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Summary:

What if you could merge the best features of netbooks with the top quality of the ThinkPad notebook line? You’d get the ThinkPad X100e. This 11.6-inch ThinkPad crams the build quality and features of the venerable ThinkPad line into a form slightly bigger than the netbook.

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When Kevin and I first saw the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e in Vegas earlier this year, I was impressed with the small size of the notebook. I didn’t get much time with the X100e at that time, so I figured that Lenovo had taken a few compromises to get the littlest ThinkPad as small as it did. A pretty red unit showed up at Mobile Tech Manor early this morning, and after spending a few hours looking for a compromise in the X100e, I have to admit that I have been unable to find one so far.

The X100e is infringing on netbook territory given the 11.6-inch screen and relatively low starting price of $449. It firmly leaves the netbook in the dust through stellar performance and with the beautiful, 1366×768 high-res screen.  Throw in a trackstick and multitouch trackpad on top of the full ThinkPad build quality and you leave the netbook world far behind.

The evaluation unit supplied by Lenovo is configured as follows:

  • CPU: AMD Athlon Neo MV-40, 1.6 GHz
  • Memory: 2 GB (4 GB max.)
  • Storage: 320 GB (5,400 rpm)
  • Display: 11.6-inch, 1366×768 resolution
  • Camera: low-light capable, 0.3 megapixel
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon HD3200 integrated, maximum external resolution 2048×1536
  • Battery: 6-cell, rated at 5 hour
  • Communications: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 2.1; 3G optional (not on the evaluation unit)
  • Ports: 3-USB 2.0 (one powered), VGA out, LAN, 4-in-1 card reader slot, audio in/out combo jack
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional
  • Dimensions: 11.1 x 8.2 x 0.6 – 1.2 inch; 3.3 lbs.

In an effort to keep the X100e price down, Lenovo went with the AMD Neo processor. After using the notebook for over three hours, I am pleased with the system performance using this processor. It is faster than any netbook I have used, and as fast as many “full” notebooks. The only question I have about the AMD processor is how it will affect the battery life. Lenovo rates the 6-cell battery at 5 hours, but after 2 hours heavy use with good power management I only used 20% of the battery. This may be the one case where the OEM battery estimation is actually conservative.

The X100e has no optical drive, because there is no room for one. The keyboard is typical ThinkPad, and that’s to die for. It is also spill-resistant, a nice value. The touchpad is very pleasant to use, and even though I prefer tracksticks, I find myself switching half and half between the two input methods. The touchpad accepts multitouch gestures, making it very useful. Both the touchpad and the trackstick have two mouse buttons each.

It’s too early to make an in-depth evaluation, but I have yet to find anything I don’t like about the ThinkPad X100e. It is as portable as can be, yet provides a complete mobile computing experience. When you realize it is a full ThinkPad, with the build quality that comes with that — you understand the value of the X100e.

 

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Better Battery Life Motivates Mobile Chipmakers

  1. Hi James,

    I’m really looking forward to your in-depth review and thoughts on this machine as a primary machine for a mobile professional (that is for one who can accept the small-ish screen). Keep the comments and thoughts on this baby comin’!

    I’m thinking about equipping some employees with the x100e instead of the pricier x200 in the future. (I’ve used an x200 for 1.5 years now and I would be hard-pressed to trade it for anything, but some of our staff might be just fine with the x100e, I believe). Thus, comparisons between x200 and x100e are very welcome!

    Also, just wanted to correct a minor point: in true ThinkPad form, the x100e has 3 buttons (not 2) for the trackstick. I love the middle button combined with the stick for scrolling around pages.

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    1. You are correct, I forgot the middle trackstick button. Nice for scrolling indeed.

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  2. Another question / comparison request: I admit I’m a bit of a keyboard snob…and when I poked around on the x100e at CES, I found the key travel to be noticeably less than what you get on an x200 (though the snappiness and force profile is very nice given the lesser travel). After extended typing sessions, how do you feel about the x100e keyboard compared to that of your x200t?

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    1. The key travel is less than the x200. It still feels great, however. Note that I like chiclet style keys so I may be biased about this but I find this keyboard to be just fine.

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  3. Stefan Constantinescu Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    I’ve had an X100e for about a month now and have never got more than 3.5 hours out of it. I also had issues with the factory install, so I did a fresh Windows 7 install and it fixed everything.

    Now about the speed, I ffound it to be a little inadequate, but after popping in one of those new Intel solid state drives, that cheap 40 GB one, I’ve had no issues with my machine.

    It does run a little hot, so I’m curious to hear your results.

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  4. How does it do with flash based streaming video? Does the ATI HD 3200 make it able to run full screen Hulu or Hulu Desktop? Or does it choke on them like a typical netbook/nettop?

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  5. I was really excited when this computer was announced. But the reported performance issues and battery life have made this disappointing. While the form factor is perfect for me(with the exception of HDMI out), I’m going to have to wait for the second generation. A cheaper 10 inch Atom version is reported, but not worth it to me.

