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Lenovo ThinkPad X100e

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What's hot: Faster and better built than the average netbook.

What's not: Battery life is acceptable but not stellar, gets warmer than ATOM-based netbooks.


Reviewed March 31, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

The venerable ThinkPad line, rectilinear, sturdy and trim has just gotten smaller. While the 12.1" X200 and X201 ThinkPads are quite light at 3 to 3.5 lbs. they're at the small end of regular notebook-sized machines and they're quite expensive. The 11.6” X100e is even smaller, though not much lighter at 3.3 lbs. with the standard 6 cell battery. However it sells for $450 to $650 depending on configuration while the X201 will set you back at least $1,500. The catch? The X100e runs on a single core AMD NEO MV-40 with ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics. That puts it above Atom netbooks but below Intel dual core CULV notebooks running the 1.3GHz SU7300 CPU in terms of CPU performance and ahead of both the ATOM and CULV models for graphics performance. In every way, the X100e runs circles around the Lenovo S10-2 consumer netbook-- it's faster, more rugged, more professional looking, has a higher resolution display and it has a better keyboard. Is it worth the $100 to $200 more than a budget netbook costs? If you need to get real work done and take the machine on the bumpy road, then yes.   

Lenovo ThinkPad X100e

Specs at a Glance

The ThinkPad X100e is available only with the 1.6GHz AMD Neo MV-40 single core CPU and ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics. A version with the dual core Neo should be available shortly and will cost more and likely have shorter battery runtimes.  It’s worth noting that this is Lenovo’s first AMD machine, and they likely went with Neo for the performance increase at a reasonable price. There are currently 3 configurations available and we have the middle one that sells for $549. It has 2 gigs of RAM, a 250 gig hard drive, a webcam and WiFi 802.11b/g/n. Bluetooth is a $20 option and a Gobi broadband modem is included in the $649 model. Even if you don’t order the broadband model, the antenna is pre-installed so you can purchase the Gobi module and pop it in the mini-PCI slot located under the machine’s removable door. The X100e has an LED backlit 11.6” matte display that runs at 1366 x 768 resolution and it comes with a 6 cell battery that protrudes out the back.

The base model ships with Windows 7 Home and the other two ship with Windows 7 Professional. All are 32 bit though the Neo is a 64 bit CPU that supports virtualization too.

Lenovo ThinkPad X100e

Hardware and Ergonomics 

The ThinkPad is synonymous with the business black notebook that can take a licking and keep on ticking. Each time I fly for business, a flurry of these machines pops out onto tray tables at 10,000 feet. And by 30,000 feet at least two have them have toppled off the too-small tray tables and bounced down the aisle. Their owners pick them up, dust them off and state that they've done much worse to their machines. The X100e is built of sturdy ABS plastic with virtually no flex and it exudes the same solidness you feel when closing a BMW's door. But there are concessions in this low priced laptop: there's no inner metal roll cage protecting the circuit boards and hard drive area. It's sturdy but not crazy sturdy and it probably wouldn't survive a hefty businessman's misstep down the aisle should you accidentally drop it in his path. Then again, it might-- it's pretty solid. I did drop our sleeping X100e review unit 3 feet onto a concrete floor while it was inside an unpadded ballistic nylon bag (the strap gave out). The X100e survived unscathed. 


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The surface finish isn't the usual ThinkPad soft touch black but rather what Lenovo calls a "smooth" finish. It looks just like a ThinkPad and someone might at first mistake it for an X201 were it not for the size difference. But close inspection reveals the matte black finish with no surface texture. It's not slippery and is easy to clean with a damp cloth. For those who like a little zing (but not too much), there's a red color option that's also matte and looks a little odd. It's not the screaming shiny red of the ThinkPad Edge or Acer Ferrari One, and it comes off as a half-way commitment to ostentatious looks.

If you’re a fan of ThinkPad look, you’ll like the X100e. At 0.8” thick it’s trim, and at 11.1 x 8.2 inches it’s smaller than an ultralight. In terms of size, this is a netbook, and in terms of performance it’s somewhere in between a netbook and notebook. 

The 1366 x 768 LED backlit display has a pretty good 200 nits brightness.  Colors aren’t as saturated and viewing angles are narrower compared to larger and more expensive ThinkPad models. Again, there are concessions made to achieve lower pricing.  But we found it a pleasing display and particularly loved the matte finish that banishes glare. The default contrast was a bit too low so we used the ATI control panel to raise it 10 points for a sharp look.  In terms of resolution and display quality the X100e can’t compete with its bigger ThinkPad brethren but it’s better than other netbooks on the market.

