Connectivity is unfortunately where we find our first disappointment with the X100e, as there's no digital video output. Where most Neo-based laptops offer HDMI, Lenovo has chosen to go with good old VGA only, found at the machine's rear. While this decision is somewhat understandable given the ThinkPad series' business leanings, the death-knell for analogue video has already sounded, and it's a severe limitation.
This really is a pity as the X100e was doing so well, and indeed once past this speed-bump continues impressively. On the left you'll find twin USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port (where most netbooks offer only standard Ethernet) and combined headphone/microphone jack. To the right we have a memory card reader and a third USB port, which is coloured yellow to indicate that it is 'always on' (i.e. you can use it to charge your phone even if the laptop is powered off). Finally, wireless credentials are handled by both Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth.
Usability is also top of its class. If you've used ThinkPad keyboards in the past, you'll know they tend to offer one of the best typing experiences going. Haters of your average isolation/chicklet-style keyboards especially will find much to love here, for though Lenovo's spill-resistant, full-size effort might appear similar, its large, slightly concave keys offer deep, crisp feedback. In fact, off the top of our heads only HP's Mini 110c series comes close. Our only niggle is that Lenovo is one of the few remaining manufacturers to insist on putting the Fn key to the outside of Ctrl.
The smooth, multi-touch touchpad is likewise a pleasure to use, and its distinct buttons offer excellent feedback. It's not the only pointer option, however, as ThinkPads also sport something called a TrackPoint. This is a tiny, rubber-topped joystick in the centre of the keyboard operated with the tip of a finger. It has its own set of three buttons above the touchpad, and while it does take a little getting used to, after a while it's quite easy to operate and even beats the touchpad in some situations. Regardless, it's great to have the choice between either input method.
Rather than the usual (and wholly inadequate) 1,024 x 600 resolution most netbooks tend to have, Neo-based machines usually opt for a more respectable 1,366 x 768, and the 11.6in example on the X100e is no exception. This not only means you get excellent sharpness more desktop space to play around with, but also means 720p HD can be displayed natively. Not only that, but as you would expect of a ThinkPad the screen offers a matte, anti-reflection coating that's a joy to work with in and out of direct light.
Horizontal viewing angles are adequate and contrast is decent though not great, with a strong bias towards the dark end of the scale (meaning you'll see more detail in dark material). There's no sign of light bleed and backlighting is fairly even, and while some banding is visible it's rarely an issue. Overall then, the screen does a good-enough job, fairly average for its size but certainly superior to most netbook displays.
This Lenovo's speakers are nowhere near as interesting. Though they manage the basics competently enough without distortion, their maximum volume is rather low and they fail to match those found in the smaller