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Caption by: Sandra Vogel
The ThinkPad X100e represents quite a big step for Lenovo. Not only is the X100e the first ThinkPad with an AMD processor, but it also verges on netbook territory. It has the small form factor and absent optical drive of a netbook, but is more powerful and aimed squarely at business buyers. With prices starting at £360 (ex. VAT), it's an attractive proposition.
The 1.48kg ThinkPad X100e comes in black and red liveries, runs an AMD processor and costs from £360 (ex. VAT).
The X100e's chassis is solid and tough. Our review sample was black with a matte finish to the lid. Lenovo calls this Midnight Black; you can also opt for a Heatwave Red variant (see above) if you want to depart from ThinkPad tradition.
Measuring 28.2cm wide by 18.9cm deep by 3cm thick and weighing 1.48kg with a 6-cell battery, the ThinkPad X100e is small and light enough to carry around easily. There's no clasp to hold the lid and base sections together, but this isn't unusual and the hinge mechanism is quite robust. The two buttons beneath the touchpad are right on the edge of the casing and could be tugged at when the lid is lifted, or pushed around by the contents of your bag in transit. You'll want a carrying pouch to ensure the notebook is fully protected.
The screen is superb. Measuring 11.6in. across the diagonal, it has an anti-glare finish and is matte rather than reflective. Its 1,366-by-768-pixel resolution is excellent for this form factor, and we had no problem working on two document windows side by side.
The keyboard is excellent and Lenovo has thought carefully about how to maximise the available space. Keys are isolated, which makes them easy to find when typing at speed. They have straight edges on their upper, left and right sides, and a slightly curved bottom edge. This has absolutely no effect at all on usability, but it does make the keyboard look distinctive.
The X100e continues the ThinkPad tradition of keyboard excellence, making full use of the available space.
Another design effect is a slight curvature of the G, H and B keys around the TrackPoint, making it comfortable to prod at this with a fingertip.
To maximise the available keyboard space Lenovo has removed some 'rarely used' keys. SysReq, for example, is gone, along with Scroll Lock and Pause/Break. Thankfully PrtSc remains, and Lenovo has found room for a row of half-sized keys offering the Fn (1-12), Insert, Delete, Home and End keys. If we can find any fault at all it's that PgUp and PgDn are buttons rather than keys, and are lodged rather awkwardly alongside the inverted-T cluster of cursor controls. That aside, we really like the X100e's keyboard layout.
The TrackPoint is accompanied by a pair of mouse buttons and a scroll key sitting above the touchpad. A second set of mouse buttons as already noted, sit below the touchpad. There are scroll zones on the right and bottom edges of the touchpad, and you can pinch to zoom, which can be useful when web browsing.
There is a webcam above the screen, with camera management software available via a Fn key combination. There's also a copy of Skype ready to be installed if required.
As already noted, the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e runs an AMD processor — the Athlon Neo X2 Single Core MV-40 running at 1.6GHz to be precise. This, along with the ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics chipset, constitutes AMD's Vision Pro technology, giving the ThinkPad X100e more muscle than you'd normally expect from a netbook. It comes with 2GB of RAM, which also helps move things along. We found that applications opened in Windows 7 Professional quickly, and had no problems watching video streamed over the internet or via a USB stick or SD card.
All three currently available iterations of this notebook share the same processor, graphics chipset and 2GB of RAM. You can specify a 160GB or 250GB hard drive, while the most expensive model, which costs £407 (ex. VAT), also includes support for mobile broadband (not configured in our review sample).
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) and Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) is integrated on all models, along with wired Gigabit Ethernet.
There are three USB 2.0 ports (two nestled closely together on the left, one on the right), a combined headphone/microphone socket on the left, towards the front, with a RJ-45 (Ethernet) connector just behind it. On the right edge is a reader for SD and compatible cards. A little niggle here is that SD cards sit about halfway into the slot, which never seems as secure as when they slot all the way in. The back edge houses the power input and a VGA port for an external monitor. There is no optical drive.
Performance & battery life
The X100e's Windows Experience Index (WEI) of 3.1 (out of 7.9) is disappointing. The overall rating corresponds to the lowest-scoring subsystem, which in this case went to Processor (calculations per second). Although AMD's Athlon Neo X2 Single Core MV-40 feels speedy when compared to netbook processors, it's no match for dual-core competitors.
Another low score, of 3.5, went to Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero). Thereafter, scores become more respectable: 4.9 for both RAM (Memory operations per second) and Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance), and an impressive 5.9 for Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate).
Lenovo's Power Manager utility gives you plenty of options to manage the trade-off between performance and battery life.
The provided 6-cell battery protrudes a couple of centimetres from the back of the chassis, and is rated for five hours of life. Lenovo provides its own Power Manager utility, with several preset power plans. One, Maximum Battery Life, dims the screen to the point where it's impossible to see, rendering it useless for any screen-based activities. We opted for the Power Source Optimised scheme, plus the Maximum Lifespan battery management mode (which is the out-of-the-box setting).
With Wi-Fi on, we set the ThinkPad X100e to play video from an SD card for as long as possible, which it managed for just under three hours. That's not great, and in practice you're unlikely to be able to put in an average working day on battery power alone.
We noticed that the underside of the X100e got a little warm after a while, which might preclude its use on the lap for extended periods. The underside vents that accompany the one on the left-hand side may be partly responsible.
The ThinkPad X100e isn't a netbook, but it does share netbook characteristics such as a small screen, lack of optical drive and limited range of connectors. The X100e's Athlon processor gives it superior performance to a netbook, but battery life could be better.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel