Lenovo ThinkPad X100e (Dual Core AMD) Review

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$604

Pros: Great keyboard; Strong video playback; Good sound

Cons: Runs very hot under stress ; Expensive ; Low wireless scores

Verdict: This ultraportable has an excellent keyboard, a dual-core AMD processor, and strong graphics, but its battery life is wanting.

When we first reviewed Lenovo's ThinkPad X100e back in March, we were impressed with its lightweight design and amazing keyboard, but we couldn't give the 11.6-inch notebook more than 3 out of 5 stars because of its short battery life and hot temperatures. Now, Lenovo has released a new version of the X100e with a more powerful dual core AMD Turion X2 CPU. Unfortunately, while the dual-core X100e does pack more punch and lasts a little longer on a charge, it still doesn't match up to its Intel-powered competitors.

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Design

The dual-core ThinkPad X100e has the same exact same 3.2-pound, 11.1 x 8.2 x 1.2-inch chassis as the single core version we reviewed previously. That means a lightweight minimalist design. If you're a ThinkPad fan, you'll appreciate the simple black or red plastic lid that opens to reveal a island keyboard, clean black palm rest, and plain touchpad.

There are few status lights and only one button for power, but there's no need for bling in this highly functional design. The only real blemish is the rather large bulge provided by the system's six-cell battery.

Heat

When performing simple tasks like surfing the web or circling the globe in Google Earth, the ThinkPad X100e stayed relatively cool. However, if you plan to play video or games, watch out. After streaming a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the notebook's touchpad reached a steamy 104 degrees Fahrenheit, its keyboard a sizzling 105 degrees, and its bottom measured a whopping 107 degrees. We consider temperatures above 95 to be uncomfortable and above 100 unacceptable. The good news is that the X100e stays relatively cool when not being taxed by video or games, and its soft plastic surface doesn't feel as warm as some of the metal notebooks we've tested.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The island-style keyboard is a smaller version of those found on the ThinkPad Edge series and nearly as comfortable. Using the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test we were able to achieve a strong rate of 86 words per minute with a low 1-percent error rate. That's quite a bit higher than our typical 80 wpm rate. However, we did find ourselves wishing the palm rest was just a bit longer because our wrists hung off of it slightly. However, the soft plastic surface of the palm rest didn't chafe our wrists like the rough plastic on the ThinkPad X201 series.

 



Like a typical ThinkPad, the X100e has both a TrackPoint pointing stick and a touchpad. Both navigation methods provided extremely accurate navigation. However, the touchpad didn't always respond to supported multitouch gestures, such as pinch-to-zoom. The mouse buttons were a little noisy, but offered strong tactile feedback without feeling stiff.

Display and Sound

The 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 matte display produced crisp, colorful images with no glare at all. Viewing angles were strong at up to 45 degrees to the left and right, though video colors began to wash out any further than that. The ThinkPad X100e was more than powerful enough to play any video we threw at it with great accuracy. We were able to stream a 720p episode of Fringe and play both 720p and 1080p WMV files from Microsoft's HD Showcase without the slightest hint of noise, pixelation, or jerkiness. It's just a shame that there's no HDMI-out port we could use to connect to a big screen TV.

Despite its diminutive size, the X100e can substitute for your stereo in a pinch. Its speaker bar, located under the front lip of the chassis, delivered reasonably accurate fidelity both when we listened to "Fresh" by Devo, a pop tune, and a jazz standard, "Morning Dance" by Spyro Gyra. Two thirds of maximum volume was loud enough to fill an entire living room. However, when we turned the volume up to 100 percent, the music became painfully tinny.

Ports and Webcam

The ThinkPad X100e packs the basic ports with few extras. On its right side are a 4-in-1 memory card reader, USB port, and Kensington lock slot. On its left are an Ethernet port, a single audio jack (for both input/output) and two more USB ports for a total of three. The back side houses a VGA-out port. Considering the notebook's strong multimedia performance, the exclusion of an HDMI-out connector (such as on the Acer Aspire Timeline 1810TZ) remains a major oversight.

The webcam produced sharp, clear images even in incredibly low light. Even when conducting a Skype call from our dark living room, fine details such as the folds in our fingers were clearly visible, and motion was perfectly smooth.

Performance

The ThinkPad X100e's combination of a 1.6-GHz AMD Turion Neo X2 L625 CPU and ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics chip allowed it to offer solid performance, whether we were playing high definition video or just circling the globe in Google Earth. On PCMark Vantage, a benchmark that measures overall system performance, our dual-core X100e scored 2,382, which is 50 percent better than the single-core X100e (1,580), but still behind Intel Pentium powered systems like the Timeline 1810TZ (2,830) and Lenovo IdeaPad U150 (2,773). Both the X100e and its direct competitors trailed the ultraportable category average of 3,243, but, to be fair, the ultraportable category also includes a number of powerful (and expensive) Core i5 and Core i7 systems.



The X100e's 5,400-rpm, 250GB hard drive booted into Windows 7 Professional (32-bit) in a reasonable 48 seconds. It completed the LAPTOP Transfer Test, in which we copy 4.97GB of mixed media files, in 4:09 for a transfer rate of 20.4 MBps. That's a good 20 percent below the category average of 25.3 MBps, but on a par with competitors like the Aspire Timeline 1810TZ (19.6 MBps), IdeaPad U150 (21.8 MBps), and the single-core X100e (19.7 MBps).



