The Lenovo ThinkPad X100e is a sturdy and reasonably quick business laptop that's very comfortable to use, comfortable to use and live with. But is it a netbook or an ultraportable?
Here's one of those laptops that defies easy categorisation. The Lenovo ThinkPad X100e certainly has the air of an ultraportable about it. For the sake of argument though, we're going to call it a netbook.
Why? The Lenovo ThinkPad X100e's screen is less than 12in, it runs a relatively slow single-core processor, it weighs just 1.5kg, and can be found on sale for under £400.
But set against other netbooks, the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e is actually a big fish in the (now not so small) netbook pond. Big in size, with that larger-than-10in screen - in fact, it's a 1366x768 high-resolution 11.6in display - and relatively big in performance, as it uses an AMD processor that will show any Intel Atom a clean pair of heels.
That ‘air of ultraportable' stems from the high build quality and sober executive looks. As a ThinkPad from the Lenovo, née IBM, stable the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e is very much a business-oriented laptop. In the centre of the keyboard is a rubber-nipple trackpoint, supplemented by a more universal trackpad in the usual sub-keyboard position.
Between keyboard and trackpad sit extra left and right click buttons for the old-school trackpoint hold-outs, colour-coded with red stripes to match the central scarlet button.
Even if you don't need the IBM-style pointer, the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e deserves respect for its lovely deep-travel trackpad buttons. Mounted on the very edge of the case, they're an ergonomic joy to use if you're used to tapping with your thumb's edge.
We appreciated the restful anti-glare screen too. The ‘HD-ready' resolution means you won't feel as hemmed in as you would on the predominant sub-XGA screens squeezed into most netbooks.
Best of all in terms of interface elements on the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e, is its stunning keyboard. It's a variation on the Scrabble-piece theme (often erroneously referred to as ‘chiclet'), only with the individual keys featuring a hint of concave scalloping on top; and they're not entirely square with their bowed fronts.
And importantly, there's effectively no flex to the top deck, leaving the keyboard firm and unyielding to even heavy-hitting typists.
The soft but smooth action makes typing a pleasure, aided by the generous overall sizing, at 265mm edge to edge, essentially the same as a regular desktop keyboard.
Lenovo has opted for AMD silicon throughout, fitting an Athlon Neo MV-40 single-core processor running at 1.6GHz, and backed up by an ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics chip. The result is more performance than you'd find from the union of Intel Atom with Intel integrated graphics - but at the unwelcome expense of greater power demands.
So despite the hefty 57Wh-rated six-cell power pack which juts out the back of this Lenovo ThinkPad X100e, expect only half the battery life compared to laptops using modern Intel silicon. We logged just under 3.75 hours (222 mins) in MobileMark 2007 Productivity.
And despite taking a graphics chip from one of the world's two specialists, we saw gaming performance that barely matched Intel's fastest integrated solution.
Our standard graphics reference for laptops starts with FEAR at Maximum quality settings. Here we saw 6 frames per second - about level with a typical Intel GMA 4500M HD setup. By dropping quality settings to Medium, we found a playable 27fps was available; and a notch further down to Low suddenly saw a stellar 103fps.
In WorldBench 6, the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e scored 54 points; compare that to an Atom netbook running Windows 7, which gets around 30 points.
Other running gear closely matches a typical netbook, with three USB 2.0, analogue-only VGA video output, (gigabit) ethernet and an SD card slot. Wireless is up-to-date 802.11n, and Bluetooth is the latest 2.1 with Enhanced Data Rate.
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