Before I start few things to keep in mind
this guide is a general guide to get to know more/buy a x230, its designed for someone who doesn’t have too much money to spend and want to get an excellent computers for the price or a secondary computer. I am going to assume if you are looking at an x230 you know a few things about computers so won’t go into too much detail.
More info will be added
if i have any misinformation, correct me
Why X230 over the X220?
This is a very popular question “which is better” will depend on your priority and what you intend to do with your computer.
HD 4000 is 2X faster than HD 3000 and supports newer APIs.
Much more power efferent, so fans will spin less, better battery life, lower temps
IPC is better (I5 X230 will have same/ better CPU performance than the i7 x220)
native USB 3 support, Only the i7 X220 have USB 3 but not native it uses NEC/Renesas USB 3.0 controller chip.
Can go up to 1.35v 2133mhz/ 2400 MHz at 1.35 or 1.5v
-x230 can drive 2 external screens + internal, X220 can’t.
X230 officially supports windows 10
Why people choose the X220 over X230?
Unlocked BIOS (so no WIFI and battery whitelist) -Unlocking the BIOS on the X230 is a pain but doable with a 5$ pi zero and 5$ clip.
Keyboard( I like the x230 keyboard better but if you do a bit of leg work, you can get the X220 keyboard in the x230)
T430/t530 vs X230
T and X class are designed for different audience
Advantage of X230
Weight less x230 1.34 kg/ 2.96 pounds, t430 weighs 5 pounds, t530 weight 5.3 pounds.
Better battery life
Lower res screen will be less noticeable with smaller display.
No need for adapter to upgrade to IPS display
Advantage of T430/ t530
Can have Higher res screen(up to 1600×900)
CPU is socketed so changeable to much more powerful CPU. ( quadcore i7s are possible)
More drive bay, 3 if you are willing to sacrifice CD drive.
Why I choose the X230?
Cheap, small, reliable, portable computer. I have a 2 computer setup, my MacBook pro 15 inch retina died so I jumped ship to this. I also like windows and not a fan of OSX, also love the thicc design. For intensive programs and games I have a desktop, to me a laptop is more for portability and light productivity so things like writing Labs, light solidworks, some circuit design in kicad ( long as you keep your expectations in check. ) and of course general browsing like YouTube , social media. Performance is overall impressive for the size and price, this thing doesn’t throttle even under full load.
excellent battery life (with 9 cell)
good enough 3d performance( can do simple ki cad and solidworks)
doesn’t throttle under full load and doesn’t cause discomfort when used in lap.
battery is changeable easily, multiple battery can be used when on the go.
**Which configuration? **
I7s are more expressive and rarer, this is due to X230 being a very popular business laptop. Most business go for the sweet spot, a mid tier X230 with i5 3320m and 8GB ram and 320GB HDD.
Locked BIOS/ whitelisted X230
Don’t buy a X230 with password locked BIOS, avoid these unless you know what your doing.
Use a Ebay service that gives you instruction to unlock the BIOS
Get a new BIOS chip
Why password locked?
it could be stolen
most likely scenario, it was sold off in bulk and the company forgot to remove the password on it.
Price? I got mine for 155$ ( 115 usd) with 20 cad shipping. Its an i5 3320m, 8GB ram, TN, 2 batteries( can hold 2 to 3 hour each, 6 cell battery) I would say 80 – 250USD would be a fair price, depending on the config and condition, don’t overpay and bid in auctions. Password locked ones will be cheaper but avoid those.
X230i- entry model only i3s ( I would avoid this)
Touch and pen ( this variant is called multi) glossy screen
X230T does not support 9 cell batteries and non-ultrabase docks
Pen input only, X230T non touch model has a matte screen,
X200/X201 ultrabase can charge X230T (and X201/X200) batteries with its integrated charger (might work with more thinkpads)
X230- normal X230 with i5 or i7 3rd gen.
-X230 does support 4g or LTE modem cards in some regions.
Ram– Minimum 8GB ram duel channel or 16 gb if you can 1600mhz seems like the sweet spot for price and performance. This computer supports up to 16 GB ram.
