Lenovo ThinkPad X260 Review: Balanced for Business Travelers

by Reads (21,232)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 7
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 8
      • Usability
      • 8
      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 8
      • Features
      • 8
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 7.86
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Great build quality, balanced with portability
    • Decent keyboard
    • Plenty of ports
    • Good battery
  • Cons

    • Mediocre display
    • Wish it had USB Type-C

Quick Take

The Lenovo ThinkPad X260 is a great business notebook for the frequent traveler. It balances its strengths very well.


A good business notebook has six qualities: it’s built to last, but also built for travelling; it has an excellent battery life; it performs well; it sports plenty of ports and inputs; it’s secure; it offers a productive typing experience.

Lenovo ThinkPad X260 review unit

Lenovo ThinkPad X260 laptop

Lenovo ThinkPads generally hit all six. There’s a reason the brand name is synonymous with business laptops. And the Lenovo ThinkPad X260 aims to as well, with its Ultrabook design, swappable battery, Intel Core i processor, a full complement of ports, optional fingerprint sensor, and familiar ThinkPad QWERTY.

Can Lenovo once again pull it all together to make a compelling and enterprise-worthy device? Read this ThinkPad X260 review to find out.

Build & Design

The Lenovo ThinkPad X260 laptop looks the part. It measures 12.03 x 8.21 x .8 inches and weighs 2.9 pounds. Its rubberized chassis is slightly textured, and it resists smudges, fingerprints, and scuffs phenomenally well. It also adds grip, is very light, and according to Lenovo, aids in making the ThinkPad X260 MIL-STD-810G certified. This means the X260 can withstand harsh conditions involving pressure, shock, temperatures, dust, humidity, and other device killers beyond your average laptop.

It feels very solid around the edges, which serves as a cage to protect the internal components, while the display lid has limited flexibility. This is likely another protective measure, allowing a little give in the event the X260’s display is closed with a pen or other small item on the keyboard.

The two display hinges also feel sturdy, and open the ThinkPad X260 180 degrees. Again, this serves to mitigate potential damage from forcing the display lid open too far.

Lenovo ThinkPad X260 laptop opened 180 degrees

The Lenovo ThinkPad X260 opens 180 degrees.

Lenovo markets the ThinkPad X260 as an Ultrabook, but it’s considerably thicker than the absurdly svelte Core M 2-in-1s on the market. By any reasonable measure though, it’s portable and easy to lug from meeting to meeting, or stash in a carry-on bag.

Ports & Inputs

The Lenovo ThinkPad X260 has a decent selection of ports and inputs, and enough for business users. That includes three full-sized USB 3.0 ports, an RJ45 (Ethernet) input, Mini DisplayPort, full-sized HDMI, 4-in-1 card reader, 3.5mm in/out audio jack, and an optional Smart Card reader. It also has Lenovo’s proprietary charging input, which resembles a full-sized USB, and Lenovo’s expansion/docking slot on the bottom. The power button and optional fingerprint scanner rest on the right side of the keyboard rim.

Lenovo ThinkPad X260 laptop power input, HDMI port, Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0 port

Lenovo ThinkPad X260’s power input, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0 x 2, Smart Card

Lenovo ThinkPad X260's audio in/out, USB 3.0, SIM card/media card reader, Ethernet, Kensington Lock Slot

Lenovo ThinkPad X260’s audio in/out, USB 3.0, SIM card/media card reader, Ethernet, Kensington Lock Slot

USB Type-C is a slight omission, if only for future-proofing. And while we can’t remember the last Ultrabook to ship with VGA, it’s still a ubiquitous standard with office projectors and external monitors.

Lenovo ThinkPad X260 bottom

Lenovo ThinkPad X260 bottom

Keyboard & Touchpad

The ThinkPad X260 laptop has an 83-key QWERTY keyboard, which should be familiar to any Lenovo user, with its island-style keys and rounded bottom edges. The number and letter keys measure about 1.5 x 1.5 centimeters (.6 inches), with .3 centimeters (.11 inches) of space between them. The keys have good snap, and about 1.6mm travel. And that’s more than enough for a comfortable typing experience.

