11" Air vs. Lenovo X201s

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by FX120, Dec 31, 2010.

  1. FX120, Dec 31, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010

    FX120 macrumors 65816


    May 18, 2007
    I am in the market for a new portable and really like the look of the new MBA's, especially the 11" but have also seen the Lenovo X201 which seems to be about the same price, but includes a much faster processor (i3@2.4Ghz) and is also a little less expensive. I will only be running Windows on this computer, so OS X isn't really a factor here.

    Does anyone have any experience with the X201? I am concerned about battery life and overall build quality.

    These are the configurations I am looking at:

    11" Macbook Air
    1.4GHz Core 2 Duo
    2GB DDR3
    128GB SSD

    12" Lenovo X201
    2.4GHz Core i3
    4GB PC3-8500 DDR3
    Intel integrated graphics
    500GB 7200RPM HD
    9-cell battery
    Win 7 Pro x64

    The MBA is $1199 vs the X201 at $1050, plus I will have to buy a copy of Win 7 for the MBA so it is more like a $300 price difference.

    I will be mainly running Office, and a bunch of audio specific applications, some of which are very CPU intensive like EASE Focus and D&B ArrayCalc.

    I really like the look of the MBA, but am concerned about the performance and the additional cost. Does the 1.4Ghz C2D really impact performance all that bad?


    EDIT: Correct X201s to X201
  2. newdeal macrumors 68020

    Oct 21, 2009

    on cpu intensive tasks the air will be much slower, on disk intensive tasks it will be much faster due to the ssd. no idea about the lenovo, is it an ultra portable like the air?
  3. kolax macrumors G3

    Mar 20, 2007
    The graphics in the MacBook Air will win. I'd far rather have a CPU that was slightly slower, but have killer graphics (for what the size is).
  4. case2001 macrumors 6502

    Sep 9, 2010
    I know this is not exactly the machine comparison you are asking about, however we recently bought my wife a t510 with an i5/7200 rpm drive and 4 gigs of ram with windows 7 64 bit and I purchased the base 11.6 air. My air is as fast or faster then my wife's for all office and web work. For more processor intensive tasks her machine is quicker when just processing but the SSD on my air is gives it a run for its money.

    PS I love both the lenovo line and Mac lines. But the Air is fantastic.
  5. cherry su macrumors 65816

    cherry su

    Feb 28, 2008
    Are you talking about the X201 or the X201s? They are distinct models. Your spec sheet and price reflect those of the X201.

    Also, have you considered the weight difference? The MacBook Air weighs 2.3lbs while the X201 with 9-cell weighs around 3.3lbs.
  6. fs454 macrumors 68000

    Dec 7, 2007
    Los Angeles / Boston
    Where the hell are you buying Windows?

    Buy an OEM 1-pack from Newegg. Home Premium is $99.
  7. TSE, Dec 31, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010

    TSE macrumors 68030

    Jun 25, 2007
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    Battery life:

    X201 > MBA - 10+ Hours on the X201, 6+ Hours max on the MBA with normal usage


    X201 > MBA


    X201 < MBA


    X201 > MBA

    Form Factor:

    X201 < MBA


    X201 = MBA - this is debatable for and against both sides


    X201 > MBA - not by much, but it's hard to argue against the Thinkpad

    Input (Trackpad/Trackpoint):

    X201 < MBA - by far unless you like the trackpoint


    X201 < MBA


    X201 > MBA


    X201 < MBA

    Those are all the things off the top of my head that aren't completely debatable, but those shouldn't be the end all to choosing. For example, will Mac OS X really benefit you? For the vast majority, no, it won't. But there are people that swear by Mac OS X. With disc-intensive tasks, the MacBook Air will win but you should also remember you can upgrade the X201 to a SSD and it will be just as good.

    Also, if you like to game, but have your heart set out on a X201, there is a very very simple way of having an external desktop graphics card run through the X201's expansion slot, giving you desktop performance graphics. It's a very simple, non-complicated process and only costs like $150. You obviously won't be able to have desktop graphics wherever you go because you won't carry a graphics card around with you, but it's great for the desk, and honestly, who games on the go?

    One more thing. The X201/X201s is getting a MAJOR overhaul in Februaryish when Sandy Bridge is out. This will dramatically increase graphics performance, and the whole case is getting redesigned. Something to consider.

