Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Impressions

A quick look at the system reveals a typical ThinkPad design. The system feels very solid despite its thin and light construction. The X220 weighs three pounds and measures 12 x 8.12 x 0.74 inches (305 x 206.5 x 19 mm). Those keeping score will note that the X220 is only 1mm thicker than the IdeaPad U260, which is extremely slim.

The outer lid of the X220 gets the usual ThinkPad styling and smooth rubbery feel. Battery and sleep LED indicators are easily visible on the back of the lid. There are no LEDs or buttons across the front of the notebook with the lid closed – only a small notch to grip and open the screen.

On the right side of the system is an SD card slot, always-on USB 2.0 port, Ethernet jack, headphone and mic jacks, Kensington lock slot and the hard drive bay. This is the first ThinkPad I have used with the HDD bay in this location and I do prefer it here instead of on the bottom as it's much easier to access and remove.

The battery compartment is in the back along with the power connector and exhaust ventilation slots. The hinges for the lid are of a silver-colored metal – identical to the ThinkPad T510 we looked at last year.

On the left side of the notebook is another ventilation slot, two more USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port, a DisplayPort connector, a wireless switch and a 54mm Express Card slot.

As is becoming the norm lately, the 12.5-inch X220 ships without an optical drive (see a TS readers' discussion on the matter here). We prefer this for the added mobility and battery life, but Lenovo does offer an optional UltraBase docking station that adds an optical drive should you require one, or you could always pick up an external USB drive.

Flipping the notebook over we find four grippy rubber feet on the base of computer with two additional feet on the bottom of the battery. The 6-cell battery is held in place by two sliding tabs. An access panel hides the dual memory slots. Our evaluation unit shipped with a single 4GB DDR3 stick – a much preferred configuration for future expansion considerations.

The additional connector at the bottom fits the docking station or the optional external battery pack we mentioned earlier. Dual downward-firing speakers can be found at the front of the base and two drains are near the middle of the system to expel any liquid spilled on the keyboard.

The keyboard layout on the X220 is identical to the one we found on the T510. I have grown to love chiclet keys like the U260's, but we understand Lenovo caters to a well-defined audience with ThinkPads that won't ever let go of classic features like the TrackPoint. The X220 also maintains the use of Fn / Ctrl key placements - which I personally don't like - and features full-size keys for heavily used functions like Escape and Delete.

Volume controls line the top of the keyboard as well as the ThinkVantage and power buttons. Three small status LED indicators are on the bottom of the screen bezel just to the right of the dual microphones.

All models of the X220 feature a 12.5" matte LCD screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768. Our testing unit included the optional in-plane switching (IPS) panel, which dramatically improves viewing angles and color reproduction.

Above the display across the top bezel are a 720p HD webcam and a ThinkLight keyboard light, which does a decent job of lighting up the board in low light situations but it is no substitute for a backlit keyboard – something that we suspect couldn't be included due to the spill-resistant keyboard implementation.

Directly below the keyboard is a set of mouse-click buttons to use in conjunction with the TrackPoint pointing device nestled between the G, H and B keys.

Given the fact that this is an ultraportable notebook, Lenovo was somewhat short on real estate when it came time for the touchpad and opted for a button-less design. The two standard mouse click buttons are integrated into the bottom of the touchpad, much like we saw on the HP Envy 14. If you recall, this was not a design element I liked on that notebook, so hopefully Lenovo has perfected their implementation.

A fingerprint reader on the right side of the touchpad completes the physical layout of the X220.