Notebookcheck

Lenovo ThinkPad X280 (i5-8250U, FHD) Laptop Review

Benjamin Herzig (translated by Alex Alderson), 03/08/2018

Mini Carbon. With a fresh design and a clearly thinner case, Lenovo is trying to make its traditional 12-inch ThinkPad X Series more attractive. In this review we will be explaining why this approach works well, and what features we miss despite the other improvements.

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In the 2000s, the notebook market was divided. If someone needs a laptop mainly for desk work, then they bought a classic notebook. If mobility was more important then there were subnotebooks with 13.3-inch and smaller displays. Subnotebooks were characterised by having similar performance to larger notebooks without compromising, by contrast to the even smaller and more mobile netbooks.

Today the situation looks different, and since the emergence of the Ultrabook larger notebooks have been becoming more mobile. This move towards greater mobility across all laptop classes has reduced the unique selling points of subnotebooks, with Lenovo’s development of its ThinkPad X series being a prime example of this. Five years ago, Lenovo sold the ThinkPad X230, a popular and traditional subnotebook. The X230 had standard voltage processors, 35 W TDP at the time, two RAM slots, an HDD slot, RJ45 Ethernet, an ExpressCard slot, and expandable batteries. During this time Lenovo launched its first Ultrabook, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2012, which switched these features for a thinner case.

Since then the X1 Carbon has come a long way, with it now being in its sixth generation. Lenovo last fundamentally redesigned the classic X2xx series, whose roots can be traced back to 2000, in 2013 with the X240. Each of the X240’s successors have compromised between the concept of the classic subnotebook and the design of an Ultrabook. One of these models’ standout features were there two batteries, one of which being internal while the other was external and could be hot swapped. This design choice allowed Lenovo to reduce the thickness of the X240 onwards, but not nearly as thin as the X1 Carbon, the latter of which has become increasingly popular in the last year. The lightest X series laptop even weighed more than the T400s series, namely the T470s.

The new ThinkPad X280 changes this though, with Lenovo completely redesigning the X Series for this year. Combining this with Intel’s new low powered quad-core processors makes for an interesting mix, which we will be taking a closer look at in this review. The X280 is the first 2018 model of business class laptops that we are testing. As a result, we will be using last year’s Dell Latitude 7280 and HP EliteBook 820 G4 as comparison devices, instead of the yet untested Dell Latitude 7290 and HP EliteBook 830 G5. Moreover, we will be comparing the X280 with the Latitude 7380, the X1 Carbon 2018 and naturally the X280’s predecessor, the X270.

Our X280 is not currently available as it is the campus configuration, which is exclusively for students and other groups, such as teachers. Our test device has a Full-HD IPS Display, 8 GB Ram, a Core i5-8250U, and a 512 GB SSD, costing €1,129. A Windows licence is not included with this configuration. A similar configuration with Windows costs €1,655 in the Lenovo Store.

Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00 (ThinkPad X280 Series)
Graphics adapter
Memory
8192 MB 
, DDR4-2400, soldered
Display
12.5 inch 16:9, 1920 x 1080 pixel 176 PPI, B125HAN02.2, IPS LED, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel Kaby Lake-U + iHDCP 2.2 Premium PCH
Storage
Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7, 512 GB 
, M.2 2280, PCIe NVMe x4
Soundcard
Intel Kaby Lake-U/Y PCH - High Definition Audio
Connections
3 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 USB 3.1 Gen2, 1 Thunderbolt, 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: Kombo-Audio, Card Reader: MicroSD, 1 SmartCard, 1 Fingerprint Reader
Networking
Intel Ethernet Connection I219-V (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.2
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 17.4 x 307.7 x 209.8 ( = 0.69 x 12.11 x 8.26 in)
Battery
50 Wh Lithium-Ion
Camera
Webcam: 720p with ThinkShutter camera cover
Additional features
Speakers: 2 W Stereo, Keyboard: Six-row chiclet with TrackPoint, Keyboard Light: yes, ThinkPad Ethernet Extension Adapter Gen 2 , 36 Months Warranty
Weight
1.137 kg ( = 40.11 oz / 2.51 pounds), Power Supply: 356 g ( = 12.56 oz / 0.78 pounds)
Price
1129 Euro

 

Case – Magnesium and Carbon combination

Lenovo ThinkPad X280
Lenovo ThinkPad X280

The X280 looks almost completely different compared with the X270, which is contrary to the often-expressed opinion that all ThinkPads look the same. The case colour and shape have changed with the X270 having a dark grey case in the style of 2013 era ThinkPads. The X280 is clearly less boxy than its predecessor with its bottom being more tapered at the front, much like the T480s and the X1 Carbon. Meanwhile, the X280’s anthracite colour made its way to other ThinkPads in 2016, with the X series only now making the jump.

Traditionally, the X series has largely been made of magnesium, with Lenovo moving to glass fibre plastic with an internal magnesium reinforcement from the X240 onwards. This design looked like the normal T series, namely the ThinkPad T470. With the X280, Lenovo has used similar materials to those found on the T480s, with the base being made of magnesium and there being a carbon fibre plastic display cover. These differences in materials are tough to spot though as the entire of the X280 is painted black. The surface is velvety soft and feels good in the hand, a departure from the classic gum texture from past ThinkPads.

The X280 is more robust than its predecessor, with it only being possible to twist the base with great effort. The very thin carbon fibre plastic display cover lacks the same rigidity as the base and is neither as stiff as some aluminium display covers either. The greater flexibility does not come at a cost to rigidity though. There are no visible effects to the display even when applying strong pressure to the back of the cover, with the palm rest being just as imperceptible to pressure too. At most, we occasionally heard a slight clicking sound when twisting the X280 from its base.

The two hinges with metal caps are sturdy, while still allowing the display to be opened one-handed. As is common with ThinkPads, the X280’s display can be opened to 180°.

It is worth noting that not all X280’s come with a carbon fibre plastic display cover. Those with an HD display or a Full-HD touchscreen display have a glass fibre display cover, which adds approximately 130 grams to the X280’s overall weight.

In comparison to the X270, the X280 is significantly thinner and lighter, weighing around 230 grams less while being almost three millimetres thinner. The result of this is that the X280 feels practically as light as a feather, with the X280 weighing more like the more expensive X1 Carbon 2018. In terms of size, the main size differences between the X280 and the X1 Carbon 2018 are that the latter is thinner but markedly larger. The size differences between the X280 and the X1 Carbon 2018 is closer than that between X280 and its predecessor, with the X280 being a few millimetres deeper and wider.

Interestingly the Dell Latitude 7380, while being practically the same size as the X280, has a 13.3-inch display to the X280’s 12-inch. HP gave up on the 12.5-inch form factor this year, making the EliteBook 830 G5 in the image of the EliteBook 820 G4. On the other hand, Dell still offers the Latitude 7390 and the smaller Latitude 7290. Lenovo could have been more efficient in their use of space with the X280 as a 13.3-inch display probably would have fit. Unfortunately, remaining with a 12-inch display results in the X280 having bezels that are wider than necessary.

