Lenovo ThinkPad X200 review

7 Oct 2008

It gets nil points for style, but if you need a business-like ultraportable that's also fast enough to be your main PC, the X200 is a great choice.

Price when reviewed: 
950(£1,116 inc VAT)
5

The ThinkPad range has an unmatched heritage when it comes to ultraportables, with the X series earning a place on the PC Pro A List via each of the X30, X40, X60 and X300 families. The most recent, the Lenovo X300, is one of the most remarkable laptops we've seen, squeezing an optical drive and 13.3in screen into its ultra-slim 1.45kg chassis.

At first glance the X200 appears like a step backwards: there's no optical drive and the screen measures a mere 12.1in, but don't be fooled; it still fills a cosy niche previously occupied by the X60, which it replaces. It's more compact, it has a bigger hard disk, and it's cheaper.

Performance and battery life

It's also fast. Based on Intel's Centrino 2 technology, and in particular the P8000 series processors, it packs in a surprising amount of horsepower: a score of 1.10 in our benchmarks is 10% faster than a 3.2GHz Pentium D desktop PC, so the X200 will have no issue running demanding applications.

The copious 4GB of RAM, of which 3GB is usable by the OS, employed in our review sample (the top-end NR35TUK), can claim some credit for this, but if you opt for an X200 with at least 2GB of RAM you can be assured of a responsive system.

The other promised benefit is lengthy battery life, and we were impressed in our tests. The X200 lasted for 1hr 57mins when pushed to the limit in our intense-use benchmark, but in real-world use you can expect closer to the 5hrs 53mins we saw from our light-use test.

Note also that Lenovo customises Vista's power plans to provide all sorts of extra life-enhancing measures, including Battery Stretch: this disables unnecessary items like audio and wireless, and puts the display power settings into extra-aggressive mode.

If battery life is key, it's also worth thinking about buying the extra-life battery. The X200's standard six-cell battery has a 5,200mAh capacity, but switching to a nine-cell unit should add an extra three hours to the X200's life under light use.

The inevitable cost is weight. With a six-cell battery in place, the X200 tipped our scales at 1.55kg. According to Lenovo's figures this rises to 1.71kg with the nine-cell battery in place, and drops to 1.34kg with the four-cell battery.

Perfect for mobile professionals?

When you factor in the ThinkPad's build quality it's clear the X200 has plenty to offer a mobile professional who wants a reliable laptop to sling into a bag.

Especially when you consider that all new ThinkPads include a built-in 3G modem, which should help obtain a stronger signal than an external USB dongle. You get a free 30-day trial with Vodafone, at which point you can decide to stick with it (a perfectly reasonable choice, as you can see from our round-up of mobile broadband suppliers) or switch to someone else.

You'll also enjoy using the X200 on the move. The screen is incredibly bright at its top setting, and goes down to a very low level if battery life is a priority, and its 1,280 x 800 resolution is just right on a screen of this size. The extra desktop space is noticeable over the 1,024 x 768 offered by the X60 series.

But it's the keyboard that's truly a thing of beauty. Not necessarily to behold - the blocky keys are never going to match the Sony Z-Series' Scrabble-style offerings for style - but if you're a serial typist then you'll delight in their firm-yet-responsive feel underneath the finger.