Lenovo ThinkPad X260 keyboard

Lenovo ThinkPad X260 laptop keyboard

There are six rows, with a dedicated row for the function keys, which double with Windows shortcuts. Backlighting is optional, and sufficiently bright. The only pet peeve is one familiar to ThinkPad users. Lenovo often switches the traditional positions of the left-side Fn and Ctrl keys, so Fn is on the left and Ctrl is on the right. This can thankfully be changed in the BIOS.

The ThinkPad red TrackPoint nub sits between the GHB keys, just above the three buttons and the 8.7 x 5.4 centimeter (3.4 x 2.1 inch) touchpad. It’s single piece, and works very well. It’s as responsive as any Windows touchpad we’ve tested, with support for the various Windows navigation shortcuts, including the three-finger tap to launch Cortana.

Display & Speakers

Lenovo ThinkPad X260 dark display

Lenovo ThinkPad X260 laptop display

Lenovo offers the X260 with three display options, all 12.5 inches: 11366 x 768 TN at 200 nits, 1366 x 768 IPS at 300 nits, 1920 x 1080 IPS at 300 nits. In general, IPS (in-plane switching) LCD displays have better color reproduction and much wider viewing angles than TN (twisted nematic). TN LCDs are cheaper to produce and refresh faster, but invert colors and lose details at wide angles. None of the three support pen or touch input. Our X260 review unit has the 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) IPS display.

A few things to note. There’s a significant difference between a 11366 x 768 TN display and a 1920 x 1080 IPS display. Some business users prefer the TN display because its poor viewing angles aid in privacy and deter wandering eyes, though the difference in resolution and brightness is enough to justify the upgrade cost for most.

QHD and 4K are more prevalent on consumer laptops and 2-in-1s, but many business laptops top out at Full HD because of the power savings, and because businesses run custom apps not often optimized for the higher resolution.

With that in mind, our Lenovo ThinkPad X260 review unit has a mediocre display. Colors are inaccurate and contrast is poor, though viewing angles are appropriately wide. Even at max brightness, the display appears dull. If not for its glare-resistant matte finish, it would be impossible to see outdoors.

Lenovo ThinkPad X260 dark display 3 Lenovo ThinkPad X260 dark display 2
Lenovo ThinkPad X260 dark display 4 Lenovo ThinkPad X260 dark display 5

The speakers are also mediocre, and that’s the case with 99% of laptops we review. They are fine for personal use and loud enough to fill a quiet room, but the sound is limited, with minimal bass and a tinny high-end.

Performance

Lenovo offers four processor options, ranging from a sixth-generation Intel Core i3-6100U to a Core i7-6600U. Our review unit has an Intel Core i5-6300U (2.4GHz, 3GHz) with 8GB of DDR4-2133 SODIMM RAM. Typically, the leap from Core i3 to Core i5 produces greater performance gains than the leap from Core i5 to i7.

Given its specs, our Lenovo ThinkPad X260 review unit performed as expected during testing. It was smooth and stable, running 64-bit Windows 10 Pro without any issue. It also ran very cool, even during benchmarking and when the quiet fan kicked in, mostly due to the excellent venting. While a Core i3 ThinkPad X260 with 4GB RAM will show the limits of the processor, particularly during multitasking and especially with double-digit Chrome tabs open, the major limiting factor of the more powerful configurations is the Intel HD Graphics. That’s the only option Lenovo offers, and it hinders gaming and high-resolution video editing.

Storage options range from a 500GB HDD to a 512GB SSD, while our review unit came with 256GB SSD (SATA3 OPAL2.0 Capable). Of that, 28GB was set aside for “system and reserved,” with about 1.5GB reserved for apps. Being a ThinkPad, it comes with various Lenovo apps installed, but nothing egregious. Our unit thankfully did not ship with any annoying McAfee or Norton security products, with their pestering popups.

