Lenovo ThinkPad X121e review

26 Nov 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

Solid performance from an 11in laptop – the X121e is a more sensible choice than a netbook if you need portability


11.6 in 1,366x768 display, 1.5kg, 1.3GHz Intel Core i3-2357M, 4.00GB RAM, 320GB disk, Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

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.

Lenovo ThinkPad X121e

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.

Lenovo ThinkPad X121e right side

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.

Lenovo ThinkPad X121e left side

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.

Basic Specifications

Rating ****
Processor Intel Core i3-2357M
Processor clock speed 1.3GHz
Memory 4.00GB
Memory slots 2
Memory slots free 0
Maximum memory 8GB
Size 24x290x208mm
Weight 1.5kg
Sound Conexant SmartAudio HD
Pointing device touchpad and touchstick


Viewable size 11.6 in
Native resolution 1,366x768
Graphics Processor Intel HD 3000 Graphics
Graphics/video ports HDMI, VGA
Graphics Memory 1,274MB


Total storage capacity 320GB
Optical drive type none

Ports and Expansion

USB ports 3
Bluetooth yes
Wired network ports 1x 10/100/1000
Wireless networking support 802.11n
PC Card slots none
Supported memory cards SDHC, MMC, Memory Stick Pro/Duo
Other ports minijack headset port


Carrying case No
Operating system Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Operating system restore option restore partition
Software included Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Edition
Optional extras none

Buying Information

Warranty one year collect and return
Price £489
Details www.lenovo.co.uk
Supplier http://www.saveonlaptops.co.uk