With a ThinkPad, it’s pretty much a safe bet that the keyboard’s going to be amazing, and Lenovo’s X220 is no exception. For those who hate chiclet keyboards, the X220 is a great choice, as the full-size keys don’t have any wasted space between them.
Layout is excellent with dedicated keys for all the functions productivity-oriented typists might need, including specific Page Up and Down keys near the cursor ones. The only layout quirk is that old ThinkPad bugbear of putting the Fn key to the outside of Ctrl, though this can be ‘switched’ in the BIOS.
What really puts these keyboards in a class of their own is that keys have a slightly concave shape that fits your fingertips, and a crisp action reminiscent of the old IBM keyboards (a very good thing). There’s lots of travel and a positive, springy action with a defined click to each key too. We would happily type on the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 all day.
Unfortunately Lenovo’s buttonless touchpads aren’t as unqualified a success. Though we liked it well enough when we first encountered it on the ThinkPad X220t, that was only because of the terrible examples that had gone before. Now that Windows laptops are finally matching Apple with the frosted glass pads on the likes of the Samsung Series 9, the touchpad on the X220 doesn’t quite cut it, especially since it tends to confuse a press on its ‘buttons’ with a touch or swipe on occasion.
Thankfully, there’s always the traditional ThinkPad TrackPoint to fall back on. A tiny red rubber nubbin nestled in the keyboard, this miniature joystick takes a little getting used to, but once you are it’s nice to use, and has three of its own physical buttons.
Its screen is undoubtedly the most interesting part of the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 though, at least if you go for the Premium option which gets you an IPS rather than TN panel – and at a mere £33, you’d have to be stark raving… yes, well, you really should go for the upgrade. Panel tech and lovely matt finish aside, the 12.5in display has a 1,366 x 768 resolution. Some may find this a little low, but to be honest more isn’t really necessary on a screen this small.
Of course the best thing about the IPS panel is that viewing angles are as good as LCD gets, with only the faintest trace of contrast or colour shift at extreme angles – though contrast shift specifically is a little more prominent on the vertical than we usually find with IPS. Nor does brightness suffer from the semi-matt finish, with colours that really pop. In fact, though it’s the exact same panel used in the ThinkPad X220t, its different finish (due, perhaps, to the lack of touch and digitizer) makes everything look that bit more vibrant.
Dark detailing is good, with even the subtlest shades just about visible, ensuring you won’t miss any of the action in dark movies and games. Backlighting is nicely even too, with only a barely noticeable hint of bleed from the bezel’s bottom. Suffice to say, the screen is simply lovely, and on ultraportables it’s exceeded only by that of the Samsung Series 9.
Unfortunately audio leaves us wanting, specifically in the volume department. The X220’s speakers would have trouble filling an office cubicle, though at least what’s there is clear and detailed if you can hear it.