Size comparison

Connectivity – the slimming of the X series

As part of the X series redesign for the X280, Lenovo has made changes to the I/O. The proprietary docking port on the bottom is gone, with Lenovo including a docking port on the side of the case instead. Lenovo has equipped the X280 with two USB Type-C ports, that being one more than the X270 had, with one also now being Thunderbolt 3. The X280 can be charged by either USB-C port, with the slim-tip charging port found on the X270 having been omitted.

Unfortunately, the list of omitted connections does not end there. Lenovo has replaced the RJ45 Ethernet port with a proprietary mini-Ethernet port, which protected by a cover at the factory. There is an adapter in the box, but it amazes us that Lenovo decided against using a fold-out connector like the one on the T480s. While an RJ45 Ethernet port is of little importance for most residential users, it remains important in corporate environments. In comparison, the Dell Latitude 7290 and HP EliteBook 830 G5 both have the added functionality of fold-out Ethernet ports.

There is practically nothing to complain about with I/O positioning with the only complaint being the proximity with which Lenovo have placed the USB Type-A and HDMI ports on the left-hand side. They are slightly too close together, which could prove troublesome if you need to use a wide USB-A peripheral while the X280 is connected to an external display by HDMI.

Left-hand side: USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, Thunderbolt 3, Mini Ethernet, Docking Port, USB 3.0 Type-A, HDMI, Audio combo port
Left-hand side: USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, Thunderbolt 3, Mini Ethernet, Docking Port, USB 3.0 Type-A, HDMI, Audio combo port
Right-hand side: USB 3.0 Type-A, Kensington Lock
Right-hand side: USB 3.0 Type-A, Kensington Lock

SD Card Reader

microSD card reader: hidden on the rear
microSD card reader: hidden on the rear

The X280 has a microSD card reader, which is on par with Dell’s business laptops and better than HP’s, who choose to omit an SD card reader from their business laptops altogether. The positioning of the reader on the X280 is identical to the X1 Carbon 2018 with the slot hidden under a flap behind the display. The flap is opened with a pin or SIM removal tool, making it difficult to open in everyday use and being more suitable for permanent memory expansion.

The performance of the card reader using our reference Toshiba Exceria Pro M501 is average. The X1 Carbon 2018’s microSD card reader is much faster.

SDCardreader Transfer Speed
average JPG Copy Test (av. of 3 runs)
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
  (Toshiba Exceria Pro M501)
191.2 MB/s ∼100% +149%
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
  (Toshiba Exceria Pro SDXC 64 GB UHS-II)
77.8 MB/s ∼41% +1%
Dell Latitude 7280
  (Toshiba THN-M401S0640E2)
77 MB/s ∼40% 0%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
  (Toshiba Excerie Pro M501)
76.8 MB/s ∼40%
Dell Latitude 13 7380
  (Toshiba Exceria Pro SDXC 64 GB UHS-II)
76.59 MB/s ∼40% 0%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (8 - 186, n=89)
62.6 MB/s ∼33% -18%
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
  (Toshiba Exceria Pro SDXC 64 GB UHS-II)
62.2 MB/s ∼33% -19%
maximum AS SSD Seq Read Test (1GB)
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
  (Toshiba Exceria Pro M501)
223.9 MB/s ∼100% +160%
Dell Latitude 7280
  (Toshiba THN-M401S0640E2)
90.92 MB/s ∼41% +6%
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
  (Toshiba Exceria Pro SDXC 64 GB UHS-II)
88 MB/s ∼39% +2%
Dell Latitude 13 7380
  (Toshiba Exceria Pro SDXC 64 GB UHS-II)
87.77 MB/s ∼39% +2%
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
  (Toshiba Exceria Pro SDXC 64 GB UHS-II)
86.6 MB/s ∼39% +1%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
  (Toshiba Excerie Pro M501)
86.1 MB/s ∼38%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (17.7 - 251, n=89)
83.8 MB/s ∼37% -3%

Communication

The X280’s mini-Ethernet port is powered by an Intel I219-V chip, with WiFi handled by an Intel Wireless 8265 2x2 AC card, the combination of which is common for current business laptops.

A variant with LTE compatibility is available for those who need internet access on-the-go. Our test device did not come with such functionality, but this can be retrofitted with the required antennas and nano-SIM card slot. The X280 requires specifically compatible cards, namely the Fibocom L850-GL, to enable LTE functionality. Lenovo has assigned this the part number 01AX786. Currently, this does not seem to be available.

Lenovo has placed the X280’s webcam and microphones above the display, which should provide a good angle for video calls.

Networking
iperf3 Client (receive) TCP 1 m 4M x10
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
671 MBit/s ∼100% +6%
Dell Latitude 7280
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
641 MBit/s ∼96% +1%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
634 MBit/s ∼94%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
633 MBit/s ∼94% 0%
Dell Latitude 13 7380
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
600 MBit/s ∼89% -5%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (71 - 950, n=71)
531 MBit/s ∼79% -16%
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 (jseb)
506 MBit/s ∼75% -20%
iperf3 Client (transmit) TCP 1 m 4M x10
Dell Latitude 13 7380
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
534 MBit/s ∼100% +2%
Dell Latitude 7280
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
530 MBit/s ∼99% +1%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
525 MBit/s ∼98%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (72 - 949, n=71)
516 MBit/s ∼97% -2%
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
512 MBit/s ∼96% -2%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
511 MBit/s ∼96% -3%
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 (jseb)
474 MBit/s ∼89% -10%

Security

Touch fingerprint reader
Touch fingerprint reader

The X280 is a true business laptop to the extent that it has numerous security hardware and software features. These include TPM, a Kensington Lock and a smart card slot, the latter of which is not available in our test device’s campus configuration.

Additionally, Lenovo includes ThinkShutter, a mechanical camera shutter that is available on practically all ThinkPads released in 2018. The only caveat is that ThinkShutter is only in combination with 720p webcams, so there are no ThinkShutter webcams with infrared, meaning that it is not possible to have Windows Hello enabled cameras with ThinkShutter. With that caveat aside, Lenovo offers biometric security with Windows Hello enabled infrared cameras and a touch fingerprint reader, the latter of which is located to the right of the touchpad and recognises fingerprints quickly without error.

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Accessories

Lenovo includes a USB-C power supply and a mini-Ethernet to RJ45 Ethernet adapter as standard. The adapter is officially named the ThinkPad Ethernet Extension Adapter Gen 2.

The most important accessories are the optional mechanical ThinkPad docks, of which there are three trim levels. There is the ThinkPad Basic Dock, the Pro Dock and the Ultra Dock. The latter offers the most ports and is the one that we took a closer look at in our recent X1 Carbon 2018 review.

ThinkPad Ethernet Extension Adapter Gen 2. As seen on an X1 Carbon 2018.
ThinkPad Ethernet Extension Adapter Gen 2. As seen on an X1 Carbon 2018.
The mechanical ThinkPad Ultra Dock offers numerous ports.
The mechanical ThinkPad Ultra Dock offers numerous ports.

Maintenance

A consistent criticism of X series ThinkPads since the X240 was their difficult serviceability. Specifically, the plastic clips that secured the base cover along with the screws proved fragile. Fortunately, Lenovo has rectified this as opening the X280 is easier than its predecessors. There are fewer screws, five down from eight, and there are only plastic clips at the front edge of the bottom case. This means that once the screws have been loosened the back cover can be lifted upwards, thereby loosening the clips on the front edge.

