Opinions on Lenovo X220?

(Sorry in advance for this possible misuse of the planet, but I feel this might be geeky enough).

My old Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Si1520 laptop, which has served me well all in all, has started to fall apart on me hardware-wise. Since I recently got hold of a bit of extra cash, I’m looking for a replacement. I’m considering the Lenovo X220. It’s basically the same form factor as my current one, which is nice since it’s what I’m looking for. And it seems it has gotten some good reviews. I’ve never owned a Thinkpad, or an IBM/Lenovo machine for that matter.

Anyone have an X220 who can give me the inside scoop on what annoys you most about the machine? I see in the spec sheet that it’s certfied for Redhat/Novell/Ubuntu, but has anyone had any problems getting things to work?

If I get this model, I’d probably be getting the Core i7 one, but without an SSD since I already have a 180 GB SSD to put in it.

Thanks for any answers/recommendations!

29 thoughts on “Opinions on Lenovo X220?

  1. I can’t comment on Lenovo or this model directly, but I think it wise to double-check on compatibility (as you are). I previously got a laptop from HP that was marked as being “certified for SuSE Linux”. Upon looking up the certification documents, it turned out that they’d never tested the WLAN card. Sure enough, it didn’t work at the time.

  2. Yea exactly what I was thinking. Better check with people actually using the machine, I don’t think those “Certified for X” means that much. One thing that seems nice about ThinkPads is the ThinkWiki. It seems there are quite some devs running these machines.

  3. I’m running an X220 (Core i5) with openSUSE 11.4 here. Everything is working out of the box (3D graphics, sound, WLAN, suspend, standby). I do not see anything that really annoys me. Maybe the combined headphones/microphone jack is not ideal, since you’ll need an adapter if your headset has two separate cables. And to configure the fingerprint sensor to serve as a replacement for the boot password, you’ll need to install a software for Windows.

    There is one drawback: To click when using the track pad, you have to push the bottom of the trackpad down (like with the Macs); there are no separate buttons on the trackpad for that. When you do this, it causes the mouse pointer to jiggle, which makes that feature nearly unusable. I circumvented that by configuring the trackpad to click when tapping it. Besides, there is still the track point with separate mouse buttons :-)

    My laptop is about two months old, so I cannot say anything about long-term durability. But at the moment, I’m quite happy – for example, the keyboard is *really* good to type on.

  4. I actually have a X220, everything (graphics, wlan, mouse, etc.) works out of the box with kubuntu, thought I haven’t tested the modem. I also got myself an 80GB msata and put it into the mpcie port instead of an wwan card. It’s nice to have one big hd for data and a fast ssd for the OS and apps.

    Another big pro is the display, the IPS just shines, with one downside, the resolution of 1366×768 could be better. The only other downside is the touchpad, I tend to touch it a lot when typing. Because of this I actually only use this red sticky thing and disable the touchpad alltogether.

    Apart from that it’s a really nice notebook, with a typical thinkpad feel (sturdy and great keyboard).
    About your SSD, be warned that the max height is 7mm, not 9.5mm. However, apparently it is possible to snug an 9.5mm in, but you have to do some work. Alternatively it’s usually possible to remove the SSD frame, but this will void the warranty of your SSD).
    Battery lifetime is good, I get between 5 and 10 hours, depending on usage.


  5. I have the i7 you are thinking of getting. Everything I have tested works (with openSUSE 11.4 + 12.1, including the Ericsson UMTS + GPS mini-pci card. The only thing I have not used is the fingerprint reader. I briefly used Kubuntu 11.04 and Fedora 15 with it and didn’t notice any problems there either.

    The only annoying thing about it is the high pitched fan noise when it is loaded. I turn the touchpad off in the BIOS.

  6. Thanks a lot guys for your input. At the moment I’m used to using the touchpad on my Fujitsu-Siemens, but like you’ve both said, I’ve seen in the reviews that the touch-and-click thing on the X220 might be problematic. I guess I’ll have to learn the ThinkPad way of using that little red thingie.

    Very good that you informed me about the SSD clearance. I think the disk I have is 9.5mm, but I’ll have to check. If it won’t fit then I guess I’ll have to go with a more expensive variant that includes an SSD, and maybe put the one I already have in my stationary.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for the feedback. It’s exactly these kind of in-the-trenches things I’m looking for, since spec sheets will never give you the full picture.

  7. @Will: Ah. I guess it runs pretty hot then when under load? At the moment, due to a lot of school work, I don’t have much time available for KDE development, so no huge compiles. But I’m kind of used to my computer running hot (my Amilo Si1520 did that too, I guess it’s the reality of modern laptops).

    1. I am actually pleasently surprised by the temperature. I had a X60 before, and they did run rather hot. The airvent at the backside gets sometimes warm, but not really hot. Palmrest, keyboard and bottom stays cool, or at least do not get uncomfortable warm. AFAIR the cnet review measures the temperature at different parts of the laptop.