The beveled front edge is covered with mesh and ample stereo speakers live underneath. The ThinkPad X100e has much better and louder sound than most netbooks that tend to be anemic and often have down-firing speakers that are muffled by your lap or desk. This puppy can get pretty darned loud and while the bass won’t shake the walls, stereo sound is at least decent and not grating. There’s a combined 3.5mm stereo out/mic in jack suitable for external stereo speakers or a VoIP headset. The ThinkPad has a low light webcam that’s quite sharp and colorful, and a mic that works fine for Skype.

Ports are pretty good for a netbook class machine with 3 rather than the usual 2 USB ports. Two are on the left and a powered USB port (sleep and charge) is on the right. There’s a VGA port but no HDMI, a 4-in-1 SD card reader slot, gigabit Ethernet jack and a Kensington lock slot.

The spill-resistant keyboard is simply awesome with keys large enough for an adult and excellent tactile feel. Like the ThinkPad Edge, the ThinkPad X100e has a chiclet style keyboard rather than the traditional ThinkPad keyboard. We have no complaints and find it 98% as easy to type on as their traditional keyboard. The keys are sculpted and have good travel and spring. There's no keyboard flex with island design chiclet keyboards and their key separation improves the tactile sense of the transition between keys. The X100e has the usual ThinkPad Fn key arrangement and we like the lowered oval page up and down keys near the arrow keys. There's no dedicated ThinkVantage button, though the full suite of ThinkVantage software is on board. The only thing we don't like is the delete key's location which is the third key from the end of the top row rather than being the final key.

We’re impressed that Lenovo managed both a relatively oversized keyboard and their dual pointing UltraNav device in this small 11” laptop. You get both the red eraser stick pointer embedded in the keyboard and a reasonable sized trackpad, each with its own set of mouse buttons. The TrackPoint works as well as ever and the trackpad is more pleasant to use than on most netbooks. It supports multi-touch but isn’t prone to interpreting normal finger movements as gestures as we’ve noted with some smaller trackpads. Both sets of buttons are just-right soft and you can set button handedness separately for each pointing device. Our only complaint is that the trackpad’s buttons are on the front edge of the machine and it’s easy to bump them in close quarters or to touch one when carrying the machine.

How about heat? AMD isn’t known for impressive battery life or low thermals but Lenovo has largely managed to tame the beast. Early reviews mentioned poor battery life and toasty temps but in the month since the X100e started shipping, they’ve released several BIOS updates that have vastly improved battery life and kept heat in check. Our machine shipped with an old BIOS and after testing a bit we upgraded to the latest and found the machine runs at 90 degrees Fahrenheit on the keyboard surface and at 110 degrees on the bottom center (the hottest spot) when working hard while plugged in (full performance mode). That makes it much warmer than many Intel Atom netbooks and on par with performance notebooks in terms of heat. There are two large heat grille rows on the bottom and the fan blows warm air out the left rear side.


Here in Never Never Land we’re caught somewhere between the netbook and notebook world. The AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 running on the AMD M780G chipset performs better than the 1.6GHz Intel ATOM Pine Trail CPUs used in most recent netbooks and the X100e’s integrated ATI graphics blows away Intel’s integrated graphics used on both Pine Trail and dual core CULV machines. That puts the X100e ahead of the HP Mini 311 with Atom and NVIDIA ION LE graphics and the Sony Vaio X with a 2.0 GHz Atom and tepid Intel GMA 500 graphics. How does the machine feel? Faster than Atom N280 and N450 netbooks and faster than the 2GHz Atom in the Vaio X. The machine runs Aero by default and thanks to the ATI graphics, it handles it with aplomb. The X100e doesn't feel as fast as larger Intel CULV notebooks like the HP Touchsmart TM2 with the 1.3GHz dual core SU7300 CPU, even though that HP has Intel integrated graphics. We'd love to see an X100e with the 1.3GHz SU7300 but due to pricing constraints, it doesn't look like it's going to happen. Instead, the next step will be the dual core AMD Neo which is a decent performer that typically adds 400 points to the PCMark score at the expense of power consumption.

The ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics is an integrated chipset that uses shared memory (typically 336 megs). It benchmarks better than the most Intel integrated chipsets and performs better in real world tests playing 720p WMV, MPEG2 and MPEG4 content. It's also faster at Photoshop CS4 and did better for us with Flash 10.1 beta with GPU acceleration. That makes the little Lenovo a bag of contradictions: it's not the swiftest CPU on the notebook front by a long shot but the graphics are better than average. It can play World of Warcraft at 25 to 30fps and handle older games like Rise of Nations at 60fps. Forget super-demanding recent titles like Modern Warfare 2 which runs at 13 to 17fps at native resolution (though for a netbook on steroids that's actually pretty good).