Unfortunately, the X280’s upgradability is worse than its predecessor, with the RAM soldered to the main board just as in the X1 Carbon 2018. The X270 had a SO-DIMM slot while in the X230 there were two memory slots. Only the 2280-M.2 slot and empty 2242-M.2 port for LTE are upgradable. The battery and cooling system are easily accessible, with the battery only screwed and not glued in.

A look inside
A look inside

A further improvement in serviceability is the keyboard design. Lenovo hides two keyboard screws below the TrackPoint buttons for which special tools are needed that come with a replacement keyboard. For this reason, we did not want to remove the keyboard. By contrast, accessing the keyboard on the X270 required removing all internal components including the motherboard.

As with all ThinkPads, Lenovo includes a comprehensive hardware maintenance manual with the X280.

The cooling system is easily accessible.
The cooling system is easily accessible.
Magnesium base cover without annoying clips.
Magnesium base cover without annoying clips.

Warranty

In Germany, the more expensive T and X series ThinkPads have a comprehensive warranty package. The X280 comes with a thirty-six-month warranty and on-site service whereby the technician repairs the device at the customer’s home or workplace. This warranty can be extended up to five years for an extra charge. This also provides accidental damage coverage and a longer battery warranty, the latter of which Lenovo by default covers for only one year.

Input Devices – ThinkPad precision in a small format

Keyboard

The keyboard is one of the few areas on the X280 that has not been changed from its predecessor, which is no bad thing as it remains one of the best laptop keyboards. The ThinkPad chiclet keyboard has six rows of keys and a two-stage keyboard backlight that is outstanding. Keys have 1.8 mm of travel, which is great by today’s standards, while there is just the right amount of key pressure. The surface of the keys is rather smooth. The keyboard is not distracting, as is the case on the 12-inch MacBook.

The keyboard layout has minor differences to those on other ThinkPads such as the T480s or the X1 Carbon 2018. The keyboard size has reduced to account for the X280 being narrower than its predecessor, while certain keys, such as the umlauts Ä and Ü, the three keys to the right of the spacebar and the backspace key, are smaller than usual. Moreover, Lenovo has removed a dedicated Insert key, which can be accessed by pressing FN and the End key. This could take some getting used to or even frustrate those who are used to full-width keyboards.

Keyboard area
Keyboard area

Mouse Replacement

Since the introduction of the ThinkPad X201 in 2010, Lenovo has steadily improved upon touchpads in the ThinkPad X Series. The X280 has thus far the largest touchpad on a 12-inch X series laptop, measuring 10 x 5.5 cm. These dimensions make the X280’s touchpad the same width as touchpads found on larger ThinkPads, and only a little shorter. Compared to the layout of its predecessor, Lenovo have increased the length of the X280’s touchpad by moving the TrackPoint buttons closer to the keyboard and by eliminating the space between the touchpad and the TrackPoint buttons.

Like the T series, the touchpad is plastic, which Lenovo calls Mylar. By contrast, the X1 Carbon 2018 has a glass touchpad. While we cannot fault the texture, it does not feel as premium as that found on the X1 Carbon 2018. The touchpad works well as a click pad, with only the lower half being clickable. The integrated keys are crisp and are quiet when clicked. Better still, Lenovo has made use of Windows Precision touchpad drivers, rendering touchpad problems a thing of the past. Accordingly, the X280’s touchpad is accurate and works without issue.

Mouse replacement hardware: Touchpad and Trackpoint
Mouse replacement hardware: Touchpad and Trackpoint

We must not forget the TrackPoint, the hallmark of the ThinkPad, to the extent that it is even represented in the ThinkPad logo. The TrackPoint, first invented by IBM who manufactured the ThinkPad until 2005, still sits between the B/G/H keys. The X280 still has the three-dedicated mouse buttons that sit below the keyboard, each of which being well crafted with a relatively shallow travel and a crisp pressure point. While the TrackPoint is precise, it lacks the same sensitivity than those found of other ThinkPads. This reduced sensitivity could be because Lenovo has reduced the thickness of the keyboard, making the TrackPoint smaller in height too. Despite this, the X280’s TrackPoint remains a good alternative to the touchpad, one which may take new users some getting used to.

Display – IPS with good brightness and dull colours

Subpixel array – B125HAN02.2
Subpixel array – B125HAN02.2
Backlight bleed – emphasised here
Backlight bleed – emphasised here

The number of display options on the X280 is lower than that found on the X270. Lenovo has made the selection simpler by removing the HD-IPS option, which had a 1,366 x 768 resolution. There is a choice between an HD-TN panel and a Full-HD 1,920 x 1,080 IPS panel, the latter being the one that our test device has. Optionally, there is a touchscreen variant of the Full-HD IPS display. All options have a matte finish.

The key data of the Full-HD remains the same as on the X270, with Lenovo continuing to rate the brightness at 300 cd/m². Our test device, with an AUO produced panel, averages higher values at 312 cd/m², while we measured the maximum brightness at 346 cd/m². As indicated by the difference between the maximum and average values, the X280’s display lacks uniform brightness, averaging 82%. Subjectively, we could not notice the differences in brightness.
Last year’s competitors all have similarly bright screens. According to HP’s spec sheet, the EliteBook 830 G5 has a much brighter Full-HD IPS display option with 400 cd/m² brightness. Currently, the only ThinkPads with bright displays are the X1 Carbon 2018 and the X1 Yoga 2018, each of which have a QHD HDR LTPS option with over 500 cd/m² brightness. The drawback of these panels is that they have glossy finishes.

The X280’s display has minimal backlight bleeding and no PWM display flickering.

287
cd/m²
308
cd/m²
314
cd/m²
283
cd/m²
344
cd/m²
322
cd/m²
297
cd/m²
346
cd/m²
313
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 346 cd/m² Average: 312.7 cd/m² Minimum: 5 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 82 %
Center on Battery: 336 cd/m²
Contrast: 1376:1 (Black: 0.25 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 4.7 | 0.4-29.43 Ø6.3
ΔE Greyscale 2.2 | 0.64-98 Ø6.5
64.1% sRGB (Argyll 3D) 41.2% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll 3D)
Gamma: 2.16
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
B125HAN02.2, , 1920x1080, 12.5
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
Innolux N125HCE-GN1, , 1920x1080, 12.5
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
Chi Mei, , 1920x1080, 12.5
Dell Latitude 7280
AUO236D , , 1920x1080, 12.5
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
B140QAN02.0, , 2560x1440, 14
Dell Latitude 13 7380
LGD0589, , 1920x1080, 13.3
Response Times
-3%
12%
7%
-32%
8%
Response Time Grey 50% / Grey 80% *
40 (22, 18)
40.8 (21.2, 19.6)
-2%
35 (16, 19)
12%
32.4 (12.4, 20)
19%
59.2 (28.4, 30.8)
-48%
34 (17.2, 16.8)
15%
Response Time Black / White *
29.6 (16.4, 13.2)
30.4 (16.4, 14)
-3%
26 (7, 19)
12%
31.2 (9.2, 22)
-5%
34.4 (16.4, 18)
-16%
29.6 (17.2, 12.4)
-0%
PWM Frequency
26040 (50)
Screen
-21%
-24%
-23%
38%
-20%
Brightness middle
344
283
-18%
326
-5%
310.4
-10%
578
68%
317
-8%
Brightness
313
281
-10%
304
-3%
301
-4%
533
70%
295
-6%
Brightness Distribution
82
94
15%
81
-1%
88
7%
84
2%
87
6%
Black Level *
0.25
0.25
-0%
0.29
-16%
0.32
-28%
0.38
-52%
0.3
-20%
Contrast
1376
1132
-18%
1124
-18%
970
-30%
1521
11%
1057
-23%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
4.7
6.1
-30%
6.49
-38%
5.9
-26%
1.9
60%
6.3
-34%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 max. *
19.4
15.4
21%
15.95
18%
21
-8%
3.8
80%
10.4
46%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
2.2
6
-173%
6.16
-180%
5.1
-132%
3
-36%
7.8
-255%
Gamma
2.16 111%
2.05 117%
2.32 103%
2.33 103%
2.14 112%
1.81 133%
CCT
6252 104%
6832 95%
7575 86%
6816 95%
6377 102%
7120 91%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
41.2
42.26
3%
42
2%
42
2%
88.8
116%
61
48%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
64.1
65.43
2%
65
1%
65
1%
100
56%
92
44%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 calibrated *
0.8
Total Average (Program / Settings)
-12% / -18%
-6% / -18%
-8% / -18%
3% / 26%
-6% / -16%

