Cooling, Portability, Software
Most users will have a hard time hearing this laptop’s fan at idle. Even a hint of ambient noise will easily drown it out. One might expect, given the X230’s small size, that this would result in high temperatures. I found no such issue. Idle and low-load temperatures were not much higher than ambient. Even hotspots, such as surfaces near the exhaust, were usually below 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Placing load on the laptop increases fan noise but levels are still more than tolerable. Moderate ambient noise will continue to make the fan difficult to discern under all but the highest processor loads. Temperatures along both the keyboard and underside generally remained under 90 degrees Fahrenheit but a reading of 102 was taken from below the exhaust, which is on the laptop’s left side. Still, this reading is tolerable and only a small area reached that temperature.
The review unit I received came with the 6-cell 63Wh battery. This is an optional upgrade – the standard unit is a 4-cell 29Wh unit. You only have to pay $20 to make the switch, however – and an additional $30 to obtain the 9-cell 94Wh model.
Why the different batteries? Size. As mentioned earlier, even the 6-cell battery juts out a bit from the bottom of the laptop. Not much – but enough to snag a backpack zipper and noticeably incline the laptop when it sits on a desk. The three options allow buyers to choose whatever trade-off between size and portability they’d like.
How’d the 6-cell battery do in endurance tests? Have a look.
These results are the best we’ve received since my review of the HP dm1z netbook – which lasted only slightly longer. The X230 beats many ultrabooks in the Battery Eater test and lasts much longer than any ultrabook in the Reader’s Test. Peacekeeper was the only so-so result – the Ivy Bridge reference ultrabook lasted about an hour longer.
Most buyers should probably purchase the 6-cell. I can’t imagine the 4-cell being sufficient, but the 9-cell will prove to be overkill for most buyers. If you want to go nuts with endurance, however, you can purchase an optional 6-cell slice battery that attaches to the bottom of the X230. Lenovo claims this combo lasts nearly 25 hours and, based on my testing, I think a typical user could achieve 20 hours of real-world use if only a light load was placed on the processor.
Lenovo ships the X230 with its full suite of ThinkVantage software. Pre-installed apps are usually not a boon, but ThinkVantage is the exception to the rule. I’m a fan of the Power Manager, which works more smoothly and provides more information than the default Windows implementation. I have similar praise for Access Connections, a network management tool that provides a useful Wi-Fi map far superior to the simplistic list built in to Windows 7.
That doesn’t mean the software suite is all sunshine and flowers. My biggest complaint is what happens when a user presses the ThinkVantage button. Suddenly the X230 becomes has an identity crisis and thinks it is a tablet. A row of large icons is displayed along with an absurd icon menu that, among other things, will take you to Lenovo’s app shop. Yes, Lenovo has an app shop! Why? Well, isn’t that what the kids are into these days?
No one is forcing you to press the button, however, so the less useful parts of the pre-installed suite will never trouble users who dislike them. The strange behavior of the ThinkVantage button is a small price to pay for the excellent power management and network management tools.