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Review Update Lenovo ThinkPad X121e (AMD E-300) Notebook

Tobias Winkler (translated by Tobias Niendorf), 07/03/2012

APU alternative. In our last review, we were pleased with the performance-to-price ratio of the Lenovo X121e. In this review, we will determine if the same is true for the AMD E-300 APU variant as well.

In September 2011, we reviewed the Lenovo ThinkPad X121e featuring an AMD E-350 CPU. In this review, we consider a variant of the X121e that features the AMD E-300 APU, 4 GB RAM, a 320 GB hard drive, and the FreeDOS operating system. This particular variant is in most aspects similar to the X121e already reviewed and, as a result, we will limit our review to highlighting the differences of this variant. Information regarding the features and input devices can be found in the original review.

Both the AMD E-450 APU and an Intel CPU are available for slightly more than our test system with its entry model configuration and the optional Windows 7 that we selected. As a result, we will consider both the performance-to-price ratio and feasibility of this notebook in the course of our review.

Case

As with the previous X121e, the case shows weaknesses in several keys areas such as the touchpad and battery. Users have reported that the casing lifts slightly around the upper part of the display frame and around the wrist rest. While the middle of the display lid has rubber standoffs on the display frame that allow for a good fit, those for the edges of the display are not thick enough to fill the gap when the unit is closed. This does not cause any real issues but can lead to dirt and grime on the display during frequent use. This defect is unlikely to cause serious harm to the display in regular use, but the display is more susceptible to damage if pressure is applied to the display lid directly. This is something that should be avoided in all notebooks, however.

Thin rubber coating...
has space on the right...
and on the left side.
This causes the display frame to press on the wrist rest.

Display

The display in our sample unit is identical to that of the previously reviewed X121e – an 11.6-inch LED-backlit 1366x768 (WXGA) display. Lenovo’s datasheet confirms that the specifications remain unchanged.

The WXGA resolution provides a good balance between available work space and the size of icons and text. This balance is perhaps the only good aspect of the display. Our measurements demonstrated that the display brightness has significantly dropped. The previously reviewed model featured an average brightness of 192 cd/m2 whereas the sample in this review was only capable of an average brightness of 137 cd/m2, reflecting a reduction of 50 cd/m2. This brightness is barely enough for indoor use despite its matte screen. This low brightness may make the unit unusable even under bright interior lighting and represents a clear step backward. This display does not meet the versatility requirements of modern notebooks. The primary benefit of the display – being able to use maximum brightness without a significant increase in battery consumption – is entirely offset by the lack of screen visibility. Contrast, colors, and viewing angles show no discernible improvements over the previous variant. This allows us to conclude that this is one of the worst displays we have reviewed in the past several years.

155
cd/m²
148
cd/m²
148
cd/m²
137
cd/m²
146
cd/m²
133
cd/m²
123
cd/m²
130
cd/m²
116
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Gossen Mavo-Monitor
Maximum: 155 cd/m²
Average: 137.3 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 75 %
Center on Battery: 146 cd/m²
Black: 0.94 cd/m²
Contrast: 155:1

Performance

Compared to the AMD E-350 APU from the previously reviewed X121e, this variant uses the AMD E-300 APU, lacks dual-channel memory support, and has a CPU clock of 1.3 GHz, 300 MHz less than the E-350. The Radeon HD 6310 still serves as the graphics card and maintains its 500 MHz clock speed. The 18 Watt Thermal Design Power (TDP) also remains unchanged.

Systeminfo CPUZ CPU
Systeminfo CPUZ Cache
Systeminfo CPUZ Mainboard
Systeminfo CPUZ RAM
Systeminfo CPUZ RAM SPD
Systeminfo GPUZ
Systeminfo HDTune
DPC Latenzen
System information Lenovo X121e NWS62GE

Processor

It should go without saying that the slower AMD E-300 underperforms the AMD E-350 used in the previous ThinkPad X121e. In our CPU benchmarks, we observed a performance reduction of about 20 percent due to the reduction in CPU clock speed. The E-300 achieved 941 points and 1809 points in Cinebench R10 64-bit Single- and Multi-CPU benchmark tests respectively. By comparison, the E-350 achieved 1158 points and 2196 points in the same tests respectively. The SuperPi 32m test took 2920 seconds instead of 2427 seconds as well.

We observed no throttling due to overheating or power constraints. The included 65 Watt power supply was adequate and the cooling was sufficient to keep the system temperatures quite low.