* ... smaller is better

Colour values
Colour values
Saturation
Saturation
Greyscale values
Greyscale values
Colour values (calibrated)
Colour values (calibrated)
Saturation (calibrated)
Saturation (calibrated)
Greyscale values (calibrated)
Greyscale values (calibrated)

The contrast levels in Lenovo’s data sheet are rather conservative at 700:1. The AUO display achieves almost twice that at 1376:1, with a 0.25 cd/m² black level providing deep blacks. Factory colour space is comparatively neutral with a tint that we could not determine. Calibration marginally improves this, but certain deviations could not be rectified. For example, colour saturation issues could not be rectified with the ICC profiled that we created.

The poor colour space coverage is typical of 12.5-inch business laptops, with the competition performing equally as badly as the X280, whose AUO display only represents 64% sRGB. We are curious as to whether this has improved on the EliteBook 830 G5 with its 13.3-inch display.

sRGB: 64.1%
sRGB: 64.1%
AdobeRGB: 41.2%
AdobeRGB: 41.2%
Outdoor use in partial shade on a sunny day
Outdoor use in partial shade on a sunny day
Outdoor use in the shade on a sunny day
Outdoor use in the shade on a sunny day

The X280 is usable outdoors thanks to the display’s matte finish and a brightness exceeding 300 cd/m². That brightness level is no match for direct sunlight though. With the X280 being an ultra-portable laptop that may be often used outdoors, we would have liked Lenovo to offer even brighter display options.

Display Response Times

Display response times show how fast the screen is able to change from one color to the next. Slow response times can lead to afterimages and can cause moving objects to appear blurry (ghosting). Gamers of fast-paced 3D titles should pay special attention to fast response times.
       Response Time Black to White
29.6 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 16.4 ms rise
↘ 13.2 ms fall
The screen shows relatively slow response rates in our tests and may be too slow for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.8 (minimum) to 240 (maximum) ms. » 71 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is worse than the average of all tested devices (25.9 ms).
       Response Time 50% Grey to 80% Grey
40 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 22 ms rise
↘ 18 ms fall
The screen shows slow response rates in our tests and will be unsatisfactory for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.9 (minimum) to 636 (maximum) ms. » 43 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is similar to the average of all tested devices (41.4 ms).

Screen Flickering / PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation)

To dim the screen, some notebooks will simply cycle the backlight on and off in rapid succession - a method called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) . This cycling frequency should ideally be undetectable to the human eye. If said frequency is too low, users with sensitive eyes may experience strain or headaches or even notice the flickering altogether.
Screen flickering / PWM not detected

In comparison: 54 % of all tested devices do not use PWM to dim the display. If PWM was detected, an average of 8895 (minimum: 43 - maximum: 142900) Hz was measured.

The advantage of IPS panels is their viewing angles and colour stability. Colours on TN screens invert as soon as you look at them from any angle other than straight on, which fortunately is not the case with IPS panels. Unfortunately, there are viewing angles issues with some IPS panels, with the X280’s AUO panel losing brightness at extreme viewing angles and there being a visible IPS glow effect. As such, there is a colour tint when looking sideways at the display from either the top or the bottom of the screen. This effect is negligible in daily use, but once we mention as there are many IPS panels that do not have this effect to the same extent.

Viewing angles – B125HAN02.2
Viewing angles – B125HAN02.2

Performance – sometimes good, sometimes not

The availability of the X280 is currently limited to it not yet available in its standard configuration from many retailers. At the time of writing the X280 is available from dealers who participate in the Lenovo campus program or the Lenovo online store, in which you can configure the X280 on request. There is currently one configuration available in the campus program, that which we are testing. On the other hand, there are many options for configuring the X280 on Lenovo’s online store.

These include different CPU, RAM and SSD choices. In terms of CPUs Lenovo offers the Intel Core i5-8250U and Core i7-8550U, along with their vPro relatives the Core i5-8350U and the Core i7-8650U. There are two RAM options, that being 8 GB or 16 GB of DDR4-2400, which is soldered on. The SSD remains upgradable and comes in a choice of 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB. They are all PCIe NVMe drives with exception to the 128 GB option. There is only one GPU choice though, that being the Intel UHD Graphics 620.

HWiNFO
HWiNFO
CPU-Z
CPU-Z
CPU-Z caches
CPU-Z caches
CPU-Z Mainboard
CPU-Z Mainboard
CPU-Z Memory
CPU-Z Memory
GPU-Z
GPU-Z
LatencyMon
LatencyMon
 

Processor

The Intel Core i5-8250U in our test device is a quad-core Kaby Lake R 8th generation chip released late last year. The Kaby Lake Refresh processors are the first quad-core CPUs with a 15W TDP, making them energy efficient ultra-low-voltage (ULV) processors. Please see out CPU benchmark list for a better understanding of this processor.

Lenovo has increased the TDP in the X280, with the CPU being able to consume up to 29 W for a while. The i5-8250U is clocked at 3.2 GHz and scores 670 points in the Cinebench multicore test, which is comparatively high. The cooling system is not strong enough to maintain the CPU at that speed, as the clock speed starts to drop when temperatures reach above 90 °C. The clock speed dropped by between 100 to 200 MHz for every pass of the Cinebench loop until it hits 2.4 GHz, at which point the clock speed drops no further. At this speed, the CPU consumes 15 W while temperatures plateau at 75 °C. Theoretically, the CPU could then increase its clock speed again, but this does not happen with the processor remaining at this level until the load test has ended.

0102030405060708090100110120130140150160170180190200210220230240250260270280290300310320330340350360370380390400410420430440450460470480490500510520530540550560570580590600610620630640650660670680Tooltip
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64 Bit

The X280 outperforms the X1 Carbon 2018 in the individual test, with the X1 Carbon coming out on top when under continuous load thanks to its better cooling system. The X270 is half as fast as its successor, with the performance difference remaining the same across all tests.

