Its lack of an optical drive is offset by a great value
Lenovo’s X200s has qualities we’ve come to expect from a ThinkPad—and that’s a good thing. Its magnesium alloy chassis is wrapped in the line’s signature matte black finish, making for a notebook that feels sturdy and looks serious. And at 11.2x8.25x1.25 inches and weighing less than three pounds, the X200s is also lightweight and compact. Yet not so compact that the keyboard suffers—it’s full-size and quite comfortable for typing. A handy light positioned above the screen will illuminate the keyboard and there are dedicated buttons for controlling audio volume.
As with all ThinkPads, the X200s also features the TrackPoint navigation system, whereby you control the cursor using an isometric joystick in the middle of the keyboard, with the left- and right-click buttons in close proximity just below the spacebar. For the uninitiated, TrackPoint can be easily mastered and it’s nice that you can perform navigation functions without moving your hands off the keyboard. But unlike larger ThinkPad models, the X200s doesn’t feature a conventional touchpad as well, which will disappoint folks who like that option.
Lenovo's X200s offers the ThinkPad line's trademark TrackPoint navigation, but no touchpad.
Another notable omission is the X200s’s lack of an optical drive. These days, ultraportability needn’t negate this amenity, as all the other notebooks in this roundup prove, so we’re wondering why Lenovo couldn’t fit one in. The X200s is also the only notebook here that doesn’t sport a webcam.
The X200s has an upper hand in performance, however. Its 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile CPU is a low-voltage chip, which cuts heat and saves energy at the expense of some power, but it still helped the notebook turn in respectable benchmark scores and share top honors with HP’s entry (which features the same CPU). Compared with our admittedly aged standard zero-point notebook, the X200s did better in both our Photoshop and ProShow tests, albeit by just 1.7 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. And while no one should buy a notebook this small for gaming, the X200s turned out an impressive 156fps in Quake 3—good news for fans of 10-year-old shooters.
The X200’s productivity abilities are aided by a 1440x900-resolution screen—which offers slightly more real estate than the 1280x800 screens featured by the other rigs in this roundup—and a 160GB 7,200rpm hard drive, with a shock-detection mechanism that ensures the drive heads are parked in the event of movement. (Lenovo also offers SSD options: Intel’s 80GB high-performance drive for $400 more, or a 128GB model for $450.) All the requisite ports are present, including three USB ports and an ExpressCard/54 slot. The notebook’s 6-cell battery provided juice for a good four hours when playing continuous video—not the best time in this roundup, but respectable nonetheless.
The upshot is that the X200s is portable, sturdy, and up to the task of your average workload. It’s also $500 less than its competitors. While we could certainly take that money and buy Lenovo’s docking station with an optical drive for around $340, or buy an external DVD burner for even less, we prefer to have the whole kit-and-kaboodle in one complete package.