On battery power, we observed a CPU clock speed reduction. In the Cinebench R10 64-bit tests, the CPU scored 921 points (down from 941 points) and 1794 points (down from 1809 points) for Single- and Multi-CPU tests respectively.

Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
853
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
1176
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
1709
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
941 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
1809 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
1707 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
0.5 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
7.54 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
0.26 Points
Help

System Performance

In practical use, there is barely any noticeable difference in speed compared to the AMD E-350 model. Productivity programs and light photo editing were both smooth and one could work without interruption. Heavier tasks such as audio and video conversion highlighted the decreased clock speed. For example, converting MP3s using iTunes was done at a 9.2 speed instead of the 11.1 speed achieved by the E-350. By comparison, the Intel Core i7-3610QM CPU achieved a speed of over 50 in iTunes. One might easily experience an increased conversion time of several minutes going from the E-350 to the E-300, depending on the number of MP3s that need to be converted.

3.4
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
3.4
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
4.9
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
4.2
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
5.5
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.9
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage1985 points
PCMark 7943 points
Help

Storage Devices

mSATA SSDs cannot be used.
MSata SSDs cannot be used.

The test ThinkPad was equipped with a slim 7 mm (0.28 in) 7200 RPM Seagate hard drive. This drive proved to be relatively fast but also relatively noisy.

A solid state drive (SSD) would definitely improve the performance but would far exceed the total cost of the system. As well, the weaker CPU could potentially throttle the SSD. Our sample did not support any mSATA SSDs. We attempted to use a 64 GB Crucial M4 in this slot and our test notebook was unable to detect it. From this, we conclude that the slot is reserved for 3G modules with integrated antennae.

Seagate Momentus Thin ST320LT007-9ZV142
Transfer Rate Minimum: 13 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 104.1 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 86.4 MB/s
Access Time: 17.6 ms
Burst Rate: 45.1 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %

Graphics Card

The ThinkPad X121e’s graphics card is the CPU-integrated AMD Radeon HD 6310 and features identical technical specifications as in the AMD E-350 APU. We expected worse results considering the weaker CPU. However, we achieved a 3DMark06 score of 2211 points reflecting a 200 point gain over the previous ThinkPad x121e with the E-350 APU. We attribute this performance gain to improved drivers that optimize performance. In 3DMark Vantage, we observed almost identical results with the AMD E-300 scoring 707 points and the E-350 scoring 720 points. The E-350 also came out ahead in the Cinebench R10 64-bit OpenGL shading test with 1881 points compared to the E-300’s 1707 points. These differences are measurable but perhaps not significantly noticeable. In the real world gaming performance of StarCraft 2, the difference corresponds to a reduction of only 2 fps.

On battery power, the Cinebench 64-bit shading test result dropped from 1707 points to 1590 points. This difference was amplified in 3DMark06, dropping the score from 2211 points to 1627 points. It is clear that one should expect graphical performance losses when running on battery power.

The somewhat low performance does not have an impact on the subjective impression
The somewhat low performance does not have an impact on the subjective impression
Full HD videos are played without stuttering
Full HD videos are played without stuttering
3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
2211 points
3DMark Vantage707 points
Help
low med.high ultra
StarCraft 2 (2010) 3217fps

Emissions

Our sample ThinkPad X121e generated less heat than the already-cool X121e with AMD E-350 APU. Users will not be limited due to temperature issues as we observed a maximum temperature of 34.7oC (94.5oF) in energy saving mode and with reduced fan activity.

Max. Load
 32.6 °C31.6 °C26.7 °C 
 33.5 °C32.4 °C29.5 °C 
 29.7 °C29.1 °C28.7 °C 
Maximum: 33.5 °C
Average: 30.4 °C
28 °C31.1 °C31.1 °C
30.3 °C31.1 °C30.5 °C
30.7 °C27 °C32.2 °C
Maximum: 32.2 °C
Average: 30.2 °C
Power Supply (max.)  41 °C | Room Temperature 23.6 °C | Voltcraft IR-360

System Noise

The noise levels are now more distinct than the two fan speed levels of the E-350 model. At low load levels, the audible noise was in the range of 31 dB(A) when the fans were off to 31.2 db(A) when they were on. This level rose based on system load from 33.2 dB(A) to a maximum level of 35.1 dB(A) when the system was under maximum load. The expected noise level will likely be in the middle of the above range when working under normal conditions.

