Notebookcheck

Lenovo ThinkPad X250 Ultrabook Review

Till Schönborn (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 02/20/2015

No (big) experiments. Lenovo only introduces small changes for the latest sibling of the X200-series – but just those changes improve a good subnotebook and result in an even better one. The manufacturer even listened to the criticism about the unpopular 5-button ClickPad of the predecessor.

For the original German review, see here.

Lenovo's X200-series has been one of the most popular subnotebook-series among business customers for years now. This is not surprising since the compact 12.5-inch device not only convinced with the excellent mobility in the past but also with other qualities that the ThinkPad-series is known for.

With the recent launch of the Broadwell CPU generation (5th Gen. Core) from the chip giant Intel, Lenovo now offers a new version of the successful model – the ThinkPad X250. As usual, potential buyers can choose from numerous configurations, which start with a comparatively inexpensive base model (WXGA display, Core i3 CPU, from 950 Euros, ~$1084) all the way up to a real high-end machine for almost 2,000 Euros (~$2282, Full HD display, Core i7 CPU, LTE module).

Thanks to generous education discounts, students and teachers can get a pretty well-equipped X250 for a comparatively low price. Our review unit is equipped with a Core i7-5600U, 8 GB RAM, 360 GB SSD storage as well as a Full HD IPS panel, but it is just affordable at almost 1,300 Euros (~$1483) without operating system – although this obviously depends on your wallet.

The strongest rivals for the ThinkPad are once again provided by Dell and HP. While the Latitude 12 E7250 already uses the modern Broadwell platform as well, the EliteBook 820 G1 is still powered by the Haswell predecessor; the updated successor 820 G2 should be available soon and we will review the device over the next couple of weeks.

Overview configurations (without education discount, excerpt):

ThinkPad X250 (20CM0020GE)

ThinkPad X250 (20CM001VGE) ThinkPad X250 (20CM001RGE)

Core i3-5010U

Core i5-5200U Core i7-5600U

4 GB RAM

8 GB RAM 8 GB RAM

500 GB (SSHD)

256 GB (SSD) 512 GB (SSD)

HD Graphics 5500

HD Graphics 5500 HD Graphics 5500

TN panel, 1366x768 pixels

IPS panel, 1366x768 pixels IPS panel, 1920x1080 pixels

no WWAN

UMTS/LTE UMTS/LTE

from €950 (~$1084)

from €1550 (~$1764) from €1950 (~$2219)

Case

Simple design,...
Simple design,...
...but solid materials and a good build quality.
...but solid materials and a good build quality.

Lenovo introduced some significant chassis changes with the ThinkPad X240, so the modifications are pretty subtle this year: The design of the matte gray X250 is almost completely identical to the predecessor; the minor differences in terms of weight (1.43 kg) and height (20.3 mm) are negligible. The rivals from Dell (1.5 kg, 19.4 mm) and HP (1.52 kg, 21 mm) are very similar.

Lenovo uses a glass-fiber reinforced plastic chassis with an integrated magnesium frame to ensure a sufficient stability despite the low weight. An effort that paid off: Except for some small areas, for example, the slightly flexible area above the keyboard, the chassis leaves a very sturdy impression. The X250 was also tested according to military standards including the resistance against vibrations, humidity, dust and temperature changes – even though the notebook will hardly face those kinds of stresses in practice it is certainly reassuring in respect of the product quality.

The lid cannot quite keep up with the stiffness of the base unit and slightly twists under moderate pressure. Still, this issue is not really a cause for concern, especially since a certain amount of flexibility can even protect against serious damages in some cases – a crack, for example. The panel is once again held by massive metal hinges that hardly bounce during vibrations and allow a maximum opening angle of up to 180 degrees.

All things considered, the best description for the case is probably "functional" – not the design but the function and the ergonomics were more important during the development.

Connectivity

You still only get two USB 3.0 ports, which means the connectivity of the ThinkPad cannot quite keep up with the Latitude E7250 or EliteBook 820 G1 – both rivals have one USB port more. Otherwise, the port variety meets the usual standard: External displays can either be attached via VGA (analog) or mini-DisplayPort (digital, up to 3840x2160 pixels, 30 Hz) and you obviously get common ports like the headset jack or the SD/MMC-card reader.

A docking station is a good idea if you plan to use the notebook as a stationary device. Lenovo did not change the corresponding port at the bottom, so owners of the predecessor can use existing solutions like the Lenovo ThinkPad Ultra Dock (around 150 Euros, ~$170) without problems. Besides a large number of additional ports such a dock also has the advantage that attached devices and cables hardly affect the user – the ports at the notebook are located at the left and right sides of the case, respectively.

