Throughout our weekend of testing, we found the X200 to be a fairly peppy machine. In order to manage heat and extend battery life, many manufacturers elect to use slower low-voltage processors in ultraportable notebooks. We've come to expect some performance sacrifices when using an ultraportable compared to a desktop so we were surprised to discover no noticeable slow-downs during normal everyday productivity on the X200. Launching programs and opening files all felt just as fast on the X200 as on a fire-breathing gaming desktop. Of course, the X200 isn't a supercomputer so if you set out to push it, you will start to feel its limitations, but we felt it was plenty fast for traditional productivity tasks.
The X200's diminutive size and weight made it a breeze to carry around. Instead of the notebook bags that are so necessary for lugging around a full-size 15.4" notebook, we carried the X200 comfortably in the crux of our arm, protected by a neoprene notebook sleeve. As you'll see in our battery benchmarks, the X200 also has ample battery life and we were happy to leave the AC adapter at home on most trips.
We also found the largely plastic chassis to be surprisingly tough. It survived the bumps and bruises of the public transportation system and in several days of commuting and not-so-gentle handling, we didn't manage to put a single scratch on it. The X200 also has a set of very grippy rubber feet that eagerly latched onto most flat surfaces and kept it planted.
Keyboard & TrackPoint
One of the traditional features of the ThinkPad X-series is the use of full-size keyboards. The X200 upholds this tradition with a set of full-size alphanumeric keys. The keyboard spans the entire width of the keyboard and there is just enough space to fit a set of full-size keys. The keyboard measures about 11.5" wide from the Tab button to the Enter button, which is roughly the same width as the keyboards found on several 15.4" notebooks we have in the lab. This makes the X200's keyboard every bit as easy to type on as a standard 15.4" notebook.
The keyboard layout is the same one used on every ThinkPad notebook, complete with a blue Enter button. A set of volume controls and the ThinkVantage shortcut button are located at the top right corner of the keyboard, next to the Escape key. The keys themselves are coated with the same lightly textured paint as the rest of the notebook. The keys have a good feel to them and there is no keyboard sag. Overall, we found the keyboard relatively easy to touchtype on for a notebook and we had no trouble typing on it for long periods of time.
One of the unique "features" of the X61 was a lack of a touchpad. The X61 relied exclusively on TrackPoint navigation. Unfortunately Lenovo decided not to break with tradition and just like its predecessor, the X200 doesn't receive a touchpad either. This could be a major issue for users that can't quite get used to using a TrackPoint 'nub' for navigation. We really think that this is unfortunate since there is enough space to fit a touchpad if the touchpad buttons were set to either side of the touch surface in a configuration like that used by the HP 2133 Mini-Note. Although it would admittedly be a tight squeeze.
Unlike its predecessor, the X200 is equipped with a widescreen LCD. The new screen is a great improvement over the 4:3 aspect ratio LCD found on the X61. The X61 only offered a maximum resolution of 1024x768 while the X200's screen offers 1280x800. This means there is more horizontal desktop space available at no cost to vertical desktop space. The X200's 200nit screen is also brighter than the X61's 150nit screen. The X200's screen offers fifteen levels of brightness adjustment and is very bright at the highest level. The screen also has very good contrast levels and produces decent blacks. On the other hand, the its viewing angle capability is nothing special and the usable vertical viewing angle is fairly limited.
Overall, we found the screen very pleasant to look at indoors in both high and low light conditions. While the screen is very bright, it isn't quite bright enough for use outdoors on a sunny day.
Speakers & Sound Quality
Like the X61 before it, the X200 is only equipped with a single speaker positioned on the bottom of the notebook, under the right palm rest. With only mono sound, the X200 doesn't present an especially dynamic audio experience. However, things aren't all bad. The X200's speaker is an upgrade over the one found in the X61 and the single speaker produces surprisingly good sound quality with decent volume. We found the sound to be well balanced without the shrill highs or the 'tinny' sound produced by many notebooks. Despite being only mono, we actually found the sound quality of the X200 to be superior to many notebooks we have looked at in the past, including some so-called multimedia models. Overall, the X200's single speaker should be able to dish out an appropriate level and quality of sound for most purposes and there is always the headphone jack for serious listening.
Heat & Noise
The X200 is a very well behaved notebook. It is whisper quiet at all times, whether it was idling at the desktop or running a benchmark at full load. We never heard the cooling fan and we sometimes wondered if it was working at all. The X200 also runs very cool. There are no noticeable warm spots anywhere on the keyboard or palm rest. The area around the notebook also remained cool and even the cooling vent felt cool to the touch, as if the notebook was off. If the monitor was off and there weren't any power or status LEDs, you would have a very hard time telling if the X200 was on, since it produces no noticeable noise or heat. The only part of the notebook that became noticeably warm was the bottom which became lukewarm after about 30 minutes of use.