Lenovo x120e review


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  1. #1
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    Lenovo x120e review

    I purchased a Lenovo x120e and thought I'd share my experience with the world via this forum.

    I bought it direct from Lenovo as it was the cheapest I could find via any retailer, and (if I remember correctly) included free shipping.

    It arrived within 2 weeks of ordering it, even though it wasn't set to even ship until 4 weeks later.

    Also, I ordered it with only 2 gigs of RAM since a 4 gig option was $85 direct, but an 8 gig upgrade via crucial.com was only $45.

    I also kept the standard 320gig 72,000RPM drive, opt'ing out of the very expensive SSD option.

    For completeness, I also got the optional $20 bluetooth module.

    Hardware:
    AMD E-350 with the "ATI" HD 6310 video card and 2 gigs of RAM

    I personally love Lenovo's "stick" mouse. I have never gotten used to any touchpad mice, including the very large and very nice one included on my previous Asus 1015PN.

    The keyboard is huge, and comes with the option of swapping the reversed fn and ctl keys. However, since the keyboard is so big, I have a hard time finding the right one anyway!

    The mice (stick and touch) both have their own buttons which are individually turn on/offable which is great for me since I do use the stick mouse most of the time (and its associated buttons), but also like the multi-touch navigation of the touchpad, but often sit with this in my lap. Doing so, I sometimes click the touchpad buttons with my belt, or shirt, but since I can disable that set of buttons, all is well.

    The screen does seem to be a bit dark, not as bright or punchy as other laptops I've had, but it is matte, not glossy which is nice.

    Some people have complained about the speakers volume and location (underneath shooting down), but I'm sitting here with the speakers on "4" out of a possible 50, and I can hear "The Cars" just fine. At 50, however, it is still clear and crisp...not distorted or over amplified.

    The battery is very lack-luster, and unpredictable at times, sometimes reporting 5 hours left, sometimes 2.

    There is a Lenovo ThinkVantage tool box that does do some aggressive power control, even showing you how many watts are being consumed at different power settings.

    I have a 6-cell battery pack, but would like the option of a 3-cell for shorter periods at the cafe, while giving me a smaller footprint. The 6-cell sticks out as most do. It doesn't seem that the 3-cell is available anymore.

    The inner workings are very very easy to get too.

    RAM upgrades to 8 gigs which is very impressive for a netbook. There are 2 dimm slots just under the cover, easily removed with 3 screws.

    Also very accesable is the hard drive and access to the populated 1/2 height PCIe slot (currently installed is the wireless card); a free full height PCIe slot pre-wired with 2 available antenei); and a "SIM card" slot (I'm not sure the official designation of this type of slot, but it's where a 3g/4g sim module would go).

    Lenovo does do something aweful: the BIOS has a whitelist of acceptable wireless cards, so my spare Intel 5300 (or many others) will prevent the machine from even booting since it isn't in Lenovo's whitelist of acceptable cards.

    There are (easily found and deployed) BIOS hacks, but I wont go into that here to get around this vendor lock-in.

    Just know that this is a designed restriction.

    The power button is receced to prevent accidental power changes (I guess) so it's a bit of a nusaince to turn on/off at times.

    The keys themselves are nice, no flex in the keyboard and the buttons are responsive. I guess one complaint is that each button does travel up/down quite a bit (not bendy or cheap, they are just very "tall"), so on rare occasions I don't push down far enough to engage the button, but that hasn't happened at all during this writing.

    Another keyboard mention: having actual insert, delete, home, end, page up/down keys makes navigation very conveniant (instead of key-combinations).

    There is a "low-light" webcam (working, but I haven't used it yet).

    The microphone is poorly positioned so that my left palm covers it up most of the time.

    HDMI, VGA, multi-card reader, 10/100/1000 NIC, 3 USB ports (one "always on" to charge phones, etc while the netbook is off) and a headphone jack all round out the hardware comments.

    I understand this is a Linux site, but so far I've only tested with Windows with any effort and the data below reflects that.

