Review – Lenovo X230


Shortly after starting my new job it became apparent that I’d need a new laptop. As most of the other CohesiveFT team use Macs (and iWork) I was very tempted by the 11″ Macbook Air, but its limited memory and need for dongles to connect to things like VGA and network dissuaded me. I may come to regret this (due to iWork related issues), but I instead went for a Lenovo X230 – it’s roughly the same travel weight as the MBA, can take 16GB RAM, and has proper ports on it.


For reasons I can’t fathom the X230 is loads cheaper in the US than the UK. I very nearly bought one last year in the Black Friday sale as it was pretty much half the price of an equivalent UK model. When I went looking again there was no sale, so I took to eBay and found a bargain i5-3320M based model that came with an Ultrabase.


Before I even started using it I upgraded to an SSD (a Samsung 840) and 16GB RAM, which ensures spectacular performance – the worst part is the built in HD4000 GPU (though even that isn’t too bad):


I then installed Windows 8 Pro so that I could use Hyper-V for Linux VMs.

Awesome keyboard

Having used an X220 for much of last year I was a bit skeptical about the new chiclet keyboard on the X230 (which I expected to be like the one on my son’s X121e). I shouldn’t have worried – the X230 keyboard is the best I’ve ever used on a laptop. It might even be quite simply the best keyboard I’ve ever used (and I’m usually quite fussy about my keyboards – mostly using nice old HP ones).

Not a tablet

I’ve hardly been using the tablet features of my previous Lenovo  X201 Tablet, which is why I went for the straight X230 rather than the tablet version. I know that Windows 8 is designed for touch, but the X230 Tablet isn’t a touch screen anyway, and I’m using Start8 to make Windows 8 behave like a proper desktop operating system.

Battery life

My machine came with the 6 cell 44+, which seems good for 5 hours of real world use – not enough for a day on the road without a charger, but still pretty respectable. For serious endurance there’s a 9 cell battery (the 44++) and an Ultrabase style battery slice (the 19+).


I like being able to connect to my large monitor, home network and KVM switch with minimum fuss, so it was cool that the machine came with an Ultrabase. I doubt I’ll ever much use the DVD writer it came with, but it’s there if need be. The new Ultrabase seems more plasticy than earlier models, but it gets the job done.

Unlike earlier Ultrabases I get the impression that this one is just for desktop docking, and isn’t really intended to be carried around – it’s not heavy, but there’s just too much bulk.


The screen is lovely and bright, and with a matt finish that keeps reflection down.

Minor annoyances

I kept touching the trackpad with my hand when using the trackpoint, so I installed the Synaptics drivers and disabled it (it’s also possible to turn it off in the BIOS).

I also found that the standard Windows drivers wouldn’t let me output audio through the Ultrabase, which was fixed with the Lenovo drivers.


The X230 is the best laptop I’ve ever used. It’s light, has good endurance, and spectacular performance. If I could run an OS-X VM in Hyper-V to get iWork then it would be perfect.

9 Responses to “Review – Lenovo X230”

  1. 1 @ndy

    My X230t has a Wacom digitizer with pen and also a multi-touch panel with 2 track points. It does the whole pinch to zoom thing. I didn’t have the option of the Gorilla Glass Screen but I’d love to see one.

  2. 2 @ndy

    2 track points? I meant 2 touch points.

  3. 3 VFanRJ

    Here I am 7 years later and the x230 is still my laptop of choice for writing papers. Yes, I have a Surface Book 2 as well as a Surface Pro 6 when I need to draw stuff, but Microsoft has a lot to learn about making a premier keyboard. Although I’ve noticed that some of the new Thinkpad keyboards don’t have the same high quality feel, the keyboard on the x230 are still a standout.

    It took just a single screw to open the bay to upgrade to an SSD. It took just two screws to expand and upgrade the RAM. I still view the x230 as one of the best choices for copy creation.

    As a side note, I’m not a fan of the newer glass touchpads compared to the dimpled Mylar found on the x230. I really like how the touchpad curls around the x230’s palmrest, something lost on the new Thinkpads. Even so, I still primarily use the trackpoint. Using a trackpoint you never run out of real estate when trans-versing web pages or documents.

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