Front: No ports
Front: No ports
Left side: AC power, VGA, USB 3.0, mini-DisplayPort, SmartCard reader
Left side: AC power, VGA, USB 3.0, mini-DisplayPort, SmartCard reader
Rear: No ports
Rear: No ports
Right side: Headset port, USB 3.0, card reader, SIM slot, Gbit-LAN, Kensington lock
Right side: Headset port, USB 3.0, card reader, SIM slot, Gbit-LAN, Kensington lock

Communication

Fast WLAN connection
Fast WLAN connection

Both the Gigabit-LAN (Intel I218-LM) as well as the wireless adaptor (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265) of the X250 are provided by Intel and are among the best products you can currently get in this segment. The wireless module was introduced together with Broadwell and supports all current WLAN standards in 2.4 as well as 5 GHz networks (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) besides Bluetooth 4.0. We were able to determine excellent transfer rates of around 40 up to 45 MB/s in our test – you obviously do not only need a corresponding dual-stream 802.11 ac router like our TP-Link Archer C7, but also a suitable environment for these results. The performance is reduced at longer distances, but the overall signal quality is still above average.

We are almost used to a disappointing webcam: The 0.9 MP sensor takes noisy pictures with pale colors. The quality might be sufficient for video chats, but you should not expect decent snapshots or video clips. Lenovo at least integrated a very decent array microphone, which means you usually do not need an external headset.

Security 

The X250 is a real ThinkPad and is therefore equipped with several administrative and security features like TPM, SmartCard reader, fingerprint reader and vPro support (depends on the CPU). BIOS and hard drive can be protected with a password and the notebook also supports Anti-Theft/Computrace – even though this requires an additional service contract (additional charge).

Accessories

We got used to the fact that many manufacturers do not ship many accessories, but we have to criticize that Lenovo does not even put a driver CD or a better solution like a USB stick in the box, especially when you consider the price. Still, all the necessary files can easily be found on Lenovo’s Support website, so the installation of an operating system – in our case Windows 7 Professional 64-bit – is quick and painless.

Maintenance

Excerpt from the Hardware Maintenance Manual
Excerpt from the Hardware Maintenance Manual

It is a good idea to have a look at the provided Hardware Maintenance Manual, which describes all procedures, before you clean the fan or upgrade the device. This is the short version: After the removal of 8 screws you have to carefully lift the bottom cover, which is also secured by some clips. After that you have access to the internal 24 Wh battery, the 2.5-inch drive (supports drives with a height of up to 9.5 millimeters), the WLAN adaptor as well as the only memory module. The free M.2 slot for the WWAN card (antenna cables already installed) can also be equipped with a second SSD.

Warranty

Lenovo grants a warranty of 36 months – longer runtimes and additional services like on-site repairs or accidental protection are available for an additional charge. The exact offers and prices are available on the website of the manufacturer after you entered your serial number; an upgrade to five years would cost at least 168 Euros (~$191) for our review unit.

Input Devices

Keyboard

Lenovo uses the spill-water protected chiclet keyboard from the X240 without any visible changes for the X250. There was no reason for bigger modifications anyway: Except for the familiar ThinkPad characteristic with switched Fn and Ctrl keys (can be changed in the BIOS), the keyboard is actually pretty close to a perfect input device in our opinion. The combination of firm pressure point, generous travel and high stability creates a very rich and mechanical typing experience, which can hardly be matched by any other notebook-series. The keys can be illuminated by white LEDs in dark environments; the intensity can be adjusted in two steps.

Touchpad & TrackPoint

The so-called UltraNav unit with the TrackPoint and touchpad was criticized in our last review since the lack of dedicated mouse buttons resulted in some significant comfort restrictions. The manufacturer now uses the old solution once again – at least to a certain extent: The TrackPoint gets back its three dedicated buttons with a smooth stroke, whereas the slightly smaller touchpad (8.7 x 5.3 centimeters) is still a fully integrated ClickPad. Even though Lenovo’s implementation can convince with a firm and well-defined pressure point, we prefer the typical design (see Latitude or EliteBook, for example). Still, the touchpad of the ThinkPad works pretty well and convinces with good gliding capabilities as well as the accurate execution of multi-touch gestures.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad and TrackPoint
Touchpad and TrackPoint

Display

Brightness distribution
Brightness distribution

Potential buyers of the X250 can choose between five different 12.5-inch displays: The least expensive solution is a TN panel with the WXGA resolution (200 cd/m², 300:1), followed by an IPS panel with 1366x768 pixels (300 cd/m², 700:1), which is also available in combination with a touchscreen (270 cd/m², 700:1). The two Full HD versions use the superior IPS technology and are available with (360 cd/m², 700:1) or without a touchscreen (400 cd/m², 700:1).