Lenovo has limited CPU performance while the X280 is on battery. Without a power supply, the X280 can only draw up to 29 W for twenty-eight seconds and work at around 3.2 GHz, after which the TDP is limited to 15 W while the CPU clocks down to 2.4 GHz. The Cinebench multicore test reflects this, with the X280 achieving 561 points on battery.

Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Intel Core i7-8550U
168 Points ∼100% +16%
Dell Latitude 7280
Intel Core i7-7600U
164 Points ∼98% +13%
Dell Latitude 13 7380
Intel Core i7-7600U
161 Points ∼96% +11%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
Intel Core i5-8250U
145 Points ∼86%
Average Intel Core i5-8250U
  (81 - 147, n=67)
140 Points ∼83% -3%
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
Intel Core i7-7500U
139 Points ∼83% -4%
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
Intel Core i5-7200U
129 Points ∼77% -11%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (20 - 169, n=221)
110 Points ∼65% -24%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Intel Core i7-8550U
708 Points ∼100% +4%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Intel Core i7-8550U
648 Points ∼92% -5%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
Intel Core i5-8250U
684 Points ∼97%
Average Intel Core i5-8250U
  (276 - 730, n=70)
571 Points ∼81% -17%
Dell Latitude 13 7380
Intel Core i7-7600U
359 Points ∼51% -48%
Dell Latitude 7280
Intel Core i7-7600U
351 Points ∼50% -49%
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
Intel Core i5-7200U
330 Points ∼47% -52%
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
Intel Core i7-7500U
329 Points ∼46% -52%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (32 - 721, n=228)
298 Points ∼42% -56%
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
145 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
684 Points
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
56.59 fps
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
97.8 %
Help

System Performance

We cannot fault the system performance. Despite the relatively low PCMark 8 Home test, the X280 is fast and responsive in everyday use.

PCMark 8
Work Score Accelerated v2
Dell Latitude 13 7380
HD Graphics 620, 7600U, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
5060 Points ∼100% +4%
Dell Latitude 7280
HD Graphics 620, 7600U, SanDisk X400 M.2 2280 256GB
4957 Points ∼98% +2%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
UHD Graphics 620, 8250U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
4868 Points ∼96%
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
HD Graphics 620, 7500U, Samsung PM951 NVMe MZVLV512
4824 Points ∼95% -1%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
UHD Graphics 620, 8550U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
4664 Points ∼92% -4%
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
HD Graphics 620, 7200U, Toshiba NVMe THNSF5512GPUK
4660 Points ∼92% -4%
Average Intel Core i5-8250U, Intel UHD Graphics 620
  (2699 - 5106, n=41)
4660 Points ∼92% -4%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (1283 - 5363, n=167)
3926 Points ∼78% -19%
Home Score Accelerated v2
Dell Latitude 13 7380
HD Graphics 620, 7600U, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
3872 Points ∼100% +8%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
UHD Graphics 620, 8550U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
3752 Points ∼97% +5%
Dell Latitude 7280
HD Graphics 620, 7600U, SanDisk X400 M.2 2280 256GB
3667 Points ∼95% +3%
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
HD Graphics 620, 7500U, Samsung PM951 NVMe MZVLV512
3660 Points ∼95% +2%
Average Intel Core i5-8250U, Intel UHD Graphics 620
  (2818 - 4458, n=48)
3610 Points ∼93% +1%
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
HD Graphics 620, 7200U, Toshiba NVMe THNSF5512GPUK
3575 Points ∼92% 0%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
UHD Graphics 620, 8250U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
3574 Points ∼92%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (1027 - 4182, n=191)
2976 Points ∼77% -17%
PCMark 10
Digital Content Creation
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
UHD Graphics 620, 8550U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
3062 Points ∼100% 0%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
UHD Graphics 620, 8250U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
3048 Points ∼100%
Average Intel Core i5-8250U, Intel UHD Graphics 620
  (1350 - 3082, n=44)
2733 Points ∼89% -10%
Dell Latitude 13 7380
HD Graphics 620, 7600U, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
2565 Points ∼84% -16%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (729 - 3058, n=37)
2193 Points ∼72% -28%
Productivity
Dell Latitude 13 7380
HD Graphics 620, 7600U, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
6937 Points ∼100% +6%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
UHD Graphics 620, 8550U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
6727 Points ∼97% +3%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
UHD Graphics 620, 8250U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
6529 Points ∼94%
Average Intel Core i5-8250U, Intel UHD Graphics 620
  (3851 - 6653, n=44)
5744 Points ∼83% -12%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (1690 - 6729, n=37)
4748 Points ∼68% -27%
Essentials
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
UHD Graphics 620, 8550U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
7849 Points ∼100% 0%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
UHD Graphics 620, 8250U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
7845 Points ∼100%
Dell Latitude 13 7380
HD Graphics 620, 7600U, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
7802 Points ∼99% -1%
Average Intel Core i5-8250U, Intel UHD Graphics 620
  (5855 - 9289, n=44)
7320 Points ∼93% -7%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (3092 - 8549, n=37)
6317 Points ∼80% -19%
Score
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
UHD Graphics 620, 8550U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
3905 Points ∼100% +1%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
UHD Graphics 620, 8250U, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
3860 Points ∼99%
Dell Latitude 13 7380
HD Graphics 620, 7600U, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
3711 Points ∼95% -4%
Average Intel Core i5-8250U, Intel UHD Graphics 620
  (2208 - 4081, n=44)
3281 Points ∼84% -15%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (1150 - 3860, n=40)
2921 Points ∼75% -24%
PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated v2
3574 points
PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated v2
4868 points
Help

Storage Devices

While the ThinkPad X270 still had a 2.5-inch hard drive slot, the X280 now only has 2280-M.2 slots. The 512 GB SSD in our test device is the Samsung PM981, which is a very fast drive that achieved good results in our benchmarks. While the Toshiba SSD in the X270 was much slower, Lenovo limited it to two lanes of PCIe 3.0 at a speed of 16 GB/s. This is no longer the case with the X280 though.

Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
Toshiba NVMe THNSF5512GPUK
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
Samsung PM951 NVMe MZVLV512
Dell Latitude 7280
SanDisk X400 M.2 2280 256GB
Dell Latitude 13 7380
Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
Average Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
 
