Lenovo ThinkPad X230 Review: Blasphemy
Performance - Competitors, Processor, Applications, Hard Drive
Performance - Competition
The Lenovo ThinkPad X230 stands out from many other laptops of similar size and weight because it does not use Intel low-voltage processors. My review unit arrived with a Core i5-3320M, which is an $85 upgrade. The Core i3-2370M is currently standard, but I imagine that will go away as stock of Sandy Bridge processors dwindle.
Also included is four gigabytes of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Though Lenovo did manage to cram in a standard voltage processor, it did have to make do with Intel HD 4000 graphics.
For comparison we’re going to be using the Intel Ivy Bridge reference ultrabook and the Origin EON11-S. These two systems are close to the X230 in size but represent different approaches to portable laptops. The Ivy Bridge reference ultrabook has a low-voltage processor, while the Origin EON11-S offers an Intel Core i7 quad. I’m also going to include, in a limited number of
benchmarks, the Dell Inspiron 14z. This Sandy Bridge dual-core laptop will help use appreciate the performance benefit of Ivy Bridge.
Processor Performance - Synthetic
We begin, as usual, with SiSoft Sandra. This benchmark will help us have a look at the maximum processor performance of these various laptops.
I love it when benchmark results make my job easier, and this is certainly the case. Both the standard voltage Core i5-2410M in the Inspiron 14z and the low-voltage Intel Core i5-3427U from the Ivy Bridge reference ultrabook have approximately the same score. The X230’s Core i5-3320M is about 15% to 25% quicker depending on the benchmark. The Origin EON11-S and its Core i7-3720QM of course runs away from the pack by doubling the performance of the X230.
Now let’s see if 7-Zip and Peacekeeper back up these results.
Here we can see that, in 7-Zip, the quad-core EON11-S once again walks away from its dual-core cousins. But we can also see a fairly noticeable difference in performance between the low-voltage Core i5 3427U and the standard voltage Core i5-3320M in the X230.
The same is true in Peacekeeper. This is important because Peacekeeper approximates an extremely common task – web browsing. Single-core processor performance is important in this benchmark. With that said, general web browsing will be excellent on any Ivy Bridge processor.
Processor Performance – Application
Now that we’ve had a look at the X230 in synthetic tests it is time to throw it at our first application test. This is Windows Live Movie Maker, a common video editing program available for free from Microsoft. Encoding a project to 1080p can take some time. Let’s see how long this ThinkPad needs to handle our approximately five minute long clip.
Here we see that the low-voltage and standard-voltage Core i5 processors actually don’t have much separation between them, while the quad-core Core i7 is once again dominant. This result was unexpected, but consistent. It’s possible that the low-voltage Core i5-3427U is able to run both cores closer to its Turbo Boost ceiling than the Core i5-3320M.
Next up is SunlitGreen BatchBlitz, a freeware batch photo editing program. It is not that well optimized for multiple cores, so raw per-clock performance is an important factor – as is the case with many freeware programs the average user might install.
Once again, the stand-voltage Core i5 in the X230 isn’t much quicker than the low-voltage version. It’s starting to look as if, in real-world workloads, the stand-voltage Core i5 and low-voltage Core i5 are not separated by much of a gap. It’s an interesting result – and if reproduced consistently in other laptops it could eliminate one of my complaints about the ultrabook platform.
Performance – Hard Drive
We’ve received a lot of laptops with solid state drives as of late, which puts the X230 at a disadvantage before the green flag is waved. Our review unit came with a simple 320GB 7200RPM drive, the base option. The other laptops we’ve been using for competition have solid state drives. To make the comparison a bit less one-sided I’m going to throw in the Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 and ASUS N56VM.
Let’s dive in with ATTO.
As expected, the solid state drives clean up. However, we can also see that the Lenovo X230’s mechanical drive is the quickest of the bunch in both 256KB and 4MB read/write cycles. It does fall behind a bit in 4KB read/write, but only marginally.
Now let’s see what HD Tune has to say.
While the solid state drives once again murder the mechanicals we can see that the X230’s humble 320GB disc turns in decent perform by offering a solid average transfer rate and access time. It’s not the best, but on par with its peers.
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