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X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

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Kilkenny
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X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#1 Post by Kilkenny » Sun Apr 10, 2016 6:52 am

There are a lot of reviews of newer ThinkPads out there, but none focused on the kinds of things I am interested in. So, for the sake of Googlers, I will share my thoughts on my new (to me) X250.

First, the specs of my X250
CPU: i7-5600u
display: 1920x1080 IPS non-touch
RAM: 8 GB
disk: 250 GB Samsung 850 EVO
operating system: OpenBSD -current (snapshot dated 4-APR-2016 as of this moment)

The display is excellent, certainly better than most ThinkPads of old. My most modernish laptop was a T420 with the 1600x900 display and the X250 beats it in every conceivable way. Black looks black, not grey or blue. Viewing angles are great. No more tilting the panel to read text on the top of the screen, then tilting it again to read the bottom. There is some backlight bleed, but not enough for me to care. It offers retina-searing brightness levels, which works well for outdoor use.

The aspect ratio is not excellent. I understand there are supply issues that have caused Lenovo to go with a 16:9, but it's really frustrating. Now, vertical space is good with the FHD panel, but it could be even better if it was 16:10, or ideally 4:3. This is a common complaint and no surprise to longtime ThinkPad lovers. For me though, the real advantage of a taller aspect ratio is compactness. If you sit the X250 on a university desk, you'll have less space on either side than with the X201. Again, nothing you need me to tell you, but worth considering.

The keyboard is leaving me with really mixed feelings. The key feel is a bit hard to describe. If you haven't used a chiclet ThinkPad yet, I would ignore all the review sites saying it's wonderful, amazing, or somehow exactly as good as the classic keyboard. It's not. It's an un-bad keyboard. It's actually better than any ultrabook keyboard you can find today. It's light years better than the MacBook Air and similar laptops, which I suspect is why a lot of people rave about it. To me, that's like saying that drowning is great because you're not on fire. In any case, the key travel feels greatly diminished compared to my X201, even if tactile feedback is decent. It does feel solid and doesn't flex when typing. I suspect I can get used to the feeling and won't complain about it a few months from now.

The keyboard layout is a disaster. Things are where you think they are, except when they're not, assuming they're there at all. The forward and back buttons by the arrow keys are page up and page down. These, of course, are now nowhere near the home and end keys, which is frustrating because I typically would use them together when browsing a document or website. The top row is the function keys by default, not the F keys, but this can be trivially switched in the BIOS. I did that immediately once I got tired of hitting F5 to refresh a page and only turning down the screen brightness.

The keyboard is also backlit. This is inferior to the ThinkLight in my opinion, though it is better than nothing. The dimmest setting for the backlighting is too bright. I just want to see the keys, not signal a rescue helicopter. It is nice that the control for this is the Fn+spacebar, so you can always find it even at night. In a pitch dark room, my MacBook Pro required you to innately know which of the F keys doubled as the backlighting control since you couldn't see them. The spacebar is easy to find.

The TrackPoint is fantastic. It's buttons have returned and they are better than before. My X201's TrackPoint buttons were smaller and mushy. Maybe it was due to wear, but I always wondered if they were connected to the chassis by goo. The X250's buttons have a very solid, tactile feel to them. Which is a good thing because...

...the TrackPad is annoying. It's way too small. Sorry, did I say small? I meant enormous. Really enormous. It arrives with its own ZIP code and your property taxes will likely go up. It's also a royal pain because your palm is always on it when you use the TrackPoint. You can disable it in the BIOS allegedly, but I tried that and it still works in OpenBSD anyway. I'm assuming this is either a bug, or it is designed to work in conjunction with the Windows driver since Lenovo never expected you to commit the inconceivable sacrilege of not running Windows. If you like to use the TrackPads you'll be happy, provided you can tolerate the lack of physical buttons. If you primarily use the TrackPoint it's unacceptable.

