Review – Lenovo X121e – first impressions

29Aug11

After some hassles getting it, the X121e has been in the household for a few days now – so it’s time for  first impressions review.

Design and build

The machine looks and feels more like an IdeaPad than the ThinkPad’s I’m used to. This is no surprise given the price. The chassis seems pretty robust, but the screen feels more flimsy, and doesn’t have a latch. It’s also lacking any visual indicators for hard disk activity, network etc.

One of the first things I did after unpacking was pop in another DIMM to take the memory up to 4GB. This was simplicity itself, as rather than having lots of separate covers on the base there’s just one giant one that gives access to RAM, HDD and the micro PCI-e slots for WiFi and 3G. This machine is seriously easy to upgrade.

I ordered the larger capacity 6 cell battery, and had to check the part number when it arrived as it seemed smaller and lighter than I expected. It doesn’t protrude at all from the regular dimensions of the case – so I can see how the 3 cell battery would make any sense at all. Claimed life is 9hrs, and I’ve not done any testing, but I’d expect 5hrs under normal use.

The screen is noticeably larger and higher resolution than a netbook screen, and fine to work with straight on. It’s matt, which I personally prefer, and whilst the viewing angle isn’t great that probably doesn’t matter for most laptop use cases.

The keyboard is a chiclet affair – something I’ve come to expect of a ThinkPad Edge. It is however rather good, and easy to type fast on. Like any proper ThinkPad it has a trackpoint, which is great. The trackpad isn’t too shabby either – though its textured finish might be a bit abrasive if used for a long time. The whole front edge of the trackpad can be pressed in for left and right mouse buttons.

Performance

Subjective performance is very good. I’m guessing that a 2nd generation Core i3 beats a 1st generation Core i7. The X121e has managed to clock up the best Windows Experience Index in the house (at 4.9). This is mostly down to the HD3000 integrated graphics turning in a decent performance (the earlier HD Graphics in my X201 definitely lets things down compared to the other components).

I had a go at hooking it up to my 27″ screen via HDMI to see if it could manage the full resolution of 2560×1440. Sadly all it could manage is 1920×1080 (1080p).

Software

I got the basic model with Windows 7 Home Premium (64bit). After configuring Windows it launched an installer for Office 2010 (and I’m guessing some other pre installed stuff). This was easy to exit, and the other pre installed stuff that I’d rather ignore has kept out of the way.

Overall

The X121e delivers the performance of last year’s high end machine at little more than a netbook price, which makes it quite a bargain. I’m glad that Lenovo managed to get me one in the end.

If you’re looking for more then there’s a thread at the OverClockers forum that includes some more detailed benchmarks and discussion of SSD upgrades amongst other things.



11 Responses to “Review – Lenovo X121e – first impressions”

  1. 1 ronald

    Additional review Lenovo x121e i3 04 september 2011

    Since there are not alot reviews for the Lenovo x121e with i3 intel I’d like to add to this well done review;

    LOOKS: Beforehand I had a pumped up Asus EEE 1015PEM with 4 GB RAM and 1785 Mhz processor (tnx to setfsb). I was very pleased with it and found it incredible pleasant to use and see.

    The Lenovo 121e arrived a few days ago. Next to the eee 1015pem it looks a bit bulky. But it actually is thinner and has about the same weight! And the Lenovo x121e i3 kind of ‘grows on’you. I like it more and more now I am getting used to it. I like it.

    KEY BOARD: a story of its own. It types increadible well so it lives up to its fame. Strangely enough ‘numlock’ and ‘instert ‘keys are not there. Do I miss them? I don’t know yet.

    TOUCHPAD: coming from Asus eee at first it was a crime. I spend a few hours to have it my way. I’ve combined Lenovo’s touchpad and trackpoint (the strange red thing in te middle of the keyboard…) so I now have the touchpad with 2 good buttons for left and right mouse click. I’ve set sensitivity at highest level, palmtrack almost on maximum and disabled tapping. I have fiddled with the pointer and scrolling for a very long time and now it is almost better then the asus eee 1015pem. But what a work…I also downloaded the newest driver from Lenovo and that helpes too.