    I’d like to see Dual-Core Next Gen Atom, ION2 or Optimus, and HDMI out with this form. Offer it at 599 and I will but it.

    I’m trying to replace my Asus 1000H, I’m going to wait it out.

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  6. Hi James,
    Noted your comment on the battery life of your unit … every other test I have read has been critical of the life, could there have been some type of patch on this machine that will be on machines going forward .. I am on the fence and was thinking of replacing one of my x61t’s for travel and to save my shoulders … thoughts?

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  7. Wolfman & C:

    The Athlon Neo MV-40 is roughly equivalent to a 1.4 GHz Core 2 Solo, much faster than a single core Atom.

    The Radeon HD3200 is a very good integrated graphics chip, roughly equivalent to an Nvidia GeForce 9400M. ION is what Nvidia calls the 9400M paired with an Atom. Nvidia doesn’t seem to have released many details of ION2.

    There is Flash acceleration for the HD3200, no idea how good it is. In any case, an Athlon Neo has far more processing power than an Atom so it may be sufficient on its own for full screen Flash video.

    IIRC, the AMD version of the HP dv3 notebook used the HD3200 and had the MV-40 available on the low end.

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    1. Sam,

      So is the MV-40 a 64bit processor? I thought it was 32bit…

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      1. According to AMD, the MV-40 runs both 32 and 64-bit software, so I suppose that makes it 64-bit.
        http://products.amd.com/en-us/NotebookCPUDetail.aspx?id=513

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    2. Sam,

      While I could trust your rough comparisons, I can’t assume you are correct with some data supporting them. I understand that the Processor and Graphics of the 100xe is more powerful than a normal netbook, but the battery life isn’t acceptable. An atom (N450 or N510) plus ION(maybe ION2) would be a better computer for battery life and HD flash video. (Note: I’ve read that the flash video and native video can be choppy on the x100e)

      This configuration may not have the computing power of the Athlon Neo, but it will have the battery life and graphics power as consumers expect. Most business consumers (the target market) do not need the computing power, they need a browser, outlook, excel, and word.

      Lets see what James comes up with in regards to performance. I haven’t seen many independent reviews on this computer.

      @wolfman-k, I believe its 32 bit. The dual Core Neo is 64 bit, which will be available for the x100e.

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    3. For what it’s worth, we benchmarked and battery tested the HP dv2 last year, which offers a very similar configuration: same CPU but ATI 3410HD for graphics.

      http://jkontherun.com/2009/04/21/hp-dv2-benchmarks/
      http://jkontherun.com/2009/04/20/hp-dv2-battery-tests/

      I would expect that the ThinkPad x100e to perform in a comparable manner to the dv2 as a result, but some OEM optimizations could vary the performance. Again, FWIW….

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      1. Thanks Kevin, your benchmarks confirmed my suspicions of the x100e processor and GPU. It has been a year though since that benchmark, I agree that OEM optimizations could vary the performance.

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  8. I wish this laptop had the option for a Intel Centrino Advanced-N + WiMAX 6250 card…

    Also, does this laptop carry a sufficient number of antennas to support future upgrade to the Intel Centrino Advanced-N + WiMAX 6250?

    Thanks!

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    1. @JMARKA1

      Very interesting, I’d prefer this card since I have wimax already. I doubt this will be an option on such a low-end lenovo product. Maybe on the second generation x100e.

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      1. @C

        The “ThinkPad X100e Hardware Maintenance Manual” (Document: 63y0640_01.pdf) lists the Intel Centrino Advanced-N + WiMAX 6250 (FRU: 60Y3195) as a network connectivity option?

        Link to document 63y0640_01.pdf
        http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&ved=0CAYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdownload.lenovo.com%2Fibmdl%2Fpub%2Fpc%2Fpccbbs%2Fmobiles_pdf%2F63y0640_01.pdf&ei=wGSiS_vDMMXflgfz3-ngCA&usg=AFQjCNFWPmcJKxK6i9fQ-LDIE0ylSO6wlw

        FRU: 60Y3195
        Intel Centrino Advanced-N + WiMAX 6250, WW SKU
        v 0022-CTO
        v 2876-CTO, 2Gx, 2Px, 2Tx, 33x, 34x, 3Ax, 3Bx, 3Cx, 3Dx, 3Ex, 3Fx, 3Mx, 3Nx, 3Px, 59x,
        5Ax, 5Bx, 5Cx, 5Dx, 5Ex, 5Jx, 5Kx, 5Lx, 5Mx, 7Bx, 7Cx, 7Dx, 7Ex, 7Fx, 7Gx, 7Lx, 7Mx,
        7Nx, 7Px
        v 3506-CTO
        v 3507-CTO
        v 3508-CTO, 26x, 27x, 3Vx

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