It took the ThinkPad X100e 2 minutes and 17 seconds to transcode a 114MB MPEG-4 to AVI using Oxelon Media Encoder. That's only 10 seconds behind the category average of 2:07, but about 3 times as fast as the single-core X100e (6:24). However, the Intel-powered Aspire Timeline 1810TZ (1:56) and IdeaPad U150 (1:50) were both a bit faster.

Graphics

The X100e's integrated ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics chip enabled the notebook to play 1080p video and even do a little basic gaming. On 3DMark06, a benchmark that measures overall graphics prowess, the system scored a solid 1,080, which was nearly identical to the single-core X100e (1,046) and the category average (1,067), but nearly double the Intel-powered IdeaPad U150 (590) and Aspire Timeline 1810TZ (586).



The X100e was able to achieve a somewhat playable frame rate of 28 frames per second when we played World of Warcraft at 1024 x 768 resolution and effects set to default. However, when we upped the resolution to 1366 x 768 and turned up the special effects, that rate dropped to an unplayable 8 fps. Surprisingly, the single core X100e got an even better 39 fps at 1024 x 768 and a similar 7 fps at the higher resolution. However, with the resolution set to native and effects set to Low, we did see a very playable 60 fps. These scores were better than the Timeline 1810TZ (22/4 fps) and the IdeaPad U150 (18/5 fps).

Battery Life and Wi-Fi

AMD-powered notebooks have long held a reputation for getting worse battery life than their Intel-equipped counterparts. Unfortunately, this remains the case with the dual-core ThinkPad X100e, though its endurance is better than its single-core brother. On the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi, the X100e lasted 4 hours and 47 minutes, which is 39 minutes longer than the single-core X100e (4:08), but a full 4 hours behind the Aspire Timeline 1810TZ (8:47) and nearly 2 hours less than the IdeaPad U150 (6:32).

The X100e's Realtek 802.11b/g/n radio produced weak transfer rates of 16.6 and 10.6 Mbps at distances of 15 and 50 feet from our router, respectively. While these numbers are a bit better than the single-core X100e (14.1/9.8 Mbps), they pale in comparison to the Aspire 1810TZ's rates of 36.5 and 16.4 Mbps.

Green Testing

It took 1 hour and 32 minutes to charge the X100e to 80 percent of capacity, and a full 2:40 to reach full charge. During that time, the X100e consumed an average of 38.8 watts. That gives the notebook a LAPTOP Green Efficiency rating of 21.6, which Is slightly worse than the category average of 19.3 (lower is better) and a lot worse than the Aspire Timeline 1810TZ's strong score of 12.5.

Configuration Options

The ThinkPad X100e is available with three processor choices, all of which are 1.6-GHz AMD parts: a single-core AMD Athlon Neo MV-40, a dual-core AMD Athlon Neo X2 L335, and the dual-core AMD Turion Neo X2 L625, which was in our test system. We reviewed the single-core X100e earlier this year and found it also had solid graphics performance, but shorter battery life than the dual-core Turion. It was also much slower when it came to tasks like transcoding video.

Buyers can configure the notebook with up to 4GB of DDR2 RAM (a $130 option for all 4GB) and either a 160GB, 250GB, or 320GB hard drive. Bluetooth is a $20 option, and an integrated Gobi wireless card will add $150 to the system price. You can configure the X100e with either a black or red lid.

There's also a choice between Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional ($30 additional). Both Windows versions are 32-bit.

Our review system cost $604 and came with the dual-core Turion L625 CPU, 2GB of RAM, and Windows 7 Professional. For a starting price of $449, you can get an X100e with the single-core CPU, 160GB hard drive, and 1GB of RAM. We recommend getting a minimum of 2GB of RAM with any system.

Software and Warranty

The ThinkPad X100e comes with the standard set of ThinkVantage tools, including Rescue and Recovery for backups, Access Connections for managing Wi-Fi, and Airbag protection for protecting the hard drive from sudden drops and movement. Our favorite ThinkVantage utilities are Password Vault, which keeps track of all your usernames and passwords, and Power Manager, which offers more detailed settings than Windows 7's control panel.

The X100e comes standard with a one-year warranty on parts and labor and 24/7 tech support. To see how Lenovo did in our most recent Tech Support Showdown, click here.

Verdict

We're definitely fans of the dual-core ThinkPad X100e's svelte form factor, responsive keyboard, great navigation options, and strong multimedia playback. Our tests make it clear that the dual-core AMD Turion X2 CPU offers better performance and longer battery life than the less-expensive single-core X100e. That said, the notebook continues to have two serious disadvantages when compared to Intel-powered competitors: relatively short battery life and extremely hot temperatures under heavy loads.

When you consider that the Acer Aspire Timeline 1810TZ costs about $70 less with a full 4GB of RAM and 320GB hard drive, the dual-core X100e looks like a poor value. However, If you don't plan to heat up the system by playing full screen HD video or 3D games, the X100e has the best ergonomics of any 11.6-inch notebook on the market today.

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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, Online Editorial Director on
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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 1.6-GHz AMD Turion Neo X2 Dual Core Processor L625
Operating System Windows 7 Professional (32-bit)
RAM 2GB
RAM Upgradable to 4GB
Hard Drive Size 250GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 11.6
Native Resolution 1366x768
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics
Video Memory 384MB
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth
Mobile Broadband
Ports (excluding USB) Kensington Lock
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) Combo Headphone/Mic Jack
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
USB Ports 3
Card Slots 4-1 card reader
Warranty/Support 1 year depot warranty
Size 11.1 x 8.2 x 1.2 inches
Weight 3.2 pounds
Company Website www.lenovo.com