Lenovo ThinkPad X270 review

Lenovo has done a great job of dialing in its ThinkPad line, as we've seen in our reviews of the slim and powerful X1 Carbon and the feature-rich ThinkPad T470s. No one would say that those laptops aren't portable, but the ThinkPad X270 is in another class.

With a chassis that's just a hair longer than a foot wide, and a weight of around three pounds (depending on the battery you choose), this laptop seems like it's meant to be bundled with your other documents and hauled out onto the job site.

About this review

Lenovo supplied Windows Central with a high-end review unit of the ThinkPad X270. Inside is a seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7600U vPro processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD). This specific configuration, with just about all the bells and whistles available, costs around $1,843.

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Lenovo ThinkPad X270 hardware and tech specs

Atop the T470 and T470s

One of the best things about the ThinkPad X270 is the number of configuration options Lenovo offers. You can stick with SATA drives to save money, you can choose LTE-A connectivity, there are vPro processors for the enterprise-oriented, and there's even an HD display option with a TN panel.

Here is a full list of the tech specs available.

Category XX
Processor Intel Core i5-7200U (up to 3.1GHz)
Intel Core i5-7300U vPro (up to 3.5GHz)
Intel Core i7-7500U (up to 3.5GHz)
Intel Core i7-7600U vPro (up to 3.9GHz)
Dual-core
Storage 500GB SATA hard-disk drive (HDD)
Up to 180GB SATA SSD
Up to 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
RAM 4GB/8GB/16GB DDR4-2133MHz SODIMM
Display Anti-glare (matte)
12.5-inch HD (1366 x 768) TN non-touch
12.5-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS non-touch
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620
Ports Two USB-A 3.0
USB-C
HDMI
RJ45 Ethernet
SD 3.0 memory card reader
Micro SIM
CS13 docking
Smart card reader (optional)
3.5mm jack
Audio Dual speakers
Dolby Advance Audio
Wireless Intel dual-band wireless AC 8265
802.11ac (2 x 2)
Bluetooth 4.1
WWAN Qualcomm Snapdragon X7 LTE-A (optional)
Camera Front-facing 720p
Keyboard Backlit (optional)
Biometrics Fingerprint reader (optional)
Battery Three-cell 23.2WHr (front)
Three-cell 23.2WHr (rear optional)
Six-cell 47WHr (rear optional)
Six-cell 72WHr (rear optional)
Weight 2.98 lbs (1.36 kg) Three-cell + three-cell
3.33 lbs (1.52 kg) Three-cell + six-cell
Dimensions 12.03 inches x 8.21 inches x 0.80 inches
305.5 mm x 208.5 mm x 20.3 mm
OS Windows 10 Home
Windows 10 Pro
Color Black
Price Starting at $783.20

What you'll like about the ThinkPad X270

You can't talk about a ThinkPad without first mentioning the matte-black chassis. It's the first thing you notice, and it's really one of the main things that signals this line. Here we have a carbon-fiber body coated on the outside with soft-touch paint. There is a decent amount of sparkle in the paint, especially when the light catches it.

Dual hinges

Inside the laptop, on the palm rests, around the keyboard, and on the bezel, is more of a grippy finish. This is no doubt a wink at those working in the field, typing with one hand while holding a corner of the laptop with the other. This finish picks up oil from hands quite easily, but a wipe once in awhile with a microfiber cloth takes care of it.

The dual-hinge system is sturdy and there's hardly any movement when shaking the laptop with the lid open. You'd be able to use this in a moving vehicle without a problem. The tradeoff is not being able to open the lid with one hand. It opens far enough to lay flat, but this is strictly a notebook.

Lenovo makes the best keyboards

The PC packs the beloved ThinkPad keyboard, with keys that have plenty of room to travel and have a cupped design that seems to better hold your fingers. These keyboards are my favorite to type on, and even going from larger keyboards to this one, back and forth, I had no problem adapting. This bodes well for anyone who is sure to be splitting time between their laptop and a desktop.

The keyboard has a backlight that you can forego when ordering, but if you do have it, it's controlled with the Fn + Spacebar shortcut. There's a snipping tool hotkey sharing space with the PrtSc button, something anyone working with media will love.

Making an appearance is the TrackPoint and physical buttons that go along with it. I'm not one to use the TrackPoint all that much, but it works just as well as you'd expect. Lenovo has also chosen to include a Precision touchpad here, allowing the use of all Windows 10's three-finger gestures. The mylar finish is smooth and tracks really well, and the sensitivity issues that some ThinkPads have out of the box due to the Synaptics settings (which can still be found here) are thankfully not present.

