Our Score



  • Excellent value
  • Built like a tank
  • Superb keyboard
  • Decent, matt 11.6in screen
  • Optional 3G


  • No USB 3.0
  • No Core i5 option

Review Price £510.12

Key Features: Soft-touch durable chassis; 11.6in 1,366 x 768 matt display; AMD C50.E-350 or Intel Core i3; 4GB RAM, 320GB 7200rpm HDD; Bluetooth, optional 3G

Manufacturer: Lenovo

Narrowly missing out on a nomination for the TrustedReviews Awards 2011 powered by Duracell, could the Lenovo ThinkPad X121e make the shortlist for next year's awards? Click here for a full list of the Best Laptops of 2011 as shortlisted in the TrustedReviews Awards 2011 Powered by Duracell.

Though we have a soft spot for Lenovo’s ThinkPad line, of late we’ve been a little underwhelmed, with the much-hyped ThinkPad X1 leaving us feeling especially short-changed. Fortunately, essential ThinkPad strengths like superb build quality and the best mobile keyboards available remain, so we have high hopes for the ultraportable X121e we’re checking out today.

Essentially a high-powered sequel to the X100e, the X121e is an 11.6in ultraportable which comes with either an Intel Core i3 or AMD C50/E-350 CPU at its heart. The former gives you a more powerful CPU with less versatile graphics, while the latter emphasises graphics performance over processing power and is essentially a netbook, hence its starting price of under £330. This being the case, we’ve gone for the i3 version - which incidentally also comes with 3G, all for a mere £510.

The X121e certainly isn't an ultrabook of the Acer Aspire S3 ilk, being as it's quite a square and chunky beast with a depth of 24mm. Nonetheless, its 1.56Kg weight combined with a small footprint (89mm x 208mm) makes it a very portable machine.

What's more, the X121e’s signature ThinkPad soft-touch finish makes it very pleasant to hold. As it’s also quite rugged and prevents fingerprints, this is still our favourite finish on a laptop. Whether the industrial look appeals to your aesthetic sensibilities will vary, but we mostly like the utilitarian design. Also, if you’re not too fond of unrelieved black you can find a red-lidded version of this laptop too.

The red dot on the ThinkPad logo across the lid (and palm-rest) also lights up red when the laptop is turned on, which is handy for checking its status without needing to open the machine up. It does clash a little with the green power LED on the laptop’s side though. In fact, it's here that we would like to see Lenovo show just a little more design flare. There are a number of elements, like the yellow sockets, the blue labelling on the keys and the aforementioned clash of red and green, that add up to give this laptop just a little bit too much of a wantonly fashion-unconscious look. By all means there's a market for this ultra practical design, but we think a version of this (and all Lenovo's ThinkPad range) finished with just a dash more style would be a hugely appealing proposition.

Like the finish and design, build quality is what we’ve come to expect from Lenovo’s professional range; despite the cheap starting price the X121e is built like a brick, except for some minor flex in the keyboard. This is a noticeable contrast to the efforts of many other manufacturers, which even on premium business lines aren’t always as solid as this little unit. It really does feel like it's built for a life on the road, not just to look good for the first few months you own it.

Moving onto connectivity, this is in line with a high-end netbook or no-frills laptop. On the left is a VGA port, HDMI, USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet and a combined headphone/microphone jack, while to the right we have an SDXC card reader and a further two, well-spaced USB 2.0 ports, one of which supports sleep charging (allowing you to charge devices even with the laptop turned off). There’s also a power jack with its own LED indicator.

Of course we do miss niceties like USB 3.0 or eSATA, but every other base is covered (including Bluetooth 2.0 on all X121e versions) and it’s not really fair to criticise such a low-price machine.

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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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