It's a ThinkPad, and with that comes a certain set of expectations in terms of design and build quality. IBM at first, and now Lenovo, has gained a significant amount of loyalty due to the ruggedness and balanced utility of the ThinkPad line, and that name now carries a bit of weight. Despite being one of the smaller ThinkPads out there, and despite being only partly a notebook, we're happy to say that the near-legendary build quality is still here. Lenovo has ushered in a very slightly adjusted keyboard, but honestly, we didn't notice a difference in typing. It remains one of the most comfortable notebook keyboards on the market hands-down, and there's a new dampening feature that really does make each key press nearly silent.
When you first lay hands on the X230T, you know it's a ThinkPad first and foremost. It's far more boxy, plainly colored and thicker than other netvertibles, but it's to be expected. It comes with the ThinkPad territory. All of that rigidity means a machine that's somewhat heftier and perhaps less graceful than some of the more stunning, albeit fragile rivals. There's no flex in the lid nor the keyboard, but at over 1" thick, we wouldn't have expected any.
Upon opening the lid, you will immediately feel the real estate pinch with such a small machine. While the keyboard itself sure feels like a full-size arrangement, everything else is mini-sized. The trackpad is almost laughably small by comparison to competitive thin and lights on the market today. It possesses the typical "dimpled" texture, but it's so tiny that we found ourselves frustrated by its functionality even with the sensitivity level cranked. Moreover, the dedicated left / right click buttons are on top of the trackpack. This is obviously a move made so that they are below the heralded pointer nub in the middle of the keyboard, but those not used to such a layout will be flustered. The nub worked admirably, and it quickly became our input method of choice. Clicking down in the right or left corner of the trackpad initiates a left or right click, but the pad is so small that even this doesn't feel well-implemented. Along this same thought, the palm rest area practically doesn't exist; it feels really uncomfortable trying to contort your wrists to fit on the sliver of space provided when typing for long periods. Granted, this machine really doesn't cater to those who would do such a thing, but if you're a road warrior, you never know when you'll need to crank out 4,000 words.
Our test unit didn't ship with a backlit keyboard, but it's an option we'd strongly recommend springing for. Using a keyboard without a backlight feels almost wrong in 2012. Particularly when you're paying over $1,200 for a pro-grade machine. We honestly felt this machine was just too thick to ship sans an optical drive. In addition, 1.06" to 1.23" inches in depth, it's tough to believe how few ports are on here. You'll get just three USB ports (two are USB 3.0), a DisplayPort, a VGA port, a 4-in-1 media card reader, and an optional ExpressCard slot. That's a lot of connections for a tablet; but it's too few for a $1,200+ laptop.
The battery included in our test unit stuck out of the rear quite a bit; again, it's the ThinkPad function-over-form mantra. Outside of the nicely arranged keyboard and the understated matte black color, there's really nothing pretty about this thing. It's awkward, bulky, and juts out. But hey, there's a lot of battery power in there.
Now, onto the display. It's obviously a huge deal. Lenovo has equipped the X230T with a 12.5" multitouch IPS panel. It's clearly one of the most impressive screens to ever find its way onto a convertible notebook. In the past, we've lamented the fact that netvertibles were typically equipped with subpar displays that weren't even fit to be touched or interacted with. This display has above-average viewing angles, but the mediocre 1366x768 resolution keeps it from being one of our favorites.
As a notebook display, it functions fine. It's not exceptional, but colors are sharp enough that it doesn't garner any major gripes. However, once you flip the display around and turn it into a tablet, we see once again why this model is so badly broken. Even with a higher-quality display, the panel doesn't respond well to touch. It routinely registers touch points incorrectly. (We'll dive more into that on the next page.) The good news is that you don't have to mash overly hard to register a touch, but the bad news is that your fingerprints are going to end up all over this thing, making it really difficult to look at in notebook mode. Frustrating and practically unavoidable. Windows 8 might improve the experience, however, but alas it's don't have that option just yet.