Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Ultrabook Review: A Philosophical Shift
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.
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.
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.
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.