    Indicators: there’s just one nicely integrated in the Thinkpad logo so you can see if it’s on, sleeping or standby. For me thats is enough

    Note: once getting used to it the lenovo x121e I find it very good to operate and do’t want to go back. The process of getting used to is a hussle and I compare it as if you switch from pc to macbook.

    PERFORMANCE: One word: great! First thing I did was a ram upgrade from 4 to 8 GB RAM for 18,- euro. I didn’t even try it with 4 gb. The main reason to buy the x121e for mee was that the eee 1015pem 4 gb 1785mhz was not fast enough, the screen to small and multitasking was a big problem. But I definitely wanted a small light weight laptop with strong multitasking and graphic power.
    And the x212e is superb! Long battery life, no problem with HD, 3D and multitasking. WEI index is 4.9 (processor=4.9, RAM=7.1, Graphics=5.2, Gaming=6.1, primary disk=5.9) So not bad at all ;-) I will try to get the processor a bit higher just for th fun of it. Btw there are a masive amount of tweeking possibilities installed I didn’t even try yet.

    Durability/sturdiness: enough said about that on other reviews of Lenovo.Just very good feel.

    RT, The Netherlands

  2. 2 Meenu

    I was thinking of buying the x121e. It seems quite good on paper. Have you had any issues with fa noise and heat? And what’s the battery life like?

    • No issues so far with heat or fan noise. Given how low power the CPU is I don’t expect heat to be an issue. Fan noise is more subjective, and more prone to random degradation over time (I’ve had real issues with my s10e, whilst the machines I got for my wife and her mum have been fine).

      Battery life seems to be 5hrs+ of real world use (WiFi on, screen at a reasonable brightness).

  3. 4 Josh

    the lid material flakes off, lenovo don’t think it is an issue, here is a link to a vid showing it flake off http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MQp9ujxc3w

    • The lid (and lack of catch) is probably the worst part of the overall package, and seems to me much more IdeaPad quality than what I’d normally expect from a Thinkpad. Still, I wouldn’t expect to see that kind of issue so soon.

      I wonder of the red ones are fairing worse than the black ones?

  4. 6 David Thomas

    Hi Chris

    My main concern is about the trackpad. I cannot abide tap to click touchpads, so I need to be sure I can turn off this function while retaining the cursor tracking via the touchpad. I note that you’ve tweaked the settings to suit your needs and would appreciate confirmation that I can achieve what I need.

    Currently undecided between X121e and a Dell Latitude 2120 dual core

    Regards

    • I just can’t stand touchpads. I’ve only ever used the trackpoint, so I’ve done nothing to fiddle with the touchpad settings (and it is after all my son’s machine – though he mostly uses a mouse with it). There seem to be a gazillion settings to customise how the touchpad behaves.

      Just to be clear – the clicking action can be achieved by either tapping or by pushing down the front edge of the touchpad. It’s not an arrangement I particularly like (as doing a middle click for pasting into SSH sessions is almost impossible), but since there’s a trackpoint, two proper buttons for that, and the scroll button any inadequacies of the touchpad are irrelevant to me.

      The Atom in the Dell 2120 (even if it is dual core) isn’t in the same league as the i3 CPU in the X121e.

  5. 8 David Thomas

    Appreciated. Many thanks

  6. 9 chrism_scotland

    Great to see some more information on the x121e, been reading the thread over at Overclockers, very tempted to order one to replace my old Acer 8371 I got rid of… and cheaper than the Android tablet I was going to order!

  7. I’ve just taken delivery of one of the updated x121e laptops with the 1.4GHz, 2367m processor.

    It’s probably only a small upgrade over the 2357m, but the windows experience rating with 8GB RAM installed as as follows:

    Processor – 5.1
    Memory – 7.0
    Graphics (Windows) – 5.4
    Graphics (Gaming) – 6.1
    Disk transfer – 5.9

    I’m currently using it for mobile image editing, and when the screen is properly calibrated, it’s a nice little machine for this purpose. It seems slightly faster than my old T7250 Core 2 Duo laptop which ran at 2GHz (and would get burny hot!).

    • The extra .1 GHz seems to put a useful bump in performance looking at the raw numbers, and it seems that the cost is much the same as the previous version :)

      It’s a shame that there aren’t more options on CPU for the X121e, but I expect that’s to stop it cannibalising sales of higher end X series.


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