Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)

With the release of Windows 8, Lenovo has been one of those PC manufacturers that have been stepping up to offer some unique portable machines that are built around Microsoft’s newest operating system. We previously reviewed the Lenovo Yoga, which is a hybrid machine that is part tablet, part notebook.

This time, we’re taking look at the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Convertible Ultrabook which is also a hybrid machine of sorts as you can treat it as both a tablet and an Ultrabook, but it doesn’t offer the same feature the Lenovo Yoga did with its ability to disconnect the screen from its keyboard. Instead, Lenovo is allowing you to twist the entire screen to offer a number of different positions giving you multiple viewing options at any time. Is twisting around an Ultrabook’s screen a novelty or is this a feature that is actually useful? There’s only one way to find out, so without further ado, let’s get cracking on our review.

Context

I’ve reviewed hybrid Ultrabooks in the past, but this is the first time I’ve used a hybrid Ultrabook like the Lenovo Twist. As I usually do in my Ultrabook reviews, I’ll be looking at a couple of factors these are the most important points in these machines for me personally.

The first factor is weight as usually Ultrabooks are known for being lighter than traditional laptops. I travel on a regular basis to press events both in New York City and in remote locations, and the last thing I want to worry about when I travel is the weight of my computer.

The second is its keyboard as I write a lot of stories on a daily basis, as well as correspond through IM and email nearly just as much. The feel of the keyboard and the palm rests are extremely important to me and can certainly make or break my entire experience if they don’t feel right.

The last factor is the processing power of the machine as not only do I write a lot, but I also use my machines to produce videos as well as play games on a somewhat regular basis. I would like to have as fast as a machine as possible, but if there are other factors that make it a worthwhile Ultrabook, then I can easily overlook its lacking in power.

Technical Highlights

12.5″ HD IPS display with Touch Sensor 1366 x 768 (350 nit brightness)
Intel® Core i5 – 3317U (2.60 GHz, 3MB L3, 1600 MHz FSB) + Intel HD Graphics 4000 Mobile
4GB DDR3 RAM
Windows 8 Pro
128GB SSD
Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0, and a/b/g/n WLAN
2 USB 3.0, RJ45, 4-in-1 card reader, Mini-DP, Mini-HDMI
Built-in dual array microphone (combo jack)
312.42mm x 236.22mm x 20.32mm (12.3″ x 9.3″ x 0.8″)
1.41kg (3.48lbs)
4 Cell (43 Wh)
Official Specifications on Lenovo.com

Industrial Design

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)


The Lenovo ThinkPad Twist looks like every other ThinkPad in Lenovo’s stable of laptops as it’s covered in a black, slightly rubbery material. When closed, there’s a portion of the Ultrabook that sticks out which is the pivot location for the mechanism that allows the display to be able to twist. You can only twist the display in one direction, but the process of twisting is easy and requires very little to move the display, while at the same time being sturdy enough where it won’t move on its own.

Because of its twisting screen, the Twist’s screen includes a Windows button, volume buttons, a screen orientation lock and the Ultrabook’s power button. I wasn’t too fond of the location of the power button as it doesn’t seem to be in the most logical spot to be found, in my opinion. It took me a good three minutes before I realized where it was, which I feel is way too long to find a simple power button.

The outer rim of the display has a thin piece of plastic that seems to be oddly placed at first when the Ultrabook is used in its laptop mode, but its use becomes clear when the device is in tablet mode as it covers the extra bit of the Ultrabook’s base from protruding out. The location of the Twist’s speakers are also in a strange spot, which is directly underneath its display, but with the display being slightly raised, it doesn’t completely cover the speakers.

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)

Keyboard: I’ve always enjoyed the keyboards on Lenovo laptops, and this one isn’t much different from past models. The keys are smooth and have an extremely light texture to them where the letters, numbers and any other graphics are located on the keys. The keys have a nice spring to them after each key is pressed. Overall, the keys are really clicky and don’t seem to offer any sort of squishiness, and if it does, it’s extremely slight. The palm rests have the same texture covering the entire Ultrabook, which may turn those looking for a smooth surface off as it doesn’t allow your hands to slide as well as an aluminum surface. The edge of the palm rests are a bit sharp, but not to the point where they feel uncomfortable.