The build quality is very solid and I don't feel anything rattling, squeaking, flexing, or breaking. The lid has no latch, but it stays down when you want it down, and stays where you put it when it's up. The surfaces don't attract finger smudges. A convenient side effect of a chiclet keyboard is that it is easy to keep clean. It's fairly thin and light, but still offers more ports than most ultrabooks. Only 2 USB ports, which is unfortunate, but at least you still get VGA and ethernet, for those of us who live in the real world and actually use them. The power connector is flat and therefore incompatible with the usual round connector, so you can forget about using your carefully hoarded supply of Lenovo power adapters. This is irritating. Also irritating is that you have to remove the entire bottom panel to get to the hard drive.

I won't spend too much time on performance, since there are tons of benchmarks out there and it really is OS specific. It's fast and I have no complaints at all about it. Battery life is good, and the dual battery system is a great idea. OpenBSD 5.9 and later support Broadwell graphics pretty well, though I have noticed a few graphical glitches that I have not been able to reproduce. Wireless works well for me on -current. All of this should only get better with time.

Overall, it's a very good laptop, but not really a good ThinkPad, which has more to do with what this laptop could have been than with what it is. Too many compromises have been made and too much has been ritually slaughtered on the altar of thinness. It's as if they are trying to attract Apple users without realizing that the customer base for the X series doesn't want a MacBook. Still, it has great performance, great battery life, a superior keyboard by 2016 standards, a great TrackPoint, great build quality, and a great display. If you want a newer ThinkPad and you aren't able or willing to wait for the Retro ThinkPad (if it ever is made), the X250 is still worth buying IMO.
T23, T42, T43p, T60, X201, and T420 all running OpenBSD

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#2 Post by Pokrzept » Sun Apr 10, 2016 11:30 am

First of all thanks for your effort to describe your personal feelings after few days with new-to-you x250. I'm glad someone of use ThinkPad lovers decided to give it a go and test new platform. TBH I had an offer to buy similarly specced x250 for ~~ 500 bucks, but at the end of the day I did realised it would be another couch laptop just like an x201, x220 and x61. I definitely need at least 14" to work on the lapop. Anyway I'd like to ask if you could compare your new unit with x201 you have/had before. What interests me most is keyboard size. As far as I know 12" keyboards are way smaller than those installed in 14" units. All 12" units in the past had an side-to-side keyboards with a very thin bezel covering it at both ends. Since x240 generation power button and finger print reader has been moved on the right side next to the keyboard and due to that laptops bezel is considerably wider. What's more as you have noticed trackpad is huge now, so there's even less space for the keys. How do you find final effect? Is it still good enough for an long-time use?

When it comes to performance there's not much to compare. When it comes to the 5th generation of Intel Core CPUs they shall be placed in between Sandy and Ivy Bridge counterparts.
P70 / W530 / W700 and 30 more :roll:

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#3 Post by Kilkenny » Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:30 am

Pokrzept wrote:First of all thanks for your effort to describe your personal feelings after few days with new-to-you x250. I'm glad someone of use ThinkPad lovers decided to give it a go and test new platform. TBH I had an offer to buy similarly specced x250 for ~~ 500 bucks, but at the end of the day I did realised it would be another couch laptop just like an x201, x220 and x61. I definitely need at least 14" to work on the lapop. Anyway I'd like to ask if you could compare your new unit with x201 you have/had before. What interests me most is keyboard size. As far as I know 12" keyboards are way smaller than those installed in 14" units. All 12" units in the past had an side-to-side keyboards with a very thin bezel covering it at both ends. Since x240 generation power button and finger print reader has been moved on the right side next to the keyboard and due to that laptops bezel is considerably wider. What's more as you have noticed trackpad is huge now, so there's even less space for the keys. How do you find final effect? Is it still good enough for an long-time use?

When it comes to performance there's not much to compare. When it comes to the 5th generation of Intel Core CPUs they shall be placed in between Sandy and Ivy Bridge counterparts.
It's definitely smaller. I haven't noticed any effects on typing due to its size yet though.