AS SSD
-41%
-29%
-84%
-4%
7%
-51%
Score Total
3774
1513
-60%
2043
-46%
881
-77%
4063
8%
3529
-6%
3708 (2348 - 4425, n=13)
-2%
Score Write
1553
569
-63%
675
-57%
220
-86%
690
-56%
1801
16%
1566 (147 - 2079, n=13)
1%
Score Read
1497
630
-58%
927
-38%
432
-71%
2251
50%
1168
-22%
1425 (896 - 1639, n=13)
-5%
Access Time Write *
0.036
0.035
3%
0.029
19%
0.076
-111%
0.028
22%
0.027
25%
0.2251 (0.027 - 2.52, n=13)
-525%
Access Time Read *
0.041
0.062
-51%
0.041
-0%
0.117
-185%
0.045
-10%
0.029
29%
0.0482 (0.029 - 0.073, n=13)
-18%
4K-64 Write
1308.86
375.02
-71%
495.1
-62%
119.14
-91%
484.51
-63%
1529.32
17%
1322 (96.2 - 1780, n=13)
1%
4K-64 Read
1217.77
450.59
-63%
748.88
-39%
354.58
-71%
2072.08
70%
876.34
-28%
1189 (735 - 1447, n=13)
-2%
4K Write
105.25
100.46
-5%
125.27
19%
53.59
-49%
125.07
19%
134.3
28%
101 (1.76 - 134, n=13)
-4%
4K Read
47.2
42.16
-11%
38.81
-18%
27.92
-41%
45.59
-3%
52.4
11%
50.5 (43.1 - 58, n=13)
7%
Seq Write
1384.87
931.29
-33%
550.61
-60%
473.31
-66%
805.14
-42%
1376.19
-1%
1435 (487 - 1917, n=13)
4%
Seq Read
2315.96
1374.36
-41%
1393.4
-40%
499.91
-78%
1330.25
-43%
2395.87
3%
1860 (1099 - 2440, n=13)
-20%

* ... smaller is better

Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7
Sequential Read: 2535 MB/s
Sequential Write: 1236 MB/s
512K Read: 1751 MB/s
512K Write: 1864 MB/s
4K Read: 59.27 MB/s
4K Write: 129.4 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 387.9 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 645.6 MB/s

Graphics Card

The Intel UHD 620 Graphics is an integrated GPU that is included with all Kaby Lake R processors and is an update from last year’s Intel HD Graphics 620. The UHD 620 Graphics continues to offer 24 executive units (EU).

The performance of the GPU is mainly determined by the RAM with which it is paired. The X270 and its predecessors had only one RAM slot, meaning that it ran in single-channel mode. Meanwhile, the X280 has soldered RAM that runs in dual-channel mode. This means that the GPU can use more power, which gives the X280 an edge in GPU performance compared with other subnotebooks.

While the GPU is not throttled on battery power, benchmark results are still affected because of the limits placed on CPU power.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance GPU
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Intel UHD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-8550U
1901 Points ∼100% +4%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
Intel UHD Graphics 620, Intel Core i5-8250U
1821 Points ∼96%
Average Intel UHD Graphics 620
  (990 - 1915, n=79)
1640 Points ∼86% -10%
Dell Latitude 13 7380
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-7600U
1633 Points ∼86% -10%
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-7500U
1515 Points ∼80% -17%
Dell Latitude 7280
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-7600U
1442 Points ∼76% -21%
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i5-7200U
1426 Points ∼75% -22%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (230 - 4191, n=311)
1129 Points ∼59% -38%
3DMark
1920x1080 Fire Strike Graphics
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Intel UHD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-8550U
1283 Points ∼100% +7%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
Intel UHD Graphics 620, Intel Core i5-8250U
1197 Points ∼93%
Average Intel UHD Graphics 620
  (732 - 1336, n=70)
1064 Points ∼83% -11%
Dell Latitude 13 7380
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-7600U
926 Points ∼72% -23%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (222 - 3389, n=198)
900 Points ∼70% -25%
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-7500U
886 Points ∼69% -26%
Dell Latitude 7280
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-7600U
819 Points ∼64% -32%
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i5-7200U
789 Points ∼61% -34%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Graphics
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
Intel UHD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-8550U
10123 Points ∼100% +4%
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
Intel UHD Graphics 620, Intel Core i5-8250U
9711 Points ∼96%
Average Intel UHD Graphics 620
  (5562 - 10493, n=72)
8621 Points ∼85% -11%
Dell Latitude 13 7380
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-7600U
7794 Points ∼77% -20%
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-7500U
7618 Points ∼75% -22%
Dell Latitude 7280
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i7-7600U
7032 Points ∼69% -28%
Average of class Subnotebook
  (1484 - 18946, n=220)
6735 Points ∼67% -31%
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
Intel HD Graphics 620, Intel Core i5-7200U
6483 Points ∼64% -33%
3DMark 11 Performance
2029 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
8541 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
1107 points
Help

Gaming Performance

Despite the dual-channel memory, the X280 is not a gaming laptop. The GPU is too weak for anything other than older titles played at lower quality or very simple games from the Windows Store. However, we can overlook this as the X280’s primary function is as a business laptop.

low med. high ultra
BioShock Infinite (2013) 70.0836.6930.8510.15fps
Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016) 21.56fps
Civilization VI (2016) 43.1415.84fps

Emissions

Fan Noise

The X270’s fan occasionally ran at light load, an issue that Lenovo has fixed on the X280. The fan is almost always quiet when the X280 is at idle or under low load. This makes the X280’s fan control better than that of the X1 Carbon 2018, whose fan operation is closer to the X270’s. Under load, the fan is louder than its predecessor or the X1 Carbon 2018. While audible, the fan noise is not distracting as it is not at a high frequency.

Spooling or other such noises could not be detected on the X280.

Noise Level

Idle
29.2 / 29.2 / 29.2 dB(A)
Load
39.7 / 39.7 dB(A)
  red to green bar
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Audix TM1, Arta (15 cm distance)   environment noise: 29.2 dB(A)
dB(A) 0102030405060708090Deep BassMiddle BassHigh BassLower RangeMidsHigher MidsLower HighsMid HighsUpper HighsSuper Highs203232.332.132.132.52533.63029.730.233.73135.633.933.533.933.44032.531.434.13133.25029.428.127.82930.26328.725.926.626.626.28024.725.125.325.426.810025.923.923.924.525.912524.123.122.623.82516022.721.822.422.824.820022.12222.321.721.325020.822.221.121.121.13152120.120.320.421.640022.421.320.218.720.450023.121.720.818.320.263022.620.519.617.62180024.221.720.21720.1100025.523.421.817.420.9125027.324.521.316.321.1160027.124.321.31621.6200029.526.523.41622.2250029.726.723.91623.1315029.727.223.716.422.4400029.32727.416.723500029.928.723.91720.7630027.122.519.517.118.9800023.921.419.217.618.61000022.72018.317.717.91250020.218.518.217.817.61600018.717.917.717.517.6SPL39.737.234.829.233.4N3.12.521.21.9median 24.1Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00median 22.2median 21.3median 17.6median 21.1Delta2.51.61.51.41.233.330.833.133.232.833.332.630.232.135.430.232.630.227.93233.729.230.229.826.428.931.327.929.832.426.328.330.227.332.426.624.625.627.525.226.625.526.326.127.525.725.52625.925.724.625.22624.824.223.625.423.324.823.922.822.622.722.123.923.323.422.422.421.923.323.223.821.922.520.823.225.322.3222219.525.322.321.22120.719.522.322.42119.719.918.422.424.522.520.919.21824.524.422.120.618.317.124.424.821.219.918.21624.825.221.820.317.516.125.226.822.721.318.815.926.826.423.8221915.926.426.523.521.918.315.826.526.62321.417.216.226.627.822.619.416.916.327.826.621.119.217.416.626.624.220.118.617.317.124.222.118.917.717.217.122.119.617.617.517.317.319.61817.417.217.217.11817.417.117.11716.917.437.634.132.530.42937.62.721.71.41.22.7median 24.5Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00median 22.3median 20.9median 18.3median 17.1median 24.51.711.31.71.71.7hearing rangehide median Fan Noise

Temperature

The X280 is a lot cooler, despite its more powerful CPU, than the X270. In our review, we measured the surface temperatures of its hothead predecessor surface temperatures reaching up to 57 °C.

