The Lenovo X220 laptop is a 12 inch class ultra mobile business class machine. The machine reviewed (42872WU) sells for $1299.
- i5-2520m 2.5 GHz dual core with hyperthreading
- 3.2 GHz CPU turboboost
- 35W TDP
- 3MB L3 cache, 1MB L2 cache
- QM67 chipset
- 16384MB maximum memory
- HD 3000 graphics with 64MB VRAM DX10 shader 4 compatible
- 12 shader execution units, 129.6 GFLOPS
- 12.5″ LED LCD 1366×768 panel
- Bluetooth 3.0
- Finger reader
- SDXC card reader
- 3x USB 2.0 ports, one permanently powered
- Expresscard 54 slot
- 160GB Hitachi hard disk 5400rpm
- Windows 7 Professional x64
- 6-cell Li-ion battery
- 65W Power Supply
- EPEAT gold
- 3.3 lbs
No question that the X220 will deliver excellent performance with the new Sandy Bridge i5 processor, Make on the 32nm node, the i5-2520m can run all day long on its supplied battery. Lenovo has about 20 different models of the X220 available for any conceivable requirements.
They keyboard is tightly packed and it takes a few days to become comfortable with any new keyboard. The keyboard is rich with function keys to improve the overall functionality. The keyboard itself is well built and and it has a solid impact feel to it which makes it easier for touch typists tow work with.
The Lenovo thinkvantage is very handy for updating the OEM software and drivers. Lenovo supports Windows XP through Windows 8.1 on the X220.
The machine has the IBM button pointing device along with the usual touch pad. Most will fine a mouse to be much more productive.
The lack of an optical drive is typical in small size machines. USB drives are inexpensive and readily available.
Overall the X220 is a great mobile machine for those who need the best in the category.
The Lenovo X220 comes with the i5-2520m processor (Sandy Bridge)that offers 2 cores with hyperthreading.
The i5-2520m is made with 32nm feature size and has a TDP of 35W. The Advanced Speedstep means that the TDP is seldom reached.
The i5-2520m has 3MB of L3 cache and 1MB of L2 cache. The L1 caches are 64KB per core split between instruction and data.
The i5-2520m can handle up to 16GB of DDR3. The CPU can support DDR3-1066 and DDR3-1333 speeds.
- 1024MB SO-SIMM
- 2048MB SO-DIMM
- 4096MB SO-DIMM
- 8192MB SO-DIMM
When selecting memory for the i5-2520m, select ones with 8 chips on each side of the SO-DIMM. Some SO-DIMM with 4 chips on a side may not work depending on the BIOS and CPU capability. We suggest 8 chip per side memory which is known to work.
The Intel Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) accelerated floating point compute performance. 64-bit versions of Windows however continue to use SSE2 for floating point acceleration. With Visual Studio has command line switch /arch:avx is needed to enable the support. Visual Studio can emulate the AVX instructions for older processors with a 70% speed penalty.
The Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 runs applications faster at a higher frequency by using available thermal headroom. The i5-2520m can reach 3.2 GHz maximum. The graphics can also run at 1300 MHz which also add to the thermal load. The cooling system in the X220 can handle the thermal load adequately.
The i5-2520 has 16 PCI Express 2.0 lanes available. The QM67 provides an additional 8 PCI Express 1.1 lanes for peripherals.
HD 3000 GRAPHICS
The Intel HD 3000 graphics are integrated into the i5-2520m using a system on a chip architecture. The i5-2520m has an internal 32-bit ring bus that conveys information from the CPU to the GPU and L2 caches very quickly. Intel calls this a flexible display interface (FDI) and the support chip has to also support this to be able to provide DisplayPort graphics. It supports 2 independent 4-bit fixed frequency links/channels/pipes at 2.7Gbit/s.
The 6th gen graphics in Sandy Bridge are much more powerful then the previous generation with Clarkdale/Arrandale.
