Along with reading, writing, and arithmetic, learning to use a notebook is becoming another fundamental for elementary school students. The $495 Lenovo ThinkPad X130e looks to fill the role previously filled by the likes of netbooks, but it adds durability and Lenovo's superb keyboard. Is this 11-inch AMD-powered system destined for the head of the class? Read on to find out.
Although the X130e is numerically the successor to the X120e, the two differ in a number of ways. For one, the X130e, at 11.6 x 8.5 x 1.3 inches, is noticeably bulkier than its progenitor, and, at 3.4 pounds, weighs 0.4 pounds more than the X120e, as well as the HP Pavilion dm1. Where the X120e had squared edges, they're more rounded on the X130e, presumably to prevent a child from poking himself in the eye.
Overall, the ThinkPad X130e strikes a good balance between Lenovo's toned-down business aesthetic and something more kid-friendly. We especially liked the red matte lid on our unit; unfortunately, it will only be available for special bids; all others will get a standard black lid.
Inside, the X130e looks similar to the notebooks that came before it: A matte black bezel, keyboard and keyboard deck definitely looks like this notebook is preparing children for a life in the corporate world. There seems to be a lot of wasted space above the keyboard, but it's actually used to house the battery. At least the battery doesn't hang down below the rest of the design, like on other ultraportables.
Built to withstand the rigors of an elementary school, the X130e comes with a top cover rubber bumper, which helps absorb impacts to the side of the laptop. The corners are also reinforced to reduce the chance of damage if the system is dropped at an angle. Lenovo built the the hinges to last up to 30,000 openings and closes, and the ports have been reinforced and recessed to decrease the effects of wear and tear. Last but not least, the display bezel is reinforced with 1.2mm thick plastic to protect the LED panel.
Keyboard and Touchpad
While they have the same smile-shaped Accutype keys as on the X120e, the keyboard on the X130e has been rearranged slightly. The Escape and Delete keys are now twice their normal length, and the Insert key has been removed from the function row. The Print Screen button, which was combined with the Insert key, is now a dedicated button, crammed in between the right Alt and Control keys along the bottom.
Overall, the keyboard on the X130e offers the best tactile feedback of any notebook we've used with this size display. The keys offered plenty of travel during our testing, and the layout didn't exhibit any flex.
Gone are the two buttons below the touchpad on the X120e; now, the whole pad on the X130e is clickable. Unfortunately, the touchpad is the same size as before: 2.9 x 1.4 inches. While we like that it has a dimpled surface, as on its more recent ThinkPads, its small size made it nearly impossible to execute multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom.
Thankfully, Lenovo included its industry-best TrackPoint, which is nestled between the G, H and B keys. At the default setting we found the pointing stick to be oversensitive, but dialing back the speed in settings helped.
The ThinkPad X130e remained very cool during our testing. After streaming a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the middle of the underside was just 85 degrees Fahrenheit. That's a full 10 degrees below what we consider uncomfortable. The touchpad measured 80 degrees, and the space between the G and H keys was 83 degrees.
Display and Audio
The matte 11.6-inch display on the X130e has a resolution of 1366 x 768, which is standard for a system this size and price. Its average brightness of 148 lux is somewhat dim, but not by much. The average ultraportable measures 182 lux, and even high-priced ultrabooks such as theLenovo IdeaPad U300s only averages 156 lux.
While watching a high-def trailer for "The Hobbit" on YouTube, we noticed a bit of pixelation in darker areas; blacks were not as true as we'd like, and viewing angles were limited to pretty much directly in front of the display. Still, this panel should more than suffice for students.
The downfiring speakers, located on the underside of the front lip, produced loud, but hollow sound. David Lee Roth's vocals were mushy, and middle and higher tones were muddy when listening to Van Halen's "Tattoo."
Ports and Webcam
Along the right side of the X130e are two USB 2.0 ports, one of which will recharge connected devices, a 4-in-1 memory card slot and a Kensington lock slot. The left side houses a third USB port, Ethernet, HDMI, VGA port and a headphone/mic jack. As mentioned, all the ports are slightly recessed and reinforced, so they can better absorb countless little fingers jamming peripherals in them.