Our review unit is equipped with the matte non-touch panel with 1920x1080 pixels and 176 ppi. We measure 357 cd/m² and therefore cannot confirm the advertised maximum brightness, but the backlight is still way too bright for indoor environments and has to be dimmed – if necessary down to just 4 cd/m² (no visible PWM flickering). Despite the mediocre brightness distribution of just 81%, the picture is subjectively very even and you can hardly see any screen bleeding even with completely dark picture content.

336
cd/m²
332
cd/m²
321
cd/m²
370
cd/m²
397
cd/m²
379
cd/m²
366
cd/m²
344
cd/m²
365
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 397 cd/m² Average: 356.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 81 %
Center on Battery: 396 cd/m²
Contrast: 902:1 (Black: 0.44 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 4.2 | - Ø
ΔE Greyscale 3.1 | - Ø
65.5% sRGB (Argyll) 42% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll)
Gamma: 2.6
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
HD Graphics 5500, 5600U, Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series SSDSC2BF360A5L
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
HD Graphics 5500, 5300U, Samsung PM851 Series MZMTE256HMHP
HP EliteBook 820 G1
HD Graphics 4400, 4510U
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
HD Graphics 4400, 4210U, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
Screen
-16%
-25%
-13%
Brightness357330
-8%
355
-1%
396
11%
Brightness Distribution8181
0%
82
1%
80
-1%
Black Level *0.440.53
-20%
0.548
-25%
0.47
-7%
Contrast902679
-25%
703
-22%
921
2%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *4.25.58
-33%
5.99
-43%
5.56
-32%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *3.13.98
-28%
5.7
-84%
4.92
-59%
Gamma *2.62.212.052.48
CCT6246 104%6192 105%6594 99%6054 107%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)4242.2
0%
40.63
-3%
41
-2%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)65.5

* ... smaller is better

Color space vs. AdobeRGB (t)
Color space vs. AdobeRGB (t)
Color space vs. sRGB (t) (Correction 20.5.2015)
Color space vs. sRGB (t) (Correction 20.5.2015)

The IPS panel from the manufacturer LG supports its excellent quality with a contrast ratio of 902:1 and the advantages compared to a cheap TN panel are visible right away: The picture looks more vivid and both the black value and the colors appear richer. Not only pictures and videos benefit from that, you will appreciate the great display during office tasks as well. However: Other manufacturers also offer comparable panels.

The small display size of the X250 is not perfect for PhotoShop or similar applications, but the ThinkPad is more than sufficient for the occasional editing of holiday pictures. Colors (DeltaE 4.2) and the grayscale (DeltaE 3.1) already show pretty low deviations out of the box and the situation can be further improved with a calibration. The limited color-space coverage (42% AdobeRGB, 66% sRGB - (Correction 20.5.2015 due to a wrong sRGB-reference-profile)) for blue and magenta colors in particular, unfortunately, prevents even better results.

ColorChecker (without calibration)
ColorChecker (without calibration)
Saturation Sweeps (without calibration)
Saturation Sweeps (without calibration)
Grayscale (without calibration)
Grayscale (without calibration)
ColorChecker (with calibration)
ColorChecker (with calibration)
Saturation Sweeps (with calibration)
Saturation Sweeps (with calibration)
Grayscale (with calibration)
Grayscale (with calibration)

Matte display surface, powerful background illumination – our review unit is well-suited for outdoor environments. It is therefore hardly surprising that the picture content is perfectly visible, even on sunny days. You can even dim the brightness in the shade, which reduces the power consumption and therefore improves the battery runtimes.

Outdoor use (maximum brightness)
Viewing angles Lenovo ThinkPad X250
Viewing angles Lenovo ThinkPad X250

Not only high contrasts and rich colors are advantages of IPS panels – the superior viewing-angle stability justifies the additional charge over other display technologies as well. It does not matter from which side you look at the display of the ThinkPad: The picture quality hardly changes even with very big deviations from the center. Only the view from an angle above results in a visible deterioration of the black value.

Performance

3.2 GHz maximum Turbo clock
3.2 GHz maximum Turbo clock

The Core i7-5600U is currently the fastest chip with a TDP of 15 Watts. The high nominal clock of 2.6 GHz for the dual-core processor surpasses the previous high-end chip Core i7-4600U (Haswell) by 500 MHz, which is pretty remarkable. It is, however, interesting that the maximum Turbo clock was lowered by 100 MHz to 3.2 GHz. This difference should be compensated for by the higher per-MHz performance of the Broadwell architecture. We collected all the information about the new 14 nm generation in our CPU database and a separate architecture article.

The integrated graphics solution with the designation HD Graphics 5500 was reworked as well and now has 24 Execution Units (HD 4400: 20 EUs) that run with 300 up to 950 MHz. It is also the first time that an Intel GPU supports DirectX 11.2 – a feature that has already been supported by several AMD and Nvidia chips for a while now.