The base config is a 1 gig RAM, 160 gig hard drive model for $449 and our mid-level model comes with 2 gigs of RAM and a 250 gig hard drive. You can build to order and get up to 4 gigs of RAM and a 320 gig hard drive. We heartily recommend the 2 gigs/ 250 gig model because 1 gig of RAM isn't enough to enjoy Windows 7 and the larger hard drive gives you room to grow. All drives are 5400 rpm but they benchmarked very well (sorry there's no SSD option since Lenovo is trying to keep this affordable). All hard drives work with Lenovo's Active Protection System that parks the heads when sudden motion occurs. The RAM is DDR2 PC5300 667MHz and there are two SODIMM slots, with one filled at the factory (unless you order more than 2 gigs of RAM).

RAM is an interesting topic with the X100e. We benchmarked the notebook with the stock 2 gigs of RAM then upgraded it to 3 gigs. The numbers stayed the same. Then we upgraded to 4 gigs of RAM and both the Windows Experience graphics numbers for graphics and the PCMark numbers took a big jump up. With the 4 gig config we kept the original 2 gig RAM module and tried 2 different additional 2 gig RAM modules from different manufacturers all meeting the machine's specs, so it wasn't that we had a very special or fast RAM module that caused the increase. With 3 gigs of RAM, the stock Windows 7 Professional 32 installation saw 2.75 gigs available with the remaining ~256 megs set aside for graphics. With 4 gigs, the machine still shows 2.75 gigs available and all remaining memory is dedicated to the ATI graphics card. No matter what kind of tweaking with boot files and twiddling with BIOS we did, we still had that large chunk reserved for graphics. Windows 7 32 bit with integrated graphics should be able to see all 4 gigs as usable minus that ~256 megs for graphics, so we must assume that the BIOS wants that memory for graphics. Given the very significant improvements we saw in 3 benchmarks and in experiential speed, we'd say it's definitely worth it to buy a 2 gig SODIMM RAM module for $45 and pop it in the Lenovo.

It's very easy to access the ThinkPad's hard drive, wireless PCI slots and RAM. Unscrew 7 screws and the entire bottom panel comes off providing easy access to everything. The machine is cleanly designed and isn't the internal mess that some budget netbooks are (EeePC 1005HA we're looking at you). All X100e models come with Realtek WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth is optional (it's installed as a daughtercard to the left of the WiFi module). Even if you don't order mobile broadband, the antenna is installed and you can add the Gobi module later (Lenovo sells it for $149 currently).

The default Lenovo power setting runs the CPU at 800MHz when on battery power. The first thing you should do is change this! The machine is a slug at 800MHz (no surprise) so we changed the unplugged CPU power setting to adaptive. Voila-- a responsive machine. And it only shaved 10 to 15 minutes off runtimes.

Lenovo ThinkPad X100e

The Lenovo ThinkPad X201t and the X100e.


Lenovo ThinkPad X100e



Lenovo ThinkPad X100e


Lenovo ThinkPad X100e



Lenovo ThinkPad X100e

The Lenovo ThinkPad X100e and the Sony Vaio X.


Lenovo ThinkPad X100e



Lenovo ThinkPad X100e

The 6 cell battery protrudes out the back.


Given the difference we saw when we upgraded to 4 gigs of RAM, we've posted benchmarks for both the 2-3 gig and the 4 gig versions.

Windows Experience Index:

Processor: 3.1
RAM: 4.9
Graphics (Aero): 3.3 (3.5 with 4 gigs RAM)
Gaming Graphics: 4.5 (4.9 with 4 gigs RAM)
HDD: 5.9

Thinkpad X100e benchmarks PCMark05 with 2 to 3 gigs RAM:

PCMarks: 1673
CPU: 2068
Memory: 2531
Graphics: 1272
HDD: 5138

Thinkpad X100e benchmarks PCMark05 with 4 gigs RAM:

PCMarks: 1907
CPU: 2134
Memory: 2651
Graphics: 1308
HDD: 5159

PCMark Vantage (4 gigs RAM):

PCMark Suite: 1591
Memories: 1047
TV and Movies: 827
Gaming: 921
Music: 2159
Communication: 1442
Productivity: 1495
HDD: 2671

PC Mark05 Comparison:

HP Mini 311 (Atom N270, NVIDIA ION LE)

PC Marks: 2012
CPU: 1484
Memory: 2292
Graphics: 2122
HDD: 5044

Toshiba mini NB205 (Atom N280)

PCMark: 1509 PCMarks
CPU: 1542
Memory: 2490
Graphics: 564
HDD: 4257

Sony Vaio X (2GHz Atom)

PCMark score: 1143
CPU: 1574
Memory: 2356
Graphics: 240
HDD: 2571

Lenovo X41 (older model w/Intel Centrino 1.5GHz, PCMark04)

