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Thinkpad x121e annoyances

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Finally got my hands on one of these lappys \o/

First impressions are it's very smart-looking, surface finish has that nice rubbery Thinkpad feel.

Screen is very sharp and MATTE! Big plus points for no lame-a** glossy screen!

The laptop isn't too heavy but not as light as I'd expected; Holding it on an arm and using it with your other hand would get tiring pretty quickly.

Battery life has so far been acceptable for laptop of this portability; Well short of what Lenovo rather unrealistic lists on their website (8 hours? Yeeeeaahhhh), but still getting me through most of a day without charging.

I have had lots of minor annoyances with it tho'. Right from the off, I wanted to put in an SSD but there is no installation media and attempts to clone the 320GB drive to a 240GB SSD failed miserably with the classic "unable to load winload.exe error".

This is the first Windows system I've had so no spare Windows 7 DVDs around to attempt a repair; Borrowed one off a friend but it complained that it wasn't compatible and refused to load the recovery tools.

This is not a cheap laptop, so such lame cost-cutting measures really irk me.

In the end, I had to go through the whole startup-first-run sequence on the 320GB drive and burn my own recovery media. I wasted best part of a day screwing around with this, but at least the DIY recovery media worked!

Next is the lack of a hard disk light or indicators for WiFi, Bluetooth, WLAN, Capslock (It has no numlock or scroll lock) - The only lights are on the side to indicate charging, the camera light and the power light, which has been doubles as the dot in the Thinkpad logo's 'i'.

Why do they do this? It can't save that much money and there is plenty of space either side of the battery to put such LEDs. Is it aesthetics? People do not buy Thinkpads for aesthetics!

I've found the lack of them annoying enough that I've actually had to download tray icon utilities for them!

My biggest gripe at the moment is the keyboard; The x100e keyboard was great, but this one really sucks.

Not the feel, which is excellent; Keys are well balanced and provide good feedback; Typing is very comfortable.

Problem 1) is the arrow keys - They are a bit intermittent; You can press them down without them registering; You have to push down that bit harder for them to actually trigger, which makes it very easy to accidentally trips the adjacent PgUp/Dn keys. Lenovo really should have moved the block down and made them full-sized.

Problem 2) is glaring omission of some keys. It has 84 keys and there are several keys which I was feeling the loss of right from the get-go, most notably:

The Insert key which is used extensively in Linux apps like Midnight Commander

The Menu key, which I actually use for accessing some menus rather than moving the mouse cursor over and right-clicking

The Pause/Break key which I use for accessing Windows System properties quickly (e.g. for domain swapping) and also is used as my VirtualBox break-out key!

My Eee900 has more keys than this thing and it's a 9" laptop!

At the very least they should have utilised the Fn key to double up some of the missing keys!

I'm trying to find out whether the x100e UK keyboard will work on the x121e; That had a much better key layout and less omissions (If anyone knows, let me, well, know :lol: )

Next big gripe is the trackpad; Thank smeg this thing has the track-point or I would have sent it back by now!

The problem is you can only use the bottom 2/3 of the trackpad; The top third is slightly curved and doesn't register input at all; I don't know if this is a fault or whether it's supposed to be like this, but it's bloody stupid.

Next, it advertises itself as a multi-touch pad, but two and three-finger tapping does not work. Even one-finger tapping is iffy as the pointer will 'jump' when you tsap, making it very hard to click on smaller buttons. I've had to turn the sensitivity fown to one short of max to combat this.

One odd thing is, aside from the universal tap-to-click, the whole pad also acts like a big button, and you can right click by pressing down the right-hand side or by pressing down with two fingers, but it requires a lot of force and is basically unusable if you're using it on your lap or anything other than a hard surface.

Like with many Synaptics pads, two-finger dragging appears to be faked; You can't use it to perform right-mouse button drags, e.g. for mouse gestures in Opera or right-dragging a file - It only scrolls, and the scrolling is really iffy too; I often have to do it a few times to get it to 'catch'.

I may have been spoilt by the Eee 900's multi-touch pad, which was a real multi-touch pad and worked excellently; You only needed one hand to to all pointer manipulation, whereas the Thinkpad really needs both.

Edited by Cyker

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Nice write-up! I have the x120e but the only issue I have is that the wireless throughput erratically drops to 1MB/s which ruins streaming video.

