Before there were Ultrabooks with high-quality PLS screens like the Samsung Series 9 900X3B, Lenovo already provided an ultraportable option that sported a premium IPS display: the 12in ThinkPad X220. We reviewed the convertible tablet incarnation of this laptop – the ThinkPad X220t - last year, and it held up very well. But without the X220t’s tablet and wacom-pen talents, and with lighter, thinner Ultrabooks galore, can the regular X220 still justify its £800-plus price?
Well, there is a lot to like. The X220 is no thin and light Ultrabook, instead it’s a chunky and reasonably rugged machine. However, this means it can fit in a heck of a lot more connectivity and one of the nicest keyboards on any ultraportable. You also get other benefits such as a removable - and therefore swappable or easily replaceable - battery and fully configurable specifications. Even little touches like dedicated volume controls add to the function over form.
Regarding those specs, you can get a X220 with a regular old TN screen, Core i3 CPU, 2GB of RAM and a 320GB HDD. Or you can splurge on a model with a quad-core Core i7 processor, a whopping 8GB of RAM, a 160GB SSD, the premium display, and all the trimmings. Lenovos’ website lets you configure it just how you want it, or you can opt for one of the pre-assembled models from third party retailers. Even so, the X220’s 12.5in IPS display remains its major trump card over most other laptops, and since no new model has been introduced and there’s still almost no competition, we figured it was worth checking out.
As already mentioned, the Lenovo X220’s design is pure ThinkPad. It’s unapologetically boxy and, with the extended battery on our review sample, just over 3cm thick. Unlike the sub-13mm Samsung Series 9 900X3B, you won’t be able to cut cake with this laptop, at least not without making a real mess. It’s also quite hefty, at 1.66kg for our sample – though again keep in mind that this is with the highest-capacity battery.
However, while it’s not particularly thin and light for a 12in machine, or even made of metal, Lenovo’s X220 does have the classic ThinkPad build quality. It not only feels incredibly solid, but the trademark semi-soft black finish found on all ThinkPads makes it lovely to feel and provides excellent grip while carrying it around. Road warriors especially will find much to love.
Connectivity, meanwhile, is excellent, easily at the top of the class for a 12in laptop. On the left we have a single USB 3.0 port, VGA and DisplayPort for analogue and digital video respectively, a second USB port of the slower USB 2.0 variety, and a handy wireless switch. What makes the X220 stand out from the crowd though is the 45mm ExpressCard slot also found here, which can be used to add all kinds of expansions and accessories, such as extra eSATA or USB 3.0 ports, or external graphics.
On the right is an SDXC memory card reader, USB 2.0 always-on port (for charging USB devices when your laptop is turned off yet plugged in), Gigabit Ethernet connector and headphone/microphone jack. There’s also the cover for a 2.5in expansion bay that you can fit with a drive of your choice.
Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 3.0 come as standard, while 3G is an upgrade option that will set you back an extra £90ish. Considering its business leanings, it’s no surprise that an HD webcam is also a £11 option on this ThinkPad. Likewise, for business users there’s optional TPM, a boatload of security features and software, and a fingerprint scanner. Last but not least, Lenovo’s optional docking stations expand connectivity possibilities even further, offering luxuries like multiple video outputs, eSATA, and more.