Review: ThinkPad X230

This week, a few hours after Lenovo announced the X240, I bought an X230. Normally, the X230 model I bought comes with a Core i5-3320M CPU, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD. My model was a special set including a second 4GB RAM stick and a 128 GB mSATA Plextor SSD. It came without Windows; and the ThinkVantage button is black instead of blue and has no label.

I put a fresh installation of unstable on it and tweaked it to save more power when on battery (enabled RC6++, and enabled autosuspend and other powertop suggestions with a script in /etc/pm/power.d); and configured hdparm.conf to put my hard disk into standby after 5 seconds (it’s only used for big data anyway, so most of the time it is unused). It now consumes 5W in idle with minimum brightness, and 8-10W with brightness 13 of 15. Consumption when surfing is 10 – 15 watts. Booting from grub to gdm is fast, I did not measure it, but it probably took about 5 seconds.

The IPS screen looks really good. Much much much better than the screen in my 2010 Edge 15 (I reviewed that one in 2010). It seems a bit more glossy than that one, but still matte. Keyboard is good as well. The touch pad is crap however. All hardware seems to work.

Comparison to the X240 for others who think about buying one of them: The X240 is lighter and thinner (it’s an Ultrabook) and has an optional FullHD 12.5 inch screen. It also offers a much larger touchpad and palm rest. But compared to the X230, the X240 lacks many things: No dedicated buttons for the trackpoint (you need to use the click-pad), it’s limited at 8GB RAM, uses a slower low-voltage Haswell CPU, and it uses the new M.2 connector (probably supporting only the shortest cards) instead of mini-PCIe, so it’s not really possible to add an additional SSD currently; as M.2 SSDs do not seem to be available yet. I also do not know whether the X240 offers ThinkLight or LEDs for hard drive activity and similar.


11 thoughts on “Review: ThinkPad X230

  1. Thanks for the review! I still haven’t decided on whether to just get the X230 or wait for the X240.

    Does your X230 heat up with that i5 processor? Also, how many hours of battery life does Debian estimate when running down from full?

    I hope they still offer the 9-cell battery option with the X240, and don’t regress on battery life compared to the X230. What’s the cell count of your battery?

    1. I have a 6 cell batterie and it lasted over 5 hours now, mostly surfing and editing files. The device is very cool; at least compared to my Edge. The firmware often turns off the fan because no cooling is needed. I’m running at brightness 13 of 15; if you run at a lowest brightness you can get more than 10 hours (estimated). If you do not use an SSD, power consumption will likely be a bit higher. I can highly recommend an SSD.

      The X240 will have an integrated 3 cell batterie, and the following additional ones: ThinkPad 68(23.5Wh), 68+ (72Wh), and 48Wh.

      1. Hi, could you please help me getting a decent battery life? I can’t get under 11w under arch. Could you please tell me what kernel do you use?

  2. How about a Picture? 🙂 What did you pay?

    Did everything work out of the box, like graphics, WiFi etc? How about the volume buttons?

    Thanks for the review!

    1. You can find X230 pictures in the web, no need for me to post another one. I paid 996 euros, including shipping and SSD/RAM upgrade (student version…). Brightness control did not work correctly out of the box (but it does in Ubuntu), but I worked around that by specifying “acpi_osi=!Windows 2012” on the kernel command-line. All buttons except the mic mute button work; that button is being worked on AFAIK (it generates events, but it’s not bound to anything currently).

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