The HD 3000 is on its own power island on the die and it has its own clock. The GPU can be powered down or clocked up independently of the CPU. For example, at idle, the HD 3000 uses only 0.1W of power. This makes the Sandy Bridge platform very mobile friendly.
The X220 uses the QM67 platform controller hub which provides the IO. It connected to the i5-2520m with the DMI and FDI. Some models of the X220 may have the HM55.
The FDI allows the QM67 to provide additional video ports such as VGA.
The Intel HD Audio provides full dynamic range. It can handle DVD audio and SACD audio in addition to CD audio.
The SATA III performance is excellent for SSD users. With 600 MB/s of bandwidth, it’s enough for most products on the market. SSD speeds have increased considerably.The QM67 also provides abundant USB 2.0 ports to handle internal and external port requirements. The X220 has 3 USB 2.0 ports.
The QM67 has enough SATA for the hard disk and the dock DVD drive The ExpressCard slot is connected to the PCI Express lane 5. The SDXC is handled via the PCI Express lane 2 with USB port 2 handling the WiMax if installed.
The PCI Express Intel 82579LM Ethernet provides gigabit connectivity for business networks. The 82570LM has a 0.66W TDP. It supports IEEE 1588 for precision timing.
The ExpressCard slot uses a PCI Express lane. The Lenovo X220 can support both 33mm and 54mm size cards.
The Lenovo X220 offers a 12½ inch TN pane with 1366×768 pixel resolution. The panel is driven by hicolor graphics from the HD 3000 GPU. Considering how much this machine sells for, we feel Lenovo should have provided an IPS panel with better color.
The 12.5-inch display definitely feels smaller than that of a 13-inch laptop, but it’s a solid step up from the more common 11-inch screen. At 1,366×768 pixels, this is the same resolution you’d find on nearly all 11- to 13-inch laptops, and a good number of 14- and 15-inch ones as well.
The TN LCD graphics are not bad for the Windows aero effects and some games work fine with the machine. The machine is marketed mostly for those who need a powerful machine for work in places where power may not be readily available.
Beware that the BIOS may have an option for 24-bit color. The TN LCD cannot support 24-bit color so leave it at 18-bit which is call hicolor.
INTEL CENTRINO N1000
The Lenovo X220 uses the Intel Centrino N1000 Wi-Fi hardware connected via the QM67 PCI Express lane 2 via a mini PCI Express card slot. It offers 1T2R 802.11n with a maximum speed of 300Mbps using the 2.4 GHz bands.
802.1x is an authentication protocol. This is largely used for secure corporate and government networks. It has since been replaced by newer protocols.
The Intel Centrino N1000 does not have integrated Bluetooth. Bluetooth is handled by a separate daughter board device which offers Bluetooth 3.0 EDR connected to USB port 11. This daughter board is field replaceable and can be retrofitted to Bluetooth 4.0.
The Lenovo X220 uses the STMicroelectronics TMP 1.2 chip. This provides hardware security capability for Bitlocker etc. It also has other abilities but since TPM hardware is not universal, it is not yet being used for licensing operating system or application software etc.
BATTERY & POWER SUPPLY
The Lenovo X220 came with a 65W power supply. This is not enough power to run the machine without a battery. We suggest obtaining a 90W power supply which can run the machine at maximum workload and still be able to charge a 9 cell battery fast.
This machine has plenty of battery life, streaming hockey or football works fine with lots of power for the post game. The OEM 6-cell battery is quite adequate. Replacement 9-cell batteries offer 50% more mobile use.
Lenovo is supporting Windows 8 on the X220. Before installing Windows 8, be sure the BIOS is updated so that Bluetooth and other components will work properly.
Intel is not supporting Windows 10 on the Sandy Bridge platform. The CPU’s turbo boost works OK so the overall performance of the machine is excellent with Windows 10. Most drivers are included with Windows 10, Lenovo has the drivers for Windows 7 and Windows 8 which can be used if needed.
The Intel driver for the HD 3000 for Windows 8 will work fine with Windows 10. This will provide better support than the basic driver with Windows.