The ThinkPad is famous for its wonderful keyboard, and though this design has evolved subtly over the years, the ThinkPad X220 is among the best for breakneck touch typing. The sculpted keys provide excellent tactile feel and travel is just right: neither shallow nor so deep as to make your fingers wallow. Our only complaint is that Lenovo loves to move the delete key from its standard location, though it’s at least over-sized. We noted that the keys masking is done with decals; a cheapening touch. Want to type in the dark? The ThinkLight sits above the display and provides a spotlight for just that.
CPU and Horsepower
CPU options are all Sandy Bridge second generation Intel Core CPUs, and you can get the ThinkPad X220 with a Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 CPU. The Core i3 clocks at 2.13 GHz (but please, get the Core i5), and the Core i7 is 2.7GHz. That 2.7GHz upgrades the machine to USB 3.0, according to Lenovo. Our review unit shipped with the middle Core i5 option; the Intel 2520M with 3MB L2 cache and Turbo Boost+. It has 4 threads running on 2 cores, and is a very fast CPU. It had no trouble running Photoshop CS5 and editing 20 meg RAW files (see our video review), using MS Office and gaming with some fairly demanding titles like Left 4 Dead 2 and Mass Effect 2 (see our gaming video). The X220 is capable of most any task you throw at it if you get the Core i5 or i7 CPU.
Our ThinkPad shipped with 4 gigs of 1333MHz RAM, and the max is 8 gigs in 2 SODIMM slots. Hard drives run from 160 to 320 gigs (7200 RPM) and there are a variety of SSD options including a fast 160 gig Intel SSD drive. The X220 doesn’t have an internal optical drive (there’s no room), but you can get the Ultrabase with optical drive or use the USB external drive of your choice.
The machine has 3 USB 2.0 ports (one sleep and charge), VGA, a Display Port rather than HDMI, an SD card slot and a 54mm ExpressCard slot. There’s a Gigabit Ethernet port, a combo headphone/mic jack but no FireWire. The ThinkPad has 1 full internal PCIe slot and one half slot. A 720p webcam with dual mics is standard and the notebook is compatible with Ultrabase docks.
Despite the laptop's compact design with little buffer area between you and hot internal components, the Lenovo stayed cool with external temperatures in the high 80's and low 90's Fahrenheit.
Display and Graphics
Graphics are courtesy of Intel with their new Intel HD 3000 graphics. That’s perhaps the most exciting part of Sandy Bridge: Intel made significant improvements to integrated graphics and the Lenovo X220 is thus capable of some decent 3D gaming. The Intel HD 3000 in the X220 scored a respectable 3812 on 3DMark 06. Not bad for a business ultraportable. You can indeed play Left 4 Dead 2 in the hotel room after a long day of meetings (see our gaming video review below).
How about streaming video? We tested Hulu and got 48 fps full screen at 360p resolution and 27 fps full screen at 480p resolution. Netflix managed 25 fps full screen. We tested streaming video using the ThinkPad’s Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 Wi-Fi on our 802.11n network. The laptop also has Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth is optional.
The 12.5” LED backlit display (a size first seen on the Lenovo IdeaPad U260) has 1366 x 768 resolution (standard 16:9) and there’s an IPS display option. Get it. Really, it’s that good. Have you seen the iPad and how bright, sharp and colorful its display is? Noticed those extremely wide viewing angles? That’s the same tech in the X220’s IPS display (made by LG Philips, as is the display on the U260) only better because there’s no glare. Brightness rivals Lenovo’s 400 nit display option on the X201, colors are very saturated (though not as artificial as on Samsung’s Super AMOLED smartphone displays) and sharpness is tops. This is a matte display that lacks glare yet maintains deep blacks.
The battery slice on top of the Lenovo ThinkPad X220.
The battery slice installed on the X220.
The X220 uses a latchless lid design.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X220 with the 6 cell battery.