The Lenovo ThinkPad X121e 3045 comes in as a pretty cheap business laptop and though it'll appeal to the budget- and size-conscious, you'll also need to downsize your expectations of features and performance.
Firstly, the good: the screen is excellent, with a matt finish that doesn't reflect direct light. Shiny screens tend to give richer colour and sharper images, but anti-glare screens are more practical – especially if you’re working in environments where you can't control nearby light sources.
It's lightweight and has a small footprint, so it'll easily fit onto the drop-down table of an airplane seat. There’s also a good selection of wired and wireless connectivity options. Battery life is decent, lasting six and a quarter hours in our tests, and the lithium-ion battery is easily removed should you want to carry a spare with you for extra unplugged mileage.
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An optical drive has been omitted to keep size and weight down – perhaps not a massive problem, but something to consider if you regularly use CDs and DVDs. The modest 1.3GHz Core i3 processor does a fair job, but the ThinkPad is unsuitable for graphics-intensive applications. For everyday tasks - running office software, emailing and web-surfing - it's absolutely fine.
Our biggest bugbear with the Lenovo was the keyboard. Although the letter keys themselves are a good size, everything else is a bit cramped. It's like Lenovo has tried to include every key from a standard keyboard in a limited space, and it can make for an uncomfortable typing experience. For example, the left and right Arrow keys are right next to the Page Up and Page Down keys respectively, so type carefully when navigating a document using the keyboard – there’s a good chance of ending up in completely the wrong place.
The touchpad is on the small side; but long-term Lenovo/IBM users will appreciate the trackpoint in the middle of the keyboard, which may be the easier way of steering your cursor.