    I think I'll skip over the reports while having just 2 gigs of RAM installed since this is a rediculously low amount to have for WIndows 7, let alone a netbook. I will say it was very sluggish navigating around with only 2gigs.

    The below numbers are all based on the factory installed hardware and OS image, except for the 8gigs of RAM which is post delivery.

    Regardless of the amount, the usable RAM is always slightly lower than installed since (I believe) some is taken for the video card.

    OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit

    Cold Boot time: 1 min 10 seconds
    Time to get to my google+ page: 15 more seconds

    7zip compression of 2.4gigs reported to take 25 minutes at 1600KB/s (slightly improved with more RAM)

    Windows Experience numbers:
    CPU is the bottle neck at 3.8
    RAM 5.7 (4.9 with 2gigs)
    Graphics 4.0
    Gaming graphics 5.6
    HD 5.9
    TOTAL: 3.8 (due to CPU)

    PassMark value: 558.5 (much improved from the 2gig test: 354.4)

    I don't have a good way to test wireless transfer speeds, but it does seem to download from the web at my ISP reported speeds.

    Overall performance:

    Youtube videos (720p and 1080p) all play very very well NOT full screened.

    Big Buck Bunny reports 10 stage fps, 24 video fps, and 20 dropped frames after 30 seconds of play time.

    Full screen is a different (disapointing) story:

    1080p drops to 10 fps and 100's of dropped frames, and any time an ad pops up or the navigation bar comes up, the whole screen studders and is terrible to the point of unusable. (up to 1000+ dropped frames as I write this).

    720p full screen is much more acceptable with 24 fps and very few dropped frames. The reaction of ads and the nav bar are much less obvious, but still present.

    Downloaded video:

    A "The Walking Dead", 350mb non-HD video played well but several times during the show, the video would slow down for 3 seconds, then play over-fast to catch up.

    I have yet to watch a full length 720/1080P so I'm not sure how these will play just yet.

    Also note: Windows media played much better than VLC did, even after I enabled the "use GPU" in VLC.

    Games:
    So far I've only installed Portal 2, which plays very well (each map takes a while to load, but once loaded there is no delay at all) at the default settings. I haven't tried increasing graphic info yet but the game is very playable.

    The Lenovo provided image doesn't have much cruft installed, but did come with Chrome!

    They push some Norton suite once or twice, and the Office 10 "buy online" comes up once or twice.

    The Lenovo ThinkVantage crap is pretty insistant on staying on my taskbar even though I've removed it several times.

    It was conveniant to patch everything via that tool, but I get the feeling it is sucking some performance out of my over all experience.

    Nothing else specific comes to mind, but I will update this as I load more games, install a fresh copy of Windows, install the Broadcomm Crystal HD card (I'm hoping this perfects my video experiences), and I'll (easily) replace the hard drive and see what Linux can do with this hardware.

    Let me know if you have any thing else you'd like me to test or report on.

    ~Mike
    m1ke_l
    Lenovo x120e (gave my wife the Asus 1015N)http://justlinux.com/forum/showthrea...hreadid=153955
    Fedora 16 (but I haven't settled yet)
    8gigs of RAM (in a NETBOOK!!)
    Boston, MA USA/Wondering

    My dad's website (he'll love the traffic) http://www.cafephotos.net/

  2. #2
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    Quick update:

    Ubuntu 10.04 LTS didn't detect the wireless or proper video card "out of the box", but I didn't give it too much post-install effort.

    Mint 12, however, detected wireless and the video was just fine. I'm sure with the proper AMD drivers it would have worked fine, though I did not test any video.

    In fact, it looked soo good I thought about keeping it, but I've moved on.

    I have since done a fresh install of Windows 7 and everything is running fast and even youtube HD 1080p full screen run much much better: solid fps, very few dropped frames, even full screen.

    Going to try a Portal 2 install and run just to see if the maps load faster/better without all the Lenovo ThinkVantage crap running in the background.
    m1ke_l
    Lenovo x120e (gave my wife the Asus 1015N)http://justlinux.com/forum/showthrea...hreadid=153955
    Fedora 16 (but I haven't settled yet)
    8gigs of RAM (in a NETBOOK!!)
    Boston, MA USA/Wondering

    My dad's website (he'll love the traffic) http://www.cafephotos.net/

  3. #3
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    I wanted to report back that the "spare" PCIe slot is designed exclusively for a WWAN card (a specific model, too), and will not work for any other device.

    Kind'a silly to build a complete spare slot and cripple what people can use it for.

    I find it especially odd since there is also a slot to put a SIM card in, too.

    I would think one would cancel out the other, right? I'm not up on my cell phone knowledge.

    Anyway, if you are reading this I wanted to warn you about that limitation.
    m1ke_l
    Lenovo x120e (gave my wife the Asus 1015N)http://justlinux.com/forum/showthrea...hreadid=153955
    Fedora 16 (but I haven't settled yet)
    8gigs of RAM (in a NETBOOK!!)
    Boston, MA USA/Wondering

    My dad's website (he'll love the traffic) http://www.cafephotos.net/

  4. #4
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    One more "Windows" based comment before I move onto Linux:

    Lenovo's have built in hard drive protection which will stop the hard drive in the event of a "potential" dropping of the device.

    The sensitivity on this is set VERY high, so ANY movement of the laptop (or table it is on) will cause it to kick in, basically stopping the hard drive.

    However, once it figures out you didn't drop the laptop, it "let's go" of the drive and all is well again.

    Any video stutter I listed above can be attributed to this "feature".

    There are settings regarding this so my videos are playing much smoother now, though I guess I am at more risk of data loss if I do drop this.

    Anyway, the next post *should* be about my Linux experience, so stayed tuned!
    m1ke_l
    Lenovo x120e (gave my wife the Asus 1015N)http://justlinux.com/forum/showthrea...hreadid=153955
    Fedora 16 (but I haven't settled yet)
    8gigs of RAM (in a NETBOOK!!)
    Boston, MA USA/Wondering

    My dad's website (he'll love the traffic) http://www.cafephotos.net/

  5. #5
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    Things are starting to get interesting:-

    @ xmas time the post office was selling a HP with similar spec's as above, for about $320
    - even came with a HP printer - as well - nice.


    Even more recently:- a computer retail-chain was selling Acer's
    - with about the same spec's & price - as well.

    So, it's now getting quite feasible to buy one of these laptops
    & just blow away the pre-installed crap O/S
    & put some <nice> looking 'nix o/s in it's place . . . . . .

  6. #6
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    Linux on my x120e

    For the life of me I couldn't get any Linux distro to install from a USB stick.

    Not only was the damn annoying and frustrating, I began to fear my netbook was more broken than I thought (I had just gotten it back from having the LCD replaced!).

    Switching to an external USB CDRom, any distro I tried worked fine so I guess this machine just wont install from a USB stick for some reason.

    Anyway, onto actual installs:

    I really couldn't (and still haven't) decided which distro to try, so here's a run down of what I have:

    Fedora 16, both xfce4 and gnome-shell versions installed perfectly, wireless card and all.

    Sound worked, camera and bluetooth all worked from a straight (not even yum upgraded) install.

    My 2 cents:

    XFCE4 is a very usable option, thought I personally don't like their cluttered and very full "menu" choices.

    If I were really strapped for resources, I would have no problem using it, but to go through the menu cleanup seems daunting to me.

    Gnome-shell, on the other hand has gotten a very bad wrap, I'll although I wont use it myself I will defend it.

    People are very resistant to change no matter what distro/TV show/car/book/whatever you are talking about. We've all gotten comfortable with the "Start" menu system, knowing where things are, using the mouse to click icons in/specific/paths, etc., so a change to a different interface scares us.

    However, I've noticed that gnome-shell (and probably Unity, though I find that much worse) is trying to do by default what I've always configured post install.