    You really can't go wrong with either. The MacBook Air and the X201 are both the top all-around Ultraportables on the market.
  8. nick9191, Dec 31, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010

    nick9191 macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2008
    I have no doubt the Air will be considerably smaller than the Lenovo, and lighter (2.3lbs vs. 3.5). Is size and weight important to you? Is OS X important to you? Is graphics important to you? If not go for the Lenovo.

    I've seen youtube videos of 11" Airs edging out MacBook Pros and iMacs with SSD drives on boot up time. Enough to say the 11" is hella fast, even despite the CPU.
  9. archipellago macrumors 65816

    Aug 16, 2008
    Lenovo....... All day, twice on Sunday.

    Truth be told, on any other forum it wouldn't even be an argument.
  10. miked112 macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2010
    Disagree...I have both (1.6\4gb MBA personal, i5\4gb X201 work) and it's not cut and dried:

    - the X201 is the clear winner for CPU-intensive tasks - as noted above you definitely see this with Flash performance though I assume with other CPU-intensive tasks (encoding, compile, modeling) it would be even clearer.

    - however the MBA GPU wins for anything graphically intensive (ie games) and of course the MBA SSD crushes the X201 HDD. I know that Nvidia Optimus and SSD are available for the X201 but adding those options close the cost gap and, with regard to Optimus, significantly impact battery life and heat (though Sandy Bridge will probably change that picture significantly).

    - Battery life in my experience is roughly equivalent - there is no way you will see 10 hrs on an X201 even with the 9 cell battery (which adds weight and footprint).

    - where the MBA runs away is ergonomics and usability - compared to the MBA the X201 is a heavy, clumsy brick. Unless you are a Trackpoint devotee (which I am not) there is absolutely no comparison between the Apple and Lenovo ergonomics - while the Thinkpad keyboard is great IMO the MBA's is better and the Thinkpad trackpad is useless compared to the Apple...I can't tell you how many times I have wanted to throw the X201 out the window because of a jumping pointer, shadow click or unsolicited window close or mail send...this just never happens on the MBA. However, the much more significant difference is form factor - until you use it there is no way to describe what a pleasure it is to carry and use the thin, light MBA compared to the thick, comparatively heavy X201.

    It's interesting that the OP is considering running Windows; I've considered doing the same because I want to ditch the X201 and OSX support at my company is relatively limited...also, I'm not an OSX fanboy, to me Win7 x64 is at least an equivalent OS in many ways. What's holding me back is the relative crappiness of Boot Camp HID support and power management (though it would be nice to get TRIM support for the SSD). I haven't looked at Fusion or Parallels but I can't believe they would be viable alternatives for heavily CPU or GPU dependent apps.

    Bottom line, if you have a dependency on CPU-intensive Windows apps go with the X201 (though even there I would wait for the Sandy Bridge announcements), any other scenario I would look very hard at the MBA.
  11. ///M5 macrumors 6502

    May 14, 2009
    I have a maxed out 11"er and thinking of buying a maxed-out X201(s).

    You can't beat Thinkpads when it comes to keyboard, configuration, accessories, and overall usability.
  12. racer1441 macrumors 68000

    Jul 3, 2009
    Well, lets take a look at all the factors that come into play with something like this.

    So, one is nice Mac, the other is a PC....

    Oh wait, that wasn't as complicated as I thought I would be.
  13. case2001 macrumors 6502

    Sep 9, 2010
    I think most of us agree the Thinkpad and MacBookAir are closely matched machines. I lot of the decision is based on personal preference. Example the keyboards. I have come to prefer the Mac's keyboard, but the Thinkpad is excellent I would be happy with either. The deciding factor would be how the machine is used. If the original poster is using it main for processor intensive tasks and time is critical in his or her day, most likely the Thinkpad would be a better decision. However, if it is a portable machine performing office related tasks and when processor intensive tasks are rare and unimportant then the Macbook Air is the better choice. I am clearly biased however, because I am writing this on a 11.6 MacBook Air. I love this thing!
  14. nick9191 macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2008
    Not completely. 2.3lbs vs. 3.5lbs, and far less bulk. That's a hell of a difference. And the MBA definitely deserves a break CPU wise because of that.

