Though the unit we have on hand is actually the one I bought for myself (again, eating our own dog food as it were), it does bear mentioning that Lenovo's ThinkPad X100e has been getting seeded around the media lately. Initial reviews of the notebook back in February were mixed, and understandably so: Lenovo commanded a frankly obscene pricetag for a notebook with AMD's mediocre Athlon Neo MV-40. $550 for a notebook that got just barely over four hours of battery life under the best of circumstances with a processor that was marginally superior to the Intel Atom at the expense of heat and power. Lenovo was asking CULV prices for low-end tech, and most review sites weren't biting.

Flash forward to today, and it appears Lenovo has been sending out ThinkPad X100e units in the configuration that probably should've been their leader in the first place. Of course, things have changed in the intervening time frame. AMD's Nile platform is starting to pick up steam in the marketplace, with Acer and Toshiba both selling notebooks based on Athlon II Neo K-series processors, Radeon HD 4225 graphics, and DDR3 support. The prices on the ThinkPad X100e have also dropped: when it came out, the Turion Neo version we have on hand would've meant parting with seven Franklins, but now Lenovo asks a still-hairy-but-more-reasonable $529. So what do you get for your hard-earned cash?

Lenovo ThinkPad X100e Specifications
Processor AMD Turion Neo X2 L625
(2x1.6GHz, 65nm, 2x512KB L2, 18W)
Chipset AMD RS780M Northbridge, AMD SB750 Southbridge
Memory 2x2GB DDR2-800
(Shipped with: 1GB DDR2-667)
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200
(40 Stream Processors, 380MHz Core, Integrated)
Display 11.6" LED Matte 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Lenovo LTN116AT01401
Hard Drive(s) Intel X25-V 40GB SSD
(Shipped with: Fujitsu 250GB 5400RPM Hard Disk)
Optical Drive None
Networking Realtek Gigabit Ethernet
Lenovo 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Audio Conexant Cx20582 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone jack
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 56Wh battery
Front Side Speakers
Left Side Exhaust vent
2x USB 2.0
Gigabit ethernet jack
Headphone jack
Right Side SD/MMC reader
1x USB 2.0
Kensington lock
Back Side AC jack
VGA port
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
(Shipped with: Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit)
Dimensions 11.1" x 8.2" x 1.16" (WxDxH)
Weight 3.3 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
Trackpoint and touchpad
Flash reader (4-in-1)
WWAN Mini-PCIe support
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing Starting at $449
$629 as shipped

It's not exciting but it's not what we're here for either. The AMD Turion Neo X2 L625 is the best AMD's Congo platform had to offer, and it's not bad. It has the same dual 1.6GHz cores as the L335, but bumps L2 cache up to 512K on each one. There's also supposedly improved PowerNow! capability over the Athlon Neo chips, allowing it to scale voltage lower; while I can't confirm it, the Turion Neo does seem to have superior battery life to Athlon Neo-based portables as we'll see later. Attached to it are the familiar AMD Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics and support for DDR2.

Since this is my personal system, I opted to upgrade the unit to an Intel X25-V 40GB SSD (on sale locally) and 4GB of DDR2-800. It originally shipped with a Fujitsu 250GB 5400RPM hard disk to ensure it would never reach its full potential, along with a paltry 1GB of DDR2. Note that the specs it shipped with are the basics for the $629 pricetag. We actually have a few benchmarks later on with the system running in both configurations. It should also be noted that the RAM never runs at a higher speed than DDR2-667; the way the integrated memory controller is tuned on Congo-platform processors means even DDR2-800 will run at a reduced speed. That said, it can run in dual channel mode, so adding another 1GB stick of DDR2-667 should at least offer a marginal gain alongside the additional performance boost that comes with more memory.

The ThinkPad X100e, On the Outside Looking In
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  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    That's true and it's an oversight I was somewhat conscious of during the review. In the end I went the direction I did because while more RAM can improve system responsiveness a bit during multitasking, the SSD shores up the whole package.
  • Rick83 - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    Well, with modern Windows you also get lot of caching going on, further reducing the IO-load, and thus saving some more power.

