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Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Ultrabook Review: A Philosophical Shift

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Performance - Storage Devices, Synthetic GPU, Gaming

Performance – Storage Devices

Taking a closer look at the storage device responsible for that high PCMark 7 score helps us to visualize the tangible versus intangible benefits.  Our first test, AS SSD, provides an already interesting assessment:

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Keep in mind that the X240, T440s, and Flex 14 all include the same solid-state drive, but the X240 includes double the capacity of the other two notebooks (256 GB vs. 128 GB).  But check out that score in comparison to the T440s and the Flex 14.  It’s a huge difference, with the X240 easily taking first place over all of the other systems in our comparison (including the G750JX-DB71 and GE40 20C, the latter of which incidentally is the weakest of the bunch).  The reason for the astronomically high score of 1206 for the X240 is simple: not only are read speeds impressive—especially the 4K 64 threads test, in which the drive scored a whopping 535.20 MB/s—but write speeds are nearly double that of the 128 GB version.  As we said in our T440s review, that’s just one more reason to choose the 256 GB model instead if you’ve got the dime for it.

ATTO Disk Benchmarks

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Take a look at those write speeds and the difference is once again clear.

CrystalDiskMark 3.0

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Again, no surprises; just what we’d expect from a quick drive.

HD Tune

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There’s some CPU at stake, but not a lot of drawbacks apply to this drive.  Versus the 128 GB, if cost isn’t a concern, it’s a no-brainer.

Gaming Performance

With every ULV notebook we review, the same preface to this section applies: low-voltage gaming was once an oxymoron, but just because we’ve seen such a huge advancement in chipset efficiency over the past couple of years doesn’t suddenly make it a good idea.  The X240’s Intel HD Graphics 4000 features clock rates ranging between 200 MHz and 1000 MHz, but as we saw earlier, the top end of that spectrum is not possible with the X240 due to significant firmware constraints.  So with expectations in check, let’s dive into a few gaming benchmarks to see if we can surprise ourselves.

Synthetic GPU Benchmarks

3DMark (2013 Edition)

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Well, color us surprised.  After receiving scores of ~31,000 (Ice Storm) from both the T440s and the Flex 14, the X240 suddenly manages nearly 30% better with a score of over 40,000.  The other results aren’t quite as striking, but they’re still not bad for a ULV system.  We ran this benchmark twice just to double-check our scores and found consistent results.

3DMark 11

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Things look considerably more logical here, with all three models again within sight of one another.

Gaming Benchmarks

So how does all of this translate into actual gaming performance?

Just Cause 2

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Regardless of comparisons, it’s pretty clear that you won’t be playing Just Cause 2 on the X240.  But it at least manages better than the T440s.

StarCraft II

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Now here’s a game that works—as it does on nearly anything (even the Yoga 11S!).  With 63 frames per second in our benchmark, there should be no trouble enjoying SC2 on the X240.  Just don’t bother turning up the graphical settings, as anything higher slices that score by more than half.

Diablo III

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Diablo III is pretty forgiving also, but unfortunately, it isn’t forgiving enough for the X240.  With 27 frames per second in our relatively tame benchmark, landing in the middle of a large group of Maniacs will quickly feel as much like Hell as the developers had probably intended.

We also ran our Bioshock Infinite benchmark for purposes of record-keeping, and received a result of and 19.05 fps on 768p, Low Settings.  We didn’t bother plugging in an external monitor for higher-resolution tests.

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

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