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Thanks :)

I also have a similar problem with the WiFi, but only if it's been in use for a fairly long time. I've noticed if I run a continuous ping, you get little twitches (e.g. a stream of 1ms with the odd 2ms), but as time goes by the 2ms twitch gets bigger and bigger until it's in the 400's and that's when I start getting the weird speed/connection drops.

To be fair I have had this in other Broadcom and Intel WiFi-equipped laptops too so it's not just a Lenovo thing.

Also, I did discover that the x121e actually does have modifiers for things like the insert key:

Fn + I = Insert

Fn + P = Pause

Fn + B = Break

Fn + S = Scroll Lock

Embarrassingly, this is apparently in the manual that comes with it!

Less embarrassingly, mine didn't come with a manual (I found this out via notes for the BIOS update that fixes Fn+I! :lol:)

I still MUCH prefer the keyboard and touchpad from the x120e tho' - I do wonder I could swap them out on my x121e but even on eBay they are not cheap parts so I don't want to risk it...!

Also, one AWESOME utility for anyone with a Zacate system:


I was able to undervolt the x121e's E350 with this and then used the AMD Fusion thing to force the laptop to run at 800MHz when on battery and I can now actually get 8 hours of run-time out of it! (And as a nice side benefit, it shut the bloody fan up :lol:)

The bizarre thing is you can still play full screen 1080p MP4's smoothly at this speed, but I had to give XMPlay a 5MB buffer to stop it skipping while I was websurfing :lol:

Edited by Cyker

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RE: Wifi, which drivers are you using? I've had the issue with stock Lenovo drivers and latest from the chip manufacturer.

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I'm still using the stock ones; Last time I checked there weren't any updates in the ThinkVantage thing but I haven't checked lately...

Is your one a Broadcom too? If so, where did you find the manufacturer drivers? I couldn't find any 'generic' WiFi drivers on the broadcom website at all :(

(To be fair, I'm not even 100% sure it is a Broadcom chip; The specs just list it as a "ThinkPad 2x2 11a/b/g/n" - It's only because of the mention of broadcom in the drivers and config panels that I think it is a broadcom device! :lol:)

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Well a few months on and the lappy is still doing well!

Have had to make one call to tech support tho; The 5/% key fell off! I was just typing and it just popped off! :blink: :eek:

I was expecting this to be a pain but they just sent me out a new keyboard, no questions asked! Was a surprisingly pleasant experience after reading about the horror stories on the forums.

It's a bit of a pain getting in touch initially as the only contact point is by phone it seems, but there wasn't the huge amount of back-and-forth-ing I'm used to from other companies (e.g. saying it was accidental damage and refusing to replace etc.)

The keyboard is nowhere near as solid as a 'real' Thinkpad keyboard, but it's still pretty good.

Despite repeated use the battery is holding up well; I am using the Lenovo Power Manager to limit the maximum charge to 85% to extend the battery's life and still get 4-5 hours out of it which is nice :)

Trackpad still sucks a**; Can't get used to it. I've actually disabled it completely and am using a Logitech trackball instead.

One thing I'm running up against is the unbalanced performance of the GPU vs the CPU. Things that can leverage the GPU run great but if any significant CPU load is required it quickly bogs down.

I'd love to stick an E450 into this thing; Supposedly it has TurboCore which could boost one of the core's performance on demand?

(Actually, does anyone know if it is possible to stick an E450 into here? The chip appears to be socketed with one of those twist-lock ZIFs but I don't know if it's electrically compatible, or even if the BIOS would recognise it!)

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My x120 had the faster processor and it was decently fast. Especially for the price. I enjoyed the keyboard and trackpad. Something about that wireless chipset just didn't work out for me. I tried different drivers and reloaded the entire OS but could never get even average wifi performance.

So I returned it and ordered an x220 which is running great for me but I don't like the keyboard and trackpad as much as the x120.

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Yeah, I find I sometimes have to restrict it as it seems it can't handle mixed environments very well at all; Microwave ot 11b device comes on and BAM WiFi down the toilet :lol:

I'd love an X220 (esp. if it had a better graphics chip) as it's a 'proper' Thinkpad unlike the x121e, but it's just too darn expensive :(

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