Insane 24-hour battery life with hot swap system. Powerful processor and 16GB of RAM. Plenty of ports and useful extras. Multiple security features.
Expensive as configured. Bulky for an ultraportable.
- Bottom Line
The X270 is a compact, though chunky, take on the ThinkPad with a deceptive amount of power. Add to that a full port loadout and a swappable battery, and this Lenovo laptop will work through the day and into the night.
The X Series of Lenovo's ThinkPad laptops puts portability first, pairing smaller screen sizes with competent components. The ThinkPad X270 (starts at $979; $1,974.99 as tested) is a business laptop with a 12.5-inch screen, all the ports you could need, and a surprising amount of computing power. This configuration will cost you, but it's speedy, and offers a hot swap battery system that adds up to impressively long times off the charger. It's not especially slim for a portability-focused laptop, though, and not every business or user can justify the price of the top-end configuration of our test unit. As such, Lenovo's own ThinkPad X1 Carbonremains our top pick for business laptops, delivering similar performance and a truly ultraportable feel for less money.
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As a travel-friendly laptop, the X270 has a compact build, measuring 0.8 by 12.03 by 8.21 inches (HWD) and weighing 3.07 pounds. That's small enough to slip into almost any bag or laptop case, though its weight doesn't do much to differentiate it from the 3.1-pound Lenovo ThinkPad T470s, which has a 14-inch display. It is still thinner and smaller than the T470s, so it takes up less space, but it's hard to say it feels like a true ultraportable given the density. The 2.45-pound ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the 13.3-inch VAIO S(at 2.25 pounds and 0.71 inches thick), better embody the ultraportable title.
All-black plastic, the X270 isn't flashy, but it does meet MIL-SPEC durability standards, as do all ThinkPads. That means it can withstand extra bursts of humidity, low or high temperatures, sand, vibration, shocks, and high altitudes. The build is solid if unremarkable: It's not flimsy, and the backlit keyboard offers the usual ThinkPad comfort, with good key travel and a nice bounce that keeps your fingers moving. Speaker volume isn't exactly strong—it can get loud enough to hear without much distortion, but it doesn't quite fill the room with rich sound. Still, for business use including viewing short clips or video conferencing, it does the job.
Like the T470s, Lenovo is also using a Microsoft precision touchpad in the X270. This technology not only lets Windows 10 handle driver updates, as opposed to using third-party drivers, but also uses raw touchpad input rather than registering it as a USB mouse and translating that to touchpad movement through software. Microsoft can much more easily implement universal multitouch input, gesture commands, and updates across laptops from all OEMs, instead of fragmenting this fundamental part of the hardware across the market. Lenovo is beginning to use precision touchpads in more of its laptops, and ideally, all computer makers will integrate this technology and leave the software features and updates to Microsoft, making for less finicky controls from laptop to laptop.
The 12.5-inch display bears a Full HD (1,920-by-1,080) resolution and In-Plane Switching technology for a clear picture with wide viewing angles. It looks sharp, especially text, and glare is fairly minimal. Our 1080p unit is the highest resolution offered, and there are no touch options, but you can order 720p if you don't need high fidelity or want to save some money..
There are plenty of extra work-focused features packed into the X270, including a Match-in-Sensor fingerprint reader for signing in. This is a more secure system-on-chip architecture, which stores fingerprint records and biometric matching directly within the sensor module, rather than having it processed by the computer. Windows Hello is also installed, allowing you to securely sign in with a quick face scan once you register a photo with the account. The system is prepped with Microsoft Signature Edition, meaning it has minimal pre-installed software, like annoying OEM bloatware or toolbars. It also includes USB-C anti-fry protection, so unreliable third-party chargers won't hurt your system if they malfunction.
Road warriors will love the hot swappable batteries. Exact battery life numbers are below, but an internal system battery allows you to switch between removable batteries without shutting the system off, provided it's charged. In this way, if you have a charged external battery with you on the road, you can greatly extend the battery life of your laptop without interrupting your work to shut down. The laptop has a 23 watt-hour battery inside, which always charges before the removable batteries so that hot swap is available. An external 23 watt-hour battery is included (it snaps in to run flush with the bottom of the laptop), but you can bump the size to a 47 or 72 watt-hour battery (this larger battery jutts out from the bottom, slanting the system) for $5 and $25, respectively.
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Despite being small, the X270 offers plenty of connectivity options. The left side has the power adapter, a USB-C port, an HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port, and a smart card reader. The right flank holds the headphone/mic combo jack, another USB 3.0 port, an Ethernet jack, a 4-in-1 card reader, and a micro SIM slot. For storage, there's a 512GB SSD with Opal Encryption 2.0 for added security, which is more capacity than what's in the X1 Carbon, T470s, and Dell Latitude 14 7000 (7480). The X270 is equipped with Bluetooth 4.1 and dual-band 802.11ac wireless, and includes a 720p webcam. It is supported by a one-year warranty.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
The X270 packs a punch for its size and unassuming exterior: Our unit has a 2.8GHz Core i7-7600U processor and 16GB of memory. That made its general productivity capability strong, as evidenced by its PCMark 8 Work Conventional score of 3,484 points. That puts it ahead of the T470s, Latitude 14 7000, and the X1 Carbon, albeit not by much, but these are all quick machines to begin with. It performed equally as well on the Handbrake, Photoshop, and CineBench multimedia tests, particularly improving on the T470's results, while just edging out the other laptops.
Overall, this bodes well for multitasking, like keeping several browser windows and Excel sheets open along with Spotify running in the background. Conversely, the X270 is not very capable in regards to 3D and gaming performance, but that's what you'd expect for a business system. It and comparable laptops only include integrated graphics (built into the processor) rather than the standalone dedicated graphics cards you see in gaming laptops or 3D-focused workstations, so they're not equipped for anything demanding in this area.
Battery life, as mentioned earlier, is a highlight for the X270. The internal battery alone runs for 4 hours and 6 minutes, but with the normal 23 watt-hour external battery attached, they combined for 8:58 on our rundown test. With the 72 watt-hour battery attached instead, it lasted for 15:56. That means you can run down one removable battery and hot swap to the other to last for a staggering 24 hours and 54 minutes. The T470s lasted for 11:13, while the Latitude 14 lasted for 13:03 and the X1 Carbon for 15:59, a strong result for a single battery.
A ThinkPad Worth Thinking About
When fully outfitted like our test unit, the X270 is a reliable workhorse for business use, small enough to take with you and packed with enough security features to give you peace of mind. It's expensive as configured, though, and a bit too bulky to feel like a lightweight ultraportable. If you can justify the costs of this model, it's loaded with the components and variety of ports you'll need for almost any office task, and its hot swap battery system will keep you going quite literally all day. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon remains our top recommendation for business laptops for only slightly lesser performance at a lower price, plus a slimmer and lighter design.
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Matthew Buzzi is a junior analyst on the Hardware team at PCMag. Matthew graduated from Iona College with a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism. He interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming. He has written about technology and video game news, as well as hardware and gaming reviews. In his free time, he likes to go out with friends, watch and discuss sports, play video games, read too much Twitter, and obsessively manage any fantasy sports leagues he's involved in. More »
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