A netbook that thinks it’s an ultraportable. Or is it an ultraportable that thinks it’s a netbook?
The Lenovo ThinkPad X100e suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Lenovo calls the notebook an entry-level “ultraportable,” but the X100e’s diminutive 11.6-inch display and 3.3-pound weight scream netbook. Depending on how you configure it, the scales can tip either way.
Our configure-to-order unit came with a 1.6GHz AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 single-core processor, 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, an ATI Radeon HD3200 GPU, and a 320GB 5,400rpm hard drive. Like many netbooks, the X100e lacks an integrated optical drive. As a netbook, these are some powerful specs; as an ultraportable, the hardware is underwhelming. The $585 price tag lands it smack in the nowhere land between the two (prices for the X100e start at $450).
Lenovo's ThinkPad X100e is both stylish and sturdy.
The X100e has a hard plastic shell, which comes in either an intimidating “Midnight Black” or stylish “Heatwave Red.” Regardless of the color, the notebook has a sturdy feel to it that should put road warriors at ease. The chiclet keyboard feels a bit cramped, but the keys have good travel and they don’t suffer from significant flexing. As an added bonus, Lenovo claims that the keyboard is spill resistant. The three-inch touchpad supports multitouch gestures, and the X100e also includes Lenovo’s ubiquitous (and redundant) TrackPoint pointing stick.
This isn’t the first time we’ve scratched our heads wondering whether to call a system a netbook or an ultraportable. We had this very conundrum just a few weeks ago when we looked at the $500 Asus Eee 1215N [[http://www.maximumpc.com/article/reviews/asus_eee_1215n_review]], which also sports an 11.6-inch display. We ultimately regarded the 1215N as a netbook and tested it as such; so we ran the X100e through the same set of tests.
The X100e fared almost 18-percent better than the zero-point config on our MainConcept test. Although waiting 213 minutes (that’s more than three and a half hours) for the task to complete was rather painful. The 1215N zipped through that test in “only” two hours. The 1215N’s dual-core processor definitely gave it the edge against the X100e’s single-core processor. In our Photoshop CS3 test things were a bit closer, with the X100e falling behind the 1215N by only about 20 percent; at least the X100e was still 20-percent faster than the zero-point netbook.
Don't tote the flashy red version of X100e around campus unless you want to draw attention your way.
The X100e also danced circles around the zero-point system on all of our 3D graphics tests. In fact, the X100e did fairly well on our admittedly ancient Quake III test, generating an impressive frame rate of 127.4fps. This was even better than the 104.4fps that the 1215N put out. The victory was short lived, as the 1215N’s Nvidia Ion GPU gave it the edge in our Quake 4 test (a playable 36.5fps versus the X100e’s anemic 19.4fps) and on 3DMark03 (3,898 versus 2,405).
The final nail in the coffin for the X100e was its battery life of just under three hours. The zero-point netbook lasted just shy of four and a half hours, while the 1215N blew them both out the water with a battery life of more than five hours.
Before you start writing the X100e’s obit, it’s important to note that its performance is still stellar for a notebook, and its price is nearly unbeatable for an ultraportable. It’s just that the 1215N steals much of the X100e’s thunder, since the 1215N is a much better overall performer.
At the end of the day, however, it’s not all about performance. Lenovo markets the X100e as a “professional grade” system for businesses and schools, with worldwide support, support for corporate operating systems, advanced manageability features, and a number of very robust warranty options. If you’re looking for an ultraportable/netbook to roll out to your company or institution, the X100e might be a very smart choice.