From left to right, X201, X250, T42
http://i274.photobucket.com/albums/jj25 ... yk1eey.jpg

X201 on top, X250 on bottom
http://i274.photobucket.com/albums/jj25 ... ogxzl2.jpg


Height of each keyboard measured from top of the F7 key to the bottom of the spacebar
X201: 4.25"
T42: 4.25"
X250: 4"

Width as measured from left edge of CapsLock key to right edge of Enter key
X201: 11.25"
T42: 11.25"
X250: 10.5"

As you can see, the X201 and T42 have the same size keyboard. I didn't include the 7th row in the measurements because the X250 doesn't have one. The X250's keyboard is smaller, despite the laptop itself being 0.5" wider than the X201 (second image above). I don't have a picture of it, but for all intents and purposes, the X250 is actually the same width as the T42. You're right about the power button and fingerprint reader being the cause for this. I think they should have made the trackpad smaller, put the power button along the top, the fingerprint reader next to the trackpad, and extended the keyboard to the edges.
T23, T42, T43p, T60, X201, and T420 all running OpenBSD

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#4 Post by axur-delmeria » Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:44 am

I think they should have made the trackpad smaller,
WIth all the Apple-chasing Lenovo's been doing, it will never happen. :(
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X601 Core 2 Duo T8100
Toy: X60F Core Solo U1300
On loan: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E; X61 7676-A24; and a BOE-Hydis HV121P01-100 in failed SXGA+ mod
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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#5 Post by TPFanatic » Mon May 02, 2016 2:53 pm

There may also be antennas hidden inside the gigantic lid bezels Lenovo enjoys building since T61.
lenovo "Super" T420 i7 2670qm WQHD 16GB
lenovo T500 P9700 Radeon 3650 WUXGA 8GB
lenovo T601F T7500 NVS 140m SXGA+ 8GB

Enable 2 finger scroll on any Synaptics touchpads with registry.

Kilkenny
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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#6 Post by Kilkenny » Tue May 17, 2016 5:09 pm

Well in case anyone was wondering, yes, you can spill a huge glass of water on the X series' keyboard and it will be perfectly fine. :)

I'm glad that's still a feature
T23, T42, T43p, T60, X201, and T420 all running OpenBSD

Kilkenny
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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#7 Post by Kilkenny » Wed Oct 12, 2016 9:27 am

After living with the X250 now for several months, I have a few more thoughts on it

Things I thought would annoy me, but don't: Only having 2 USB ports. This is totally dependent on your particular uses, but I have not needed more than 2. Also, the aspect ratio is okay. It's not as good as 4:3, but the FHD panel makes up for it by giving you plenty of space.

Things I thought would be fine, but annoy me: The keyboard. If all you use is an X250, you'll probably eventually be happy with it. But I often use my older ThinkPads and after using a classic keyboard, the X250 feels cramped and awkward. This is the biggest reason why I keep going back to the classics.

Things I knew I would like and still do: The display. It's very good.

Things I knew I would hate and now hate even more: The stupid bottom panel. I guess Lenovo assumed that in today's Brave New World, nobody needs to easily access the hard drive. Or maybe they are trying to appease the false gods of thinness. In any case, pulling out 8 screws and tentatively peeling the panel away from the computer gets very old. It also feels rather flimsy, and I always think I'm going to break it. Swapping a hard drive with an X201 the other day really made me appreciate the HDD caddy design of the earlier ThinkPads.

My hatred for the TrackPad burns as hot as ever. It's just too big, and eliminating the physical buttons makes it more frustrating to use unless you have tap-to-click enabled, which itself is irritating. I wish you could buy this without the TrackPad like you could with the old models.
T23, T42, T43p, T60, X201, and T420 all running OpenBSD

kony
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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#8 Post by kony » Sun Oct 16, 2016 12:13 pm

Kilkenny wrote:
My hatred for the TrackPad burns as hot as ever. It's just too big, and eliminating the physical buttons makes it more frustrating to use unless you have tap-to-click enabled, which itself is irritating. I wish you could buy this without the TrackPad like you could with the old models.
Why not just disable it then? I disabled trackpad on my T430 a day after I bought it in 2013 and basically don't even notice it exists.
My T430 with GTX 560 Ti (Now with GTX 670)
T430: i5-3320m, 8 GB, SSD + HDD, 1600x900.

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#9 Post by w0qj » Mon Oct 17, 2016 1:40 pm

Hey Kilkenny, it is GREAT to have dyed-in-wool ThinkPad'ers trying out the newer Thinkpads!

I also own the X250.

