Lenovo X100e Preview - Business as Usual

Business on a Smaller Scale

Business as Usual, but on a Smaller Scale

With convergence comes greater confusion. It's true that the lines are beginning to blur between mobile platforms these days. Distinguished by subtle hardware attributes at best, a fine line now separates a netbook from an ultraportable, and you can't blame the average consumer for being mystified by the differences between them.

Thanks to Lenovo for the early head start, we have the ThinkPad X100e in our possession. It's a 11.6-inch prototype, clad in a fiery red shell with an equally tasteful black interior beneath its hood. If Lenovo can help it, it would prefer consumers to associate this entry-level ThinkPad as an ultraportable, rather than the less "competent" netbook.

Loyal ThinkPad purists might not be comfortable with Lenovo for downsizing their beloved business trooper to a smaller outfit. Against the grain however, the X100e does appear to hold some promise. Designed for usability and mobility, Lenovo has chosen to power the X100e with a single core Athlon Neo MV40 processor - call it AMD's enhanced alternative to Intel's Atom if you like. The Yukon-based platform has been hyped by AMD to provide more computational punch, notwithstanding its larger power draw compared to the Atom N280.

Other specs of the X100e include 4GB of RAM, a Realtek 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi adapter, and a hard drive ranging from 160GB to 320GB. Drenched with Windows 7, this baby also packs a 1366 x 768 display, which arguably offers a larger screen estate than your average netbook. Interestingly, Lenovo somehow managed to retain classic ThinkPad features like the trackpoint and touchpad despite the X100e's smaller footprint. Business warriors can also look forward to Lenovo's trademark ThinkVantage Technologies suite, which promises an "Airbag Protection" feature which disengages the hard disk during bumps and drops.

You seldom get to see a ThinkPad dressed in such loud hues. Anyway, Lenovo will kick off the X100e with a single core AMD Athlon MV40 processor. Consumers can look forward to dual core incarnations somewhere in the Q1 bracket this year. That isn't too far away, is it?

Some notebooks offer lots of fancy LED status lights. You won't find that on the X100e though. To "reduce visual distractions", Lenovo has toned down the notebook with just a battery and standby lights on the front lip.

Here's another unfamiliar trait in ThinkPad terriority. Lenovo has engineered the X100e's keyboard with chiclet keys. Also, each key comes with a concave design which makes for a lovely typing experience. Best of all, you get to enjoy the best of both worlds with a trackpoint and touchpad at your disposal.

The X100e sports a regular template on its left flank. Other than the regular heat vents, expect to find two USB ports, an Ethernet port and a headphone jack.

Lenovo might not like this, but the X100e cuts a similar profile to that of a typical netbook. You'll find a 4-in-1 card reader and a powered USB slot on its right flank. The notebook's six cell battery sticks out like a sore thumb though. Hmm, perhaps the three cell alternative might look better?

Lenovo has stuck to a relatively skinny screen bezel which houses a camera on top as well. The X100e's 11.6-inch display is powered by LED backlights by the way. It may be an ultraportable, but hey, it's still a ThinkPad, and we think it's just as sexy as its bigger siblings, if not more.

The X100e is available from 5th January onwards. According to Lenovo, this charming notebook is affordably yours at a starting price below the US$500 mark. Till then, stay tuned for a plump review once we rest our eager hands on a certified production unit.