Lenovo Thinkpad X130e First Impressions and Review

Thinkpad X130e Top

I was able to get my hands on a loaner unit from Lenovo via CDWG this week. This is the unit from Lenovo that they are specifically marketing to the education sector. I was eager to play around with it and see it firsthand prior to making an investment in them for student laptop carts. Also, Apple recently EOL’d the standard unibody white MacBook we were buying for student use, so looking at this unit to replace the MacBook is also in the back of my mind as I tear into it.

The Specs

Thinkpad X130e Specs

The unit I am testing has 2 GB of RAM, with the slower 1.3 Ghz AMD E-300. Feels faster than the Atom Netbook units. After initial boot of Windows, it was responsive.

Windows Device Manager

Windows 7 Device Manager on ThinkPad X130e

Liked the gigabit ethernet and 11n wireless. The 7200 RPM drive was also a nice add. No optical drive is a bummer.

Keyboard

Thinkpad X130e Keyboard

Really liked the feel of this keyboard to type. The keys are separate along the lines of what Apple has been doing with it’s hardware for many years now. The keys were normal size and not only going to work with small hands. I was able to type as I do with my MacBook Pro without a problem.

Trackpad and Buttons

Thinkpad X130e Trackpad and Buttons

Never have been a fan of the “eraserhead” navigation, but the trackpad on the X130 is pretty nice. It acts as a trackpad and as a large button to do right and left clicks. You also have the upper buttons. Simplification here would be nice, but I guess you choose the ones you want to use and ignore the ones you don’t.

The Chassis “Bumper”

Top Chassis Bumper Around LCD

Really like the rubber bumper around the LCD. There is a lip around it so when it is closed, it goes beyond the top and projects the entire unit. This is a great feature. MacBooks and other laptops used in carts get banged around a lot by students when they are out and when they are slid back into slots on a cart, so this feature is a total bonus.

Side VGA Port

Thinkpad X130e Side: Front VGA Port

The X130e has a standard VGA port which many schools that haven’t gone iPad crazy still have as standard for projectors. Unlike the Apple world, you are not in video adapter hell requiring a MiniDisplayPort or another type of Apple accessory to bridge the laptop to the projector cable.

Side Front

Thinkpad X130e Side: Front HDMI, USB, Ethernet

The next standard for classroom projection (again not for schools in an iPad haze with AppleTV and iPads) is to go HDMI. All new projection systems are HDMI and the cable is much more durable and can send/receive video and audio. The Thinkpad X130e has an HDMI a USB and gigabyte ethernet and 3.5mm audio. Having the ethernet port towards the front on laptops is always ackward, but it will rarely ever be used in most environments since WIFI rules, so not a huge deal.

Other Side Front

Thinkpad X130e Side: Front SD slot and USB

On the other side, they included an SD card slot to use with digital camera media and/or camcorders that dump video to the popular media format. They also have another USB port here. Nice.

Other Side Rear

Thinkpad X130e Side: Rear USB and Power

Towards the back of the other side, you get another USB and the power jack in from the adapter. Having ports along the sides of the laptop are critical for cart use and charging. Huge. Unlike the Mag stuff from Apple that students and teachers always have issues with fully connecting in a cart environment, these see m better to deal with longterm.

Power Light Indicator

AC Power Light Indicator

When you plug in, you get a green light for power to show you are receiving power. It is only green. It does not change to something like yellow or orange to show it is charging the battery. You get a audiable sound when you plug in power or remove it.

Power On Light

Thinkpad X130e Chassis: Logo with Power Indicator i

The way they light the dot in the “i” on the top and on the wristpad area is pretty cool.

Thinkpad X130e Chassis: Logo with Power Indicator

The Battery

Thinkpad X130e Battery

The battery is pretty small. On a full charge, Windows shows over 8 hours. I am still testing, but the run-rate is pretty great. Could you get through a whole day of classes for students? Probably not, but close.

Power Adapter

AC Adapter

Pretty standard 65W power adapter.

AC Adapter vs Apple Power Adapter

Smaller than the Apple Mag brick and doesn’t get as hot it seems. Uses the standard 2 prong cable to the wall and to the transformer.

Bottom of the Unit

Thinkpad X130e Bottom

The bottom of the Thinkpad X130e is simple. Three screws across the front give you access to the insides. The speaker bar runs along the front of the bottom.

Thinkpad X130e Open: All Areas

Unscrew the three phillips screws and you are in. Easy access to the drive, RAM and wireless.

Thinkpad X130e Open: Memory and Processor

Two memory slots. My unit came with 2GB of RAM in one slot.

Thinkpad X130e Open: Hard Drive

Two screws and a slide take the SATA drive out. Nice.

Thinkpad X130e Open: Hard Drive Area

The 7200 RPM 2.5″ SATA is a nice touch. I find drive RPM super critical and many netbooks were cursed with slow drives. Since this is running full Windows 7 Pro, any bump in read/write speed is appreciated.

Thinkpad X130e Open: Full

Three screws to get to pretty much anything you need to get to that is field repairable is nice if you are duplicating drive images, or need to move through a bunch of them quickly as we do in school environments.

Next to the MacBook Unibody

Thinkpad X130e next to White Macbook Unibody

The Thinkpad X130e is smaller than the MacBook Unibody. But, the feel is solid. The black color is a plus for schools because the laptops get dirty and the white MacBooks rarely look clean. The Thinkpad X130e feels solid and durable.

Thinkpad X130e stacked on White Macbook Unibody (Side)

The lack of an optical drive is a big bummer, but Apple is also going that route now too, so at about half the price of the MacBook or the MacBook Air for education model, you cannot complain.

