Lenovo's ThinkPad X260 might be the ideal travel companion for serious workers. The 12.5-inch notebook offers fast performance, an excellent keyboard, and a durable, lightweight design — all in a package that starts at a relatively affordable $763. But business travelers will be most impressed by the system's truly epic 17-hour battery life, which is longer than that of any other notebook we've ever tested.
The ThinkPad X260 is the most compact system in the ThinkPad line, which is a perk for commuters who need to lug their laptop back and forth between home and the office. The system's small footprint measures 12 x 8.2 inches, and it's 0.8 inches thick.
At 3.2 lbs., the ThinkPad X260 is light enough that it won't weigh you down when you're carrying it in your work bag. But to get the most out of this laptop, you'll want the extended battery, which boosts the system's weight up to 3.6 lbs. That's still on a par with the 3.6-lb. Dell Latitude E7270 and not much heavier than the 3.4-lb. HP EliteBook 745 G3 — and each of those laptops lasts only about half as long on a charge as the extended-battery-equipped ThinkPad X260.
Travelers and commuters will also appreciate the system's tough design. Lenovo says the X260 has military-grade durability and was designed to withstand short drops and dings, as well as extreme temperatures, shocks and vibrations. The glass-fiber-reinforced lid and keyboard deck feel extremely rigid and sturdy.
The ThinkPad X260 includes just about all of the ports a worker could want. The left edge hosts an HDMI-out port and mini-DisplayPort jacks for connecting to larger monitors and projectors; two USB 3.0 ports for hooking up accessories; and a smart-card reader for added security.
The right edge adds an Ethernet port for connecting to wired Internet and secure work networks; an SD card reader for expanding the system's internal storage; and a third USB 3.0 port.
The ThinkPad X260's excellent lineup of security features makes it easy to keep your work data locked down. For starters, a fingerprint scanner located along the keyboard's right edge makes it easy to lock and unlock the device.
Unfortunately, the X260 sports an older style of fingerprint scanner that requires you to slowly slide your finger over the sensor. It works, but it sometimes failed to recognize my print on the first swipe. Single-touch sensors — like the ones on models such as the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the ThinkPad T460s — are more reliable.
You also get hardware encryption, thanks to a built-in Trusted Platform Module that comes standard on all X260 configurations.
Workers in corporate environments will benefit from the vPro technology included in models with Core i5-6300U processors or better. vPro is an umbrella term that includes a number of security features, including the ability for IT departments to remotely manage and track your system in a secure fashion.
Finally, buyers have the option to add a smart-card reader to the X260 at checkout, which lets you unlock your laptop with a physical key card.
The X260's compact 12.5-inch display can already feel cramped for screen-intensive productivity tasks, and the issue is compounded by the low resolution of the X260's entry-level display. Our review unit came with the 1366 x 768-pixel starter screen, which felt crowded during split-screen multitasking, and looked generally dull.
Fortunately, Lenovo offers a much nicer 1920 x 1080-pixel IPS display as a $150 upgrade. The option isn't just a no-brainer; it's mandatory for anyone who hopes to do serious work on the X260, in my opinion.
Either way, the X260 provides a nice anti-glare matte coating on the screen, which works well for warding off reflections from windows and overhead office lights.
The X260's keyboard feels very good, even for marathon typing sessions. You get a well-spaced layout with a generous 1.6 millimeters of key travel on each stroke, which tops the 1.5 mm we look for in a laptop keyboard. Deeper keys are almost always preferred because they provide a more comfortable, desktop-like typing experience. Laptops in Lenovo's ThinkPad T line, such as the ThinkPad T460, offer even better key travel, but they aren't as compact as the X260.
The X260's keys also have a sculpted shape that makes them easy to navigate by touch. Moreover, the system's keyboard backlighting comes in handy for typing in low light.
In addition to the standard 3.4 x 2.1-inch touchpad, you get the red TrackPoint pointing nub positioned between the B, H and G keys. The nub, which comes standard on all ThinkPad models, lets you precisely control the mouse cursor without moving your hands from the keyboard's home row.
The X260 provides swift performance for serious work. The unit we reviewed came with a speedy 6th-generation Intel Core i5-6300U processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage. That configuration proved nice and speedy, blowing through daily work tasks without a hint of lag.
The X260 also racked up an impressive score of 6,424 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That trounces the category average of 4,984, and it also beats the HP EliteBook 745 G3's score of 5,494.
The X260 performed equally well on our spreadsheet test, matching 20,000 names to their addresses in just 4 minutes and 12 seconds. That handily beats the category average of 7 minutes and 5 seconds.
The ThinkPad X260 really impresses on the battery front. In fact, it outlasted every other laptop we've ever tested, at least with its extended battery attached. The system ran for an epic 17 hours and 14 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. That doubles the ultraportable laptop average of 8 hours and 12 minutes, and blows away rival machines like the Dell Latitude E7270 (8:02) and the HP EliteBook 745 G3 (5:54).
Keep in mind that the extended battery adds about a half pound to the X260's 3.2-lb. body, for a total weight of roughly 3.6 lbs. With the standard battery attached, the system has an average runtime of 8 hours and 16 minutes. Commuters who don't need superlong battery life might want to forgo the extended battery, which costs $15 more than the standard battery.
Notice that the extended battery actually sticks out a bit, propping up the back end of the X260 a bit. It doesn't affect normal usage and, in my opinion, actually improves the typing experience by positioning the keyboard at a comfortable angle.
Lenovo sells the ThinkPad X260 in a range of hardware configurations. The baseline model offers an Intel Core i3-6100U processor with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and a low-res 1366 x 768-pixel display. It costs $764.
Our review model includes a more powerful Core i5-6300U processor with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of speedy SSD storage and the same 1366 x 768-pixel display. It costs $1,160.
That's a decent sweet spot for the average worker, but we strongly recommend paying an extra $150 to upgrade to the higher-res 1920 x 1080-pixel display. The better resolution will make multitasking on the X260's small display much more feasible.
Business travelers almost couldn't ask for a better productivity companion than Lenovo's ThinkPad X260. The system is compact and light enough to carry with you anywhere, and its superlong battery life means you can work away from a power outlet for days at a time. And it's a well-rounded laptop in most other respects, with a very good keyboard, a durable design, strong security and good performance. Just don't forget to upgrade to the 1080p display at checkout.
On the other hand, the 14-inch ThinkPad T460's larger display feels more comfortable for serious productivity, and its keyboard is best-in-class. But buyers who want the best combination of portability and power can't go wrong with the ThinkPad X260.