It may only sport a max resolution of 640 x 480, but the webcam on the X130 offered fairly detailed images. Using Skype, we could pick out individual hairs on our head, but colors had a muted, slightly bluish tinge. The camera also works in darkened conditions, too. In a pitch-black room, we were still able to see ourselves, even if the images were very grainy.
Make no mistake: AMD's 1.3-GHz E-300 APU and 2GB of RAM isn't going to break any records, but should suffice for light schoolroom tasks. These components certainly didn't wow on our benchmarks. Its PCMark07 score of 906 is about 1,400 points below average, and about 100 points below the HP Pavilion dm1-4010us, which has a 1.66-GHz AMD Dual-Core E-450 APU. Still, we were able to type in Microsoft Office Starter while playing music through Pandora, converting tracks in iTunes, and running a system scan using Norton, without seeing much of a slowdown.
On our OpenOffice spreadsheet test, which pairs 20,000 names with their corresponding addresses, the X130e took an excruciating 24 minutes and 9 seconds. That's a full five minutes longer than the dm1, and about two and a half times longer than average--9:44.
The 320GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive in the X130e booted Windows 7 Home Premium in 59 seconds, which is on a par with the average. However, the drive duplicated a 5GB folder of multimedia in 3 minutes and 15 seconds, a rate of 26.1 MBps. That's well below the average (41 MBps), which, to be fair, includes a number of SSDs, but it's less than the dm1's rate of 28.8 MBps, too.
The integrated AMD Radeon HD 6310 GPU isn't a barn-burner, either, notching 2,175 on 3DMark06. While that's 40 points higher than the X120e, it's about 1,000 points below the category average, and 500 points lower than the dm1. We tried to play World of Warcraft, but even with the graphics set to autodetect and resolution at its native 1366 x 768, the system could only muster 6 frames per second.
The X130e's battery life of 7 hours and 9 minutes is tops among its competition. This runtime is about an hour better than the X120e (6:05), 30 minutes longer than the category average (6:36), and 90 minutes more than the dm1 (5:33). The laptop should be able to get through most--if not all--of a school day without a problem.
While our X130e didn't come with a touchscreen, Lenovo's SimpleTap utility shows that the company is actively thinking about future touch-centric interfaces. Two double-taps on the trackpad launch the utility, a grid of large icons of programs, utilities and widgets. Some of the widgets are quite handy. For example, the AccuWeather displayed local weather conditions; the Kayak widget let us look up flight information; and the Flickr widget opened a full-size screen to that site.
Lenovo Video and Lenovo Music, both beta apps, let you consume multimedia content from the notebook or from streaming sources. For example, Lenovo Video lets you watch movies stored on the X130e, or from Netflix or Clicker, and Lenovo Music lets you access LiveNation and eMusic.
The SimpleTap interface is customizable, including the background. We especially liked the flowing water and could see this utility being used as the basis for an instant-on operating system. Our only issue was that it took a full 22 seconds to launch.
More traditional software includes the Chrome browser, Kindle for PC, Evernote, a 30-day trial of Norton Internet Security, and Microsoft Office Starter 2010, and Skype.
Configurations and Warranty
Our configuration of the X130e came with a 1.3-GHz AMD E-300 APU; other options include an AMD E-450 APU, or an Intel Core i3-2367M processor.
The X130e comes with a one-year warranty, but can be extended to up to four years, and can also be beefed up to include onsite service; ThinkPad Protection (which covers non-warranted damaged caused by minor spills and drops; and Hard Disk Drive Retention, which allows consumers to keep the hard drive in the event of a failure.
When it goes on sale in February, the $495 Lenovo ThinkPad X130e will be more than capable for elementary school students. While its performance isn't off the charts, it's more than capable for basic tasks such as word processing and surfing the Web, and its keyboard is excellent. We wish its touchpad were larger, but the trackpoint makes up for that deficiency. Its rugged features will be especially welcome to school IT departments. Overall, the X130e is a good value for its target audience.