Equipped with the new Centrino 2 processor, Lenovo's ThinkPad X200 looks a mild-mannered ultraportable, and yet it can leap tall workloads in a single bound. Its battery life is phenomenal, and the keyboard is huge. In short, this is a much better notebook than the ThinkPad X61, which it replaces, and a surefire winner for on-the-run execs.
Because it bears a lower model number, you might imagine that this a less-powerful version of the ThinkPad X300, but the X200 actually has a more recent processor. The X300 has a 13.3-inch display, however, while the X200 has a 12.1-inch screen. Ah, but what you'll see when you fire this baby up!
At just under 3 pounds with its lightest battery installed, the X200 weighs a few ounces less than the ThinkPad X61, despite offering the same 12.1-inch wide screen and a bigger keyboard. The bright little screen has an easy-to-read 1280-by-800-pixel resolution, making it quite comfortable for work on the go. And the built-in Webcam keeps you in visual touch with your colleagues.
The redesigned keyboard is as big as the ones that members of Lenovo's ThinkPad T series carry, and it has all the same amenities: spill resistance, dedicated page up and page down keys, and the all-important ThinkVantage button. The ThinkVantage application suite offers one-touch access to the onboard user manual as well as to recovery, security, and other crucial utilities. A fingerprint reader rounds out the package. What's missing: a touchpad. Many ThinkPads offer both a touchpad and aneaserhead as pointing devices, but not the X200.
The review unit Lenovo sent us came with 2GB of RAM and a 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400, and it notched a WorldBench 6 score of 88, putting it only 14 points behind the fastest laptop we've tested to date. As you might expect, the X200's integrated video graphics can handle only simple games. But the X200's battery life soars. Lenovo has expanded its battery line to three choices, topped by the powerful nine-cell model that our X200 carried. Though this battery extends the back of the notebook by about half an inch and brought our unit's weight to 3.7 pounds (not including power adapter), the payoff was almost nine hours of juice on a single charge.
Unless you already have a spare external USB optical drive on hand, you'll have to shell out $219 extra for Lenovo's Ultrabase docking slice to get an internal drive bay. (A Blu-ray optical drive costs even more). On the bright side, the modular bay accepts other devices like a second battery or second hard drive. But the docking slice also offers some nifty new connections, most notably a place to charge yet another battery and a DisplayPort display interface that combines high-def audio and video in a single connector.
Of course, ultraportable ThinkPads have always used the space they save by omitting a built-in optical drive to add lots of laptop features that are missing from same-size competition. The X200 features three USB ports, microphone and headphone ports, a VGA port, and an ethernet connection. You have your choice of a modem jack with a five-in-one memory card slot, or a less expensive configuration offering an SD Card slot but no modem.
The X200 feels tough as nails, thanks to a magnesium alloy lid and bottom. A crash-proof solid-state hard drive up to 64GB is optional (we got a standard 160GB platter-based hard drive, however). For future upgrading the X200's two memory chip slots are located in an easy-to-access bottom compartment, and the hard drive can be removed from the right side of the unit after unscrewing one bottom screw.
A full array of wireless communications options come built in: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WWAN, and even GPS. Before the end of the year Lenovo should offer WiMax, too--and a tablet version of the X200. But if all you need is the world's best travel laptop right now, you're looking at it.