05-18-2012 04:47 AM
I'm the lucky recipient of an early ThinkPad X230, it's a review I got yesterday and have had about 24 hours to mess with now (well, I did sleep, so make that 16). Happy to answer any questions, I'll copy and paste below much of what I wrote in the preview on LaptopReviews.com minus some of the images and video to be bandwidth friendly.
Earlier this week Lenovo announced the ThinkPad X230, a 12.5” screen ultraportable targeted at business buyers. While the X230 won’t go on sale via Lenovo.com until June 2012 (keep an eye on this X230 product page for availablility) we were lucky enough to receive an early review sample to try out. As most of you familiar with the ThinkPad brand know, change is generally slow from one generation to the next to keep the enterprise buying folks from getting all worked up. One thing that certainly almost never changed much was the keyboard. Until now that is. The X230 and the rest of the ThinkPad line have adopted a new keyboard styling that uses an island style key layout and drops down to six rows of keys from seven. There are a few other changes and added features, the keyboard backlighting being my personal favorite, but for the most part the X230 is just an evolution of the X220 design wise and of course has updated internal components to boost performance.
Keyboard Comparison with X220
Let’s jump right to the part a lot of people are interested in hearing about -- the keyboard. Again, a video helps to show exactly what the visual differences are so we’ll show that first and then talk about the perceived usability differences:
The first concern I had was whether the spacing of the keys was the same or different enough to cause a problem getting used to the X230 keyboard. I was also concerned that the travel distance and feel of the keys would be different. Rest assured, despite the very different look, the keyboard is very similar in feel to previous generations and the typing differences were really only noticeable to me when I had both the X220 and X230 next to each other and I could test the difference. Here is what I found to be different in terms of feel, at least as far as my perception goes:
Keep in mind, those are just the perceived differences in feel. The layout has changed from six rows to seven rows, which forces a repositioning of keys that could trip up users used to the old ThinkPad keyboard. To name just a few:
There are probably more differences in positioning, but those are the major ones. I’ll also note that the Enter key is now black instead of blue and they’ve removed the “return arrow”. In fact, a lot of the icons have been axed to make the look more clean, the arrows on the Shift key, Caps Lock and Tab keys are all gone. It certainly does have the result of the keyboard looking more plain and clean.
The real test is of course whether your typing is affected by the changes. I generally type at around 80 WPM so figured I’d do a typing test using this WPM online tool to see how I faired doing the test on the X220 and then the X230. Look, I’m not here to make an advertorial for Lenovo but I got the exact same 76 WPM score on each notebook and was ever so slightly more accurate on the X230 where I made no mistakes. Of course, that’s one trial run, but it’s all I had the patience for and figured it was enough to provide anecdotal evidence that most users should transition just fine.
ThinkPad X220 typing test: 76 Words per minute, one mistake made when I mistyped “M” instead of “N” for November (though there is such thing as Movember and it is a worthy cancer charity I might add)
ThinkPad X230 typing test: 76 Words per minute, exactly the same result as the X220 but no typing mistakes
Another new feature on the X230 is the keyboard backlight. You can toggle between two levels of keyboard backlight brightness or use the ThinkLight positioned in the screen that shines down on the keys. Here’s a video demoing how this looks and works:
And below is a picture of the backlight set at its strongest level:
Bottom line on the keyboard changes, the usability is still top notch and all of the essential keys such as alpha, numeric and common cursor movement keys are in the same location. The biggest challenge with changes will be in regards to remapping your brain to find and reach the keys that moved such as Home, End and Delete. The backlighting option is a definite improvement and recommended upgrade.
Size and Weight
While the ThinkPad X230 weighs 2.96lbs when you use the small sized 4-cell battery, Lenovo isn’t changing its marketing to call this an Ultrabook. The thickness ranges from 0.75-inches at the front to 1.05-inches at the back due to the slope. The 1” thickness is fat compared to the 0.68” the upcoming ThinkPad X1 Carbon will have. That under 3lbs of weight doesn’t hold for the standard 6-cell battery either, this review unit has a weight of 3lbs 7 ounces (3.44lbs).
05-18-2012 06:22 AM
05-18-2012 08:48 AM
can you remove the keyboard and have a look at the keyboard connector?
From the video it seems as the X230 non-ThinkPad keyboard is verticaly bit shorter than the old X220 ThinkPad one
05-18-2012 05:05 PM - edited 05-18-2012 05:05 PM
Cool, thanks for the first review!
You said the screen options are the same, so does that mean that there is no 1600x900 option?
05-18-2012 07:05 PM
I do hope that keyboard is durable considering a replacement one would have to be of a similar design. I had an extremely cheap similar looking usb keyboard that I got with a nettop from Acer that half of the keyboard stopped working after a few months of use. The total price of the computer was around $200. It seem like an electrical circuit failure of the usb keyboard as oppose to a mechanical failure. Fortunately, the usb keyboard design was not tied directly to the machine because it was not a laptop. I guess we will see how well that new keyboard design was tested for durability.
Maybe some stress testing videos of the new keyboard from Lenovo would help me see how well it fairs.
I am not due to replace my current x201 anytime soon, but I do like to keep an eye new stuff.
05-22-2012 10:54 PM - edited 05-22-2012 11:08 PM
Thanks for the excellent review.
I am disappointed in the new keyboard choice, outside of the move to chiclet keys the move to 6 rows is just blasphemous. As a user and owner of 10+ thinkpads, the x220 and t420s will be my last.
Lenovo may not even care as the general business consumer doesn't favor one keyboard style over the other, but legions of thinkpad fans will be left behind. A sad state of things indeed.
05-23-2012 03:49 PM
05-30-2012 09:16 PM