Lenovo says that its notebooks are "for those who do," but its new line of ThinkPad 11e notebooks is targeted more specifically at those who do homework. Designed as upgrade to its current X140e line of education laptops, the ThinkPad 11e comes in four main configurations with prices ranging from $349 to $549: clamshell with Chrome OS, clamshell with Windows, Yoga version with Chrome and Yoga version with Windows. We had a chance to go hands-on the new notebooks and were impressed with their durable designs, but shocked by Lenovo's decision to omit the TrackPoint pointing sticks that have appeared on every ThinkPad for decades.
All four notebooks sport 11.6-inch IPS 1366 x 768 displays, quad-core Intel Celeron Baytrail processors and a slew of ports that includes HDMI-out, a 4-in-1 card reader, a single USB 3.0 connector and a USB 2 connector. At .87-inches and 3.3 pounds, these notebooks aren't the thinnest or lightest on the market, but they were easy to carry and felt particularly sturdy in our hands. The lid, which comes in either black or matte silver, has bumpers to protect against falls while the keys on the keyboard are double bonded to the deck so that mischievous kids can't try them off, a common support problem for schools.
While we didn't have our tools handy for measuring its travel and actuation force, the keyboard felt snappy with the kind of strong tactile feedback we've come to expect from ThinkPads. The buttonless touchpad seemed smooth and accurate, but we were surprised to see that Lenovo has not included a TrackPoint pointing stick. Lenovo told us that elementary schoolers frequently break the nub on earlier models and few understand how to use it. However, we hope that this is not the beginning of a trend, because the TrackPoint provides a superior navigation experience for those who are willing to use it.
We were able to bend the lid back 360 degrees on both Yoga versions of the ThinkPad 11e and we can imagine students using this feature on a regular basis as they go from typing notes in clamshell mode to drawing or using touch-based programs in tablet mode. The hinges seemed extremely sturdy and looked just like those on the $1,499, 12.5-inch ThinkPad Yoga S1. Because the ThinkPad Yoga 11e is just $549, we can imagine a lot of business people purchasing it in order to get the Yoga experience in a small, less-expensive system.
The ThinkPad 11e series is due out later this spring and, though it is targeted at schools, end users and businesses will likely be able to purchase the systems from Lenovo.com. We look forward to getting a closer look at the laptops in the near future.
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