Ultraportable means more than smaller size and less weight

Making a laptop so-called "ultraportable" doesn't just mean cutting down on its size and weight. It also means balancing ports and battery life so you aren't hauling a bag of dongles along with you or worrying about where you're going to plug in when the workday goes into overtime.

Coming in at 0.80 inches thick and just less than three pounds with dual three-cell batteries (and just more than three pounds with a three-cell and a six-cell battery), this isn't the lightest or the thinnest laptop. Keep in mind, however, that this is also not a laptop for people wanting to make a splash at the local cafe.

The port selection on the ThinkPad X270 is not something you see on most other 12-inch laptops, and it no doubt contributes somewhat to the thickness. On the left side, you have Lenovo's proprietary charging port, a USB-C port, an HDMI port, and a USB-A 3.0 port. On the right side is a Kensington lock slot, an Ethernet port, a micro SIM slot, an SD card reader, another USB-A 3.0 port, and a 3.5mm jack. On both sides, the ports are well spaced and you'd have no problems using multiple accessories at once.

The optional LTE-A connectivity means you can use this laptop away from Wi-Fi and Ethernet, and the Power Bridge function means you're going to have enough power to not worry about plugging in. The model I reviewed has the built-in 23.2WHr front battery as well as another hot-swappable 23.2WHr rear battery. With this configuration, I got about seven hours of use — including a few hours of video streaming — which will get most people through a standard workday.

There are also 47WHr and 72WHr rear options that respectively cost $5 and $25 more. That's really cheap, and with the 72WHr rear battery, you should expect somewhere around 15 hours of life.

Power Bridge

Lenovo offers a lot of customization options for the ThinkPad X270, including SATA HDD and SSD options and a 768p display with a TN panel. The lower-end models are geared toward enterprise bulk-buys, but they are there if an individual needs something fast and dirty. If you aren't satisfied with what's inside your ThinkPad X270, the hard drive, RAM, and wireless card are all user-replaceable.

Lenovo ThinkPad X270 performance

Our ThinkPad X270 came equipped with the top processor offered: an Intel Core i7-7600U vPro with a top clock speed of 3.9GHz. Also included is 16GB of DDR4-2133MHz RAM. In everyday use, it chewed through pretty much everything I threw at it, and benchmarks back up my experience.

CPU

Geekbench 4.0 Benchmarks (Higher is better)

Device Single core Multi core
Lenovo ThinkPad X270 4,512 8,566
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s 3,919 6,077
Lenovo Yoga 720 3,881 7,509
Lenovo X1 Carbon Core i5 4,139 8,311
HP EliteBook x360 G2 4,496 8,435
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext 4,316 8,320
Dell Latitude 5480 4,625 15,401
Dell Precision 5520 (Xeon E3) 4,799 15,055
Dell XPS 15 (9560) Core i7 4,503 13,587
Dell Latitude 7280 4,381 7,935
Dell XPS 13 (9360) Core i7 4,120 7,829
HP Spectre 13 Core i7 4,100 7,469
Surface Book Core i7 3,948 7,415

The seventh-generation Intel Core i7 vPro processor in this review model shreds. The single-core score was better than a lot of the laptops we've reviewed, and the multi-core score was understandably also higher. It might not be great for really specialized tasks, like heavy multimedia editing or design, but as a work companion, this thing doesn't flinch.

GPU

Geekbench 4.0 Graphics OpenCL (Higher is better)

Device Score
Lenovo ThinkPad X270 17,376
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s 16,635
Lenovo Yoga 720 18,185
Lenovo X1 Carbon 20,932
Dell Latitude 5480 21,616
Dell Precision 5520 48,724
Dell XPS 13 (9360) 19,410
Surface Book HD520 18,197
Dell Latitude 7280 17,827

For graphics, we have the integrated Intel HD 620. It isn't designed with gaming in mind, but I installed Minecraft and didn't have a problem with settings maxed out. In comparison to other laptops we've reviewed, the ThinkPad X270 holds its own.

