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Lenovo ThinkPad X121e - Performance, Battery, Value and Verdict

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score:


As already mentioned, you can go either the AMD or Intel routes with Lenovo’s ThinkPad X121e. For AMD you get the choice between a dual-core Fusion 1GHz C-50 or 1.6GHz E-350 CPU. Both will give you netbook-like performance, meaning they’re adequate if you don’t plan on doing heavy multi-tasking or running intensive applications. They’ll manage general productivity and HD video just fine though. For an indication of the kind of performance you can expect, have a read of our Toshiba NB550D review, which at under £300 also makes for an interesting alternative if you don’t mind the smaller, lower-rez screen.

Lenovo ThinkPad X121e

Back to our Intel version, the only choice is a Core i3-2357M running at a fixed 1.3GHz, which lacks the Turbo Clocking or HyperThreading of its Core i5 and i7 brethren. While this will be adequate for many users, those who regularly run demanding software or like to keep several apps open at once might find performance rather sluggish. The lower CPU performance also tells in games, with Intel’s integrated graphics only managing 27fps in our standard TrackMania Nations Forever test at 720p and Medium detail.

Lenovo ThinkPad X121e

At least you don’t have to worry about memory as the X121e comes with the standard complement of 4GB and can be upgraded to a whopping 8 GB when buying direct from Lenovo. The 320GB hard drive isn't the most capacious available but it’s of the fast 7,200rpm variety rather than the more common 5,400rpm drives you’ll find in most budget laptops. It's also a standard drive so can be swapped out with either a larger drive or an SSD, and again Lenovo do offer the option - if you have £240 to spare for a 128GB SSD, which you could buy for £140 yourself.

It’s also worth mentioning that the included software is Windows Professional rather than the usual Home Premium, yet another value-add to what is already an excellent machine for the money.

Lenovo ThinkPad X121e

Last but not least there’s battery life to consider, and here the X121e passes without mishap, as its 5,160mAh battery lasted over five and a half hours. And remember that the battery here is easily interchangeable, so you can bring a spare to effectively double your time away from a socket.

Frankly, for everything Lenovo manages to pack into its 11.6in ThinkPad, the starting price of £330 is ridiculously cheap, and the £510 for our sample config is still truly excellent value considering that upgrades you not only to Core i3 but also 3G. Admittedly that’s just £50 short of getting a Core i3 version of a sleek and sexy 13in number like the Toshiba Satellite R830, but the X121e offers a far nicer typing experience, more rugged chassis, better screen and 3G. There’s far less choice in the affordable 11.6in segment than 13.3in, and as such this Lenovo is one of the better bargains going.


The 11.6in X121e preserves the ThinkPad brand’s reputation for rock-solid build quality and excellent ergonomics, and throws in a decent screen, well-placed connectivity and good battery life to boot. Frankly, it’s difficult to see how Lenovo achieved all this in a machine starting at £330, though we’d probably go for the 3G-sporting Core i3 version at just £510. Regardless, whether you’re looking for a large netbook or a versatile budget ultraportable, the X121e should be near the top of your list.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Battery Life 7
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Value 10


November 18, 2011, 7:27 pm

Is the quoted battery life with a 6-cell or a 3-cell battery? Also, how loud does the laptop get under load?


November 19, 2011, 1:33 am

Agree - excellent laptop. Been running premium thinkpads at work for years and this gives hardly anything to them .. same build, it just works.

I spent my own money on this one. Got mine for about £350 - lots of deals on the Lenovo website if you watch out. Oh, and there is an SSD option on there.

I would disagree with the screen rating though - it's pretty pants on mine like most thinkpads (though my previous laptop was a TZ before some bugger nicked it.. so not really a fair comparison).


November 22, 2011, 9:18 pm

That's for the 6-cell, as you can tell from the 5,160mAh rating. As to noise, it stays fairly quiet, which is not too surprising considering it's a low-power chip in a chunky chassis.

Indeed, though as mentioned in the review some ThinkPads (like the X1) were disappointing at best.
Thanks for pointing out the SSD option (when we checked out X121e options prior to the review this wasn't available yet), amended review to match.

As to the screen, as mentioned it's fairly decent, except for its viewing angles. Compared to similarly priced rivals it certainly holds its own, as cheap laptop/netbook displays tend to be rather poor, making an average effort good.


November 26, 2011, 1:44 am

I got this laptop for my wife to replace her ageing and incredibly slow EeeePC 1000H. The difference between the two of them is light and day as you would expect going from an Atom with 1Gb RAM to an I3 with 4Gb RAM. However that is only the beginning. The extra screen size and resolution make a huge difference to the user experience (and the extra speed, did I mention the speed?). The other really good thing about it is the HDMI connection. The ability to plug a single plug into the TV (as opposed to fiddling with seperate sound and video cords) is excellent for watching videos off the laptop or just using the TV as a huge screen for viewing images etc. Plug a large USB drive into the laptop and it becomes a tiny media player.


November 26, 2011, 1:47 am

@Godji - The laptopis barely audible under load.

Keep an eye out for deals on Lenovo, I got it for under AUS$600 when it first came out - which was the same price I payed for the EeeePC I bought 3 years ago which it was replacing.


November 30, 2011, 6:01 pm

After reading this and doing some more poking about i have ordered one of these to replace my Acer Aspire One. I am very much looking forward to the speed increase and being able to watch full screen iplayer/youtube as well as some very light gaming.

James Reckitt

December 8, 2011, 12:47 am

Nice review! Tempted to order one of these for Christmas to replace my trusty NC10 (which I still love, but the screen res gets a little irritating when working on long docs). Maybe some of the commenters who have bought one to replace netbooks will be able to help me here - how great is the performance upgrade from an Atom to this i3 (or the AMD equivalent)?


January 24, 2012, 7:17 pm



January 23, 2013, 11:37 pm

nice review on an excellent product. most interested in the i3 ver, it's just like a polo gti comparing to other netbooks as kia rio on market from the performance perspective


August 23, 2013, 9:15 am

Mobile broadband 3G should be a NO, in the UK at least. Even the Lenovo tech support team don't seem to know this, but WWAN on the spec sheet means there's a slot for a sim card but nothing behind it. I was told to return my laptop and buy a new one, so to save being without a computer I duly bought a new one then they refused the refund as the order details clearly stated that you needede to upgrade to get mobile broadband :). To enable mobile broadband you need to buy a £95 additional card. I would consider a different brand or buy Lenovo products from ebay or another supplier who knows how their products work. You're more likely to get what you want.

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