Lenovo ThinkPad X121e review
Lenovo’s ThinkPad X121e is barely bigger than the average netbook, but the hardware inside it is much more powerful. A Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM would normally only be found in a 15in laptop at this price, but Lenovo has managed to squeeze everything into an 11in chassis.
Unsurprisingly, the processor isn’t a standard Core i3, but an ultra-low voltage version running at 1.3GHz. It’s still a dual-core chip capable of running everyday applications, plus multiple programs at the same time thanks to the generous 4GB of RAM. In our multimedia benchmarks, it managed a respectable 27 – this puts it firmly between netbooks and standard laptops in terms of performance, so we expected a similar story when it came to battery life. In our light-use test, the X121e managed a superb seven hours away from the mains.
When using the X121e, it’s easy to forget you’re working on something no bigger than a netbook. The 11in screen has a fantastic 1,366x768 display, which is enough to work on two documents side-by-side and surf the web without having to scroll web pages horizontally as well as vertically. Image quality is fine, although colours are slightly muted. The reason for this is a semi-gloss screen finish that helps reduce screen glare, without completely sacrificing the colour-enhancing benefits of a gloss coating.
Typing on the full-size QWERTY keyboard was satisfying in everyday use, thanks to its well-spaced keys. Unsurprisingly, you don’t get a numeric keypad and the function keys are half-size, but these are both minor issues. There's still space for Lenovo’s signature touch stick, as well as a regular touchpad, giving you a choice of mouse controls, although only the touch stick has physical buttons. The touchpad can be pressed in to register left or right clicks – considering how small it is, this can be troublesome when trying to drag and drop files on the desktop.
Naturally, some concessions have been made to make the X121e so small. Business users are sure to miss the ports normally present in Lenovo’s ThinkPad range – with only three USB ports and a multi-format card reader, you might struggle to attach older or multiple peripherals.
Graphics potential is also hampered by Intel’s integrated chip – we had no trouble playing high definition video, either at 720p on the laptop or 1080p on an external display, but it struggled to play modern 3D games. Our Dirt3 test ran at a pitiful 14fps, although older games might still be playable with reduced detail levels. The X121e isn’t that great for multimedia playback, because of its poor quality speakers. We quickly resorted to headphones once we heard the tinny, bass-free sound.
There’s little doubt that the X121e is primarily a business laptop, with its no-nonsense design and Windows 7 Professional. Even so, it’s still an incredibly portable laptop that packs in plenty of power compared to netbooks of a similar size, for a reasonable price.
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