    I think that actually the RAM-upgrade makes just as much a difference, as the SSD.
    Did the same upgrade to an old thinkpad x60 tablet early this year, and the usability boost was huge (Also going from XP to 7 to have trim around..)
  • Megadunder - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Did you do a SSD upgrade also? I have a x60 with 2GB ram and I'm thinking about a ram upgrade aswell as a SSD upgrade...
  • allasm - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    When I needed a small portable laptop I bought a used Thinkpad X61s for about $500. It is a 12" unit (with matte and relatively low-res 1024x768 screen) and a low-voltage Core2Duo @1.6 (old tech 65nm though). Mine has 4GB DDR2 as well, and I got an intel 80GB SSD for it.

    The keyboard is excellent, and for me lower res on a screen 12" big is just right. Despite being older and 12" (and not 11") it weights the same 3.3lbs with the standard 4-cell battery, which is enough for about 3.5 hrs with a properly set up OS. It is a bit heavier with a larger 8cell battery, but then it is good for about 6-7hrs of internet surfing.

    (on a side note, I'm amazed when netbooks which are 3 years younger with a smaller 10" screen and a much slower atom CPUs - and about the same battery life for 3-cell units - weight about the same as this X61s! Of ocurse, it used to cell for almost $2K, but hey, 3 years is a lot!)

    Core2 @1.6 is more than enough for internet (including flash), and is good enough for some visual studio emergency development on the road as well. I never tried running any modern games though.

    Of course YMMV when buying a used laptop, but I think the X61 line is still a good alternative if you need a small laptop more powerful than a netbook and don't mind (or want) a lower-res screen & good keyboard. Oh, did I mention it is very solid, and can live undamaged through a few drops as well (unfortunately, that was tested, heh)
  • Edgar_Wibeau - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    yuhong: I guess we won't see a Nile successor of the x100e because Ontario/Zacate aka Fusion is too close already. Don't know if IBM started developing a Nile based one and cancelled it for it's tiny time frame, I VERY STRONGLY hope that they'll have an x110e based on Ontario/Zacate soon in Q1 2011 though.

    I've virtually bought it already! :)

    Decent review btw!
  • Edgar_Wibeau - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    Damnit, confused code names in my subject. Not Thuban but Ontario/Zacate of course :-/
  • Zak - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    I had my hands on few Lenovo laptops recently, setting them up for the users, and they definitely feel more solid than Dell, HP or Toshiba. And they don't look hideous like most of the recent Toshiba and HP monstrosities. If I'm ever on a market for a laptop I would definitely look at the Thinkpads.
  • LoneWolf15 - Saturday, September 4, 2010 - link

    Don't count out Dell, or HP. The key is to look at their business-class lines, not their consumer models. Dell's Latitude line, and HP's Business Notebook line are good contenders.

    That said, I'm using my second ThinkPad , a T400 (my SO has my first, a T61, and loves it). They are very well built, and I can't do without a TrackPoint (though you can get those on Dell/HP business models as well). The keyboards are topnotch, too. The T-series and X-Series ThinkPads are great choices; the W-series is good too if you need a workstation-class powerhouse.
  • Yangorang - Sunday, September 5, 2010 - link

    Did you experience any sort of hanging or freezing issues with your review unit? Because my x100e is hanging and freezing every now and then under Windows 7 x86 and x64. It works with XP quite fine though...
  • kizzmequik - Sunday, September 5, 2010 - link

    My girlfriend has one, and she's complained about some hanging when she first got it. A round of software updates apparently solved it. Or at least, she hasn't complained of any in a while.

    Unfortunately, those updates also included a wi-fi driver update that broke the wi-fi. I had to reinstall the original drivers, and it seems fine now.

    Except that the Fn+F7 command (to extend display) sporadically pops out of nowhere to annoy the hell out of her. And me. Mostly me. Probably I should roll back the drivers and software for that, too.

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