Performance on the ThinkPad X220 is significantly better than on most ultraportables, or at least it can be if you get the maximum specification. Our review sample is outfitted with a dual-core Intel Core i7 2620M which runs at a speedy 2.7GHz by default but can turbo-clock up to 3.4GHz. This processor will happily chomp through your daily workloads, and even more intensive fare such as HD video encoding won’t be a problem.
It’s backed by 4GB of RAM which, as mentioned, is upgradeable to 8GB. Lenovo also offers the choice of a slow 320GB 5,400rpm hard drive or a selection of two SSDs: one a generic 128GB model, the other a 160GB Intel drive. Though our review sample came fitted with the Intel, you’re paying over a £100 for the guaranteed brand name and extra 30GB, which really isn’t worth it. Even £267 for the upgrade from a hard drive to the 128GB SSD option seems ridiculously steep, but you can always add your own instead.
Gaming, of course, is a weak point on the X220, thanks to its use of Intel’s integrated HD3000 graphics. Though it managed a smooth 59.4fps average in TrackMania Nations Forever, that’s an older game, and settings were moderate at 1,280 x 720 and Medium Detail. At the same settings, the more demanding Stalker got a slide-show-like 10.4fps. At least Lenovo’s premium laptop stayed cool and quiet throughout our testing.
Battery life from the optional extended 9-cell, 7,740mAh battery on our X220 model is staggeringly good, managing to power this ultraportable ThinkPad through eight hours and 40 minutes, albeit with screen brightness set to 40 percent and wireless radios turned off.
That easily nabs it a spot at the top of the longevity-while-on the go class, and though the battery sticks out the back, this actually provides a handy grip for carrying the ThinkPad around. Oh, and if nearly nine hours is not enough for you, an optional battery slice is available too.
Last of all we come to value, and - if you’re happy with the ThinkPad styling - this is the only area where the X220 is not an immediate success. The price does start at a very reasonable £829, but that’s with a Core i3, 2GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, and none of the premium options.
Our Core i7 review sample with 160GB SSD comes in at a whopping £1,550, and that’s still without an HD webcam. However, if you’re more conservative with the upgrades, you can get a Core i5 with 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, the premium IPS screen, and extended battery – incorporating all the main highlights the X220 has to offer – for £1180.
Basically, if you’re after an ultraportable and have money to spare, there are currently two main choices. If you want the sleekest, dare we say sexiest ultraportable around, the 13in Samsung Series 9 900X3B is the way to go. It’s thinner and lighter than anything out there, has a lovely metal body and premium touches like keyboard backlighting, has good speakers and, most of all, sports a gorgeous 1,600 x 900 PLS 13.3in screen that’s simply unmatched. On the other hand it’s not without its limitations, including restricted connectivity and average battery life.
If you prefer function over form and can live with its chunky dimensions, the X220 is a great alternative. It’s incredibly flexible, completely upgradeable (including the rarity of integrated 3G), stuffed with connections, sports the second-best display we’ve seen on an ultraportable and offers the best typing experience (though it lacks keyboard backlighting), and with its extended battery will easily last through the working day and beyond.
It might not be sleek and sexy, but the 12in Lenovo ThinkPad X220 laptop has it where it counts: a rugged chassis, amazing keyboard, completely flexible and upgradable specifications including 3G, great IPS screen and - the icing on the cake - amazing battery life. If you can live with its chunky dimensions, require a customisable ultraportable and can afford its asking price, the X220 is still one of the best small laptops available.