By ZAM KARIMintech@thestar.com.my
Business users looking for more than what a netbook can provide should check out what Lenovo's ThinkPad X100e has to offer.
THE latest ThinkPad X100e is more of an entry-level ultraportable notebook than a netbook.
Instead of the usual Atom-based processor, it runs on an AMD Athlon Neo X2 Single-Core MV-40 processor.
Supporting the processor is an integrated ATI Radeon HD 3200 IGP 128MB, which provides a boost when playing videos or running graphics-intensive apps on the machine. That's not all, it also has a bigger 11.6in widescreen monitor and the keyboard... well, it's probably one of the best that we have used on a notebook (more on this later).
Of course, being a ThinkPad it wouldn't be complete without having a trackpoint pointing device around. For the uninitiated, it is the tiny red dot that you see in the middle of the keyboard. However fret not if you are not used to the trackpoint as the notebook also has the usual trackpad.
The X100e is available in either the standard non-glossy black or red - which is what we received for review. However, no matter which colour you choose, the interior will always be black.
At first glance, the red review unit looked dull due to the non-glossy coating. Heads will not turn but on a positive note this ThinkPad will stay cleaner, especially from fingerprint smudges, a lot longer than its glossy brethren.
As a matter of fact, we only had to wipe the lid when it was time to return the review unit.
However, for this particular model you will likely notice that not all of the exterior is covered in red. From the rear, you will see the black six-cell battery pack sticking out like a sore thumb.
Seriously, it makes the whole notebook design look awkward. Perhaps, Lenovo will be able to come up with a better design in the future to make the battery pack less conspicious for the coloured models.
Unfortunately that is not the only thing that protrudes from the notebook. Half of an inserted SD card also sticks out from the built-in slot, so don't forget to take it out when moving the notebook around.
As mentioned earlier, the X100e offers a slightly bigger screen than usually found on a netbook.
Its 11.6in WXGA screen is able to display an image at up to 1,366 x 768-pixel resolution, which allows users to view widescreen movies with ease.
To complement the video is a built-in sound system that produces decent audio even at full blast.
It is also worth noting that the notebook supports the company's ThinkVantage suite of professional security features such as Access Connections, Power Manager and Active Protection to give business users peace of mind while using the X100e.
The AMD processor with help from the integrated ATI graphics card and 2GB of RAM ensure fast and smooth notebook operation. It is able to play 1080p HD videos well and handles photo-editing tasks without a fuss.
It is a shame then that the model does not offer any HDMI connectivity. Users will just have to make do with the built-in VGA port when connecting to a HDTV for a larger viewing.
One feature we liked a lot is the keyboard. Unlike a typical full-sized island-type keyboard, the one on the X100e takes it slightly further where each matte key is curved as if it has been moulded to neatly fit your fingertip.
Plus the keys are raised in order to provide maximum tactility and the keyboard is also spill-resistant.
Some rarely-used keys such as Pause/Break, Scroll Lock and SysRq have been removed, leaving more room for the rest of the keys. Other changes include much smaller Function buttons and two full-sized Shift keys.
However the keyboard is not without its fair share of problems especially in the form of lots of "mis-pressing" due to the different key layout.
On the X100e, the Delete key now sits three keys away from its regular position at the end on the top right corner. The position of the Fn and Ctrl keys are also reversed, with the former now located at the far end on the right bottom corner.
All these switches led to us pressing the wrong keys or key combinations when trying to delete some files fast or when executing certain commands.
As mentioned earlier, the X100e offers both the trackpad and trackpoint, with two mouse buttons for each. Some people find the extra navigation method an unnecessary addition to the notebook but we beg to differ. There are times when you would like to use one over the other.
For instance, based on our experience, the trackpoint allows us to finely position the pointer especially when editing photos while for faster access to the notebook's functions we prefer the touchpad.
Plus the touchpad also has multi-touch capabilities for quick zooming. In any case, the notebook allows you to disable either function if you prefer to use only one method.
One area users need to be aware of is the heat - the notebook gets pretty hot especially on the left side and bottom. Our advice is to make sure you put it on the table and not on your lap when using it.
What really surprised us was the battery life. Unfortunately, not in a good way.
Despite being equipped with a six-cell battery, the notebook only managed to last slightly more than three and half hours, compared to five hours as claimed by Lenovo.
As a comparison, most Intel Atom-based netbooks with a six-cell battery pack that we have used before can last way longer than this.
However this could be down to the power management, larger screen or simply that the Neo processor needs more juice than its Atom-based competitors.
Nevertheless, the result here is still a disappointment.
The legacy... continues
The first things that come to mind when one sees the name "Thinkpad" are reliability and solid construction.
We are glad to note that the legacy continues with the X100e series. It also ships with enough firepower to let you go about your daily computing life with ease and it feels as fast as other full-fledged notebooks that we have tested before.
Of course, the awesome keyboard helps to give the X100e an edge over the competition in comfortable typing.
While it's impressive in many ways, we simply cannot ignore the heat and rather poor battery life that seem to plague this notebook. And the mismatched colour battery pack definitely ruins an otherwise clean exterior design.
In any case, if you think these drawbacks are something you can live with, then the X100e could just be the good companion that you are looking for when travelling.
Pros: Good performance; reliable; solid construction; excellent keyboard; dual navigation method.
Cons: Unappealing colour; positions of Ctrl, Fn and Delete keys have been switched; poor battery life; runs hot.
PROCESSOR: AMD Athlon Neo X2 Single-Core MV-40 (1.60GHz, 512KB)
MEMORY: 2GB 667MHz DDR2
DISPLAY: 11.6in HD AntiGlare (1,366 x 768-pixels)
GRAPHICS: ATI Radeon HD 3200 IGP 128MB
STORAGE: 320GB hard drive
CONNECTIVITY: WiFi, Bluetooth, 10/100 Ethernet
PORTS/SLOTS: Three USB 2.0 ports, VGA port, Ethernet LAN port, 4-in-1 card reader, heaphone and mic combo jack
BATTERY: Six-cell lithium-ion
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
OTHER FEATURES: Trackpoint, multi-gesture touchpad, low-light sensitive webcam
DIMENSIONS (W x H x D): 282mm x 209mm x 15-29.5mm
Review unit courtesy of Lenovo Malaysia, 1-800-18-2388