06-15-2010 06:05 AM
I was compelled to write my own review after reading some bad ones out there (mostly about the MV-40)...
AMD Turion Neo X2 Dual Core (L625)
160GB intel X25-M SSD
Windows 7 Pro x64
-plus all other standard equipment.
Thin and small enough (without being ridiculous). Fits nicely in a standard leather portfolio and light enough to forget in a backpack. It's a true ultra-portable with size and weight similar to an X200, slightly smaller with the 3-cell battery (a recommended extra). Just the right amount of ports, in generally the right places. The design looks very minimalist with only necessities: left side with 2 USB, one audio, one LAN - the right side has just one USB and one mem card slot. VGA and power in the back. Simple compared to my X60s and its many seams and ports and latches, etc.
Great. No roll cage - and who cares. I'm not rolling my laptop, and my drive is SSD. Seriously, I would guess that in this size, ABS plastic is just as durable as Magnesium alloy. I have cracked pieces of metal broken off my X60s from slight bumps where the metal was just too brittle and cracked off. ABS does not do that. Flex in the laptop is minimal, fit and finish is very good - note the missing hood latch complaint below.
At 11.6 inches, it is just big enough for me to work comfortably due to the higher resolution screen, which I have not seen on any laptop or netbook of this size. It is quite bright, with lots of adjustment from nearly off through full brightness (15 steps) - and in my experience nobody has made an LCD yet that looks good in direct sunlight - so stop putting that bit in reviews, please!
Lots of talk about ThinkPadders resisting the change, but honestly, it is better than my X60s old-school ThinkPad keyboard. Solid, great feel.
UltraNav (trackpoint and trackpad):
Coming from an X60s, I could live without the trackpad (and have disabled it on my X100e) but it is very nice to the touch and useful especially if sharing with your less-trackpoint-friendly friends. The Trackpoint is just as it is on all ThinkPads - exceptionally comfortable to operate, adjustable to your sensitivity, and with soft but sure left/right/scroll keys perfectly positioned under your thumb. It is always funny to me to see some people operate a little ultra-portable with two hands controlling the trackpoint - sorry, but that's just strange to watch.
Note: Heavily dependent on latest BIOS, drivers (especially video) and latest Flash (if applicable to you). Otherwise, performance depends heavily on your needs, mine are fairly normal I guess:
Office apps and Outlook, some light Photoshop work, Acrobat PDF creation, web browsing with Chrome, watching HD movies in a hotel room or airplane, occasional flash video on web, Skype with video, iTunes syncing with iPod …that's about all.
If that sounds like you, then you're probably going to be happy with X100e performance - I cannot see a lag in any of these but Photoshop CS5 (seems optimized to intel somehow). Keep in mind that some of my impression is enhanced by the SSD I added - mostly load times of each app and maybe playback reliability of video to some extent (?) on some really big files (4+GB, 1080p).
Okay, let's get this over with - the battery life is weaker than a 6-cell should be, and yes, it is due to the processor. But I willingly chose to trade (best guess) 25% battery life for 25% more performance when that extra performance gets me HD video, better GPU, and generally better usability on all that I do - compared to a weaker, more efficient netbook. My solution - buy another battery - Lenovo makes it pretty easy to change on the fly. I bought a 3-cell, so in total I measure that I can last about 5 hours watching movies in the air, or web browsing in the coffee shop. Much longer if I'm just working in Word or PowerPoint with screen dimmed to usable levels. The SSD helps - adding about 20 minutes on the 6-cell.
I generally understand the complaints about the battery as the X100 is ultra-portable, but it's not an X200 or X300 ULV ultra-portable. You sacrifice battery life and other things for a significantly lower price. Again, buy a spare and get over it. For the record, the 6-cell lasts an hour longer than my old X60s with a new 4-cell (standard shipping battery) doing the same tasks.
No fingerprint reader or security chip:
Comparing to my X60s which has both, but just miss the quick and cool logins with my finger. I installed a face-recognition tool - cool, but buggy.
No Lid latch:
The lid holds position nicely, but without latch, it will open slightly when you carry with like a book, hinge down. It does not snap tightly shut. ThinkPads have long come with finger grips for the lid and (again comparing to my X60s) I miss these especially on a laptop with no latch, and no "grabbing point" on the lid. There is a very small raised area on the right front of the lid, but it is more likely that you grab the center - where the trackpad buttons are - don't force those open! I have gotten used to opening from the left and right corners of the lid instead.
Would be nice, but honestly I have never used this for working on my X60s, only for "finding that sleep Fn key" or something similar. The Thinklight key was always easy to find as it is in the top right corner.
No HDMI, or other digital display port:
Although not needed for me, it would be nice - on a laptop that has HD capability - and a laptop with no docking station to speak of. Most all screens are digital these days - seems logical to ditch VGA.
Power vs. LAN port placement:
Okay, time for the picky small things - I would prefer these two on the same area, so cables aren't coming from both sides, when you need to go fully wired. If the cables are coming from anywhere other than behind the laptop, you will possibly trip over one or the other.
PCIe card lockout:
Lenovo is one of only a few vendors left that restrict the cards you can add to their own OEM branding. Why do they give you access to cards that cannot be replaced yourself! I would love to change the WiFi card to an intel card that I know will work (and supports 5GHz 802.11n) but cannot. I would love to put my own WWAN card inside in the future, but can't. So it's really just RAM and HDD. Thanks for teasing me! I know it simplifies technical support, but that's just mean.
No "Soft-Touch" paint:
I like it on my X60s and would prefer it here - but consider it the smallest of my complaints - really nice looking in smooth finish matte black. All other X-series have had it.