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)

The Twist’s trackpad features a slightly smoother texture than what is covering the Ultrabook and seems to be just the right size for the overall size of the Twist. Scrolling with the trackpad is easy as the Twist automatically continues your scroll when your fingers reach the edge of the trackpad. The bottom-right of the trackpad can be clicked to initiate a right-click, while the rest of the trackpad can either be tapped or clicked for left clicks.

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)

For long-time Lenovo users, the Twist does feature the company’s now iconic red TrackPoint, or its “eraser pointer” as many people may know it as. Using the TrackPoint in 2013 seems a bit strange, but we know there are many of you who prefer this method of controlling your mouse pointer. The TrackPoint feels as good as it always has with multiple speeds being achieved through the strength at which you tilt it. Three mouse buttons are located underneath the space bar, which we found to be a nice spot if you’re going to use the TrackPoint.

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)

The ports for can be found along the sides of the base of the Twist. The right side of the base is where the Ultrabook’s power adapter, USB 3.0 port and mini-DP are located, while the left side is where another USB 3.0 port is located as well as a mini-HDMI port, RJ-45, a 4-in-1 media card slot and an audio-out / microphone-in jack.

Display (good)

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)

The Lenovo ThinkPad Twist features a 12.5-inch display capable of a resolution of 1366 x 768 along with IPS technology. This means viewing angles are very good as we noticed no image degradation when viewing the display in multiple angles. Considering you’ll be twisting the display all over the place, this is a very good thing.

With a 350 nit brightness, the Twist’s display doesn’t offer the brightest screen as we felt comfortable using it indoors at around 80% – 90% of its full brightness. This means using the Twist outdoors would certainly be difficult when used on a sunny day.

A 12.5-inch display seems appropriate for this kind of Ultrabook, but a we think Lenovo could squeeze a few more inches in future models as much of the display’s bezel takes up a surprisingly large amount of real estate. For example, the bottom of the screen has a 2-inch bezel of just nothing before any logos or buttons.

Camera

The camera featured in the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist is a 720p HD Webcam. In our camera tests, we put it up against the MacBook Pro (mid-2010) which is equipped with an iSight camera.

Under the same daylight conditions, the ThinkPad Twist offers a nice image with its 720p HD Webcam as its colors aren’t too saturated. Although, compared to the MacBook Pro’s iSight camera, we noticed shadows in the Twist’s photos were a little bit darker and the image is slightly noisier than the MacBook Pro’s image.

In our low-light test, the ThinkPad Twist performed well in being able to produce an image with a nice amount of brightness and color considering the circumstances. The image the Twist produced was also less noisy than the mid-2010 MacBook Pro’s image, but it also wasn’t quite as bright as the MBP’s image. Ultimately, you’ll be visible by the camera in low-light situations, which is what we’re sure you’re hoping for when you’re conducting some late-night video chat sessions.

Performance (very good)

The Lenovo ThinkPad Twist wants to deliver an experience close to what you expect from Lenovo’s laptops, but in a re-imagined shell as you’ll be able to twist this Ultrabook in ways that can adapt to any situation you find yourself in. Thankfully, in their re-imagining of what a Windows 8 ultrabook can do, Lenovo didn’t skimp on the Twist’s internal specs.

One of the first benchmarks we like to run for PCs is PCMark 7 which is a  benchmark used in order to simulate real-world tasks such as opening applications, booting up your computer and doing some mild graphical tasks.

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)

In PCMark 7 benchmark, the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist did very well considering it’s an Ultrabook with a score of 4357. This is thanks to its powerful Intel Core i5 CPU clocked at 2.60GHz, which ultimately means you’ll experience a quick and responsive Ultrabook with a good majority of tasks you throw at it. Just remember to keep an eye on its RAM since 4GB might be good enough for the majority of people using this machine, but for heavy multitaskers, you might want to look into possibly improving its RAM quantity in the future.

The second benchmark we like to run on our test machines is 3D Mark 11, which is a benchmark that is more demanding as its primary focus is how well it’ll perform as a gaming machine.. And we’re not talking Facebook or Flash-based games here as those tend to not demand so much from a system, but instead, actual games like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or any other current-generation games.

