Netbooks have taken the entire portable computing space by storm. The small lightweight computers are generally about half the physical size of most of the laptops we carry around. Netbooks tend to be half the price of a regular laptop too, but they are substantially less than half as powerful for doing most of what I consider to be standard computing tasks. Don’t get me wrong, I love the HP Mini Netbook I purchased in 2008, but I need to strip services to the bear minimum to eek out every ounce of performance I could muster. Overtime, many of the compromises found me back to carrying around a full-sized notebook computer.
Lenovo lioaned me Thinkpad X100e to review back in January. After using the X100e daily for about two months, I find it exceeding my expectations for a small computer. Lenovo managed to figure out how to get the extra performance I need, without substantially driving up the price. Yes, the Thinkpad X100e is bigger than a Netbook. The screen is 11.6 inches instead of the standard Netbook 10-inch screen. The weight is slightly more than a Netbook at about 3.5 pounds, which is largely due to the size of the battery. Those two features justify the larger size, because they dramatically improve productivity.
The biggest difference for me is the performance. A screen resolution of 1366×768 is enough to do some basic video and photo editing, two functions I find miserable on a Netbook. Running email, a browser, and a couple other apps simultaneously works great on the X100e, whereas I found multi-app performance on all Netbooks to be sluggish beyond about two apps.
Battery life on the Thinkpad X100e is outstanding. A combination of Lenovo’s power management and network management software seems to extend battery life nicely as I’m able to routinely get about six hours of interrupted use without needing to plug in. In all the Netbook tests I’ve done, this number is closer to 3 hours max for any brand.
The Thinkpad X100e line comes with wireless WAN as a standard feature. Since I don’t forsee the X100e completely replacing other computing options, I’m not sure why you’d want integrated WAN access. An external device, like the Sprint Overdrive, makes more sense in allowing you to switch computers when you need to, without requiring a account for each device.
Overall, the $449 street price for the X100e makes it a no-brainer to pay a few extra dollars for a massive performance bump. If your budget allows for it, you could spend quite a bit more adding a bigger hard drive and more RAM, but you won’t be dissatisfied with the base unit. I test many notebook computers throughout the year and this is one I’m going to be disappointed to return when it’s time is up.