Noise Level

Idle 31 / 31.2 / 33.3 dB(A)
HDD 32 dB(A)
Load 33.2 / 35.1 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Power consumption is essentially the same when compared to the previously reviewed E-350 model. Under maximum load, our E-300 based system consumed two to three Watts less. This minor power saving is due to lower clock speeds and lower display brightness.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.2 / 0.4 Watt
Idle 6.1 / 8.4 / 8.7 Watt
Load 16.7 / 21.3 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Life

The previously reviewed sample had a very good life and our current sample is almost on the same level. The lower CPU clock speed and brightness yield better results in Wi-Fi surfing and the BatteryEater Classic Test. In typical usage with maximum brightness, one should expect five to seven hours of battery life.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
11h 07min
WiFi Surfing
7h 35min
DVD
5h 27min
Load (maximum brightness)
3h 43min

Verdict

Despite its low price, we do not recommend this configuration of the Lenovo ThinkPad X121e. The dimly lit display, and its corresponding low contrast, is not on par with modern notebooks and limits its usefulness. While battery life, weight, and size are suitable for portability, the impractical display makes no sense.

The reduced CPU clock speed of the AMD E-300 APU is barely noticeable but this speed loss yields no real benefits. The price difference between the E-300 and E-350 is marginal and the battery life difference is negligible.

The case’s build quality and the reaction time of the touchpad remain irritating. The remaining qualities of the system are the low entry price for the Windows-less version, 3G-readiness, and high mobility in terms of battery life, weight, and size. These positive aspects, however, will only appeal to those who are unaware of the rather large drawbacks.

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Specifications

Lenovo X121e NWS62GE

:: Processor
AMD E-300 1.3 GHz
:: Mainboard
AMD SB850
:: Memory
4096 MB, 1x 4GB DDR3 PC3-10600, 1 slot free
:: Graphics adapter
AMD Radeon HD 6310, Core: 488 MHz, Memory: 533 MHz, shared memory, atiumdag 8.892.0.0 Win7 64bit
:: Display
11.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, LEN40D1, B116XW03V1, TN LED, glossy: no
:: Harddisk
Seagate Momentus Thin ST320LT007-9ZV142, 320 GB 7200 rpm
:: Soundcard
AMD SB800 High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: 1 kombinierter Audio in/out, Card Reader: MMC, MS, MS Pro, SD, SDHC, powered USB
:: Networking
Atheros AR8151 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (10/100/1000MBit), 802.11a/b/g/n (a b g n ), 3.0 Bluetooth
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 26 x 288 x 207
:: Weight
1.54 kg Power Supply: 0.34 kg
:: Battery
63 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6 Zellen, 11.1V, 5.6 Ah
:: Price
450 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: Low light sensitive VGA Webcam, Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: no, 12 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
Identical case.
Identical case.
Slightly worse performance.
Slightly worse performance.
Noticeably worse display.
Noticeably worse display.
High extra charge for Windows.
High extra charge for Windows.
Slightly better emission values.
Slightly better emission values.
Touchpad remains sluggish.
Touchpad remains sluggish.
Components are easily accessible.
Components are easily accessible.
3G-readiness with SIM slot.
3G-readiness with SIM slot.

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E-Series E-300, 15.6", 2.305 kg
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E-Series E-240, 15,6", 2.5 kg

Links

  • Manufacturer's information

Price Comparison

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Pro

+Fast hard drive
+Comparably good system performance
+Easy accessibility of components
+Good upgrade options
+Very long battery life
+Low weight & small size
+Good VGA signal quality
+Case is being kept cool
+3G prepared including antennas
 

Cons

-Case bends too much
-Strange keyboard layout
-USB ports are too far away on the right side
-Touch-pad is under average
-Relatively noisy at a low-performance level
-Display is poor in contrast at certain angles with poor brightness

Shortcut

What we like

Weight, size, battery life, and 3G-readiness.

What we miss

A better display - in any aspect, better material quality and workmanship as well as lower noise levels.

What surprises us

That Lenovo is limiting the abilities of the ThinkPad X121e for no obvious reason.

The competition

Lenovo Ideapad S205, Acer Aspire One 722, Samsung 305U1A, Acer Travelmate B113M.

Rating

Lenovo X121e NWS62GE
07/02/2012 v3
Tobias Winkler

Chassis
78%
Keyboard
85%
Pointing Device
70%
Connectivity
62%
Weight
91%
Battery
93%
Display
65%
Games Performance
54%
Application Performance
68%
Temperature
92%
Noise
90%
Add Points
70%
Average
77%
81%
Subnotebook *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Update Lenovo ThinkPad X121e (AMD E-300) Notebook
Author: Tobias Winkler, 2012-07- 3 (Update: 2013-06- 6)