  8. I also bought one with students discount. I ordered a modified model from a certiefied lenovo partner with 360GB hdd, 80 GB SSD (instead of UMTS module), 8 GB RAM, Core i7, 4 years manufacture warranty and most important: without OS.

    I’m running opensuse 12.1 RC1 (because new kernel has better sandybridge support) and everyhing works awesome. So this thinkpad is a clear recommendation.

    1. I’ve been running Thinkpads with Linux for a long time. Presently I’ve got a highspec T410 and absolutely everything works.

      One thing you should be aware of is that they have several different HSDPA modems available – Ericsson (should be plug’n play) and GOBI which might require som work in particular if you are using KDE. Solution: Install gobi loader, get the right firmware. Then install and use Gnome’s network applet to set up your HSDPA connection before start using it with KDE’s network plasmoid. Then it works like it should Tested on several distros including Kubuntu and Arch.

      Another advantage is TP_smapi which allows you to control battery charging thresholds. That makes the battery last for years.

      With Thinkpads it is possible to update BiOS without having Windows installed. BiOS allows for disabling a lot of features if you don’t use them – reduces power consumption. (Might be an idea to install Linux with all features enabled, then switch off).

      Further – you have Thinkwiki which is covering Thinkpads with Linux. http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:X220

      I can’t think of better Laptops for use with Linux. Highly recommended. (Look for a 4 yr service contract when purchasing – way cheaper than e.g Apple Care).

  9. Lenovo make very solid laptops made for traveling. This is my second Lenovo in 5 years, both laptops being dragged around more or less every day. Treated rather rough, they last their expected lifetime, and then some. Why a second laptop in 5 years? I’m not paying for them ;)

  10. one of our laptops in the house here is an x220 (the other is an x201 :) and it runs fantastically under openSUSE. everything Just Works(tm) and is reliable using the stock repos. cheers :)

  11. There are instructions on the German Thinkpad-Forum how to put in 9mm drives without loosing guarantee. There is a picture guide, so it should be understandable. Thinkpad-forum.de

  12. I always had a thinkpad, so I might be a little biased ;) but I recently bought an x220 tablet. Its a bit (well actulaly i find a lot) bigger than plain x220 but otherwise the same hardwarewise (and normal x220 is nice and small.. my ideal of a laptop where size and weight is concerned ;)… Everything works here fine(well, didn’t play much with the fingerprint driver, just tried that fprint could enroll a print but didn’t set up any auth…. don’t think it’s much use unless kdm/gdm get some built in support for it), except for tp_smapi for finer battery management (but you can set the relevant thresholds in windows). I have a core i5 and running gentoo I do a lot of compiling. The fan has a bit high pitched voice when under load, but it quiet when idle, and I didn’t notice that it would get very hot. Certainly waaay cooler that an x61 (but those were notoriously hot) and I think also cooler than my old x41. Though I mostly use it on a table, not on my lap…. Can’t say much for the touchpad, as a thinkpad X serier “veteran” ;)) my biggest problem with it is that it’s there, so I just disable it…
    I’m from eu (slovakia) and I bought it at lapstars.de, IIRC they had even the HD+80GB SSD combination (went for 160GB ssd, 8GB ram).

      1. Yes, its easy when it works ;) But when I was installing my x220t in august I had to hack the sources a bit to recognize my model and some of the features didn’t work correctly.. (start threshold seemed to work, but stop show weird numbers and din’t work, etc…)

        1. That may occur with some models yes. In general it’s working neatly though. If I’m not mistaken there is no “revitalizer/reset” of battery thus one have to charge it to 100%, drain it to zero, then charge it 100%.

          That should probably do the trick.

  13. I’ve got a X220 from my company, and dual-boot it to chakra. Everything works fine out of the box, and I have not had any troubles with it so far.

    I can really recommend buying the X220 for the use with Linux, it’s a good and stable laptop and it is well supported by linux.

  14. Thanks again everyone for the input. It seems I’ll be ordering from lapstars.de, since they have a student discount and also the option of adding a Swedish keyboard layout. I think I might go with the 8GB RAM, 80 GB SSD+320 GB HDD (or maybe 120 GB SSD).

    Anyone studying at a university outside Germany who have ordered from lapstars.de. What papers do they want from the school? I can issue a transcript of my enrollment et.c. online at my school website, which they can check for validity using a web application. Would that be enough or will they need something signed by a school official?

    1. I am not familiar with lapstar, but when purchasing student license for Marble (Linux) I just logged in the institution’s site and navigated to a location that displayed name, email and student no ++. I took a screenshot and mailed it. It was approved without any questions.

      If that’s not enough – just ask them. :)

    1. Congrats – I seriously doubt you’ll ever regret :)

      In general my view is that it’s only Macbooks that is even near Thinkpads in quality. I would have considered Mac if they had HSDPA modems internally and a proper dock.

      Macs are a bit constipated wrt connectivity and so on. Further, the Thinkpad service-deals are far better and more value for money.

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