I consider myself as a dyed-in-wool Thinkpad user of both traditional Thinkpads (T42, T410), and also daily user of newer models (X1 Carbon, X250, X230). Don't worry; you will adjust to the changes!

1. I also use the TrackPoint, so I disabled the TrackPad via the BIOS.

2. Keyboard layout: agree with you the newer ThinkPad keyboard layout is less efficient; I also miss the 7-row keyboard layout (I still like the T410 for this reason). But you get used to the new keyboard layout after a while...

3. Chicklet keys: you get used to it after a while, although I also feel that my (touch) typing speed dropped somewhat whenever I use these Chicklet keys.

4. Backlit keyboard: I also prefer Thinklight, where it can shine on the paper *beside* your computer when you are working in semi-darkness. But life goes on, I guess. (And the Backlit keyboard looks cooler!)

5. It is not too difficult opening the X250 bottom panel to access the HDD; I've done this myself also.
Certainly X250 is *much* easier to open than other models like Thinkpad P50 for example...
(This is from someone who had opened the access panels in models T42, T410, X230, X250, X1 Carbon).


In summary, I consider myself as a dyed-in-wool Thinkpad user of both traditional Thinkpads (T42, T410), and also daily user of newer models (X1 Carbon, X250, X230). Don't worry; you will adjust to the changes!
Daily Driver: X1 Extreme 1st Gen (X1E1): i7 | 16GB | 1TB | IPS
Current Thinkpads: X1E1 | X1C4 | X1C3 | X250 | X230 | T410
Retired Thinkpads: T42 | 560 (circa 1996)
~~IBM Thinkpad era computer bag !

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#10 Post by lewdvig » Thu Oct 20, 2016 1:16 pm

I just picked up an X260 and feel the same way as the OP. This is replacing a succession of laptops including a 12" MacBook and Surface Book and Pro. Why? No dongles! Actual ports. And, because this is not a sexy bit of kit to the average consumer I scored a great deal on it second hand.

It's def a Lenovo ThinkPad, it's no IBM, but that is still better than most systems out there for business use in my experience. More and more PC Makers are re-purposing their consumer stuff for business use.

While I wish the X260 was lighter, I am always going into boardrooms with a variety of tech - and sometimes people really want you to use their stuff. There is no substitute for a native port - and this one has pretty much all of the ones I am likely to come across - so the extra weight is worth it.

I have the crap WXGA screen, but that is easily rectified with a $100 eBay purchase. Lenovo should not even make this screen an option because it is garbage.
Current: 2016 Lenovo X260, 2015 MacBook

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#11 Post by Kilkenny » Fri Oct 21, 2016 11:00 am

kony wrote:
Kilkenny wrote:
My hatred for the TrackPad burns as hot as ever. It's just too big, and eliminating the physical buttons makes it more frustrating to use unless you have tap-to-click enabled, which itself is irritating. I wish you could buy this without the TrackPad like you could with the old models.
Why not just disable it then? I disabled trackpad on my T430 a day after I bought it in 2013 and basically don't even notice it exists.
For some reason, disabling it in the BIOS doesn't actually disable it. I'm not sure why. I do still sometimes use it for scrolling because OpenBSD's middle button scrolling is occasionally very choppy. I haven't had time to investigate this either.
T23, T42, T43p, T60, X201, and T420 all running OpenBSD

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#12 Post by kony » Sat Oct 22, 2016 5:21 am

Kilkenny wrote:
kony wrote:
Why not just disable it then? I disabled trackpad on my T430 a day after I bought it in 2013 and basically don't even notice it exists.
For some reason, disabling it in the BIOS doesn't actually disable it. I'm not sure why. I do still sometimes use it for scrolling because OpenBSD's middle button scrolling is occasionally very choppy. I haven't had time to investigate this either.
Then disable it in the OS.

In Terminal:
synclient TouchpadOff=1
My T430 with GTX 560 Ti (Now with GTX 670)
T430: i5-3320m, 8 GB, SSD + HDD, 1600x900.

