Lenovo ThinkPad X220i review

Travel-friendly laptop for road warriors
Photo of Lenovo ThinkPad X220i
£1000

We’ve heard Lenovo’s hard-wearing laptops have come in for some pretty sturdy praise, from those with a fleet of mobile employees as well as the road-warrior class themselves. The arrival of the X220i is a good chance for us to test the brand’s rugged reputation.

The Lenovo’s ThinkPad brand is reassuringly expensive to potential professional users, while being synonymous with remote working and it’s easy to see why. A 12.5-inch LED panel is big enough for viewing spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, without being too bulky to carry. The screen boasts a resolution of 1366×768 pixels; it’s not hugely detailed, but it does have a widescreen 16:9 screen shape and of IPS heritage – which is the industry shorthand for excellent contrast and wide viewing angles.  

Our review sample was fitted with an Intel i3-2310M dual core 2.1 GHz processor, with 4GB of DDR3 memory (this can be upgraded to 8GB) and a 320GB SATA hard drive.

Connectivity is also a deal-maker, with a SIM card slot near the battery that signals that there is 3G is an option, though we had to make do with WiFi (Intel’s Centrino Advanced-N 6205). There’s a dizzyingly comprehensive selection of ports and features available. This starts with a manual switch on the left-hand side that disables WiFi, which will please most travellers when in the cabin, though the flanks of the X220i are stuffed with other options.

Built in are three USB 2.0 slots (why no USB 3.0?), card readers (Flash, and ExpressCard NO SD?), Ethernet LAN, 15-pin VGA and a headphones slot that doubles as a microphone. Its two 1W speakers are close to the user, below the touchpad, and there’s a webcam in the lid for web conferencing, though it’s of a rather basic spec.

Battery life

Energy consumption and battery life is the talk of the travelling classes. Here, a six-cell Li-Ion battery is used and will last for around six hours in continuous use, according to Lenovo. That’s pretty good and it got better results in our test. The X220i reached just over seven hours, thanks to the Power Manager. This is Lenovo’s own software that lets you customise exactly how long you need the battery to stay useful (to make the most of a long flight, say). This is along with changing what closing the lid actually does (sleep, hibernate or power-off), which could be handy if using it in transit (though it takes an age to wake from hibernation). Battery Stretch is another great option, where when selected this allows the X220i to be customised – to switch-off the likes of WiFi, Bluetooth, tone-down brightness, and put the CPU into its lowest possible speed. There are various choices here, showing exactly what the net effect is in terms of extra minutes – where an additional 44 minutes, was achieved in our best result.

Our sample came with the standard six-cell battery, with this attached, the X220i weighs 1.5kg. Lenovo does offer a bulkier 29++ nine-cell version, for around £170 that adds an extra five or so hours. Only those pulling the longest haul – and arguably working far too hard – will absolutely need the 19+ six-cell slice option (£182). When this is used with the nine-cell battery, longevity is extended to a stunning 23 hours. Though the total weight with those two large batteries equals about 2.4kg; we can see the appeal here of not having to constantly think about charging-up while travelling.

Software

There’s a good selection of software bundled in, though the Microsoft Office 2010 Starter edition gets short thrift from us. Lenovo has fitted the X220i with its ThinkVantage Toolbox, with its mix of information on updates, system health and performance statistics. This Lenovo laptop, as ever, is obsessed with backing-up and security. We’re not sure it warrants a dedicated, branded and dedicated button, just under the screen.

That said, security is on the must-have list for most business people, and Lenovo’s ThinkVantage Fingerprint Software proves genuinely useful in this regard. The fingerprint scanner is located to the left of the touchpad, and is simple to configure. The X220i can also be set to lock, when the webcam doesn’t detect your presence.

As always, it’s the little things that make this laptop a supreme choice for the travelling salesmen. Lenovo has added a shortcut to the idiot-proof ‘Connect to a projector’ wizard on the pop-up Windows menu, which is a perfect example of this.

Performance

Something we’re not crazy about is the X220i’s Track Point controller in the centre of the keyboard. Although this is just a personal choice, in addition to a signature Lenovo feature. There is also a TrackPad with a regular left/right buttons on top, as well as hidden versions under the lower portion of the TrackPad itself.

We found typing this review on the X220i was a joy. The keyboard is very well thought-out and manufactured, with a soft, yet firm press that never involves nearby keys – with the addition of a usefully large delete key.

Although the screen can’t display a 1080p image, it’s obviously of high quality. It’s still easy to make-out image details, without seeing a close-up of the LCD cell structure, and it remains clear, colourful with good contrast, yet bright at all times. 

 

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Company: Lenovo

Website: http://www.lenovo.com/ThinkPad

Contact: 0870 608 4465

Positives
  • Rugged design and build; battery life; LCD screen; comfortable to type keyboard.
Negative
  • High price; conservative design; lacks USB 3.0.

Verdict

A thick construction and hefty hinges create a reassuringly sturdy build that ought to help the X220i survive a life on the road. It’s certainly up for the journey, with a high-end, comfortable and impressive all-round experience, which is capped off by a decent battery life. Real road warriors ought to go the distance by upping battery to 23 hours, though, even in a basic configuration of the X220i wins a place in our cabin bag.