PCMark04 score: 2556
CPU: 2835
Memory: 2359
Graphics: 783
HDD: 2082


Battery Life

The ThinkPad X100e comes with a 6 cell 5200 mAh, 57Wh Lithium Ion battery. The battery protrudes out the back and while some might find it unsightly we found it made a good carrying handle. Lenovo offers a 3 cell battery that fits flush and brings the weight down from 3.3 lbs. to just under 3 lbs. but we don't think it's worth the short runtimes. With the latest BIOS, the baby ThinkPad averaged 4.5 hours of use with WiFi on, brightness set to 12 out of 15 and the CPU set to adaptive. We did a mix of web surfing, MS Office work and short YouTube video playback all with Outlook 2010 running in the background. The machine lasted 3.5 hours playing MPEG4 video stored on the hard drive. Those numbers might not be up to the X201 or the longest running netbooks but they're certainly acceptable for a smarter than average netbook. I took the machine to the CTIA Wireless trade show and used it on and off during the day, putting it to sleep when not using it. It lasted through the day and evening without a problem.


The usual excellent set of ThinkVantage tools are here and they are indeed an IT guy's dream of heaven. Better yet they're not naggy or intrusive. These tools give you granular control over your wireless radios and connections, provide sophisticated battery power plans and settings (even though we didn't appreciate the default unplugged setting) and help you keep the machine up to date. The BIOS settings are similar to other ThinkPads and you can restore the machine from the recovery partition and make your own recovery DVDs. Bloatware is at a minimum with the usual Office 2007 Professional trial and a month of Norton AV.


When we first saw Lenovo's smallest ThinkPad we were smitten. It has that ThinkPad quality in just the right size package for ultimate portability. And it doesn't make usability concessions due to its small size: the keyboard is superb and the UltraNav dual pointing device is tops. The trackpad didn't tick us off like most netbooks, the screen resolution is that of a regular notebook and it has 3 USB ports with one being a sleep and charge port. All the ThinkVantage tools are on board and the graphics chip is powerful enough for light gaming and Photoshop work on the go.

Though Lenovo doesn't bill this as a netbook, its size and performance are ultimately that of an 11.6" tweener netbook. That means this won't be your main machine unless you only do light duty work like web, email, MS Office, older games and occasional Photoshop. It's best suited as your ultra-mobile companion and it works perfectly in that guise. If you want more than what a basic netbook offers in terms of performance, display resolution, keyboard and build, the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e is your machine. The build quality is superb, it's very sturdy, is well made and easily upgradable. And for those who need this for business on the road, it certainly makes a better impression than an EeePC without breaking the bank.

Our dream machine would be the X100e with an Intel CULV dual core CPU, but then the price would probably go up a few hundred dollars. Oh well.

Our advice if you get an X100e: update the software and particularly the BIOS to get best performance and do consider upgrading RAM to 4 gigs.

Pro: Better than netbook performance, higher resolution 11.6" display vs. standard netbooks, excellent build, good looks, fantastic keyboard and very good UltraNav. Plenty of USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, optional broadband and good graphics performance. ThinkVantage software is excellent.

Con: Runs hotter than most Intel-based netbooks, performance isn't up to current full notebook spec though Lenovo puts it in their notebook category. Battery runtimes are acceptable but not impressive. Bluetooth is optional and so only available if you build to order.


Price: $449 to $649, $549 as reviewed

Web Site:


Display: 11.6" LED backlit display, 200 nits brightness. Resolution: 1366 x 768. Has a VGA port but no HDMI. ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics using shared memory.

Battery: 6 cell 5200 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. 3 cell available separately.

Performance: 1.6 GHz AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 CPU. AMD M780G chipset. Base model ships with 1 gig RAM, others ship with 2 gigs and 4 gigs is max.

Size: 11.1 x 8.2 x 0.59-1.16 inches. Weight: 3.3 lbs. with 6 cell battery.

Camera: Low-light webcam with built-in mic.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm combo stereo out/mic jack. Conexant HD audio.

Networking: Realtek WiFi 802.11b/g/n and gigabit Ethernet. Bluetooth and Qualcomm Gobi mobile broadband are optional.

Software: Windows 7 Professional (Home edition on the base $449 model and Windows XP is available as a built to order option). ThinkVantage Utilities, recover and rescue utility, MS Office 2007 Professional trial and Norton AV 30 day trial.

Drives: 160, 250 and 320 gig 5400 rpm drives available. All drives have Lenovo's Active Protection System.

Ports: Three USB 2.0 ports (1 sleep and charge), VGA, Ethernet, 4-in-1 card reader, combo stereo out/mic jack, Kennsington lock slot.



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