The last few months have seen a deluge of ultrabooks, with companies tripping over one another to offer sleek profiles with tapered teardrop designs and roughly the same specifications. And now there’s Lenovo, breaking the mold by sticking to what it knows best: black boxes built for work.
The ThinkPad X230 is one of the latest ultraportables to join the Lenovo fold, sporting Intel’s recently announced dual-core Ivy Bridge processor, and (arguably more importantly) Lenovo’s new Precision keyboard — the same comfortable yet controversial set of chiclet keys the company’s added to all its new models.
The 12.5-inch ThinkPad X230 I reviewed is equipped with a 2.6GHz Core i5-3320M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB 5400 RPM hard drive, and Intel integrated graphics — it falls close to the middle of the X230
Drop the ThinkPad X230 into a lineup with the last few generations of ThinkPad, and with the exception of the keyboard, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Lenovo’s wares aren’t going to win many style competitions, but the matte black plastic shell, rigid body, and demure ThinkPad badges offer a refined, functional aesthetic. The chassis is rock solid, offering little to no flex or bend.
Most importantly, it feels good: the corners are boxy, but the palm rest slopes to give your hands a comfortable place to perch. There’s no latch on the lid; its edge is molded to fit snugly with the lower tray and lifts smoothly when you need it.
On the left side of the keyboard, just over the function row, are a set of volume controls, mute buttons for the microphone and speakers, and the blue ThinkVantage key, which fires up a menu to access Lenovo’s proprietary software.
The left side of the X230 hosts a pair of USB 3.0 sockets, a VGA port, a Mini DisplayPort, a 54mm ExpressCard slot, and the hardware wireless switch. On the right, you’ll find a powered USB 2.0 port, a headphone jack, multi-format card reader, the Kensington lock slot, and a Gigabit Ethernet socket.
The power adapter plugs into the rear, keeping the cord out of the way, while a fingerprint reader is located to the right of the trackpad. Underneath the machine, you’ll find the docking station connector (Lenovo’s T, L, W, and X ThinkPads series share the same docking station, which is nice), and runoff holes for any liquids that might accidentally run through the spill-resistant keyboard.
The X230’s innards are readily accessible with a small Phillips screwdriver, should you want to dive in and replace the hard drive, RAM, or other components. This particular model wasn’t especially tricked out, but optional extras include HSPA+ and LTE radios, a Smart Card reader, and up to 16GB of RAM.