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)

It seems in the world of Ultrabooks, the Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU seems to be the most popular as we’ve seen it in a number of devices over the past couple of months. Unfortunately, that means the ThinkPad Twist’s ability to produce game-performance graphics are very low as it scored a P547 on its 3D Mark 11 benchmark. If you’re expecting to play recent high-powered games on the ThinkPad Twist, you might want to reconsider why you’re thinking of buying this Ultrabook in the first place.

The final benchmark we like to run on our test machines is Geekbench, which isn’t a benchmark that tests the laptop with real-world applications, but instead squarely focuses on the CPU’s raw performance score by throwing mathematical equations at it that would probably take billions of years for the average person to solve.

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)

In our Geekbench benchmark, the ThinkPad Twist scored a 4851, making its raw CPU power right in the middle ground of other competing Ultrabooks. Its Intel Core i5 CPU is sandwiched right between the HP Envy 4 and the Samsung Series 9 (h2 2012).

Value for the weight, price

We know when purchasing any PC, people tend to look at its internal specs and purchase a computer based on what they currently need. One factor many overlook is its weight as more powerful portable computers will most likely be heavier than PCs that aren’t as powerful. That’s why we also like to look at a PCs performance relative to its weight so we can see if all of that power is worth you breaking your back over or if a PC’s weight isn’t worth its sub-par performance.

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)

We found in our value for its weight equation that the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist can be considered worth its weight when you factor in how much power you’ll be lugging around. Its Intel Core i5 CPU performs impressively in this 3.48lbs Ultrabook. When you factor in the ThinkPad Twist is able to morph itself into four different positions, that makes us think this is quite the adaptive Ultrabook.

Battery (good)

The ThinkPad Twist has some nice specs inside of it, which is why we were certainly curious how well it did in our battery tests, especially seeing how it has an Intel Core i5 inside of it. One of the first battery tests we ran on the Twist was its long-term battery test. This test is conducted by leaving the Ultrabook on with 50 percent of its screen’s brightness and Wi-Fi kept on, which resulted in its battery lasting a little over 5 hours.

Watching videos didn’t drain too much of the Twist’s battery life as we watched a 1080p video with 50 percent of the screen’s brightness for an hour, and the battery dropped a total of 24 percent. This means you can expect a total of around 4 hours of local video playback time. Watching 1080p streaming videos resulted in a battery drop of only 26 percent, which will give you 3.8 hours of online streaming video playback time.

Battery charge speed

We were impressed by how fast the Twist’s 4 Cell 43Wh battery charged from 0% – 100% as we noted it took a total of 1 hour and 45 minutes to get the Ultrabook to full charge. An Ultrabook that charges its battery under 2 hours, especially a 43Wh battery, is really an impressive feat and will result in you waiting a lot less for your Twist to get its full charge.

Conclusion (an overall good, adaptable Ultrabook)

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist Review (S230U)

The more Ultrabooks adopt something like the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist’s ability to adapt to nearly any situation, the better the market will be as we enjoyed being able to use it in one of its four modes. Its Laptop Mode will keep traditionalists happy, while its Stand, Tablet and Tent modes will offer you the perfect mode for a multitude of situations, although we still can’t find a reason to ever use the Twist in its Tent Mode that doesn’t involve just showing it off to your friends, although we’d certainly love to hear from our readers on their thoughts of the Twist’s Tent Mode uses.

One of the few things I wish was different in the ThinkPad Twist was its display. I felt that it didn’t impress enough with its screen size and its brightness as it was difficult to use when in direct sunlight. Its 12.5-inch display felt small, especially when the Twist features such a large bezel for its screen. Hopefully Lenovo might want to consider equipping a future Twist with a better screen.

If you’re a long-time Lenovo user, the Twist will come to feel second nature to you as its keyboard, trackpad and TrackPoint will feel familiar to you as well as the slightly rubberized material it’s made out of. It certainly doesn’t have the same flashy design as some ultrabooks have, but what it lacks in its flashiness, it more than makes up for in its performance and adaptability.

This article was filed in Homepage > Computers > Featured > Reviews and was tagged with Laptop Reviews, Lenovo, thinkpad and ultrabooks.
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