Monday, May 28, 2012

Goodbye Thinkpad X120e. A Long term review.

I just recently unloaded a trusty X120e on Craigslist. It served me well for over a year and it is now time for a newer Linux machine. A Thinkpad T420/T430 is now calling my name.

This post is going to be  a long-term review of the Thinkpad X120e.

Released in March 2011, the X120e, along with the HP DM1, were the first wave of AMD based Fusion ATOM killers. Unlike a typical netbook, these had better performing GPU (AMD calls them APU) and larger screen size.  Before the "ultrabook" craze, there were cheap netbooks and the Macbook Air. Since I already have a Macbook Pro, it made no sense for me to get another one. With a project that required Windows 7 and Kinect,  this machine landed on my lap. Since, I've been using this as a secondary/third computer.

I've been through various netbooks starting from the original Asus EEEPC 701, Acer Aspire One to a Dell Mini 9. The typical netbook resolution at 1024x600 was a god awful. So this was an improvement at 11.6" and 1366x768 resolution. Furthermore, it didn't feel as crippled and dog slow as the Atom based CPUs.

A bit bulkier than normal, it still was very light weight at 3.4 lbs.  Some notable feature include an SD slot, 3 USB ports,  and HDMI. Very much like any typical netbook except this was a Thinkpad. Some people wouldn't call it a real Thinkpad but to me, it was close enough The red nubby trackpoint and black plastic is what makes it a Thinkpad for me. I am a big fan of the Thinkpad no-nonsense spartan black business look.  Plus, there was the legendary Thinkpad reputation of their keyboards. The chicklet keyboard is one of the best I've used with decent amount of travel.

Battery life under Linux is about 5 hours. I hardly ever use Windows 7 but when I checked, the indicator always indicated 6.5 hours with aggressive power management.

As for upgrades, I added 8GB RAM and a 120GB solid state drive SSD. Despite the low-end CPU, the machine was rather snappy for my occasional use (database queries, shell scripting, and connecting to overseas VPN for downloading large files). I didn't play any games or watch any movies on it so I can't comment on multimedia capabilities. With the SSD, Ubuntu boots into login in about 15-20 seconds.

I had no problems with Ubuntu 10.10 and 12.04. Everything pretty much installed without a hitch. The microphone works, SD mounts, it goes to sleep, WIFI connects, HDMI works.  In other words, none of the typical Linux laptop nightmares. The only major complaint is the inability to power 1080p resolution in a dual display setup. It does not have enough processing power to run 1366x768 built in display and an external 1920x1080p at the same time. I could run 1024x768 along with a HD monitor. The other solution is just to run an external monitor and power down the built in LCD.

If you are looking for something medium budget, this or the newer 130e may be worth some consideration.

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