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Lenovo ThinkPad X100e review – budget ultraportable at its best

By Andrei Girbea - @ andreigirbea , updated on November 8, 2013

Ever since i can remember, I’ve been a fan of sober classy laptops and the old IBM ThinkPads were the standard for me many years ago. The ThinkPads are now in Lenovo’s back yard, and they’re still impressive in terms of construction and build quality.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X100e is not a new device, I’ve had a post about the single-core AMD powered version before. However, there’s a new one in town, this time with Dual-core processor and better battery life, one that can easily grab the title King of affordable ultra-portable mini notebooks.

As you might know, the Lenovo X100e is an 11.6 incher, so right in the class providing the perfect balance between power and mobility. It is also powered by a dual-core AMD processor, so that means it will bring good power for the money. But better read the lines below to see why this particular mini laptop is such a recommended product.

Design and build quality

Sober looks, meant for business

Sober looks, meant for business

Well, the x100e is a ThinkPad, and that kind of says it all. The brand ThinkPad instantly makes you think of a business laptop, with a sober design and top notch build quality. And that is the case here also: you get the nicely build body, matte and in black or red, without anything glossy, rounded or sparkling, just like a computer should be. Under the lid there are the same matte materials and solid construction, with special attention given to details. So there’s actually nothing else you would want from the X100e in terms of design, expect perhaps a metallic body like on the bigger X200 series.

Keyboard and trackpad

If there is a better keyboard+trackpad combo to be found on a mini laptop than the one on the Toshibas, it definitely is this one on ThinkPads. First, you get a chiclet keyboard with keys slightly rounded towards the bottom and slightly concave on top, not square and flat like on other devices. This in fact makes them very comfortable to use. They are proper sized and space and provide very nice feedback, without that disturbing click-clank noise when typing. Unfortunately, CTRL and FN keys are swapped on the left, and that’s something that really bugs me, as i tend to use that CTRL key a lot.

Chiclet style keyboard and trackpad+trackball - some of the best in its class

Chiclet style keyboard and trackpad+trackball – some of the best in its class

Then, there’s the multi-touch trackpad with individual click buttons and the characteristic ThinkPad trackball, which is a jewel once you get used to it. Might seem rather cramped, but remember this is an 11.6 inch computer, and is very accurate and snappy. Also, notice that you also have click buttons above touchpad and this is the standard design for ThinkPads, ideal for those using that trackball a lot.

Display

The screen on the X100e Lenovo is very much similar to the one on all the other 11.6 inchers on the market, with 1366 x 768 px resolution and fair viewing angles. However, this one is matte, and that we don’t see everyday. Yey! It’s also nice that you can lean it all the way back, almost to 180 degrees.

Performance

Like I’ve said, there’s an AMD platform on this device. You might not be impressed by it, as it comes with the previous generation ULV platform from AMD, and not the new AMD Nile. Still, there’s the dual-core AMD Turion Neo X2 L625 (clocked at 1.6 GHz), 2 GB DDR2 memory and ATI HD 3200 graphics.

These allow good everyday performance, including multitasking in Windows 7 easily. Of course, the computer ain’t as fast as those Intel Core iX configs, but it ain’t sluggish either. Graphics are decent and this x100e can play HD content (except for 1080p Flash) and might even face some games, as it scores around 1600 points in 3DMark. Still, this ain’t a gaming and not even a multimedia device, so don’t expect wonders.

Other stuff

Speakers on this Lenovo are within the average, providing decent quality and good volume, although they do distort when turning volume towards red.

Connectivityis OK too. You do get Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth, but none of the fancy novelties, like Bluetooth 2.1 or USB 3.0. In fact, you won’t even get HDMI, as this is a business laptop and not a multimedia one. Still, that last one would have been great.

Lenovo X100e ThinkPad with dual core AMD is combines aesthetics, power and a good price

Lenovo X100e ThinkPad with dual core AMD is combines aesthetics, power and a good price

The previous x100e, the one with single-core AMD processors, had one huge flaw: heat. It turned really hot on the bottom, so using it on your lap was for sure out of the question. This new version, despite having a powerful CPU with theoretically should heat more, is slightly better. Temperatures have dropped a bit, but not by much, as the back still gets uncomfortable warm. But as long as you’ll keep the computer on the desk, you should be fine.

Of course, this also comes with some noise problems: fan is almost all of the time active, and while not incredibly noisy, you will hear it when using the mini laptop in quieter conditions.

Battery Life

There’s a 6 Cell 63 Wh battery on this Lenovo x100e and that’s as big as you can get on such compact machines. In terms of aesthetics, it kind of stick out in the back and is not fully integrated with the rest of the body, but that should not bother your, right?

In terms of performance, you should expect 4 to 6 hours of life out of it. In everyday activities, including browsing with Balanced mode selected and screen dimmed to 60-70%, writing and listening to music, you should get around 4.5 – 5 hours on a single charge, and that’s decent, considering there’s an AMD platform inside and not even the latest generation one. And it’s 1 hours better than you could get from the single core x100e version. Of course, you do get better from competitors, but they are not as powerful (10 inch netbooks) or way more expensive (11.6 and 12 inchers with Intel’s Arrandale ULV).

Price and where to buy

Speaking of prices, if the single core version ThinkPad x100e is available in stores for $449 these days (with a 50 bucks discount), this particular one we tested here will sell for around $550.

For the extra hundred bucks you won’t just get better performance, but also better battery life and some minor tweaks in terms of noise and heat. Are they worth it? I’d say yes, especially because of that dual-core processor inside.

As a conclusion

In the end, the new Lenovo X100e with AMD dual-core inside is a big improvement over the single core version. It keeps the good parts, including construction, chassis and keyboard, but takes performance, autonomy and heat/noise to another level. That makes it a desired product, especially since it is decently priced below 600 bucks. In fact, it was so appreciated by the guys at Notebookreview.com, that they gave it an Editor’s Choice Award .

I’m not sure I would go that far, the device is good, but not that good. You will find better options with Intel inside, able to act faster, provide longer battery life and work cooler. Plus, I’d like to see a version boosting an AMD Nile dual-core configuration, which should make it even faster and a lot cooler.

Still, the Lenovo ThinkPad x100e manages to get right in that hot-spot, providing a good balance between looks, performance and price, and for this it might be preferred by many of you. And for good reason, it is a worthy ultra-portable notebook.

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Andrei Girbea, aka "Mike", Editor-in-Chief at TLBHD.com. I absolutely hate carrying around heavy stuff, that's why I'm fond of mini-laptops and portable computers. I'm primarily using such devices and have been testing them for many years now. Get in touch in the comments section below.

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