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#13 Post by Kilkenny » Sat Oct 22, 2016 10:18 am

kony wrote:
Kilkenny wrote:
For some reason, disabling it in the BIOS doesn't actually disable it. I'm not sure why. I do still sometimes use it for scrolling because OpenBSD's middle button scrolling is occasionally very choppy. I haven't had time to investigate this either.
Then disable it in the OS.

In Terminal:
synclient TouchpadOff=1
I've actually been running it like that for a few days now and it's okay, but the scrolling is still a bit choppy. It's better with a concave TrackPoint cap though so I might stick with it.
T23, T42, T43p, T60, X201, and T420 all running OpenBSD

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#14 Post by w0qj » Sat Oct 22, 2016 12:02 pm

It's funny you've mentioned it, for our X250 we also used a concave TrackPoint sourced from another (older) ThinkPad model...
Kilkenny wrote: I've actually been running it like that for a few days now and it's okay, but the scrolling is still a bit choppy. It's better with a concave TrackPoint cap though so I might stick with it.
Daily Driver: X1 Extreme 1st Gen (X1E1): i7 | 16GB | 1TB | IPS
Current Thinkpads: X1E1 | X1C4 | X1C3 | X250 | X230 | T410
Retired Thinkpads: T42 | 560 (circa 1996)
~~IBM Thinkpad era computer bag !

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#15 Post by Kilkenny » Sat Oct 22, 2016 10:21 pm

w0qj wrote:It's funny you've mentioned it, for our X250 we also used a concave TrackPoint sourced from another (older) ThinkPad model...
Kilkenny wrote: I've actually been running it like that for a few days now and it's okay, but the scrolling is still a bit choppy. It's better with a concave TrackPoint cap though so I might stick with it.
They're fantastic! I had been getting finger stiffness until I switched to one to reduce the force required. I'd never go back now.
T23, T42, T43p, T60, X201, and T420 all running OpenBSD

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#16 Post by Kilkenny » Mon Jul 03, 2017 7:13 am

Well it's been a year. I have switched back to the X201 and gave the X250 away. There are a few reasons for this, most of which I have talked about already.

I never could get used to the keyboard, even after a year. The feeling of the keys was inferior to any classic Thinkpad, but the biggest problem was the layout. It has to be the least ergonomic layout I have used. Between its small size and the fact that nothing is where it feels like it should be, I felt far more at home every time I jumped back on a classic Thinkpad.

The 16:9 aspect ratio and extra width next to the keys made it just wide enough to not fit in my briefcase unless it was horizontal. The X201, with its 16:10 display fits perfectly in either orientation, which gives me more room next to it.

I ended up needing to get to the hard drive a lot more than I expected. Taking off the bottom panel every time got old. I also had to replace the keyboard (my fault), which on the X250 is roughly 100X more annoying than a classic Thinkpad.

There are some things I liked. The battery life was good and I never had to think about whether I was plugged in or not. Performance was fine, but my needs are minimal. I'll also miss the display and the light weight. There are just too many other more important compromises to make these worth it.

Would I buy one again? No. I don't think I would buy any new X-series Thinkpad unless they change the keyboard. I would consider a new T-series because they are larger, but I would definitely have to try it first.
T23, T42, T43p, T60, X201, and T420 all running OpenBSD

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Re: X250 review by an old school ThinkPad fan

#17 Post by RealBlackStuff » Mon Jul 03, 2017 7:39 am

My current travel (and couch-use) machine is also an X201 with a 1440x900 LED-lid from an X200s.
With a 9-cell Panasonic I get a little over 7 hours out of it with email and moderate browsing.

My plan was to replace it with an X230 with mSATA SSD (in WWAN slot, for OS) and a large HDD for storage.
I modded it with an X220 (classic) keyboard, the FHD mod and an FHD IPS LCD.
It can also use batteries from an X220.
In the end 1920x1080 on a 12.5" screen turned out to be too much for my eyes, so I reduced its resolution to 1600x900.
Compared to the X201 though, this X230 is rather heavy, I'm still not sure if I want to use that modded X230 or stay with the X201.
And I also still have an X200s with 1440x900, a tiny bit slower than the X201, sure, but better battery life (and no touchpad).
And I'm also still not sure if I don't want to switch to an X1C1.
Decisions, decisions...
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