovo ThinkPad X200

Michelle Thatcher

Michelle Thatcher

Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops

Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.

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5 min read

We were a little surprised when Lenovo announced an X series laptop with a 12.1-inch wide-aspect display; after all, the similarly sized ThinkPad X300 had won over many hearts and minds when it was introduced earlier this year. But the new ThinkPad X200 does nicely round out Lenovo's ThinkPad family. It's slightly smaller and--with a starting price of $1,434--significantly less expensive than the 13.3-inch ThinkPad X300, and it offers more hard-drive space (albeit, in the form of a spinning, not solid-state, drive). More importantly, its new Centrino 2 components provide better performance than other ultraportables, plus (with the 9-cell battery) the longest battery life we've seen to date.

lenovo-thinkpad-x201-3626-core-i5-540m-2-53-ghz-windows-7-pro-64-bit-4-gb-ram-320-gb-hdd-dvd-writer-12-1-wide-1280-x-800-intel-hd.jpg
8.2

Lenovo ThinkPad X200

The Good

Record-breaking battery life; strong performance for an ultraportable; comfortable full-size keyboard; wide-screen display with a sharp resolution; WWAN and GPS options.

The Bad

Nine-cell battery adds significant weight; lacks an optical drive; includes pointing stick but no touch pad.

The Bottom Line

It lacks some basic features you may require--touch pad, optical drive--but the 12.1-inch ThinkPad X200 offers strong performance and the longest battery life we've seen. With a variety of connectivity options and a roomy keyboard, the X200 makes a great ultraportable for road warriors.

What the ThinkPad X200 doesn't offer--a built-in optical drive, a touch pad--will surely be a clear deal-breaker for some users. And you'll have to carry some extra weight to get a full day's worth of battery life. However, the Lenovo ThinkPad X200 makes sense for frequent travelers who want an ultraportable laptop that's both long-lived and powerful enough for a full day's work in a variety of applications.

Even from across the room, there's no mistaking the X200's heritage: its rectangular black case (wrapped around a magnesium chassis) is all ThinkPad. By virtue of its new wide-aspect display, it features a slightly larger footprint than its predecessor, the ThinkPad X61s. In fact, the X200 now looks like a miniature version of the 13.3-inch X300. Though the X200's weight starts at 3 pounds, our ThinkPad X200 review unit tipped the scales at 3.7 pounds with its 9-cell battery. We think the extra weight is worth it (read on for the results of our battery benchmarks) but acknowledge that some road warriors might prefer the sub-2-pound weight of the Toshiba Portege R500.

With the ThinkPad X200, Lenovo brings a wide-aspect ratio to its most portable system. The 12.1-inch wide-screen display features a sharp 1,280x800 native resolution that's more common on 14.1-inch or even 15.4-inch displays. The resulting text and icons are probably about as small as you can go for comfortable everyday use. Given the ThinkPad's business focus, we appreciate the matte screen finish, which avoids reflections in brightly lit office environments.

Another advantage to going wide with the ThinkPad X200: plenty of room for the keyboard. Whereas Lenovo's previous ultraportable, the standard-aspect ThinkPad X61s, had (of necessity) a slightly compact keyboard, the ThinkPad X200's wider case can accommodate the same keyboard used on Lenovo's 14- and 15-inch ThinkPads. (You can see close-up photos of both keyboards in this blog post.) The difference in size is noticeable; on the X200 we never felt like we were typing on an ultraportable machine.

Navigation, however, is still a bit limited. With its last few ThinkPad models, Lenovo has tried to accommodate both fans of the red TrackPoint pointing stick and those who prefer a touch pad by including both options. The ThinkPad X200, however, features only the TrackPoint and three mouse buttons (the center acts as a scroll button); touch-pad fans, of which there are many, will feel left out.

Above the keyboard are basic volume controls as well as the very helpful blue ThinkVantage button, which launches a suite of system maintenance, power management, connectivity, and other utilities. All the other classic ThinkPad touches are here, including the nifty keyboard light tucked beneath the lip of the lid and a fingerprint reader below the keyboard for quickly logging in to Windows and a company network.

As with the ThinkPad X61s, the ThinkPad X200's slender case does not have room for a built-in optical drive. This may be a deal-breaker for some, but we like having the option of paring down our system to the bare essentials for travel; users who rely on optical media would be better off purchasing Lenovo's UltraBase dock, which includes a DVD burner, or opting for the ThinkPad X300, which incorporates both an optical drive and a larger screen.

Otherwise, the ThinkPad X200 offers the basic ports and connections a business traveler will need, plus one more USB port than average and the option for built-in WWAN and GPS. There's also a 1.3-megapixel Webcam above the display.

Our $1,820 ThinkPad X200 review unit is built on Intel's brand-new Centrino 2 platform, with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 processor and integrated Intel GMA X4500 HD graphics. The new CPU gives the ThinkPad X200 an advantage over the low-voltage, lower-speed processors that power other ultraportables. On CNET Labs' benchmarks, the ThinkPad X200 outperformed the Toshiba Portege R500 and the Apple MacBook Air, and it showed notable gains over the ThinkPad X300. The ThinkPad X200 also easily outpaced a number of Netbooks, including the admittedly less expensive MSI Wind U100, making it a far better choice for travelers whose work extends beyond Web surfing and keeping up with e-mail.

One of the key promises with Intel's new P-series processors is extended battery life, and the ThinkPad X200 delivers. Its 9-cell battery lasted an astonishing 6 hours, 23 minutes on our video playback drain test, which is the longest battery life we've seen to date. It even bested smaller systems, such as the Asus Eee PC 901 and the Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium. Anecdotally, we got about 6 hours of battery life from the ThinkPad X200 while simultaneously working on documents, surfing the Web, and wirelessly streaming music.

As Lenovo has moved toward offering built-to-order systems, the company has dropped the baseline warranty for ThinkPads to a single year. Extending coverage to three years costs $119; other upgrades add coverage for accidental drops or spills and LCD damage. The preloaded suite of ThinkVantage applications helps users troubleshoot problems, and Lenovo's support Web site includes the expected troubleshooting topics, driver downloads, and user guides.

Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo ThinkPad X200
847 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo ThinkPad X200
208 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo ThinkPad X200
155 
"="" class="g4" rel="follow">Toshiba Portege R500-S5003
343 

Video Playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Lenovo ThinkPad X200
383 

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Lenovo Thinkpad X200
Windows Vista Business SP1; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 32MB Intel GMA 4500HD; 160GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Apple MacBook Air - 1.6GHz / 13.3 inch
OS X 10.5.1 Leopard; Intel Core 2 Duo 1.6GHz; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 144MB Intel GMA X3100; 80GB Samsung 4,200rpm

Lenovo ThinkPad X300
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L7100; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 384MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 64GB Samsung Solid State Drive

Toshiba Portege R500-S5003
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Ultra Low Voltage U7600; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB Mobile Intel 945GM Express; 64GB Samsung Solid State Drive

lenovo-thinkpad-x201-3626-core-i5-540m-2-53-ghz-windows-7-pro-64-bit-4-gb-ram-320-gb-hdd-dvd-writer-12-1-wide-1280-x-800-intel-hd.jpg
8.2

Lenovo ThinkPad X200

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8Battery 10Support 8