Lenovo only integrated one memory slot, which means the existing 8 GB DDR3L-1600 RAM are also the maximum equipment. Also annoying: This means the memory can only work in a slow single-channel configuration, which affects the graphics performance significantly. The storage solution is a 2.5-inch SSD with a capacity of 360 GB.

System information Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00

Processor

Multi-threading: Clock after the start of the benchmark...
Multi-threading: Clock after the start of the benchmark...
...and after around 30 seconds
...and after around 30 seconds

Whether a modern CPU can deliver the expected performance primarily depends on the utilization of the Turbo Boost, in the ULV segment in particular. The processor can only maintain the specified maximum clock if the temperature development and the power consumption are in the permissible range. Our Core i7-5600U can reach up to 3.2 GHz (one core) and 3.1 GHz (two cores), respectively.

We can see the expected 3.1 GHz immediately after we start Cinebench R11.5 (multi-threading), but the clock drops to 2.8 GHz after around 30 seconds. The reason: Despite the 14 nm manufacturing process, the CPU consumption reaches around 19.5 Watts with the maximum Turbo Boost, only the slight reduction to 2.8 GHz throttles the chip to 15 Watts. The TDP is, however, no limiting factor in single-core scenarios; the integrated sensors show 3.2 GHz with a consumption of around 11 Watts, so the clock is steady. This behavior is similar on mains and on battery power.

Thanks to the combination of higher clocks and improved micro architecture, the Core i7-5600U can beat the old Core i7-4600U by 5 up to 20%, depending on the benchmark. You should still evaluate if you really need such a high-end model – a Core i5, like the one we recently reviewed in the Dell Latitude 12, costs less and is not that much slower.

Cinebench R11.5
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
1.51 Points ∼6%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
1.33 Points ∼5% -12%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
1.43 Points ∼5% -5%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
1.39 Points ∼5% -8%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
1.18 Points ∼4% -22%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
3.29 Points ∼5%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
2.94 Points ∼4% -11%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
2.83 Points ∼4% -14%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
2.67 Points ∼4% -19%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
2.59 Points ∼4% -21%
Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
130 Points ∼70%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
114 Points ∼62% -12%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
125 Points ∼68% -4%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
124 Points ∼67% -5%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
104 Points ∼56% -20%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
301 Points ∼19%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
264 Points ∼17% -12%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
261 Points ∼17% -13%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
248 Points ∼16% -18%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
239 Points ∼15% -21%
X264 HD Benchmark 4.0
Pass 2 (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
18.67 fps ∼14%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
16.23 fps ∼12% -13%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
16.29 fps ∼12% -13%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
15.29 fps ∼11% -18%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
15.29 fps ∼11% -18%
Pass 1 (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
101.58 fps ∼48%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
82.56 fps ∼39% -19%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
91.7 fps ∼44% -10%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
97.5 fps ∼46% -4%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
78.87 fps ∼38% -22%
TrueCrypt
Serpent Mean 100MB (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
0.176 GB/s ∼10%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
0.15 GB/s ∼9% -15%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
0.16 GB/s ∼9% -9%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
0.16 GB/s ∼9% -9%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
0.128 GB/s ∼8% -27%
Twofish Mean 100MB (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
0.303 GB/s ∼19%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
0.24 GB/s ∼15% -21%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
0.272 GB/s ∼17% -10%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
0.282 GB/s ∼18% -7%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
0.227 GB/s ∼14% -25%
AES Mean 100MB (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
1.9 GB/s ∼22%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
1.6 GB/s ∼18% -16%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
1.7 GB/s ∼20% -11%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
1.8 GB/s ∼21% -5%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
1.4 GB/s ∼16% -26%

Legend

 
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00 Intel Core i7-5600U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series SSDSC2BF360A5L
 
Dell Latitude 12 E7250 Intel Core i5-5300U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Samsung PM851 Series MZMTE256HMHP
 
HP EliteBook 820 G1 Intel Core i7-4600U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Intel SSD Pro 1500 Series SSDSC2BF180A4H
 
Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Intel Core i7-4600U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV
 
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G Intel Core i5-4210U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
5367
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
10350
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
4943
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
5338 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
13673 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
6494 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
20.35 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
3.29 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.51 Points
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
98 %
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
25.25 fps
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
301 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
130 Points
Help

Storage Solution

AS SSD benchmark
AS SSD benchmark

The Intel SSD Pro 2500 with a capacity of 360 GB inside the Lenovo is not just any SSD, but a model that was specifically designed for professional scenarios. This is indicated by the manufacturer's warranty of five years, but also by other features: The drive meets the TCG Opal 2.0 standard and is therefore compatible to Microsoft's eDrive, a technology for a hardware-based encryption of files.

The performance results of the drive, which is based on the familiar Sandforce controller SF-2281 with MLC storage from Hynix (20 nm), are a bit disappointing. While the sequential transfer rates of 458 MB/s (read) and 258 MB/s (write) are actually on par with other current SSDs, we can see that the writing performance of small 4K files is far behind comparable rivals.

Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series SSDSC2BF360A5L
Transfer Rate Minimum: 267.8 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 433.4 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 392.7 MB/s
Access Time: 0.1 ms
Burst Rate: 300.2 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %

System Performance

What are the effects of the mediocre SSD performance in practice? Subjectively, there are none: System starts, loading times and installations are just as quick as you would find from other flash drives. The powerful processor obviously does its part as well and even handles excessive multi-tasking or very demanding software without bigger problems. The performance of the Core i7-5600U can even compete with a quad-core chip like the i7-4700HQ if an application can only use one or two cores.

The partly average results in the synthetic PCMark can be explained with the previously mentioned SSD issues and should not be overstated in respect of the real performance.

PCMark 7 - Score (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
4609 Points ∼57%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
4662 Points ∼58% +1%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
5196 Points ∼65% +13%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
4629 Points ∼58% 0%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
2504 Points ∼31% -46%
PCMark 8
Work Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
4345 Points ∼71%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
5363 Points ∼88% +23%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
3697 Points ∼60% -15%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
3066 Points ∼50% -29%
Creative Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
3458 Points ∼42%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
3052 Points ∼37% -12%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
3045 Points ∼37% -12%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
2461 Points ∼30% -29%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
2115 Points ∼26% -39%
Home Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
3148 Points ∼56%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
2772 Points ∼49% -12%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
3624 Points ∼64% +15%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
2470 Points ∼44% -22%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
2120 Points ∼37% -33%

Legend

 
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00 Intel Core i7-5600U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series SSDSC2BF360A5L
 
Dell Latitude 12 E7250 Intel Core i5-5300U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Samsung PM851 Series MZMTE256HMHP
 
HP EliteBook 820 G1 Intel Core i7-4600U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Intel SSD Pro 1500 Series SSDSC2BF180A4H
 
Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Intel Core i7-4600U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV
 
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G Intel Core i5-4210U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
PCMark 7 Score
4609 points
PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated v2
3148 points
PCMark 8 Creative Score Accelerated v2
3458 points
PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated v2
4345 points
Help

Graphics

4K test: Smooth playback of H.264 files,...
4K test: Smooth playback of H.264 files,...
...but some stutters with H.265/HEVC
...but some stutters with H.265/HEVC

Similar to all the other rivals you can only get the ThinkPad with integrated processor GPUs. The direct comparison between the HD Graphics 4400 (X240) and HD Graphics 5500 (X250) shows a performance advantage of 20 up to 25% – which means the Broadwell GPU with a single-channel memory configuration has a small advantage over the Haswell counterpart with a dual-channel interface. However, we want to emphasize that the 3DMark-series usually does not really benefit from a higher memory bandwidth.

The actual performance is still pretty low and cannot compete with dedicated low-end solutions like the Nvidia GeForce 820M, for example. The HD 5500 offers other qualities in return, starting with the low power consumption all the way up to flawless multimedia capabilities. The chip can handle high-resolution H.264 videos with minimum CPU load or transcode very quickly and efficiently via Quick Sync.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
1079 Points ∼5%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
927 Points ∼4% -14%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
937 Points ∼4% -13%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
828 Points ∼4% -23%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
835 Points ∼4% -23%
3DMark (2013)
1920x1080 Fire Strike Standard Score (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
625 Points ∼3%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
599 Points ∼3% -4%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
592 Points ∼3% -5%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
516 Points ∼2% -17%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
508 Points ∼2% -19%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Score (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
4801 Points ∼14%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
4633 Points ∼13% -3%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
4636 Points ∼13% -3%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
3985 Points ∼11% -17%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
4069 Points ∼12% -15%
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Score (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
40296 Points ∼20%
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
42996 Points ∼22% +7%
HP EliteBook 820 G1
41559 Points ∼21% +3%
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
29301 Points ∼15% -27%
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
31711 Points ∼16% -21%

Legend

 
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00 Intel Core i7-5600U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series SSDSC2BF360A5L
 
Dell Latitude 12 E7250 Intel Core i5-5300U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Samsung PM851 Series MZMTE256HMHP
 
HP EliteBook 820 G1 Intel Core i7-4600U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Intel SSD Pro 1500 Series SSDSC2BF180A4H
 
Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Intel Core i7-4600U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV
 
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G Intel Core i5-4210U, Intel HD Graphics 4400, Toshiba MQ01ABF050
3DMark 06 Standard
6482 points
3DMark 11 Performance
1079 points
3DMark (2013) Ice Storm Standard Score
40296 points
3DMark (2013) Cloud Gate Standard Score
4801 points
3DMark (2013) Fire Strike Standard Score
625 points
Help

