In this column I have reviewed a couple of convertible tablet PCs—basically, lightweight laptops with screens that swivel around to convert into a tablet. My past experience hasn’t been overly positive: The computers are usually woefully underpowered, and having used an iPad for a few years, the tablet usually does not live up to what I have come to expect. So it was with some trepidation that I decided to take a look at the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 tablet. Using the review model that was loaned to me for the last couple of months has restored my faith that you can have a workhorse PC and tablet in one package.
Look & Design
For those of you familiar with ThinkPads, the look hasn’t changed in several years. What the design lacks in originality, however, the PC itself more than makes up for in power, durability and battery life.
For those looking for a compact laptop, the X220 fits the bill. It measures 12 × 9 inches (width x height) and is either 1 or 1.2 inches deep (depending on whether you opt for the four- or eight-cell battery). With the four-cell battery, the X220 convertible weighs in at 3.9 pounds, making it perfect for business travelers. If you want to maximize your battery life, you can purchase the optional external battery pack that ups your total unplugged time to nearly 18 hours (and also adds 1.9 pounds to the weight of the PC).
Although the X220 tablet is compact, the 12.5-inch screen is plenty big enough. Furthermore, it is made of extra-strong Gorilla Glass. In addition, the X220 offers a standard full-size keyboard. As a result, you don’t feel cramped when typing, a common complaint with ultra-portable PCs.
The ThinkPad 220 tablet is equipped with both a TrackPoint pointing stick nestled in the middle of the keyboard and a touchpad. Directly below the spacebar, there are three buttons for use in conjunction with the TrackPoint pointing stick. The center button allows you to scroll documents. The TrackPoint is an acquired taste, but I have always enjoyed using it to navigate. The right- and left-click buttons are integrated into the touchpad instead of being dedicated buttons. For some, this may take getting used to.
The ThinkPad X220 Tablet is available with the Intel 2.1GHz Core i3-2310M, 2.5GHz Core i5-2520M or 2.7GHz Core i7-2620M processors. These processors offer plenty of power to run any type of software you may use. You can also opt for either four, six or eight gigabytes of RAM, which, again, allows you to run multiple programs with ease.
A 320G hard disk drive is standard on all X220 tablet models, along with optional 128G or 160G solid state drives SSD.
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit or Professional 64-bit operating systems are available.
For wireless access, 802.11 b/g/n comes standard, along with Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet. You can also configure the X220 with mobile broadband.
One of the sacrifices Lenovo made in order to achieve the X220’s portability is to forego an optical drive (CD/DVD drive). This means that if you need to install software from a CD or DVD, you will need to have an external optical drive.
In order to turn the X220 into a tablet, you simply pivot the screen around and close it flat so that it is facing outward. In tablet mode the X220 provides the versatility of finger, pen and keyboard input options. The screen is touch sensitive and the X220 comes with Lenovo’s SimpleTap utility: tapping two fingers on the touchscreen launches quick settings for volume controls, camera settings, etc. I found the X220’s tablet experience to be much better than those of most of the other tablets I have looked at.
With any laptop, battery life is a key concern. According to the Lenovo website, the standard six-cell battery provides nearly nine hours of battery life. The optional external battery pack delivers a total of nearly 18 hours of battery life (again, according to Lenovo). These times are some of the best I have seen on a laptop, especially given the onboard processing power.
I was thoroughly impressed with the X220 convertible tablet. Unlike some other systems I have looked at, the X220 performs admirably as both an ultra-portable laptop and as a tablet. The memory and processor options give you plenty of power, and the standard battery and optional battery upgrade give you some of the best battery life I have seen. Beginning at $1,149, the Lenovo X220 convertible tablet also offers tremendous value.
• Good keyboard layout
• Well made
• Excellent battery life
• No integrated optical drive
• External battery adds significant weight and bulk
• Lack of dedicated right- and left-click buttons for touchpad
Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Convertible Tablet
Starting at $1,149
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.