Lenovo ThinkPad X230 Review: Blasphemy
Performance - Synthetic 3D, Game Benchmarks
Performance – 3DMark 11
Now it is time for us to turn our eye towards gaming performance. We begin with 3DMark 11, the only synthetic 3D benchmark we are using now that DirectX 11 is supported by Intel integrated graphics.
Because the Origin EON11-S and its GT 650M is obviously going to destroy any integrated graphics solution we will switch up the competition and instead include the ASUS N56VM (with Intel HD 4000 enabled) and the AMD A10-4600M reference laptop (which has an integrated Radeon HD 7660G).
The X230’s Core i5-3320M actually comes in behind the Core i5-3427U in this benchmark by a small margin, which is surprising. We also see that the Core i7-3720QM’s version of Intel HD 4000 is quite a bit quicker than either of the dual-core alternatives. Will this translate to real-world gaming?
Performance – Real World Gaming
Dawn Of War 2: Retribution
Dawn of War 2: Retribution is one of the best real-time strategy games on the market. Though its engine has aged, it can still be demanding during large battles. There are a lot of physics and AI calculations. This game is often CPU-bound rather than GPU-bound as a result.
Let me first state that Dawn of War 2 look really nice on this system. The exaggerated particle effects and (sometimes) dark graphics took full advantage of the IPS display. Details that normally don’t appear on displays with poor black levels are visible here.
The game was playable due to an average framerate of nearly 34 FPS. That’s about six better than the Intel Ultrabook reference platform managed. However, it’s also twelve less than the Core i7 quad-core in the ASUS N56VM offered.
Turn based strategy games are not known for their graphics, but Civilization 5 is one heck of a looker. I’m personally not a fan of the game but I still sometimes play to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Can the X230 handle it?
Alas, no. I should mention that, because this game is turn-based, an average framerate of 14 FPS is playable, though not enjoyable. This result lands smack in the middle between existing versions of Intel HD 4000 we’ve tested and is well behind any discrete GPU we’ve tested in this game.
Diablo 3, like Dawn of War 2: Retribution, is a great title for showing off the Lenovo’s IPS display. Its combination of bright colors with dark shadows can make the game difficult for an average laptop display to handle. Let’s see if the game played acceptably.
Remember, we do test this game at high settings, so it would be possible to play Diablo 3 smoothly on this laptop. At high, however, the framerate is 20 –which is not enough to enjoy a fast-paced game like this.
However, this result is also better than any Intel HD 4000 part we’ve tested. The difference is significant and reproducible, and we always test in the exact same area of the game, so I believe there has been either a game or driver enhancement that’s provided a small boost.
The latest Elder Scrolls title isn’t a system-killer like some previous entries in the franchise, but it is demanding for low-end laptop graphics even when played at medium settings. Previous Intel HD 4000 laptops have not done well in this benchmark. Let’s see if that has changed.
No, not much has changed here. In fact, the X230 performs poorly – its overall results are much closer to Intel HD 4000 in ultrabooks. Granted, this means there is only a four framerate spread between the X230 and the quad-core ASUS N56VM, but when you’re dealing with framerates this low, every frame counts. The difference in feel between 18 and 22 is significant – 18 feels noticeably slow, while 22 is close to enjoyable.
Last up we have Battlefield 3, a demanding first-person shooter. Since this is an action game it’s easy to notice the difference between framerates, particularly when dealing with low-end components. The ASUS N56VM previously returned a playable result. Can the X230 replicate it?
Ah – no. The X230 actually does just a hair better than the Ivy Bridge reference ultrabook. Battlefield 3 is not playable on this laptop at medium settings, though you can turn it down to low and achieve a playable experience.