Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: Performance wise, the ThinkPad X230T fared far better than the weaker X220T before it, but that's still not saying much. The 5400RPM hard drive that shipped in our test unit was far too sluggish, and it dragged the performance of the entire machine down. The integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics wasn't designed to handle even medium-duty gaming, so those who are longing for something more serious than Fruit Ninja should probably look elsewhere. Then again, this is an ultralight tablet/notebook convertible so expectations need to be set accordingly. The machine's Core i5 CPU, from Intel's Ivy Bridge family, was indeed worthy of praise, but it never felt as if it met its true potential due to the slower HDD holding things back. In our opinion, these days, a machine of this stature should ship only with an SSD, or at the very least a small SSD cache module with Intel SRT enabled for a more responsive HDD subsystem. Lenovo does have SRT as an option for this machine and we'd highly recommend it.The ThinkPad X230T is a very interesting machine. It's not that we haven't seen convertible notebooks / tablets before, but honestly, we're living in an age where these kinds of machines are less necessary than ever before. How so? In just a few months, Windows 8 will be out. And with that will come a bevy of Windows 8 tablets -- not hybrid devices, but actual tablets. Compact, highly mobile tablets. However, these tablets will have a full copy of Windows 8 onboard, enabling tablets -- for the first time -- to truly act as desktop replacements while also shining as a tablet. Windows 7 tried this on a few machines, but the incomplete tablet side of the UI left a bad taste in the mouths of most who tried it.
The truth of the matter is that convertible notebooks have never really been well executed. Every one that we've ever touched has made too many compromises to be exceptionally great at anything. Plus, Windows 7 wasn't made for touch. It just wasn't. Shoehorning Windows 7 onto a touch-centric device is just a bad idea, and yet, it continues to happen. Even if you spruce up the launchpad (as with SimpleTap), the fact remains that Windows 7 applications aren't engineered for touch-first inputs. They're engineered to accept commands from a mouse cursor. Even the virtual keyboard in Windows 7 is a pain to use; compare to the keyboard on the iPad, and the difference is immediately obvious. We know the iPad isn't a competitor to the X230T, but some elements of Apple's tablet best even this full-scale $1,200+ machine.
As a notebook, the machine serves the purpose, but it's not exceptionally quick at handling traditional notebook tasks. And moreover, it's nearly double the thickness of most Ultrabooks, and there's not even an optical drive here to use as an excuse. The X230T is also well over $1,200 -- a fact that cannot be overlooked. As a tablet, the X230T simply falls short of what a ThinkPad should. Touch points are almost never registered with accuracy, and Windows 7 just isn't built for touch. It's two wrongs making an even bigger wrong. What's odd to us is that clearly someone is buying this; otherwise, the X220T would've been viewed as a failed experiment and the X230T would've never seen the light of day.
The only potential saving grace here is the impending release of Windows 8; you could buy this machine now and upgrade to Windows 8 for what's likely to be a software experience that better matches what this hardware is capable of delivering. But why would you do such a thing? You're better off waiting for hardware to ship that was built from the ground-up with Windows 8 as the test-bed operating system. And if you truly love the X230T's layout, we'd strongly recommend opting for the non-convertible X230 and getting a Win 7 machine that doesn't compromise in a bid to be two things at once.