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Ivy Bridge smackdown: Fujitsu's Lifebook U772 vs. Lenovo's ThinkPad X230

June 8, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Lenovo ThinkPad X230

Although not an official ultrabook, the ThinkPad X230 is small and light and, with its Ivy Bridge processor, can be thought of as a netbook on steroids.

Clothed in the traditional ThinkPad-black case, the X230 looks a bit chunky next to the Fujitsu Lifebook or other ultrabooks; it has a thickness of 1.0 in. in front and 1.3 in. in the rear. The system compensates by only taking up 12.0-x-8.1-in. of desktop space, which is more than 10% less than the Lifebook.

Lenovo ThinkPad X230
Lenovo ThinkPad X230

The X230 weighs 3.4 lb., several ounces more than the Lifebook, although that's on a par with many first generation ultrabooks. If you add the AC adapter and power cord, it has a travel weight of exactly 4.0 lb.

The system is built around an Ivy Bridge Core i5 3320 processor that has two processing cores and can work through four threads. It has 3MB of on-board cache and has a base speed of 2.6GHz; it has the ability with TurboBoost 2.0 to increase its speed to 3.3GHz.

On the downside, the processor runs at a higher voltage than the Lifebook's chip and is rated to use a maximum of 35 watts of power, which is more than twice the power and thermal load of the Lifebook's processor.

The review system came with 4GB RAM and can hold up to 16GB. It came with a 320GB hard drive; Lenovo offers a variety of models with hard drives that can hold up to 500GB and SSDs with up to 256GB of capacity.

One advantage to the ThinkPad's more conventional design: You can open it up to add memory, swap drives or just change the battery on a long flight.

Great graphics

While the ThinkPad X230 uses the same HD 4000 graphics accelerator as the Lifebook U772, it has a smaller 12.5-in. screen. Like the Lifebook, the X230's screen offers 1366 x 768 resolution, with great color balance and brightness. On gaming and presentations, it was very impressive, with smooth video and crisp graphics.

For those who burn the midnight oil, the X230's island keyboard is not only backlit, but illuminated from above by an LED spot light; by tapping the spacebar and the Function key at once you can turn it on or off. The X230's touchpad is smaller than the one on the Lifebook -- it felt cramped and its rounded edges were awkward to use.

The keyboard sits at a 4-degree angle; the 18.9mm keys felt responsive and were comfortable to type with. The system is a good choice for people who like having the choice of both a touchpad and the venerable TrackPoint for navigating Windows.

Despite its size, the ThinkPad X230 delivers a good assortment of ports. It has VGA and a micro-DisplayPort jack for connecting to a monitor or projector, as well as a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0 port and audio connections. In addition to an SD card slot, the system has an ExpressCard slot that can work with either a 34mm or 54mm card. The only thing I missed was an HDMI connection.

The ThinkPad also offers an Ethernet port that doesn't require an adapter, and it comes with Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi. The system includes WiDi hardware for wirelessly driving a projector or monitor, including the required software.

The case is has a study feel -- not surprising, since, according to Lenovo, the ThinkPad X230 passed 8 of the 23 Mil-Std 810F tests for ruggedness, including low pressure, humidity, vibration, high temperature, temperature shock, low temperature and dust.

The ThinkPad X230 comes with a fingerprint scanner and Trusted Platform Module for secure log-ins.

Test results

Despite having a faster processor, the ThinkPad X230 was a step behind the Lifebook U772 in terms of overall performance, likely the result of the system using a mechanical hard drive rather than faster solid state storage. The system's PerformanceTest 7.0 score of 1,347.4 is nothing to scoff at, however, and is 30% faster than the Aspire S3, which was equipped with a second-generation Core i5 2467 processor.

At a Glance

ThinkPad X230
Price: $1,250
Pros: Great performance, excellent battery life, keyboard backlighting
Cons: No HDMI, thicker than ultrabooks

The X230 dominated in the Cinebench testing. Its 3.10 score on the processor suite of tests and 13.61fps on the graphics tasks were better than the Lifebook results and more than twice the scores of the Aspire S3.

The Thinkpad X230's large 5,300mAh battery was able to go for 5 hours and 41 minutes on a charge while continuously playing videos off of a USB drive.

The system comes with Windows 7 Professional, a 30-day subscription to Norton Internet Security as well as Evernote note-taking software. Lenovo includes a one-year warranty with the system.

Bottom line

While it lacks the pizzazz and show-off factor of an ultrabook, the ThinkPad X230 actually is an excellent mobile machine with a great mix of performance and battery life.

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