Review Index:
Feedback

Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Ultrabook Review: A Philosophical Shift

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Conclusion

Conclusion

View Full Size

Unlike the X230, which merely substituted the traditional (and excellent) ThinkPad keyboard with a nearly-equivalent AccuType Chiclet-style model, the X240 brings some pretty striking changes to the table—and not all of them are necessarily positive.  For starters, in the definitely negative category, there’s the new clickpad design, which is difficult to operate, cheap-feeling, and rickety in comparison to previous models—hardly a suitable replacement for physical buttons.  In addition to that, we’ve also lost another USB port (bringing the grand total to just two USB 3.0 ports), and the once-fabled 1080p screen option appears to have vanished into thin air (to be continued…).  The build is also notably compromised in a few areas, with some un-ThinkPad-like creakiness in the center near the touchpad and between the hinges at the top of the base unit.  It’s still great overall, but not as great as it once was.

View Full Size

The next big topic of controversy is sure to be the headfirst jump into low-voltage parts, flanked with a mere single SODIMM slot for RAM (8 GB total system memory supported) and an extremely conservative firmware which limits the system’s performance (via throttling) in the presence of even moderate GPU activity.  This trio of developments might not bother most users, but for those who appreciated the dual-mode versatility of the previous X230 and X220 (highly portable, adequate battery life, and still full-voltage, unhindered performance when called for), this plunge into portability-first mentality will certainly give them pause.  For examples of how it has affected the GPU and CPU performance of the machine in context with the X230, see our related benchmarks.

View Full Size

It isn’t that we think choosing battery life over processing power is a silly decision—but rather, simply that there comes a point where additional battery life reaches seriously diminishing returns.  For those who aren’t buying for the option of occasional power, however, the X240 still has a lot to offer.  It’s small and nimble, conquering everyday tasks without hesitation.  The battery life is absolutely fantastic with the combination of the internal 3-cell and external battery, especially when using the external 6-cell.  The keyboard is great (even if it’s not as good as the X230’s), and overall, the machine is relatively durable, even if it can’t quite match the sturdiness of its predecessors.  The touchscreen option, thanks to the semi-matte panel finish, also feels well-implemented for buyers interested in such things.

View Full Size

It’s a great ultraportable notwithstanding its flaws, and one which deserves a look if you’re in the market for a small business machine.

View Full Size

 

More photos:

View Full Size

View Full Size

View Full Size

View Full Size

View Full Size

View Full Size

View Full Size

View Full Size

View Full Size

View Full Size

View Full Size

View Full Size

February 25, 2014 | 10:57 AM - Posted by Graham L (not verified)

I have been a Thinkpad fan for many years. I've purchased a lot of Thinkpads in both the X and T series.

But I can't say that I'm a fan of what they did to the X-Series. The exlusion of a tablet edition of this laptop is very frustrating. And with a promised 1080p screen that seems to be some kind of Unicorn model, I don't really understand why this would be appealing over the T440s. Sure the size is smaller, but the weight difference isn't much, and the performance on the T440s is better.

I also don't like the soldered on DIMM fused with a single DIMM slot, this makes Dual Channel memory difficult to accomplish and a 12 GB cap on memory is kind of lame with the previous model could go up to 16 GB. Also the Previous model could get long batter life with the addition of a slice battery, sure it was extra weight, but I didn't have to compromise on memory, or loss of usb port.

February 25, 2014 | 01:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'm liking my decision (X230 with Windows 7) better every day.

February 25, 2014 | 09:08 PM - Posted by John Foster (not verified)

Knowing there would be an X240 along within a year I pondered long and hard whether to buy an X230, but I did, summer 2013. I'm glad I didn't wait for this model. Looks like Lenovo are selling out on their previous culture of loading a small laptop with top quality components in a strong and desirable frame. Yes it's only a marginal deviation from the past but it's the thin edge of the wedge.

Looks like the X230 is the last of Lenovo's high quality 12.5" laptops.

The X230's chicklet keyboard is wonderful.

February 26, 2014 | 02:59 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Sadly, we have reached the end of usable keyboard layouts on notebooks, following the lack of quality high-res 16x10 displays. Such a shame.

No Insert key. (Seriously? Fn+I?)
Other keys, like SysRq, are also magic sequences.
Broken Fn/Ctrl, and different sizes so they aren't physically swappable after changing the firmware setting.
Page Up/Page Down is in the wrong place. (I have used it every day for the last 9 months and still can't really get used to it.)
WTF is with a dedicated large print screen button?
And WTF is with this new mouse crap? It's why I didn't wait for a W540.

People were crying about the chiclet keyboard in the past, but that isn't the problem (I use a W530 and x120e daily and the feel is fine). The problem is the inane locations of buttons and how they deviate so much from model to model now. I wasn't a big fan of the previous IBM/Lenovo keyboard layouts but they were consistent and I could live with and adjust to them. With the new models though, the inconsistencies continue to grow, and some things are just retarded - like no space between function key groups on the W530 (that's about the one thing the X240 gets right...). And I can't edit code on my W530 then tweak it on my X120 without problems as ins/del and home/end are mixed up, for example... and the X240 doesn't even have Insert!

Dell decided to ruin keyboard layouts about 3 years ago, and in the last year Lenovo has fallen in line.

With the X240, we now see the immediate future. And this future shows that there are no longer _any_ notebooks on the market at any price with usable screens and usable keyboard layouts.

February 26, 2014 | 03:00 AM - Posted by mathew7 (not verified)

Reading the review, I kept feeling better and better over my x230 aquisition in november. I saw then the official pictures of x240 in the lenovo psref pdf and I hated the hinges since you lose back space (also on a cluttered desk, you need extra space for the screen).
I guess I'm gonna use it a long time from now. I am very conservative on laptop designs, and Lenovo/IBM kept their designs the longest (ok...I may be biased...but every time I looked at other brands, I kept getting back to Lenovo designs).

February 26, 2014 | 07:55 AM - Posted by Pes5 (not verified)

I have been using ThinkPads since mid-90s, and my current X230 is most likely the last one to be sort of happy with. I cannot accept loosing the dedicated F-keys. I am barly accepting changes in pgup and pgdn keys... It is all against productivity users that prefered their hands on the keyboard, and using the red stick..Yes, Lenovo ruins Thinkpads and this is very sad.

February 26, 2014 | 04:21 PM - Posted by waffle (not verified)

Agreed, this is sad.

February 27, 2014 | 08:56 AM - Posted by Steve (not verified)

The review doesn't mention the msata capabilities. Can it take the standard 50mm cards or is it stuck with the 40mm? Being able to accept industry standard msata in the msata port is vital. Thank you.

March 21, 2014 | 01:51 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

42mm

March 3, 2014 | 11:08 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

X220 is still the best.

May 13, 2014 | 05:02 AM - Posted by TechSolvers (not verified)

For anybody needing help with changing the keyboard in this model, you can find a full tutorial here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTN-CO_flVs

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <blockquote><p><br>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.