The Memory Controller inside of an Ivy-Bridge mobile CPU can support DDR3 (1.5V) and DDR3L (1.35V) up to 2600MHz (fastest available sticks are 2133MHz). This can be checked using HWiNFO if you are curious and the pics linked below are from my T430:
Storage is a bit strange since the Msata port is limited to 3Gb/s
don’t use the Msata and get a 256 or 512GB ssd
get a 120 or 256 GB msata SSD with a large HDD for mass storage
I5 vs i7 battery life- looking at what others are saying in windows 10 its around 8 to 10%, this is with the 9 cell.
With a new(OEM) battery, you can get around 10 to 12 hours in Windows 10 using battery saving mode.
I suggest buying a new one if you can but used Ebay ones will work, make sure they are compatible. Keep in mind the Ebay batteries will be lower quality so keep your expectations in check.
X230 has a battery whitelist so any battery won’t work with it, get one that’s compatible (ask the sellers).
Without BIOS tweak these are the only WIFI card that will work, so get the best one you can.
-60Y3233 — Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6300 WLAN — 802.11a/b/g/n
-60Y3247 — Wireless LAN Mini-PCI E420/E425 — 802.11b/g/n
-60Y3249 — Wireless LAN Mini-PCI E420/E425 — 802.11b/g/n
-60Y3253 — Intel Centrino N-6205 Wifi Card — 802.11a/b/g/n
-6250 can go up to 350 mbs but 300-330 is more realistic speed
-N2200 is glitchy from what I read online.
N6205 has issues also,
more info – https://www.bios-mods.com/forum/Thread-Guide-Whitelist-remove-for-2014-Lenovo-thinkpad
Do your research, you could brick your computer.
What is custom BIOS? this is different from supervisor password- It’s a molded BIOS that lets you use any battery that fits with the X230 and any wifi card and many more features. Is it worth it? That will depend on you.
-pre-built coreboot image- https://github.com/0xbb/coreboot-x230 Skulls pre-built coreboot img – https://github.com/merge/skulls/ [coreboot]
Coreboot on X230 and Dualboot / How to make it work- https://mail.coreboot.org/pipermail/coreboot/2017-September/085214.html
-Core boot power usage – http://tjheeta.github.io/2018/07/15/thinkpad-x230-coreboot-power-usage/
-Guide – https://www.lugs.ch/lib/vortraege/x230_coreboot_neuted_me.pdf
3 different options available
Straight IPS screen, just plug and play consume more power around 15% or so more so keep that mind.
Most popular one is Nitrocast X220/X230 FHD mod made by u/nitrocaster. Read everything before doing this.
-1080p Mod- needs soldering
-this has 2 option, a 12.5 inch and 13 inch XPS 13 screen (its bezel less and looks really nice, but will weaker structural integrity)
-1440p XPS 13screen Mod- needs soldering
Macbook speaker in X230
You have to hack up the bottom panel by removing two standoffs for the palmrest, and you need to trim the trackpad support, but the speakers do fit without issue.
You can see it is so much more linear even without EQ, I still need to properly configure the phase and add more foam tape to dampen vibrations, but even without those tweaks I’m so happy I won’t even bother until the next time I open the machine.
The speaker is for the A1534 12″ MacBook and you can find them for less than $20 on AliExpress or probably even locally on eBay.
My tips, I use windows 10 so its tailored to that.
I suggest using firefox and getting chrome as a backup browser( its friendlier to your battery)
Get h264ify, it’s a browser that makes all youtube videos use H264 codec. Without this normally YouTube videos will use Vp9 a Opensource codec google made, most modern CPUs have hardware decoding for this. I5 3320m doesn’t that’s why it will use the CPU to decode and waste battery life.
-Get Ublock origin, an open source advert blocker.
-For security use windows defender and common sense.
Window 10 runs like a champ on this
**Some tweaks and tips **
-Download think vantage for all the drivers
-Download GFX drivers from Intel, DDU before installing new drivers.
-DDU link – https://www.guru3d.com/files-details/display-driver-uninstaller-download.html
-Manually download drivers if vantage doesn’t pick everything up
-I suggest turning off things like Cortana
-Go to privacy and make sure you don’t share info
-Optimize update, make sure you only update from Microsoft
-I suggest Firefox as the main Brower, VLC to play any kind of media.
-If you want bit more screen hides the taskbar
-Use full range in intel GFX settings, without this the display looks really bad.
-Use Powersaver when on the go to get the best battery life, use performance mode when plugged in.
-Turn off background apps
-Turn off gaming mode
-Use intel G