    For instance, if you move your mouse to the top left corner, it will shrink every application into one window so you can see what's open and switch to it.

    I did this EXACT thing with compiz, though I used the top right corner.

    Also, hitting the "windows" key brings up a search box that lets you type in anything (app, file, url, whatever) and it will launch the appropriate product.

    I did this EXACT thing with gnome-do, though I used the "window" key + space bar combo.

    So while I'm not using gnome-shell now, I do understand the developers goals so I will stop complaining about the change.

    Onward:

    I also install a straight Debian stable, which installed easy enough but lacked wireless drivers, but this is expected behavior since stable uses an older kernel.

    After a wired dist-upgrade to testing, the wireless card did work if I remember correctly.

    However, debian, though lovely and stable (even the testing branch), is kind'a boring.

    So I moved to Linux Mint, the hot new distro which has ousted Ubuntu from the top slot lately.

    Wanting to move away from Ubuntu, I chose Linux Mint, Debian style.

    And here I am.

    Every works: camera, bluetooth, wireless, wired, speakers, audio playback, and x264 encoded .mkv files.

    It is using some form of the "old" gnome desktop (I think) and is heavily "themed" to Mint, but it does look good and responds quickly.

    Boot times are well under 1 minute.

    I have not yet turned on compiz but I'll try that next.

    Mouse control is good too, which is important because typically my palm hits the touchpad screwing me up something terrible, but i was able to control that.

    Battery life in this netbook sucks, only ever reporting just under 4 hours fully charged. Windows reported the same weak battery life so I don't blame the OS.

    Function keys work: sound and contrast at least. I'll plug into my TV, too, and report back on that experience.

    Over all I'm happy to be back with Linux. I'm going to try kvm and see what kind of Windows guest performance I can get...I'm interested in a kvm based Windows test of Netflix and Steam.

    I will report that full screen HD youtube (720p) sucks. Completely unusable.

    I'll try some more tweaks I know and test again, but I think I've just resolved myself to the fact that netbooks can't do full screen HD.

    Well, that was wordy and there is more testing to go, so I'll add more later.
    m1ke_l
    Lenovo x120e (gave my wife the Asus 1015N)http://justlinux.com/forum/showthrea...hreadid=153955
    Fedora 16 (but I haven't settled yet)
    8gigs of RAM (in a NETBOOK!!)
    Boston, MA USA/Wondering

    My dad's website (he'll love the traffic) http://www.cafephotos.net/

  7. #7
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    thank for review , cool lol

  8. #8
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    I did want to add that the battery life on this netbook is pretty sad, only about 3 hours which is pretty terribly for a 6cell 57Wh battery.

    If you're looking to buy a netbook for long term off-power use, this isn't for you.
    m1ke_l
    Lenovo x120e (gave my wife the Asus 1015N)http://justlinux.com/forum/showthrea...hreadid=153955
    Fedora 16 (but I haven't settled yet)
    8gigs of RAM (in a NETBOOK!!)
    Boston, MA USA/Wondering

    My dad's website (he'll love the traffic) http://www.cafephotos.net/

  9. #9
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    I wanted to update this thread:

    I had a defective battery apparently, and Lenovo sent me a new battery over night.

    Linux is reporting now over 4 hours of life, which isn't as great as some netbooks, but this is really a laptop power sized device.

    I have a bit more battery conditioning to do, but I am much happier with my 4+ hours.
    m1ke_l
    Lenovo x120e (gave my wife the Asus 1015N)http://justlinux.com/forum/showthrea...hreadid=153955
    Fedora 16 (but I haven't settled yet)
    8gigs of RAM (in a NETBOOK!!)
    Boston, MA USA/Wondering

    My dad's website (he'll love the traffic) http://www.cafephotos.net/

  10. #10
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    I wanted to update this thread:

    I had a defective battery apparently, and Lenovo sent me a new battery over night.

    Linux is reporting now over 4 hours of life, which isn't as great as some netbooks, but this is really a laptop power sized device.