PCMark

PCMark Home Conventional 3.0

Device Score Comparison
Lenovo ThinkPad X270 3,009 Better than 57 percent of all results
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s 2,576 Better than 40 percent of all results
Lenovo Yoga 720 2,717 Better than 46 percent of all results
Lenovo X1 Carbon Core i5 2,965 Better than 57 percent of all results
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext 2,998 Better than 57 percent of all results
Dell XPS 15 (9560) 3,534 Better than 71 percent of all results
Dell Latitude 7280 2,829 Better than 52 percent of all results
HP Spectre x360 15 2,472 Better than 41 percent of all results

The PCMark Home Conventional test is a great way to see how your system components all work together, and the ThinkPad X270 performed well. It came out better than 57 percent of all laptops that have undergone this test, and it sits near the top rung of the laptops we've reviewed. This performance is evident in everyday use.

SSD

CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

Device Read Write
Lenovo ThinkPad X270 PCIe 1,049 MB/s 636.9 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad T470s 1,557 MB/s 1,333 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 720 1,904 MB/s 1,169 MB/s
Lenovo X1 Carbon 1,518 MB/s 1,188 MB/s
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext 1,365 MB/s 1,213 MB/s
Dell Latitude 5480 SATA 443 MB/s 469 MB/s
Razer Blade Pro 2,571 MB/s 2,467 MB/s
Dell XPS 15 (9560) 2,207 MB/s 1,628 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (9360) 1,287 MB/s 794 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 15 1,128 MB/s 862 MB/s
Surface Book 1,018 MB/s 967 MB/s
Dell Latitude 7280 SATA 428 MB/s 412 MB/s
Dell XPS Tower SE (HDD) 133 MB/s 150 MB/s

After using the laptop for a few days, there were a few hangs that I sort of suspected were coming from the SSD. Benchmarking confirms that suspicion. Here we have a Toshiba THNSF5512GPUK PCIe drive that falls well under other laptops we've tested that had the Samsung PM961. Luckily, the drive can be upgraded after purchase.

What you'll dislike about the ThinkPad X270

The ThinkPad X270 is a really well put together laptop, and the dislikes pale compared to the likes. It has to be noted, however, that the screen is still on the dim side if you're planning on working with this laptop primarily outdoors. It's not as bad as others we've reviewed, and the matte finish also significantly reduces glare. Other than the brightness, the FHD display I used was crisp and had great color.

One other thing I noticed immediately when I began using the X270 was the awkward placement of the fingerprint reader. Sure, it works great with Windows Hello and I can sign in quickly, but, when typing, I'm constantly aware of it rubbing against the right side of my palm. There's really no way around it. Placing it closer to the touchpad or closer to the edge of the laptop would have made a huge difference.

Getting picky

Despite how comfortable ThinkPad keyboards are, the key placement is a bit wonky. The Fn and Ctrl keys are reversed to resemble a Mac keyboard, and the PgUp and PgDn keys rest right above the left and right arrow keys. Anyone not used to this setup will no doubt have some fun while attempting to copy and paste or navigate through a text document.

Bottom of the X270

This isn't a machine designed to be an entertainment platform, so the speakers didn't receive a lot of attention. They aren't awful, and at max volume they don't crackle. But they also aren't too loud and sound a bit hollow at any volume.

You won't notice the single fan at all until you plug in the laptop. Even when I plugged it in and set it aside to charge with the lid open, I came back later and it was noticeably running. It's a soft noise, but it's pretty loud.

Lenovo ThinkPad X270 review: Conclusion

Overall, the ThinkPad X270 does what it's supposed to do — and it does it well. You can get a base configuration for about $780 and take it into the field without worrying about a dying battery, a Wi-Fi connection, or an extra pocket for dongles, plus you won't have to worry too much about getting it dirty. The screen might be a bit too dim for direct sunlight, but the matte finish helps significantly while working outdoors.

T470 on the bottom, T470s in the middle, X270 on top.

T470 on the bottom, T470s in the middle, X270 on top.

It checks all the boxes expected from a ThinkPad, including port selection, dreamy keyboard, TrackPoint, and matte-black chassis. It might seem a little thick at first glance, but the 0.80 inches is a worthwhile compromise for the strong performance and reduced overall footprint compared to the T470 and T470s.

This laptop will serve well anyone on the go, and it really lives up to Lenovo's claim of portability and performance. Just expect to pay a premium if you want a high-end configuration.

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Pros:

  • Real performer.
  • Keyboard, as expected, is wonderful.
  • Ports are plentiful.
  • Lots of configurations.
  • Battery life is outstanding thanks to Power Bridge.

Cons:

  • Fingerprint reader is awkwardly placed.
  • The screen is on the dim side.
  • You'll really pay for performance.

4 out of 5