Lenovo ThinkPad X200 review: 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.

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8.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 10
  • Support 8

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.

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.

Price as reviewed / starting price $1,820 / $1,434
Processor 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600
Memory 2GB at 667MHz
Hard drive 160GB, 7,200rpm
Graphics Intel GMA X4500HD
Operating System Windows Vista Business
Dimensions (WDH) 11.6 x 9.2 x 0.8-1.3 inches [with 9-cell battery]
Screen size (diagonal) 12.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.7 / 4.4 pounds [with 9-cell battery; weight starts at 3 pounds]
Category ultraportable

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.

  Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Average for ultraportable category
Video VGA-out, Webcam VGA-out
Audio Headphone/microphone jacks Headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, multiformat media card reader 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard ExpressCard/34
Networking Modem, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN and GPS modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN
Optical drive None None, or DVD burner

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.

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