Usage, Battery Life and Closing Thoughts
The ThinkPad X220 we tested came with the optional IPS display upgrade. This is the first time I have worked with such a display aside from the one on my iPad and I must say, it's leaps and bounds better than any other notebook screen I have used in terms of horizontal and vertical viewing angles. Color reproduction was also very good and the everything simply looked great at 1366 x 768.
Although ThinkPad keyboard's reputation is legendary, in recent years chiclet-style keys have become the norm for some, including myself. I would have also preferred a slightly modified layout (swapping the Fn / Ctrl keys), but I understand this ultimately boils down to preference. Everything else, like the media keys and arrow buttons are adequately placed.
I was a bit apprehensive when I learned about Lenovo's plans for a button-less touchpad after my not so pleasant experience with a similar implementation on the HP Envy 14. And sure enough, my fears were soon realized -- the button-less touchpad on the X220 is just as bad, if not worse than the one on the Envy. The problem isn't necessarily with the touchpad or the click-buttons when used separately but rather when you try to combine the two. For example, trying to select a group of files on the desktop and dragging the selected group into a folder proved next to impossible. I consistently found that either the files would deselect, only one would remain selected, the right-click menu would somehow activate or in the rare event that I was able to select and move all files, movements were very stuttered and one of the above mentioned issues would usually occur at some point.
After using so many great mouse-click buttons on previous Lenovo offerings, it's a shame that someone could even imagine this being a worthwhile replacement. As an alternative you could use the TrackPoint, or as our own editor in chief points out, you could also rely on the TrackPoint buttons + touchpad combination, something he swears he used to do when using a ThinkPad T series a few years ago.
The X220 offers a pretty good downward-firing speaker system -- worlds better than the crummy speakers on the T510. They aren't mind blowing but they should be sufficient for the average consumer to listen to music, watch videos and teleconference.
Intel's Sandy Bridge platform is exceptional in nearly every aspect. There was more than enough processing power on tap for everything I threw at the system. 1080p full screen videos only taxed the CPU around 14%. Even more impressive was the ability to run a 4k resolution video on YouTube buttery smooth at around 80% CPU utilization.
While the X220 lacks a discrete graphics option, we found Intel's integrated solution to be adequate for everyday tasks, HD videos and even some light gaming on modern titles. Keep in mind that this is a business-oriented system, hence the lack of a discrete option.
I conducted a few different battery tests using the regular 6-cell battery and the 6-cell + 6-cell "slice" companion installed. Our video playback test consists of looping a 720p rip of one of my favorite movies (Inception) in Windows Media Player at full screen with max screen brightness and Wi-Fi disabled. This resulted in 5 hours and 28 minutes of usage with the single battery and about 11 hours when both batteries were installed.
Heat generation and fan noise are both kept to a minimum even under full load. This of course is credited to Sandy Bridge and its 32nm power-conscious architecture.
Outstanding product: Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Ultraportable Notebook
The ThinkPad X220 excels with an excellent 12.5" matte IPS display and the gobs of power courtesy of Sandy Bridge. There's also plenty of connectivity and battery life is very acceptable, though road warriors will likely want to invest the extra $179 for the "slice" battery that effectively doubles uptime.
Overall, the system is classic ThinkPad which looks and feels very sturdy. The one glaring flaw is the button-less touchpad, but if you can overlook that or accommodate using the TrackPoint buttons located above the touchpad, I can't see how you can go wrong with the X220 if a powerful ultraportable is what you're after.
Lenovo starts shipping the ThinkPad X220 next month. The configuration we tested will retail for $1299, and the companion battery is an additional $179.