Gaming Performance

Complex 3D games are not really a common scenario for the X250 when you consider the business orientation as well as the low graphics performance. The HD Graphics 5500 is powerful enough for smooth frame rates when you play simple titles like Diablo 3 or Dota 2 with medium settings, but current games with impressive graphics are too demanding. Far Cry 4, Assassin's Creed Unity or Ryse: Son of Rome only run with 10 -15 fps, even in 1024x768 and with the lowest settings.

low med. high ultra
Diablo III (2012) 5435.628.617.3fps
Tomb Raider (2013) 46.724.115.17.7fps
Dota 2 (2013) 56.332.114.8fps
Fifa 15 (2014) 38.629.215.4fps

Emissions

System Noise

A quiet operating noise was always an advantage of the ThinkPad-series – a tradition that does not change with the X250. Light workloads rarely need the fan at all, but even the activated fan only produces around 30 dB(A). The maximum noise is 33.7 dB(A), which is the best result within our comparison group with the Latitude 12 (up to 42.8 dB(A)) and EliteBook 820 G1 (up to 35.8 dB(A)). The gentle murmur is subjectively very even and has a low frequency.

You can activate the so-called "Turbo Boost+" mode in the Lenovo Energy Manager to enforce higher fan speeds in favor of lower temperatures. We could not notice any performance advantages, only a much higher system noise of more than 40 dB(A).

Noise Level

Idle
29 / 29 / 30.3 dB(A)
Load
33.4 / 33.7 dB(A)
 
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Voltcraft sL-451 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Stress test
Stress test
Prime95
Prime95

The real challenge is not to build a quiet notebook – the cooling solution is only powerful if the temperature development is convincing as well. The cooling system of the ThinkPad X250 is certainly a success since large parts of the surface do not even reach 30 °C in our stress test. Only the area around the fan exhaust at the left side of the case is much warmer with almost 44 °C. The user, however, does not really notice that and using the notebook on your lap is no problem at all.

The Core i7-5600U suffers from throttling, despite uncritical core temperatures of around 80 °C. To stay within the TDP limit of 15 Watts, the chip lowers the CPU clock to 1.6 GHz while the GPU can run with 800 MHz. This behavior is typical for ULV hardware and should not be interpreted as a thermal problem of the notebook.

 27.6 °C24.4 °C23 °C 
 28.3 °C29.1 °C24.2 °C 
 24.1 °C23.4 °C24.6 °C 
Maximum: 29.1 °C
Average: 25.4 °C
23.8 °C25.9 °C29.8 °C
26.2 °C27.7 °C30 °C
25.2 °C23.9 °C24.5 °C
Maximum: 30 °C
Average: 26.3 °C
Power Supply (max.)  31.4 °C | Room Temperature 19.8 °C | Fluke 62 Max

Speakers

Amplitude frequency response X240 (White Noise: blue, Pink Noise: red)
Amplitude frequency response X240 (White Noise: blue, Pink Noise: red)

Because of the low maximum volume, the lack of bass and the slightly shrill sound characteristic, we cannot recommend the integrated stereo speakers for movies or games. The emphasis on the high tones is apparent when you look at the amplitude frequency response that we recorded with the predecessor X240: The curve drops significantly below 250 Hz, and the inconveniently sharp high tones should be a result of the peak at around 12 kHz. Even cheap external speakers will improve the sound dramatically and are actually necessary for medium or large rooms.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The idle consumption of the ThinkPad is only 2.7 up to 8 Watts, depending on the power plan, the display brightness and activated wireless modules. This means the X250 is among the most frugal subnotebooks in its class and beats the similarly equipped Latitude 12 E7250 (4.1 up to 9.4 Watts) by more than one Watt. However, we measure the consumption at the socket including the power adaptor, so the difference is not necessarily caused by the device alone.

We can measure up to 44.3 Watts at the start of our stress test before it levels off at around 30 Watts after a couple of seconds. 3D games and CPU benchmarks resulted in similar values since the Broadwell chip automatically adjusts its clock to utilize the full TDP. The provided 45-watt power adaptor therefore does not have a lot of headroom but is still sufficient.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0 / 0.1 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 2.7 / 7 / 8 Watt
Load midlight 28.6 / 44.3 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Extech Power Analyzer 380803

Battery Runtime

Lenovo introduced the so called "Power Bridge" system with the ThinkPad X240, which consists of an integrated 24 Wh battery as well as an optional secondary battery (24, 48 or 72 Wh) at the back of the device. The advantage of this solution: The additional battery can be removed or replaced in operation and the user does not have to turn the notebook off. Our review unit is equipped with the small 24 Wh module, which is the only module that sits flush with the rest of the chassis.

