The ThinkPad X Series has always been among our favorites for their blend of extreme portability, durability and fantastic keyboards. We also appreciated the Wacom pen option, but with the new ThinkPad X240, that feature has migrated to the also 12.5" ThinkPad Yoga. The X240 slims the X series even further, and brings extreme battery life. The 3 lb. Ultrabook is available with Intel Haswell 4th generation ULV Ultrabook CPUs, from Core i3 to Core i5-4300U and Core i7-4600U, all with Intel HD 4400 graphics. Unlike the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the somewhat thicker X240 has upgradable internals including a 2.5" drive bay, mSATA bay, RAM slot and a socketed wireless card.
Keyboard and TrackPad
Though the ThinkPad X240 isn't as skinny as the X1 Carbon and some competing Ultrabooks, we forgive it since the extra space allows for those upgradable internal components and for the excellent keyboard. While key travel on the Yoga series ThinkPads and IdeaPads have suffered in the name of skinniness, the X240's keyboard is superb. It offers ample key travel, excellent tactile feel, curved keys and backlighting: it's a typist's dream. Granted, ThinkPad aficionados who are upgrading from thicker and older ThinkPad models might find the travel short, but compared to the current generation competition, this backlit keyboard is tops. The trackpad with TrackPoint is Lenovo's new buttonless model, and I'm sure some old style TrackPoint fans will lament the departure of physical buttons, but I found it easy enough to get used to. That said, finding the middle click virtual button can be trying and I find using traditional buttons with the Synaptics TrackPoint easier than the buttonless design. However, when using the trackpad, the virtual left and right click worked well.
Design, Heat and Noise
As ever with ThinkPads, this is a matte black rectangle. If you like the ThinkPad look and thought the X230 was great but too thick, the 0.8" thick X240 could be your dream machine. This is no sexy and slim Ultrabook, though it does use Ultrabook CPUs. That might be a letdown for those of us who enjoyed and admired the X2xx series for its full mobile CPUs in a small chassis. There is no full mobile CPU option; it's ULV Ultrabook U series 4th generation Intel Core CPUs only. The ThinkPad has Lenovo's usual inner metal roll cage for rigidity and the top is carbon fiber while the bottom is magnesium. The X240 has passed MIL-Spec tests for vibration, temperature (high, low and shock) and dust. The bottom gets warm but not uncomfortably hot when the machine is working hard on exporting full HD video and the fan is quite audible. When doing productivity work the laptop is near silent and the bottom is well below human body temperature.
Lenovo offers 1366 x 768 and 1920 x 1080 IPS touch screen options. The full HD option is a painful $330 additional. The X240 is also available without a touch screen if you're willing to go with the 1366 x 768 resolution and touch only on the 1080p display. All are "AntiGlare", which isn't matte, though it does subdue reflections compared to glossy displays. The display finish on our 1366 x 768 touch model didn't create too much haze, which is sometimes a problem with Lenovo ThinkPad AntiGlare models. Color gamut on our 1366 x 768 display was average with just under 50% of Adobe RGB coverage and brightness was good at nearly 300 nits.
Above: Side view with secondary battery in place.
Configurations and Pricing
The ThinkPad X240 starts around $860 for a base Core i3 model with a 500 gig HDD, while the mainstream Core i5-4200U with a 128 gig SSD, dual band Intel 7260N WiFi and 8 gigs of RAM approaches $1,200. You can go higher of course, with the Intel Core i7-4600U and even larger capacity SSD drives. There's a single RAM slot so max RAM is 8 gigs (as one DDR3 1600MHz standard SODIMM). Those of you who were hoping for a tiny mobile workstation with more RAM and higher wattage full mobile CPUs will have to look elsewhere.
Lenovo incorporates their new Power Bridge technology in the ThinkPad X240 and also the ThinkPad T440s that we reviewed. There's a built-in 3 cell, 23 Whr battery and a battery bay for a 3 cell 23 Whr or 6 cell 72 Whr battery. The external battery drains first, so you're left with enough power to hot swap another external battery. With the 3 cell battery that sits flush in the laptop, you get around 7.5 hours of battery life. With the bigger battery the machine can push 15 or more hours of actual use time. Impressive. The T440s and X240 use the same external batteries, which is handy for IT departments that need to outfit a variety of Lenovo laptops. As with all recent ThinkPads, the X240 charges quickly.
The X240 is for those of you who want larger laptop amenities in a small chassis, from the internal upgrade possibilities to plenty of ports. It's rare to see wired RJ-45 Ethernet on a 12.5" machine for example, and the Lenovo also has a mini DisplayPort, VGA, two USB 3.0 ports, 3.5mm combo audio, an SD card slot and SIM card slot (for models with 3G/4G). Granted, the outgoing X230 had three USB ports, but we're still impressed with the X240's overall port offerings.
If you're a ThinkPad person and want a very compact laptop, it's the X240 or the ThinkPad Carbon X1. The X240 is the practical guy or gal's machine with lots of ports and upgradable internals. The X1 is the sleek Ultrabook lover's machine and the 14" display is easier on the eyes, though it does increase the laptop's size. We've been fans of the X2xx series ThinkPads for years, and it's still hard to beat when it comes to durability, superb typing experience and quality internals. No, it's not sexy and sleek, but it's a very complete ultraportable with a power sipping ULV Ultrabook CPU inside. For those who don't mind something just a bit larger, the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s is also worth a look if you prefer a larger display and keyboard.
Display:12.5", 1366 x 768 LED display (touch and non-touch available, IPS available) and 1920 x 1080 IPS with touch. Intel HD 4400 integrated graphics. mini DisplayPort and VGA port.
Battery:3 cell, 23 Whr Lithium
Ion rechargeable in front location (internal). Optional 3 and 6 cell batteries available for rear removable battery bay.
Performance:Intel Haswell 4th generation Core i3, i5 and i7 U series ULV Ultrabook CPUs available up to Core i7-4600U. 4 or 8 gigs of DDR3 1600MHz RAM (1 RAM slot). 2.5" SATA drive bay with HDD or SSD, caching drive available on HDD models.
x 8.19 x .79 inches. Weight: 3 pounds.
Camera:1.3MP webcam with built-in dual array mics.
Audio:Built-in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
Intel 7260N WiFi 802.11b/g/n or Intel 7260AC 802.11ac dual band WiFi. Bluetooth 4.0 and Gigabit wired RJ-45 Ethernet.
Software:Windows 8.1 64 bit or Windows 7.
Expansion and Ports:Two USB 3.0 ports, VGA, Ethernet, 3.5mm combo audio, mini DisplayPort,
SD card slot and SIM card slot on 3G/4G models.