Lenovo ThinkPad x100e Notebook
Review by Daniel P. Dern
Lenovo ISBN/ITEM#: LenovoThinkPad
Date: 08 December 2010
Lenovo's ThinkPad x100e isn't the smallest, or least or most expensive notebook or netbook I've tried over the past year or so. But it's on the very short list of machines I'd consider spending my own money on, for my own use and productivity.
The dimensions are 11.1" x 7.4 (3-cell version)/8.2" (6-cell version) x 0.6" (thinnest) to 1.5" (thickest). With the six-cell higher-capacity battery, it seem bigger than it really is; the machine proper is less than half an inch greater in length or width than the HP's Mini 5102 netbook I recently tried (see my TechRevu write-up, now replaced by similar-sized 5103).
MSRP pricing as of December 7, 2010 starts at $594 for the regular model, which has a AMD Athlon Neo Single-Core MV-40 CPU and 160GB hard drive, or $694 for the Elite model, which has a AMD Turion Neo X2 Dual-Core L625 CPU and 250GB -- with today's sale prices about $200 off. (Both base price systems come with Windows 7 Home Premium 32 and 1GB RAM.) Going to Windows 7 Professional 32 adds another $25; going from 1GB of RAM (via Lenovo) to 2, 3 or 4 adds $45, $85 or $125 respectively. I advise at least the OS upgrade and 2GB RAM -- and more RAM always pays off in performance.
The ThinkPad x100e delivers a lot more and better than the HP Mini 5102 that I tried (which, to be fair, came underconfigured with Windows 7 Starter, an inadequate 1GB of RAM and low-capacity battery). (Sadly, the 5102's successor, the HP Mini 5103, only offers Windows 7 upgrade to Home Premium 32, not professional, and only up to 2GB of RAM. Humph!)
ThinkPad is Lenovo's business line, so it's not surprising that it might cost a little more than some other seemingly-similar machines (or not, depending on what other machine), nor that its features are weighted towards productivity rather than entertainment. ThinkVantage Technologies that Lenovo includes in the x100e include
My loaner unit's specs: AMD Turion Neo X2 Dual Core L625 CPU, with 2GB RAM, 250GB hard drive, running 32-bit Windows 7 Professional.
The display is nicely bright -- good enough for watching Internet streamed TV, like an episode or two of shows I missed. Another nice and sadly unusual design note: the display opens almost all the way flat, probably about 160o (I can't find a protractor to measure more precisely), whereas far too many small machines these days go much beyond about 120o.
The hard drive is reasonably insensitive to vibration. For example, using the x100e while on the Amtrak Acela train from Boston to New York, there was a lot of shaking, but the machine kept on working. (Compared, say, to the Toshiba Mini NB305 netbook that I tried I and reviewed recently, whose hard drive protection would park the drive head if the machine was moved even slightly and gently.
On this same train trip, the ThinkPad x100e's display wobbled a lot -- a good test of how durable the display hinges are...
The keyboard -- like every ThinkPad key board I've tried -- is a joy to use. The keys are not quiet as beveled as some ThinkPads', but they have a better feel than an flat keys I've used. The keyboard space is big enough to accommodate arrow-keys in the bottom right, along with Page Up/Down, and Insert/Delete/Home/End top right to the side of the dozen F1 through F12 keys. The POWER button is at the upper right, covered when the display is shut, avoiding the classic design error (still being done elsewhere) of having the power button on the outside, where it can be unintentionally pushed.
The ThinkPad 100e has enough ports -- 3 USB ports (1 powered), a 4-in-1 media card reader (e.g., for SD), VGA, Gigabite Ethernet, and HD audio; and 802.11bgn WiFI
Physically, the Lenovo ThinkPad x100e is reassuringly solid. Yes, that also means a carry weight of a little over three pounds -- closer to three and a half including a power supply and a lightweight skin/case. That can put it on the ragged edge of something you'd carry around without a second thought.
I've been carrying this one in a CaseLogic sleeve, for basic bump'n'scratch protection, which in turn gets put into whatever pack or bag I'm using at the moment. There's just room in the sleeve's zipper compartment for an AC adapter -- I've been using a Targus Premium Laptop Charger, which compactly folds the AC prong into the Blackberry-size device -- along with a spare iPhone/USB cable (for tethering and synching), and that's all it needs.
(For travel, I'd separately add a travel mini-mouse, a just-in-case Ethernet cable, and a small power strip like a Monster Outlets To Go, plus the inevitable USB adapter or two, and perhaps a $50-$60 external USB optical drive -- like the Lite-On eTAU208 USB External Optical Drive.)
This x100e has had an extensive work-out. It's gone not just to the dining room, library, dentist's and doctor's offices, but also on a handful of train and plane flights, been packed into an overstuffed backpack (never as checked luggage) and bopping around on a two-week trip, and I have not had any serious problems -- I don't recall a single Blue Screen of Death or other glitches. The closest has been inexplicably needing to re-enable WiFi at the BIOS level, per Lenovo's Access Connections guidance -- not hard, but I shouldn't have needed to do this. (And how much of this is Lenovo software, how much is Windows, I can't tell.)
Performance on this machine is quite good -- no complaints! The CPU meter on the Windows 7 widgit (gadget) stays generally in the 10-30%, RAM hovers under 50%... far better than the last batch of netbooks I tried, which, admittedly, had only 1GB of RAM.
Battery life has consistently been five to six hours of work on a full charge -- Word, web browsing and running Pandora radio with WiFi, and other apps. A solid-state drive might stretch that even further.
This machine is very good about "waking up" fast from my having left shutting the display and leaving it alone for an hour -- a useful trait for a machine that's used on the go!
"Tethering" to my iPhone (for Internet connectivity), using the iPhone-to-USB cable, works perfectly; both devices knew exactly what to do. Latency and throughput with either tethering or many WiFi hot spots varies from OK to less-than-OK; however, this is not Lenovo's fault, or even Windows'; it's the added network hops and proxying.
If you're looking for a machine in this size, weight and display-size class, I recommend a ThinkPad x100e unhesitatingly. Go for Windows 7 Professional, get at least two GB of RAM, and you'll have a useful machine, at a good price.
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