The result is a total capacity of 48 Wh for our review unit, but the usable value is just 44.5 Wh according to several tools. This might be a reason for the unexpected short runtimes, especially in the practical tests: The X250 only manages around 5 hours light web-browsing with a medium display brightness and activated WLAN. The Latitude 12 (52 Wh) is also much better while idling and under load.

Reader's test
Reader's test
WLAN test
WLAN test
H.264 test
H.264 test
Classic test
Classic test
Charging
Charging
Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
48 Wh
Dell Latitude 12 E7250
52 Wh
HP EliteBook 820 G1
46 Wh
Asus ASUSPRO Advanced BU201LA-DT036G
32 Wh
Lenovo ThinkPad X240
48 Wh
Battery Runtime
19%
14%
-25%
4%
Reader / Idle779845
8%
813
4%
463
-41%
719
-8%
Load92103
12%
124
35%
113
23%
107
16%
WiFi325446
37%
392
21%
218
-33%
363
12%
WiFi v1.3298
H.264342402
18%
327
-4%
182
-47%
323
-6%
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
12h 59min
WiFi Surfing
5h 25min
WiFi Surfing v1.3
4h 58min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
5h 42min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 32min

Verdict

Lenovo ThinkPad X250
Lenovo ThinkPad X250

Lenovo once again only introduces small changes for a successful product – the ThinkPad X250 is a careful evolution of the X240 that was launched in the end of 2013, no more and no less.

Still, this continuity does not have to be a disadvantage: The solid case, the proven ThinkPad keyboard or the low noise development were already convincing in the past and did not require any changes. This also applies for the recommendable Full HD display with the high resolution that enables good productivity. It is unfortunate that less expensive configurations are usually only offered with the WXGA resolution and sometimes with low-quality TN panels.

Another positive aspect is the high performance of the Broadwell processors that do not consume more power thanks to the improved manufacturing process. Long-time ThinkPad users will also be happy about the return of the dedicated TrackPoint buttons – even though it would have been better if Lenovo did the same for the touchpad. This is an advantage for the rivals from HP and Dell, just like the lack of a second memory slot or the lower number of USB ports.

All in all, the ThinkPad just misses a very good rating, but it can still claim the top spot in the subnotebook category thanks to the variety of qualities. Students or teachers that can participate in Lenovo's education program also get good discounts for the ThinkPad X250 – and the resulting difference compared to similar consumer models might pay off quicker than you think when you consider the durable construction.

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In review: Lenovo ThinkPad X250. Test model courtesy of Campuspoint.
In review: Lenovo ThinkPad X250. Test model courtesy of Campuspoint.

Specifications

Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00
Processor
Graphics adapter
Intel HD Graphics 5500, Core: 300 - 950 MHz, single-channel memory, 10.18.14.4029
Memory
8192 MB 
, 1x 8 GB DDR3L-1600, single-channel, 1 of 1 slot filled
Display
12.5 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, LG LP125WF2-SPB2, IPS screen, LED backlight, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel Broadwell-U PCH-LP (Premium)
Storage
Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series SSDSC2BF360A5L, 360 GB 
, 304 GB free
Soundcard
Intel Broadwell PCH-LP - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
2 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 VGA, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: headset jack (3.5 millimeter), Card Reader: 4-in-1 (MMC, SD, SDHC, SDXC), 1 SmartCard, 1 Fingerprint Reader, Brightness Sensor
Networking
Intel I218-LM Gigabit (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 (a/b/g/h/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 20.3 x 306 x 209 ( = 0.8 x 12.05 x 8.23 in)
Battery
48 Wh Lithium-Polymer, removeable, 24 Wh internal + 24 Wh removable
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: 720p
Primary Camera: 1 MPix
Additional features
Speakers: stereo (2x 1.5 W), Keyboard: chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, 45 watt power supply, brochures, 36 Months Warranty
Weight
1.43 kg ( = 50.44 oz / 3.15 pounds), Power Supply: 182 g ( = 6.42 oz / 0.4 pounds)
Price
1300 Euro

 