    I have a bit more battery conditioning to do, but I am much happier with my 4+ hours.
    m1ke_l
    Lenovo x120e (gave my wife the Asus 1015N)http://justlinux.com/forum/showthrea...hreadid=153955
    Fedora 16 (but I haven't settled yet)
    8gigs of RAM (in a NETBOOK!!)
    Boston, MA USA/Wondering

    My dad's website (he'll love the traffic) http://www.cafephotos.net/

  11. #11
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    Hi, I have the same laptop, running Ubuntu 11.something. I have had the same experience with the battery (it degraded to 30% capacity within three months). I have also got a replacement from Lenovo but have not tried it out yet (I am planning on running down the first battery first). How is it working for you? Also, I noticed that the capacity would drop by a lot when the battery gets fully discharged (it jumped from 40% to 30% in my case). I cannot find anything under Ubuntu that would do what Windows does: start the charge at a certain level and stop the charge when it gets to a certain level. I guess it charges whenever the adapter is plugged in. Other than this terrible decision on the part of the designers (the charging proces destroys the battery when you leave the laptop plugged in but not on? c'mon, even my razor can do better!) this is the best GNU/Linux laptop I have had so far. Cheers, and thanks for the thread.

  12. #12
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    The new battery is awesome....upwards of 5 hours.

    I have been totally anal about charging/discharing though.

    I let it fully charge for 10+ hours before using it, then I drained it, charged it, etc for like 4 or 5 cycles.

    Now I never leave the charger plugged in when the battery is full. I am either charging or discharging the battery.

    I don't know if that's better or worse.

    And I really thought that new batteries didn't have this problem. Even the documentation is confusing, saying to charge/discharge every so often....unless you have a lithium ion which isn't susceptible to this effect....but it is....

    Anyway, I'm much happier with the x120e now than before.
    m1ke_l
    Lenovo x120e (gave my wife the Asus 1015N)http://justlinux.com/forum/showthrea...hreadid=153955
    Fedora 16 (but I haven't settled yet)
    8gigs of RAM (in a NETBOOK!!)
    Boston, MA USA/Wondering

    My dad's website (he'll love the traffic) http://www.cafephotos.net/

  13. #13
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    The new battery is awesome....upwards of 5 hours.

    I have been totally anal about charging/discharing though.

    I let it fully charge for 10+ hours before using it, then I drained it, charged it, etc for like 4 or 5 cycles.

    Now I never leave the charger plugged in when the battery is full. I am either charging or discharging the battery.

    I don't know if that's better or worse.

    And I really thought that new batteries didn't have this problem. Even the documentation is confusing, saying to charge/discharge every so often....unless you have a lithium ion which isn't susceptible to this effect....but it is....

    Anyway, I'm much happier with the x120e now than before.
    m1ke_l
    Lenovo x120e (gave my wife the Asus 1015N)http://justlinux.com/forum/showthrea...hreadid=153955
    Fedora 16 (but I haven't settled yet)
    8gigs of RAM (in a NETBOOK!!)
    Boston, MA USA/Wondering

    My dad's website (he'll love the traffic) http://www.cafephotos.net/

  14. #14
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    You can control charging tresholds with tp_smapi driver.
    http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Battery#Battery_health
    ladoga

  15. #15
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    Nov 2012
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    happybunny,

    Thanks for the informative review of the X120e. I'm considering purchasing one to take with me on family trips so I can download and view video I've taken from my personal camcorder. Below are three Dropbox download links of sample video clips I've recorded from my camcorder, which records in 1080p AVCHD format at a maximum bitrate of 24 Mbps. If possible, can you check to see if these clips are playable on your X120e or if it's too choppy? The video card in the X120e sounds promising but I'm not sure if full screen playback of my recordings will be possible. If anyone else is able to test these clips as well, your input would be helpful. Thanks.


    http://db.tt/qnO07yzR

    http://db.tt/b8H79UJC

    http://db.tt/cYkPTx5n

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