The Prime95 stress test demonstrates the X280’s temperature development against increases in power consumption. The Core i5-8250U can maintain a TDP of 29 W for the first minutes of stressing testing, during which time the clock speed fluctuates between 1.6 and 2.5 GHz. After approximately two minutes of stress testing the processor reaches 91 °C, after which the processor gradually clocks down from 1.6 to 1.1 GHz, allowing for temperatures to slowly recover.

As previously mentioned, the clock speed fails to recover as temperatures recover. After about twenty minutes of stress testing, the clock speed drops to between 0.3 and 0.5 GHz. This can be rectified by moving the mouse, which causes the CPU to clock back up to 2.5 GHz. However, the same thing happens again. Interestingly, the amount of time it takes for the CPU to clock extremely low speeds can be extended by moving the mouse. This strange behaviour occurred in our load test too.

Prime95 and FurMark stress test after thirteen minutes
Prime95 and FurMark stress test after thirteen minutes
Prime95 and FurMark stress test after twenty-three minutes
Prime95 and FurMark stress test after twenty-three minutes
Prime95 and FurMark stress test after thirty-four minutes
Prime95 and FurMark stress test after thirty-four minutes
Prime95 and FurMark stress test after one hour
Prime95 and FurMark stress test after one hour
Max. Load
 32.4 °C
90 F
41.2 °C
106 F
42.7 °C
109 F
 
 32.1 °C
90 F
40.4 °C
105 F
43.2 °C
110 F
 
 29.2 °C
85 F
32.7 °C
91 F
34.1 °C
93 F
 
Maximum: 43.2 °C = 110 F
Average: 36.4 °C = 98 F
40.5 °C
105 F
42.1 °C
108 F
33.4 °C
92 F
35 °C
95 F
43.1 °C
110 F
32.3 °C
90 F
28.2 °C
83 F
30.2 °C
86 F
28.1 °C
83 F
Maximum: 43.1 °C = 110 F
Average: 34.8 °C = 95 F
Power Supply (max.)  34.9 °C = 95 F | Room Temperature 20.4 °C = 69 F | Voltcraft IR-900
Thermal imaging of surface temperatures at idle - top
Thermal imaging of surface temperatures at idle - top
Thermal imaging of surface temperatures at idle – bottom
Thermal imaging of surface temperatures at idle – bottom
Thermal imaging of surface temperatures during a stress test - top
Thermal imaging of surface temperatures during a stress test - top
Thermal imaging of surface temperatures during a stress test – bottom
Thermal imaging of surface temperatures during a stress test – bottom
Thermal imaging of surface temperatures during a stress test – fan outlet
Thermal imaging of surface temperatures during a stress test – fan outlet

Speakers

ThinkPads are not known for having the best speakers, a trend that the X280 continues. The downward firing speakers are better than those on the X270 by simply being louder, but they do not produce exquisite sound. That does not mean the speakers are abysmal, particularly for laptop speakers.

An alternative is the combo audio connector, which is on the left-hand side of the case and outputs clean sound to either external speakers or headphones.

dB(A) 0102030405060708090Deep BassMiddle BassHigh BassLower RangeMidsHigher MidsLower HighsMid HighsUpper HighsSuper Highs2027.735.92528.5323131.136.94029.132.55031.627.76325.8268024.525.610024.127.412522.232.516022.842.720021.750.225020.854.831519.756.640018.6585001864.263017.262.380016.870.110001871.3125016.263.8160015.958.720001662.4250015.961.8315016.161.8400016.461.1500016.966.863001764.4800017.362.11000017.459.41250017.356.71600017.257.3SPL29.176.8N1.239.4median 17.3Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00median 61.1Delta1.64.335.331.434.433.431.731.229.829.328.228.525.9282628.824.627.224.528.62328.222.83121.437.220.147.719.551.818.9501851.317.454.817.353.516.654.616.652.916.453.416.454.216.35416.653.216.958.816.958.917.354.517.350.917.252.217.15029.366.81.221.3median 17.3Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00median 52.22.16hearing rangehide median Pink Noise
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00 audio analysis

(±) | speaker loudness is average but good (76.8 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(-) | nearly no bass - on average 17% lower than median
(±) | linearity of bass is average (11.8% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(+) | balanced mids - only 4.1% away from median
(±) | linearity of mids is average (9.9% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(+) | balanced highs - only 1.9% away from median
(+) | highs are linear (4.7% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(±) | linearity of overall sound is average (15.6% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 30% of all tested devices in this class were better, 12% similar, 58% worse
» The best had a delta of 8%, average was 19%, worst was 47%
Compared to all devices tested
» 19% of all tested devices were better, 4% similar, 77% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 21%, worst was 53%

Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00 audio analysis

(-) | not very loud speakers (66.8 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(-) | nearly no bass - on average 18.8% lower than median
(±) | linearity of bass is average (11.1% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(+) | balanced mids - only 1.5% away from median
(+) | mids are linear (5.4% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(+) | balanced highs - only 3.1% away from median
(+) | highs are linear (6.4% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(±) | linearity of overall sound is average (18.5% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 37% of all tested devices in this class were better, 10% similar, 53% worse
» The best had a delta of 8%, average was 20%, worst was 51%
Compared to all devices tested
» 34% of all tested devices were better, 6% similar, 60% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 21%, worst was 53%

Frequency diagram in comparison (checkboxes are de/selectable)

Power Management – more economical than the ThinkPad X270

Energy Consumption

Comparing the X280’s power consumption with that of last year’s competitors is not a fair one as we will be also measuring the difference between Intel’s 7th and 8th generation processors. Under load, the X280 has the highest consumption because of its more powerful processor. The X280 performs better at idle, only be beaten by the EliteBook 820 G4. The only truer comparison is with the X1 Carbon 2018, which with its higher-resolution display consumes significantly more at idle.

The 65 W rated power supply is more than enough for the X280’s maximum 51.27 W power consumption.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.28 / 0.46 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 3.11 / 5.01 / 8.11 Watt
Load midlight 44.6 / 51.7 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Metrahit Energy
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
8250U, UHD Graphics 620, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7, IPS LED, 1920x1080, 12.5
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
7200U, HD Graphics 620, Toshiba NVMe THNSF5512GPUK, IPS LED, 1920x1080, 12.5
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
7500U, HD Graphics 620, Samsung PM951 NVMe MZVLV512, IPS, 1920x1080, 12.5
Dell Latitude 7280
7600U, HD Graphics 620, SanDisk X400 M.2 2280 256GB, IPS, 1920x1080, 12.5
Dell Latitude 13 7380
7600U, HD Graphics 620, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP, IPS, 1920x1080, 13.3
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
8550U, UHD Graphics 620, Samsung SSD PM981 MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7, IPS, 2560x1440, 14
Power Consumption
5%
23%
13%
17%
-31%
Idle Minimum *
3.11
3.5
-13%
2.7
13%
4.28
-38%
3.2
-3%
3.8
-22%
Idle Average *
5.01
5.8
-16%
4.8
4%
5.11
-2%
5.5
-10%
8.9
-78%
Idle Maximum *
8.11
7.6
6%
6.6
19%
5.49
32%
6.1
25%
11.9
-47%
Load Average *
44.6
33.2
26%
28.5
36%
29.83
33%
29.5
34%
47.5
-7%
Load Maximum *
51.7
40.4
22%
29
44%
30.05
42%
32
38%
52.5
-2%

* ... smaller is better

Battery Life

Charging time: 117 minutes
Charging time: 117 minutes

A controversial change with the X280 is the removal of the expandable battery, which all previous X series ThinkPads offered. The X280 has a single integrated Lithium Polymer battery with a 48 Wh capacity, which is approximately half of the combined 96 Wh battery that the X270 has thanks to its large 72 Wh external battery. The X280 no longer has that degree of flexibility which may scare off some users that need extra-long battery life.