Nothing really changed...
Nothing really changed...
...about the classic ThinkPad design...
...about the classic ThinkPad design...
...even in 2015.
...even in 2015.
The new ThinkPad X250...
The new ThinkPad X250...
...uses the same matte-gray design...
...uses the same matte-gray design...
...that has been known from the series for years now.
...that has been known from the series for years now.
The simple plastic...
The simple plastic...
...might not look pretty sophisticated at a first look,...
...might not look pretty sophisticated at a first look,...
...but glass fiber and magnesium reinforcement ensure a high stability.
...but glass fiber and magnesium reinforcement ensure a high stability.
Display and base unit...
Display and base unit...
...are connected by massive metal hinges...
...are connected by massive metal hinges...
...with a generous maximum opening angle.
...with a generous maximum opening angle.
Gbit-LAN and...
Gbit-LAN and...
...VGA port are still available,...
...VGA port are still available,...
...but also modern ports like a mini-DisplayPort are available.
...but also modern ports like a mini-DisplayPort are available.
The keyboard in particular...
The keyboard in particular...
...is a highlight among the input devices...
...is a highlight among the input devices...
...and convinces with a rich and mechanical typing experience.
...and convinces with a rich and mechanical typing experience.
The white LED illumination can be adjusted in two steps.
The white LED illumination can be adjusted in two steps.
After the criticism for the touchpad of the X240, Lenovo goes one step back...
After the criticism for the touchpad of the X240, Lenovo goes one step back...
...and at least the TrackPoint once again gets dedicated buttons.
...and at least the TrackPoint once again gets dedicated buttons.
The fingerprint reader supports the business orientation.
The fingerprint reader supports the business orientation.
Disappointing: 0.9 MP webcam.
Disappointing: 0.9 MP webcam.
At the bottom of the device...
At the bottom of the device...
...is a docking port...
...is a docking port...
...as well as multiple screws.
...as well as multiple screws.
Remove them and you can lift the bottom plate.
Remove them and you can lift the bottom plate.
A single chassis fan is sufficient...
A single chassis fan is sufficient...
...to handle the heat from the CPU quietly.
...to handle the heat from the CPU quietly.
Maximum equipment: More than 8 GB memory is, unfortunately, not possible.
Maximum equipment: More than 8 GB memory is, unfortunately, not possible.
In addition to the WLAN module...
In addition to the WLAN module...
...you can add a WWAN adaptor.
...you can add a WWAN adaptor.
The nominal capacity of the main battery is 24 Wh...
The nominal capacity of the main battery is 24 Wh...
...another 24 Wh is added by the...
...another 24 Wh is added by the...
...optional secondary battery.
...optional secondary battery.
The X250 manages around 5 to 6 hours on battery in practice.
The X250 manages around 5 to 6 hours on battery in practice.
The speakers lack bass and have a low maximum volume.
The speakers lack bass and have a low maximum volume.
A 45-watt power adaptor covers the consumption.
A 45-watt power adaptor covers the consumption.

Similar Laptops

Devices with the same GPU and/or Screen Size

HP EliteBook 820 G2 Subnotebook Review
HD Graphics 5500, Core i7 5500U, 1.3 kg
Dell Latitude 12 E7250 Ultrabook Review
HD Graphics 5500, Core i5 5300U, 1.5 kg

Devices with the same GPU

Lenovo E31-70 Notebook Review
HD Graphics 5500, Core i3 5005U, 13.3", 1.584 kg
Toshiba Portege Z30t-B1320W10 Notebook Review
HD Graphics 5500, Core i7 5600U, 13.3", 1.326 kg
Eurocom Armadillo 2 (Clevo W840AU) Notebook Review
HD Graphics 5500, Core i5 5200U, 14.0", 1.9 kg
Asus Zenbook UX305LA (Core i7) Subnotebook Review
HD Graphics 5500, Core i7 5500U, 13.3", 1.3 kg
Toshiba Satellite Z30-B Notebook Review
HD Graphics 5500, Core i5 5200U, 13.3", 1.2 kg

Links

Compare Prices

Pro

+Durable chassis
+Crisp keyboard
+LTE module can be added
+High-contrast Full HD display
+Excellent application performance
+Low noise and temperature development
+3-year warranty
 

Cons

-Only 2x USB
-Only up to 8 GB memory
-Weak speakers
-Mediocre battery runtimes

Shortcut

What we like

Lenovo finally equipped the TrackPoint with dedicated buttons once again – the unusual 5-button ClickPad is therefore gone after just one generation. It is, however, unfortunate that this change does not include the touchpad, which still has integrated buttons.

What we'd like to see

Due to the lack of the second memory slot you cannot use the maximum performance and it also limits the upgradeability.

What surprises us

That the runtimes are slightly shorter compared to the predecessor, despite the similar battery capacity and reduced power consumption.

The competition

HP EliteBook 820 G1

HP EliteBook 820 G2

Dell Latitude E7250

AsusPro Advanced BU201LA

Toshiba Portege Z30

Rating

Lenovo ThinkPad X250-20CLS06D00 - 02/16/2016 v5
Till Schönborn

Chassis
90 /  98 → 92%
Keyboard
93%
Pointing Device
85%
Connectivity
59 / 81 → 73%
Weight
70 / 78 → 81%
Battery
81%
Display
89%
Games Performance
56 / 68 → 82%
Application Performance
79 / 87 → 91%
Temperature
90 / 91 → 99%
Noise
95%
Audio
54 / 91 → 59%
Camera
50 / 85 → 59%
Average
76%
86%
Subnotebook - Weighted Average
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Lenovo ThinkPad X250 Ultrabook Review
Till Schönborn, 2015-02-20 (Update: 2015-05-28)