Specs

Our Lenovo ThinkPad X260 review unit had the following technical specifications:

  • 12.5-inch FHD display (1,920×1,080 pixels, IPS non-touch panel, matte finish, 300 nits brightness)
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
  • Intel Core i5-6300U dual-core processor (2.3GHz, up to 3GHz Turbo Boost, 3MB cache, 15W TDP)
  • Intel HD Graphics 520
  • TPM encryption, VPro (Core i5 6300-U systems and higher)
  • 8GB of DDR4-2133 SODIMM RAM
  • 256GB SSD SATA3 OPAL2.0 capable (Samsung MZ7TY256HDHP-000L7)
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC(2×2) 8260, Bluetooth Version 4.1 vPro
  • 3 Cell Li-Ion Battery 23.2WH front battery, 3 Cell Li-Ion Battery 23.2WH rear battery
  • 720p webcam
  • Dimensions: 12.03 x 8.21 x .8 inches
  • Weight: 2.9 lbs.
  • Price as configured: $1,236.60

Battery

The ThinkPad X260 has Lenovo’s Power Bridge technology, which enables battery hot swapping the rear battery. It’s very convenient.

In our Powermark “Balanced” torture test, our Lenovo ThinkPad X260 review unit lasted 4 hours and 46 minutes with the standard 3 Cell Li-Ion Battery 23.2WH batteries. That’s not a bad result.

x260powermark

We also ran the test with Lenovo’s 6-cell 72WH battery (about $120 online) in place of the rear 3-cell unit. The ThinkPad lasted 9 hours and 11 minutes in the same test. This is a phenomenal result, and it makes the battery a near must-have accessory, even if it adds significant weight and bulk.

Price & Configurations

The Lenovo ThinkPad X260 starts At $764.10. For that, you get a Core i3-6100U processor, 4GB of RAM, and Windows 10 Home (64-bit), along with a 500GB HDD and 1366 x 768 TN display.

A jump to a Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and Full HD IPS display brings the total to $1,160.10. The same configuration but with a Core i5-6300U upgrade costs $1209.60. And the most powerful X260 features a Core i7-6600U processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and 6-cell 72Wh rear battery; it costs $1,650.60.

Each ThinkPad is highly configurable, and you can pick and choose individual upgrades. The upgrade from 4GB to 8GB RAM costs $40, and we think that’s easily worth it, as is the jump to the Core i5 6200-U, which costs $70. After that, we’d upgrade the panel to the Full HD option, which costs $150.

There are cheaper options for Core powered laptops. The Acer Aspire S 13 with a Core i5 processor (6200-U), 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and 13.3-inch non-touch display runs only $750. While it’s a quality device, the ThinkPad x260 is built to last, and will likely survive longer in a demanding work environment. That’s the case with most business laptops. You’re paying for build quality and service.

Benchmarks

wPrime processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):
x260wprime

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
x260pcmark8home

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance for a variety of general and complex office productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):
x260pcmark8work

3DMark11 measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance)
x2603dmark11

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:

x260cdmark

Conclusion

Lenovo ThinkPad X260

The Lenovo ThinkPad X260 laptop has the six qualities required of a good business device. It’s built to last, as evident by its MIL-spec rating; it’s light and portable enough for easy lugging; its hot-swappable battery outperforms similar devices; it has plenty of ports and inputs; it has the security features IT needs; and it has a comfortable keyboard.

Its mediocre display and missing USB Type-C count against it, but those are minor points against a device that balances build quality, power, ports, and portability very well.

The ThinkPad X260 is ideal for the occasional to frequent traveler, that needs something for both the office and on the road. Cube dwellers can save money with something a bit bigger and bulkier, like the ThinkPad 13.

Pros:

  • Great build quality, balanced with portability
  • Decent keyboard
  • Plenty of ports
  • Good battery

Cons:

  • Mediocre display
  • Wish it had USB Type-C

 



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  1. BaronHK

    I might as well have gotten a Dell XPS. Pretty much the same hardware. Pretty much the same price as my Yoga, only the Dell can run Linux while Lenovo added code to the BIOS to make it impossible to install Linux.

    Lenovo has mods, one with an MS MVP logo on his username, scrubbing the forums of anyone who complains about it.

    Their Yoga PCs are a complete disgrace. IBM never would have locked Linux out of their Thinkpad lineup they way that Lenovo conspired with Microsoft to do with their laptops.

    Lenovo has developed a reputation for themselves as the company of Superfish and the BIOS that reinstalled crapware over and over. Their stock is down 2/3rds from last year. You’d have about 35 cents left for every dollar you invested in it. People are onto them.

    Microsoft has dug into Lenovo like a predatory wasp taking over an ant and forcing it back to the nest to lay its eggs. I’m not surprised about what is going on with Motorola at all.