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 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
Liked the gigabit ethernet and 11n wireless. The 7200 RPM drive was also a nice add. No optical drive is a bummer.
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
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”
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
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.
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
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
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
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
The way they light the dot in the “i” on the top and on the wristpad area is pretty cool.
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.
Pretty standard 65W 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
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.
Unscrew the three phillips screws and you are in. Easy access to the drive, RAM and wireless.
Two memory slots. My unit came with 2GB of RAM in one slot.
Two screws and a slide take the SATA drive out. Nice.
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.