    I would put good money on the MBA being faster on any general day to day task, thanks to the SSD, as any review will say. When it comes to CPU intensive tasks, the Lenovo will wipe the floor. When it comes to graphics, the Air will wipe the floor.

    I couldn't live without the multitouch trackpad and the Apple keyboard. The Lenovo would be of great annoyance to me personally. Plus my cat could throw up a better looking laptop. Functionality is worth more than appearance obviously, but we wouldn't all be on here if we didn't love a sexy piece of kit.
  15. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium


    Jan 28, 2009
    Quebec, Canada
    No, compiling is not really an issue. Developers rarely do full rebuilds of very large projects and it has been years since we counted the difference in minutes between full builds of projects, these days it's mere seconds.

    Programming/Development work is not CPU intensive unless you're writing CPU intensive code, which is a very minuscule portion of software development these days.
  16. case2001 macrumors 6502

    Sep 9, 2010
    I agree with you. That makes the MacBook Air 34.3% lower in weight which is a great difference. I also agree with you on the other points you stated. If portability is the deciding issue, which with these two machines you would think it would be, the MacBook Air wins hands down.
  17. TSE, Jan 1, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2011

    TSE macrumors 68030

    Jun 25, 2007
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    It is very well documented by both professional reviews and consumer users. It is quite easy to get 10+ Hours out of the X201 with normal usage.

    "Normal usage": Wifi on, 50% Brightness, Web Browsing with Flash off and Office.
  18. case2001 macrumors 6502

    Sep 9, 2010
    Would normal usage also relate to processor load?

    If so would each machine see a proportional drop in total battery time with a proportional CPU load, or would the MacBook Air perform much worse due to the lower processor power management capability?

    In addition, to complete a "processor intensive task", i.e. time to complete given task on battery power, wouldn't the Thinkpad complete the task more quickly? And therefore, actually have much more total battery time left?

    Finally, Does Windows 7 do a good job with battery management of the MacBook Air? I would guess Lenovo did a good job optimizing battery life with the Thinkpad and Windows 7. Is that true for the MacBook Air and Windows 7?

    It comes down to what is the machines main purpose as well as personal preferences. Based on the original poster if battery life is the key issue with processor intensive tasks only running Windows 7, wouldn't the Thinkpad have a clear advantage?

    That being said....I still wouldn't trade my 11.6 MacBook Air for any other machine out there in its class!
  19. jevel macrumors regular

    Dec 7, 2003
    Then you really do not have a choice. Windows on Apple hardware is not as good as running Windows on a Lenovo PC. My Air gets nowhere near hot under normal use in OS X, but in Windows 7 it will start heaving for air as soon as I get logged on.

    Add the information about runnig CPU intensive tasks, and you already have the choice made for you. Go with the Lenovo.

    I have the 11 MBA and Lenovo X200 and use them both; the MBA for everyday use, and the X200 for the special things where I need native Windows. If you want any specific information from a user perspective, feel free to ask.

  20. acron1 macrumors regular


    Dec 7, 2008
    Are you sure about discreet graphics on the X201?... I don't remember seeing that when I was shopping for an ultraportable laptop...
  21. jevel macrumors regular

    Dec 7, 2003
    According to marketing material and distributors the X201 is only available with Intel HD Graphics.

  22. miked112 macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2010
    That's right...I was thinking of the T410.
  23. miked112 macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2010
    Maybe so, but I've never seen it real world; I'm on transatlantic flights pretty often & the x201 won't last the trip, even with the 9-cell...it's my everyday laptop with wifi\default brightness...browser is IE with Flash & it's our corporate image so some of the power management drivers may be missing. It's also an i5 but I doubt that makes a difference.
  24. case2001 macrumors 6502

    Sep 9, 2010
    Have you tried tweaking the energy management settings in Windows 7? I don't run Windows 7 on my Mac's but I have a couple of PC's and I know there are several settings. If I set the CPU at full performance the fans run full blast and it is warmer under Windows 7. I would still think the Lenovo machine would be at an advantage for CPU intensive tasks with regard to battery life.

    However, the 11.6 MacAir gets fantastic battery life.
  25. jevel macrumors regular

    Dec 7, 2003
    No, I haven't tried messing around much with the settings under Windows, but the CPU throttles down to minimum, and the CPU usage is low to nothing. Still the fans are running. Never does this under OS X.


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