In my view, the ThinkPad X100e is targeting two types of buyers from opposite ends of the portable spectrum:
1. Netbook buyers looking for better specs, more performance.
For these buyers, the X100e has better build quality, better screen, better keyboard and pointing device, and about 25% more real-world performance with about 25% less battery life - my bold estimate. An intelligent buyer would ask "how much should I pay for these extra features?" In this case, I think it is priced spot-on compared to a netbook.
2. Laptop buyers wanting more portability, while running office tasks, web browsing, and email (which is most consumers I have to guess).
For this group, I suppose the main concern is to minimize sacrifices going from an average 14-15-inch laptop to a (formerly too expensive) ultra-portable. If running Office/Outlook, web browsing, Skype, playing HD video and music is all you do, then X100e shrinks those capabilities into a smaller more portable package that still has full-sized screen resolution, keyboard, trackpad and trackpoint.
Simply put, the X100e is not as big and as powerful as a big laptop, but that's not the point in an 11.6-inch laptop - you expect compromise when going smaller. Conversely, the X100e is not as small, cheap and efficient as most netbooks, but you gain power and features not available on netbooks.
For me, the X100e was the first chance to get a brand-new ultra-portable with "good-enough" performance and ThinkPad quality at a low price - next step being an X201 starting at 1100 USD. On another note, I have a company-owned X60s that will be replaced by another X201 (or like) in the next 6 months - I would also guess that some X100 users are like me - buying their first private-owned Thinkpad, due to their experience with the brand, and the good price/performance/features mix of the X100e.
Overall very, very happy with my buy. I have not yet formed a bond as with my X60s, but that does not happen in just 1 week.
...just my 2 cents.
06-15-2010 06:25 AM - edited 06-15-2010 06:26 AM
think2wice - excellent write-up! having played with the single-core version of the X100e for about a month myself, i'd say you covered all the major points of this system thoroughly. thanks for the feedback!
how do you like it with the 160GB intel X25-M? what kind of startup and shutdown times are you getting? how quickly does PS CS5 launch when not in cache?
06-15-2010 07:00 AM - edited 06-15-2010 07:05 AM
Windows 7 Pro (x64) gets from power button to login screen in 20.1 seconds (with startup animation disabled). From login to "desktop ready" is dependent on how many services, processes are running - but in my case about 8 seconds until cursor is idle, ready. If I'm fast with my password, I can get in in under 30 total! Kidding - I rarely reboot now that apps are all in place.
Photoshop CS5 (x64) loads in 5.2 seconds. Nothing is cached as Windows 7 senses an SSD and turns off caching. Indexing is also off as it is virtually instant as you type in search. It's quite nice.
...loving the SSD. Friends have claimed it's overkill in X100e - probably right - but could not in good faith buy some RAM-brand drive or even a smaller drive - want to keep everything on this drive. Wanted a silent, safe, quick, large enough drive - and SSD is a scary world of confusing benchmarks for now. I played it safe (worth the 20% higher cost to me) and chose the intel.
Last thing to configure before I am settled in... I'm in the process of tuning my fan speed to suit the different Power Manager settings I've made - cutting noise and heat, and getting a little more battery.
06-15-2010 07:52 AM
very nice. even an SSD like the 40GB X25-V would be a great way to go on an X100e and keep the system affordable. i have an older samsung SLC SSD in my X61s and it makes the system fly. boot times with server 2008 R2 with a finger swipe are around 25~30 seconds and under 5 to shut down.
i'm not a huge fan of island keys but can't deny that the typing experience on the X100e is nothing short of excellent -- especially for a netbook. heat concerns aside, my opinion is that the X100e is an under-appreciated system. two things i would change would be to use an intel processor and traditional key shapes. otherwise, i think it's just about perfect as a high-end netbook.
glad you're happy with the system. definitely keep us posted on your long-term thoughts after you've had more time with it, including battery and power management results.
06-15-2010 01:43 PM
Thanks for the balanced review!
06-16-2010 12:13 AM
Great review. I have pretty much exactly the same config on my X100e as you.
You can replace the WiFi card with a Lenovo branded Intel WiFi Link 5100. I'm using this right now on my X100e. This will give you support for 5GHz 802.11n. The FRU number is 43Y6517. Do a search for this number on eBay and you will find it for very cheap (about USD $22 shipped). Use the Intel WiFi drivers for the T400 from the Lenovo support web site.
06-17-2010 08:15 AM
Excellent write up!!
I purchased an X100e for my wife recently and have spent the last almost 6 weeks setting it up and playing with it to get it just right before I present it to her later this month (it's a present and she has no idea). I've got to be honest, it's gonna be hard to hand that puppy over.
01-20-2011 04:33 AM
I've had an X100e for nearly a year now and still love its cute form factor and overall quality although I find the performance to be a little too weak for many duties and tend to use a larger alternative unless I need the portability. To be fair, though, performance wasn't top priority when choosing this little baby.
On the plus side is Lenovo's excellent build quality and thank god not all manufacturers are pandering to the ludicrous 'style over substance' fashion for high-gloss finishes (they look nice as long as you don't have to actually touch). However, here are a few cons that may be may be worth noting as this is our first Lenovo purchase:
As you can see my criticisms of the hardware are pretty minor, but my poor experience of the tech support on the few isues I've raised means we'll be unlikely to buy Lenovo again. I even sent a detailed complained to the head of web sales at Lenovo UK about this. He promised a respone, but didn't get it even after sending reminders. As a reseller it just makes no sense to take the risk when HP usually have an alternative and I know we'll get good support if it's needed.