The Positives:

  • Solid construction: the X130e feels like it can withstand the students we would throw at it. The color and bumper around it.
  • Power adapter: I’ve never been a fan of the magnet system of Apple, so this plug is just better. When Apple moved to the right-angle, less magnetized power adapter it got even worse to keep power connected in a cart system.
  • Video/Audio Ports: Love the VGA and HDMI. The less special adapters required for standard connections the better.
  • Internal Access: Quick to get into it and swap hardware. Right there with the MacBook design model. Three screws to pop-open the bottom and get to everything is great.
  • Battery Life: Still testing but seems to be great. No iPad battery life, but with a physical keyboard and ports definitely a better tool to make things without having to be plugged-in to the wall.

The Negatives:

  • Screen: The display is good. Not great. If you are used to Apple devices, this is not that. Not a bright, but I do like the matte finish. The 1366 x 768 resolution is fine. Not as bright as the better units from other vendors, but more than fine for classroom use.
  • Windows: Yeah, no iMovie, iPhoto, etc. but Windows 7 Pro is great for everyday use. If students need processing and browser applications along side programming tools, this is a great solution.
  • Trackpad: Not a fan. It works, but too much stuff going on there. I realize they make this for people who might prefer different input methods, but feels less elegant that it could be.
  • The Thin SATA Drive: The clearance in the hard drive bay is so thin that it requires a thinner SATA drive that your standard 2.5″ variety. The one that shipped with it is 7mm wide. You are NOT going be able to fit a normal 2.5″ drive in there.

Conclusions:

I really like the unit I am testing and think it has potential here. I also liked the design of the Chromebooks I was playing with last year, but this is a big step-up from Netbooks and Chromebooks on content creation capability with resident applications and tools. If you aren’t stuck on trying to force iPads into your school and want an alternative to Apple for laptops, these is a great units. I can see us getting a couple of new carts in for the same price of one Apple-based cart.

P.S. – If you can, get 4 gigs of RAM on them. You will probably be able to run them longer in Windows. I am guessing the 1.3 Ghz vs the 1.6Ghz is less important then the RAM upgrade.

14 Replies to “Lenovo Thinkpad X130e First Impressions and Review”

  1. My company has bought these for our field reps and so far they have been a great choice. The full 1366×768 resolution screen displays apps better than a typical netbook and solid battery life are a huge plus for those who are not near a power outlet all day. My only issue is with the trackpad’s integrated left/right buttons is a bit flimsy. Other than that, these are a good choice for a light and portable computing device.

    1. Hi mergy,

      I have a question I hope you’ll be able to answer. You mention the HDD slot is very small. Would I be able to place a SSD in the netbook?

      I have an OCZ Vertex 3 I was hoping to put in there, says its 9mm wide.

      Thoughts?

      1. Not in my tests. I tested with an Intel SSD and there was not enough clearance. There was a plastic spacer on the SSD assembly that I was going to remove and if I did, it would have worked (possibly.)

        1. I’ve done a bit more research on it. It seems most any 9mm SSD can be install, give you remove spacers, or part of the HDD tray. They fit really, really snuggly though, so its difficult to get out with a screwdriver.

  2. Hey There!
    One question: this notebook comes with a lot of pre-installed software. I what to get rid of the most of it, but I’m not a computer expert, I don’t want to get to delete important soft.

    Which programs would you recomend to delete?

    Thanks!

    1. Lenovo can go a little nuts, but nothing like I have seen Dell do on laptops. We cut back quite a bit on the various Lenovo utilities and most all of the other pre-installed apps.

  3. I love this netbook but sadly, after only 7 weeks, all I have is a white screen. trying to find out how to get it repaired/replaced since it is still under warranty. All warranty repairs go through IBM EZ. We’ll see how difficult it is to get that completed and how long it takes. upset that this died so quick. 7 weeks? really? (and it’s not been bounced around by a kid, I am 58 and it’s been handled very carefully. I have read since that this is not uncommon.)

    1. They have been pretty durable with our high school students. We have a couple of laptop carts of them. I’m sure it was a loose video cable or something.

  4. Many thanks for this great review!

    I just bought one tonight (yes, I’m late to the game) but I found a chain store that actually still had some factory refurbs for $141 USD delivered (!!) with the E-450 (better proc) and 4GB of memory. Given that I have a recent 7mm SSD (a very fast one) this should make an ideal netbook replacement, which is really what I was after.

    Believe it or not, I could not find anything current for the price, performance & battery life that would eclipse this unit. I’m a big fan of the netbook as a whole – htye just needed to be a little bit faster with the ability to play 1080P and this should fit my design requirements completely.

    I like to ‘soup up’ my systems and the fact that I no longer have to strip the mainboard out of a netbook to add in peripherals is very, very nice. The entire ‘3 screws and it’s open’ design philosophy means fast, nearly on the fly changes.

    All of these things are something only one with experience with larger scale deployments would pick up on. Many thanks for taking the time to review this now dated machine. Oddly enough, it’s exactly what I need.

  5. ….and look at that….they even included two extra antenna leads so that I can put WWAN cellular connectivity into it (or 3×3 MIMO) without having to add antennas into the screen assembly….

    I can see an 8GB upgrade in short order, and perhaps even 3×3 MIMO with cellular….

    I could not have picked this unit without your extensive pics!

  6. Hello there,

    I am planning to buy this machine. I only have one question. Can this laptop transfer sound via HDMI to DP Cable? I am planning to connect the laptop to my 27 inch ASUS VE276Q.

  7. Hi there,

    I am planning to buy this laptop. Awesome features in cheap price. I only have one question. Can this laptops HDMI port transfer sound via HDMI to Displayport Cable? As I intend to connect the laptop to my 27″ laptop. Hope u get my question. Thanks

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