How do you make an Editor's Choice notebook even better? Upgrade it to Intel's third generation Ivy Bridge CPU. That's the Lenovo ThinkPad X230 which will replace our Editor's Choice 12.5" ThinkPad X220 in early June. The ThinkPad X230 is in a unique position as a relatively affordable yet exquisitely powerful 3 pound ultraportable. If you like the idea of Ultrabooks but need full size notebook processing power, the X230 is your go to machine. As with previous Lenovo X series machines, there will be an X230t convertible tablet too with pen and multi-touch. The only other machine in this size, weight and processing power class is the much more expensive Sony Vaio Z series. The ThinkPad X230 will start at $1,179.
The ThinkPad X230 is as ever a very configurable beast. Lenovo sells direct and they tell us you'll be able to order it with your choice of intel Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs. You can get a 320 gig 7200 RPM hard drive or SSD drives, and there's an mSATA slot so you can use an mSATA SSD in addition to the spinning hard drive. Our machine shipped with 4 gigs of RAM (1 DIMM, two slots). It has Intel WiFi single band 802.11n, Bluetooth and a 720p webcam.
The machine features a revised island style keyboard that's moving toward Lenovo's Chiclet design, and we love it. It turns me into a typing wizard--its just that good. Nice key travel, good key shape and separation and oversized keys where you expect them. You can order it with two stage keyboard backlighting and the ThinkLight is there too.
Display resolution is 1366 x 768. That might bum out you eagle eyed folks, but at 12.5", it's the ideal resolution for those of us with average eyes. Our review unit shipped with the IPS 300 nit matte display, and this is a must have option. Fortunately, it usually doesn't add much to the price, and it's one of the features that sets the Lenovo apart from the competition. It's simply exquisite.
As you've probably read, the big improvement with Ivy Bridge lays in its HD 4000 integrated graphics that simply blows away the second gen's HD 3000 graphics and even trounces lower end dedicated graphics. The Lenovo ThinkPad X230 is the perfect notebook for this tech because it relies solely on integrated graphics. If we were talking about performance machines like the HP Envy 15 with serious dedicated graphics, we'd be less excited since we rarely use integrated graphics on that class of machine. But when we leave behind our gaming Envy and want a little entertainment on the road, the ThinkPad X230 makes it possible. Yes, we got mid-30's FPS at native 1366 x 768 resolution in Skyrim! And we played Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 at native resolution on low settings at 25-50 FPS. Dude!
For those of you who are more practically minded, that means more contribution from the GPU when using Adobe Photoshop, and plenty of processing power for development work and video editing (go with the Core i7 for 1080p video editing). Due to an Intel embargo, we can't share the actual processor number or benchmark data for a few more days, but we can tell you that our machine has a Core i5 and it benchmarks nearly twice as fast in 3DMark Vantage as the X220 running on Sandy Bridge.
Current second gen Intel Core i family CPUs with Intel HD graphics under Windows have enough horsepower to play Blu-Ray, and thus it won't b a problem for third gen models. 1080p of all kinds works well.
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview