A raised Chiclet-style keyboard, originally seen on Toshiba Netbooks but now an across-the-line standard, feels great when typing, and is also backlit. On the negative side, keys are slightly small and tightly positioned, with a glossy finish that doesn't offer great traction. A line of dedicated right-side keys for home, page up/down, and end also shorten the Enter and Shift keys, making them harder to find.Next to the power button, a row of touch-sensitive media keys positioned between the speakers control start/pause, volume, Wi-Fi on/off, and an energy-saving mode toggle. The volume button is nice to have but is not quite sensitive enough, as touch volume controls often are.The matte multitouch touch pad has good sensitivity and felt comfortable under our fingers, midsize and perfectly adequate--although it exhibited the same slightly laggy multitouch we find on many Windows 7 laptops. An odd LED above the touch pad did nothing but distract. Curved buttons on the bottom were well-sized and had a solid click.The 14-inch LED-backlit glossy 16:9 LCD display on the Satellite M645-S4055 doesn't stand out at first glance (it has a native resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels, standard for this size), but its colors seem true, and graphics seem to pop a little more than normal. Viewing angles are also better than average; it's a very good screen.
Even better are the Harman Kardon stereo speakers, situated above the keyboard. Boomy, rich, and very good for music, they're easily some of the best we've heard on a midrange laptop. Simulated surround actually works, and the whole audio package makes this Satellite an excellent little home theater.There's even a bonus for travelers looking for a portable speaker system; it's called Toshiba Sleep and Music. When activated, this laptop can be used as a portable speaker system for a connected music player such as an iPod, activating its speakers even when the laptop's sleeping or turned off. It's a clever trick that makes the most out of those Harman Kardons.The Satellite M645-S4055 doesn't have a Blu-ray drive, but it has a slot-loading DVD burner located on the front left side of the system. A small physical button beneath ejects discs, and the included Toshiba DVD-playing software upscales content to look better than on most systems.
A 640x480-pixel Webcam offered crisp-looking resolution for video, but contrast levels favored the background and often led to overly dark faces.As befits the price of this laptop, there is an above-average collection of ports and connectivity features. Bluetooth is included, as are less-common extras such as an ExpressCard slot and an eSATA combo USB port. That port also acts as a sleep-and-charge port for recharging devices when the laptop is asleep or turned off.The CPU and GPU on this Satellite are both above-average, too. A speedy Core i5 processor handles nearly every task thrown at it pretty speedily, and offers excellent video streaming. This laptop also has an Nvidia GeForce GT330M GPU, which gave us some of the fastest-performing graphics we've seen outside of a "gaming" laptop. Unreal Tournament III ran at a blazing 105.4 frames per second at native 1,366x768-pixel resolution, beating out the HP Envy 14 by comparison. This Satellite also has Optimus automatic-switching graphics technology, which powers down the dedicated graphics automatically when not in use to conserve battery life. It's a useful trick that we're seeing in more and more laptops with graphics, and though it's nothing you'll notice (it's an invisibly working technology, after all), for laptops with graphics it's a nice add to have. We wouldn't call this Satellite a gamer's laptop, but it handles mainstream gaming extremely well.
We revisit the x100e months later in a landscape of larger-screened smartphones and cheaper, faster laptops. With a faster dual-core AMD Turion Neo X2 dual-core CPU, this tiny machine comes much closer to matching our expectations for a killer business portable, while not losing much battery life for its added muscle (although battery life still isn't a strong suit). At a starting price of $529, it costs more than its single-core cousin, but in this case the larger investment is worth it. The x100e isn't revolutionary, but it's a solid and comfortable 11.6-incher to consider for office use.Depending on your choice of color (yes, color), the ThinkPad x100e will either blend into the pack or possibly catch a passerby by surprise. In black, this is yet another ThinkPad-like product. In its race-car-red exterior finish, however, it gains a little more flair. Either way, the smooth, clean lines around the chassis are understated and quite attractive. A simple diagonal ThinkPad logo cuts across the front corner of the lid, the only distinguishing feature.
The six-cell battery doesn't bulge from the bottom but instead bulges out from the back. Increasingly, 10- and 11-inch Netbooks are getting better at integrating batteries smoothly without adding extra bulk. At least in the x100e's case, the bulge doesn't ruin the design of the front or the overall thickness, but it still seems like the battery could have been contained a little more elegantly. The x100e is also heavier, and denser, than many equivalent Netbooks (Lenovo doesn't consider the x100e to be a Netbook, but for our purposes we tend to call this class of devices a "premium Netbook").Inside, no matter what color the outside is, it's all black. A smooth and slightly small palm rest lies under a full-size keyboard on the lower half, while the upper lid has significant bezel space above the inset matte screen to grab when opening and closing. A small power button lurks above the right side of the keyboard. Smoothly opening dual hinges let the lid open up nearly 180 degrees, which is nice for dedicated lap typers.
Now, a few words on the keyboard, or shall we say an ode: simply put, it's very, very good. In terms of travel, key size, spacing, and overall comfort, this is hands-down the best Netbook-level keyboard we've ever used, and one of the best keyboards in any laptop. The x100e uses Lenovo's raised Chiclet-style ThinkPad keyboard introduced in the ThinkPad Edge 13. With gently curved and slightly concave key surfaces and gentle but solid-clicking key presses, this keyboard feels great under the fingers. Key sizes aren't shaved down, with the exception of some squished directional-arrow keys. Our one small complaint is that the keys are a little mushy, requiring full presses to register input, but we still found our typing better than average. The well-weighted palm rest is compact but offers just enough useful space for lap typing.Our only gripe is Lenovo's insistence on putting a rubbery trackpoint control between the G, H, and B keys. The trackpoint gets in the way, and we really never use it.
The multitouch pad below the keyboard is smooth to the touch but suffers a design flaw: it's too small, particularly in terms of height. Large trackpoint buttons above the trackpad limit the available space, and seriously hamper the ability to pull off multitouch gestures. There are additional buttons below the trackpad, and we would prefer to lose the redundant top buttons in favor of a better trackpad experience. The pad's preset sensitivities are a little too skittish for our tastes--the side scroll-strip jumped over pages and made browsing difficult.
The 11.6-inch matte (yes, matte) screen has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is better than average for a sub-12-inch screen. It means Web pages don't get cut off and office apps aren't as crowded by upper toolbars. The matte screen is great, and we have to say that readability and screen clarity for text and icons seem to improve as a result. Videos look great as well, particularly in settings with a source of light that's aimed at the screen. Viewing angles are better than average, but aren't able to match how far the screen can tilt. Still, this screen is better than many we've seen.
Stereo speakers embedded on the underside of the front of this ThinkPad offer better-than-average volume but a strangely hollow audio quality. It's fine for video chat and basic audio/video playback, but isn't made for music. The Webcam had good resolution and light sensitivity in our casual use, matching what we've seen in many ThinkPad products.Ports are pared down on the x100e; not a tremendous surprise considering it's basically a Netbook at heart, but it offers less than many 11.6-inch competitors. Three USB 2.0 ports are nice, but there's no HDMI-out, an omission that's surprising. There's definitely room for extra ports on the sides of the x100e, especially since the VGA-out and power-in jacks are on the back. The right side of the x100e is nearly devoid of ports, while the left side is blanketed by a large heat vent. Bluetooth doesn't come standard, but can be added for an extra $20. A Gobi 2000 3G mobile broadband antenna with GPS can also be added for $150.
Our dual-core configuration of the x100e came with 32-bit Windows 7 Professional, a $30 extra over the base Windows 7 Home Premium. RAM starts at 1GB but is expandable up to 4GB for a total of $130; ours had 2GB for an extra $45. The hard drive on this model starts at 250GB, but a 320GB option can be added for $30. Also, it's worth noting that Lenovo's ThinkVantage suite of professional security and system management features, common to ThinkPad users, are included on the x100e.Originally, the ThinkPad x100e only came with a single-core AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 processor, but Lenovo has upped its configurations to include two dual-core processor options: an AMD Athlon Neo X2 dual-core L335 and an AMD Turion Neo X2 dual-core L625. Our x100e uses the Turion dual-core processor, which is an effective $50 upgrade over the Athlon dual-core. It's the same processor we've seen in other recent 11.6-inch ultraportables, and nets similar results in our benchmark testing. Compared with the previous x100e, this version performs much better at multitasking and at handling tasks such as video streaming. Hulu full-screen video played well, even in HD (albeit with some hiccups), and both 720p and 1080p video files looked excellent. Unfortunately, the x100e emits considerable heat from its side vents and bottom, even under normal usage. The single-core x100e exhibited these same heat issues, but the blast of heat we felt on our legs intensified even more in this configuration.