That is not the full story though as the X270 is beaten in our battery life tests because of several factors. The X280 benefits from lower power consumption, and we have only tested the 46 Wh combined capacity variant. Additionally, even though Lenovo rates the X280’s capacity at 48 Wh, our test device had a 50 Wh battery.

Both Latitudes and the EliteBook 820 G4 outperform the X280 in battery life tests. The Latitudes’ 60 Wh batteries help them achieve this, while the EliteBook, with a similar sized battery, is more power efficient than the X280. Overall, the X280’s battery life is satisfactory, lasting nearly nine hours in our WiFi test. This should see most users through a full day’s use. Lenovo has equipped the X280 with a rapid charge function to cushion the loss of the removable battery. Lenovo calls this RapidCharge, which charges the X280 from 0 to 100% in 117 minutes.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
20h 12min
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3 (Edge)
8h 51min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
9h 32min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 59min
Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00
8250U, UHD Graphics 620, 50 Wh
Lenovo ThinkPad X270-20HMS00T00
7200U, HD Graphics 620, 46 Wh
HP EliteBook 820 G4 Z2V72ET
7500U, HD Graphics 620, 49 Wh
Dell Latitude 7280
7600U, HD Graphics 620, 60 Wh
Dell Latitude 13 7380
7600U, HD Graphics 620, 60 Wh
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018-20KGS03900
8550U, UHD Graphics 620, 57 Wh
Average of class Subnotebook
 
Battery Runtime
-24%
21%
30%
23%
-1%
-21%
Reader / Idle
1212
1023
-16%
1346
11%
1553
28%
1594
32%
1328
10%
591 (87 - 2557, n=521)
-51%
H.264
572
407
-29%
532
-7%
566
-1%
446 (182 - 899, n=94)
-22%
WiFi v1.3
531
324
-39%
566
7%
682
28%
630
19%
519
-2%
455 (206 - 764, n=162)
-14%
Load
119
104
-13%
205
72%
159
34%
141
18%
106
-11%
121 (40 - 327, n=526)
2%

Verdict

Pros

+ high quality and lightweight case
+ excellent ThinkPad I/O
+ improved serviceability
+ matte IPS Display with over 300 cd/m²
+ the case remains relatively cool
+ the fan is usually quiet
+ Thunderbolt 3 onboard
+ dual-channel RAM

Cons

- non-removable battery
- RJ45 Ethernet missing
- microSD card reader hard to reach
- poor CPU performance management
- weak colour space average
- case large enough for a 13.3-inch display
Lenovo ThinkPad X280, provided by campuspoint
Lenovo ThinkPad X280, provided by campuspoint

The X280 is probably the most comprehensive redesign of the current generation of ThinkPads, a factor that excites us about this device. It is a conceptionally different laptop than the ThinkPad X270, which may well scare some of its fans. Overall, the X280 is a better laptop than its predecessor..

The most important aspect of this new design is the case, which is significantly better than its predecessor. The change in material from glass fibre plastic to magnesium and carbon fibre has worked in terms of reducing thickness and weight. The X280 roughly weighs the same as the X1 Carbon. This weight reduction has changed the anachronism of the X270, a 12-inch laptop thicker and heavier than its 14-inch siblings. The case is not only thinner and lighter but also easier to service as Lenovo have removed the annoying and easily broken clips from the bottom case. What’s more, Lenovo has accounted for most of the other problems we experienced with the X270. The fan runs less, the device runs cooler, power consumption has improved, and the display is brighter. The X280 has kept to the ThinkPad tradition of having excellent I/O, with the smallest ThinkPad finally supporting Thunderbolt 3. Better still and unlike its predecessors, the X280 benefits from its GPU’s maximum potential performance thanks to its Dual-Channel RAM.

Where there are good points there are also bad ones, with the bad occasionally outweighing the good. Interestingly, the X280’s weak points are that for which we praised the X270. The X280 is not as flexible as its predecessor without the expandable removable PowerBridge battery, while the decision to omit an RJ45 Ethernet port on a business device is difficult to understand. Downsizing from an SD to microSD card slot to save space is understandable, but its positioning and accessibility are not. The RAM is a victim of space saving too, with Lenovo opting for RAM soldered to the mainboard, rather than the removal RAM that the competition continues to offer. A further drawback is related to how the X280 manages CPU performance. Typically, when a CPU lowers its clock speed because of high temperatures, that clock speed will return to its previous state once temperatures have dropped. This is not the case with the X280, with the clock speed remaining low even when temperatures have dropped. This may be fixable with a BIOS update, but there has been no word yet as to whether Lenovo plans to address this. Additionally, the CPU is throttled on battery, Lenovo may have done this intentionally though. We expect more than the poor colour space average since the X280 is such an expensive laptop. This is a point on which we criticised the X270 and the wider pool of business class laptops too. Lastly, Lenovo could probably have fitted the X280 with a 13.3-inch display given the wide bezels that the 12-inch display has.

If you can survive without dedicated ethernet support and a removable battery, then the X280 is a much better package than last year’s model, which is why we recommend it.

We recommend the X280 despite the criticisms because overall it is simply a successful subnotebook. The X280 is much cheaper than the X1 Carbon 2018, making the Campus Version an attractive choice for students. The competition has some interesting models too, such as the Dell Latitude 7290 and the HP EliteBook 830 G5, which we are yet to test. In some areas, these competitors have the X280 beat, such as the inclusions of an Ethernet port and expandable RAM. The X280 has, as is the case with ThinkPads, unmatched I/O, and is the lightest of the three laptops. While we recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad X280, potential buyers must make their choice based on their own needs and preferences.

Lenovo ThinkPad X280-20KES01S00 - 03/02/2018 v6
Benjamin Herzig

Chassis
92 /  98 → 94%
Keyboard
89%
Pointing Device
91%
Connectivity
69 / 80 → 86%
Weight
73 / 35-78 → 89%
Battery
91%
Display
87%
Games Performance
60 / 68 → 88%
Application Performance
81 / 87 → 93%
Temperature
91 / 91 → 100%
Noise
94%
Audio
64 / 91 → 70%
Camera
41 / 85 → 48%
Average
79%
90%
Subnotebook - Weighted Average

Pricecompare

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Lenovo ThinkPad X280 (i5-8250U, FHD) Laptop Review
Benjamin Herzig, 2018-03- 8 (Update: 2018-03- 8)