Although ultrabooks have been getting all the attention lately, Lenovo knows a thing or two about putting together a solid business ultraportable. The ThinkPad X230 retails for around £1,300, and like its predecessor, the X220, it’s a compact laptop that provides a full range of business-grade features, and plenty in the performance stakes, without the excess bulk you'll find in traditional mainstream or desktop replacement machines.
Measuring 305 x 206 x 26.6mm (WxDxH) and weighing only 1.5kg, the X230 is light enough to tuck under your arm or easily carry in a laptop bag, whether you’re headed for a quick meeting out of the office, or a convention requiring a cross-country flight. The rigid magnesium alloy chassis is covered with soft-touch rubberised paint, giving the ultraportable the black, boxy look you expect of a Lenovo business system, while keeping the unit lightweight and easy to grip. However, while this notebook is undoubtedly a highly portable machine, it somehow still feels a tad clunky when compared to a 13-inch ultrabook such as the HP Folio 13.
Also, compared with the 13in display of, say, the HP ProBook 6360b, the X230’s 12.5in screen feels a little small, despite having the same 1,366 x 768 resolution. The display is bright, however, with wide viewing angles and no glare thanks to a matte display with In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology. Lenovo also adds Dolby enhanced audio, providing robust sound from the diminutive package.
The X230 benefits from Lenovo's Precision keyboard, which has the spacing of a chiclet keyboard, but with scalloped keys, and the familiar red TrackPoint nub in the centre. Backlighting adds usability in the dark, and an overhead light situated next to the 720p webcam above the screen allows the user to read documents in low light. Just below the spacebar are three thumb buttons (right and left click, and a scrolling button between them) for use with the TrackPoint.
On either side of the laptop, you'll find a full complement of ports and slots, including two USB 3.0 ports, an always-on USB 2.0 port (for powering peripherals or charging gadget batteries), a card reader (SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC), Gigabit Ethernet port, both VGA and Mini DisplayPort outputs (the latter with audio), and an ExpressCard slot.
The X230 is equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, and security features have also been added to this notebook to better ensure the safety of your business data. These include an integrated fingerprint reader on the palm rest, Trusted Platform Module (TPM), and an optional SmartCard reader on the front of the laptop.
Our ThinkPad X230 review unit offered 320GB of storage space, but the machine can be configured with either a larger 500GB hard drive, or a solid-state drive (SSD) if you want really nippy performance. Lenovo doesn't clutter the desktop with a lot of deals, trials and links to websites, but you will find that the hard drive has a few programs preinstalled on it, as is usually the case.
Lenovo outfitted the ThinkPad X230 with Intel's third-generation Core i5-3320M processor, a 2.6GHz dual-core CPU paired with 4GB of RAM – although, like the hard drive, this varies by configuration. Intel's new processor line boasts better performance and power efficiency, so it wasn't a huge surprise to see the ThinkPad X230 top other ultraportables in processor-intensive tasks.
It scored 3.09 in CineBench R11.5, and took 1 minute 35 seconds to convert a video in Handbrake. The X230 also took 3 minutes 37 seconds to apply 12 filters in Adobe Photoshop CS5. This beats out the competing HP ProBook 6360b, which recorded a 2.85 in CineBench, a 1 minute 45 seconds time in Handbrake, and took 3 minutes 48 seconds to complete the Photoshop test. Not a massive difference, but a difference nonetheless.
The ThinkPad X230 also promises improved graphics capabilities over the X220, thanks to Intel's HD Graphics 4000, the integrated graphics solution included with the new processor platform. In 3DMark 06, the X230 scored 5,118 at 1,024 x 768 (with no anti-aliasing), and 2,791 at its native resolution of 1,366 x 768 (with 4x anti-aliasing enabled). That represents a good level of ultraportable graphics performance.
With a 6-cell battery, the ThinkPad X230 lasted 7 hours 45 minutes in MobileMark at 50 per cent screen brightness, making this the one test where the X230 didn't meet our expectations. The laptop fell almost an hour short of the time achieved by its predecessor, the X220, which kept going for 8 hours and 40 minutes.
As a laptop for on-the-go productivity, the Lenovo ThinkPad X230 is an excellent performer, with the best productive capability we've seen in a business ultraportable. However, if your notebook usage won’t likely demand high performance levels, you might benefit more from a business ultrabook such as the HP Folio 13. However, there’s no doubting that the X230 boasts a fine collection of features, and admirable amounts of processing power.
Manufacturer and Model
Lenovo ThinkPad x230
Intel Core i5-3320M
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional
Screen Size Type
1,366 x 768
Intel HD Graphics 4000
Storage Capacity (as Tested)
Primary Optical Drive
Wireless Display Capability (WiDi)
63 Whr (Watt hours)