User Interface, Display and Audio Quality
Alright, let’s talk about the keyboard.
Lenovo has used a beveled key cap design since the beginning of the universe. This was not unusual at the time – beveled caps were standard for years. Then a little company called Apple began to use island style keyboards and, whaddya know, PC manufacturers suddenly started to follow suit (which was a slap in the face to Sony – they’d already adopted the design, but no one seemed to care).
While switching to the island style may seem like a huge departure from the past it is, for Lenovo, nothing new. The Edge has already proven that the company can make excellent keyboards regardless of the key design used and the “new” keyboard is just an adaptation of what was already found on that model.
My normal typing pace is somewhere near 80 words-per-minute and can go up to 100, so I quickly notice problems in a keyboard’s feel or layout. I can find none here. Key feel is adequate, key spacing is excellent and the layout is comfortable. Small laptops like this sometimes are too cramped for my tastes, but I had no problem with the X230.
The main issue that a ThinkPad loyalist will notice is key feel. The key caps on the AccuType keyboard seem bit more abrupt than those on the older model. Key travel bottoms out more firmly and overall key travel seems slightly reduced. Does this ruin the experience? No – but it does change the experience in ways some ThinkPad enthusiasts won’t like.
As for the trackpointer, well, it’s the same as before. If you’ve never liked a trackpointer, you won’t like this one. If you’ve always liked them, you’ll like this one. A small touchpad is included for those with an allergy to red pointers.
Display And Audio Quality
Lenovo offers a number of different display options on the Lenovo X230. All have a resolution of 1366×768 which, despite the popular hatred of that particular pixel count, is fine for a laptop of this size. Our review unit came with the upgraded “Flexview” panel, which is one of the few IPS displays available on a laptop.
Black level test images offered the best results I’ve yet seen from a laptop – every part of the test was discernible. Viewing angles are also a high point, as the display’s name suggests. There’s nearly no shift in color and text is fully discernible from any angle on both the horizontal and vertical axis.
Despite all of this goodness, this remains a matte display. The X230 therefor lacks the vibrant color offered by the very best glossy displays – though it’s still better than the vast majority of displays found in consumer laptops. 720p video looks good and, thanks to the matte coat, can be enjoyed anywhere.
Don’t go thinking this is the world’s smallest multimedia laptop, however. Audio quality is not up to that task. Maximum volume is insufficient for rooms with more than modest ambient noise and there’s nearly no bass. The X230 is fine for travelers in hotel rooms with no other source of audio enjoyment but will otherwise need to be supplemented by headphones or a pair of external speakers.