Tuesday, March 13, 2012

11-inch Apple MacBook Air versus the Lenovo ThinkPad EDGE e120

There are plenty of low cost ultraportables today. At the Php12,000 to Php19,000 price range, there are more than a dozen Atom powered 10.1-inch netbooks, but with the 1024 x 600 pixel resolution displays and cramped keyboards, they really are better off as a second computer and not as a primary one. I think most would prefer a tablet as a second personal computer. Priced with prices ranging from Php17,000 to Php27,000 you have more than a dozen choices of AMD Fusion power laptops with 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 pixel resolution displays and most have keyboards suitable for extended use.

But for those looking to spend a bit more for a small light low cost ultraportable do not have all that many choices. Looking at the 11-inch units in the market and capping a budget at Php50,000 pesos yields me two good choices. The first is the 11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air and the other is the 11.6-inch Lenovo ThinkPad EDGE e120.

11-inch Mac Book Air

ThinkPad EDGE e120

Price. The entry level 11.6-inch MacBook Air is priced at Php49,990 at the Apple Store. The Lenovo ThinkPad EDGE e120 has a suggested retail price of Php29,990 for the Intel Core i3 2357M version with a 320 GB hard drive. For about Php3,000 more you will find ThinkPad EDGE e120 with a Intel Core i3 2367M version with a 500 GB hard drive. Both the Lenovo's only come with DOS for an operating system. Getting Windows Home Premium install will set you back another Php5,000 or so.

Depending on the configuration the Lenovo ThinkPad EDGE e120 is cheaper Php12,000 to Php15,000.

Winner: ThinkPad EDGE e120 

Display. Both the MacBook Air and the ThinkPad EDGE e120 have 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 resolution displays. Objectively they are equal. Subjectively, I think the MacBook has a better display. But I wont call a winner here. Best you look at both and decide.

Winner: Draw.

Keyboard and trackpad. Both laptops have excellent keyboards. I prefer the tactile feedback on the one on the ThinkPad EDGE e120. The Apple has a larger track pad, but I really do not appreciate the size since my mouse cursor is always set to fast so I do not need the additional space. But these are subjective preferences. Again best, you try for yourself and decide.

Winner: Draw.

Power. The Intel Core i3 2357M and Core i3 2367M found in the ThinkPad EDGE e120 run at 1.3 and 1.4 GHz, respectively. The graphics chip on the Intel Core i3 2357M runs at 350 MHz which can boosts its speed to up to 950 MHz, while the one on the Core i3 2367M graphic chips runs at the same 350 mHz but can turbo boost a slightly  faster at 1 GHz. Both come with 3 MB caches.

The entry level MacBook Air runs on a more powerful Intel Core i5 2357M with its processor which runs at faster 1.6GHz and can run to up to 2.3 GHz on demand. The graphics chip on the entry level MacBook Air also runs at 350 MHz, and can go as fast as 1150 MHz on demand. Cache is also a 3 MB.

The problem with both laptops is that they only come equipped with 2 GB of RAM. Don't get me wrong, Windows 7 and Mac OS X Lion can run on 2 GB, but they really feel much faster with 4 GB of RAM. The ThinkPad EDGE e120 can be upgrade to 4 GB for about another Php1,500. It will cost all of Php5,000 to upgrade the entry level MacBook Air to 4GB. This would also put us past our 50K budget.

Winner: MacBook Air, but the ThinkPad EDGE e120 can be upgraded to 4 GB at a much lower cost.

Endurance. The 11-inch MacBook Air promises 5 hours of battery life, and will give you that in real world use with reasonable settings. The ThinkPad EDGE e120 promises 9.3 hours, but that is more like 6 hours and 30 minutes in real world use.

Winner: ThinkPad EDGE e120

Portability. Both are small and light. The MacBook Air is a tad less than 0.7 inched think, while ThinkPad EDGE e120 is a bit over 0.9 inches. The MacBook Air is substantially lighter at 2.5 pounds, versus the 3.1 pounds of the ThinkPad EDGE e120.

Winner: MacBook Air

Storage. The entry level MacBook Air comes with a 64 GB SSD. Upgrading to a 128 GB hard drive will set you back all of Php10,000 (this also comes with another 2GB of RAM). The Lenovo comes with a 320 GB or 500 GB conventional hard drive. I love SSD's and the performance and durability they bring, but 64 GB is a bit small. I can live with 128 GB, but not 64 GB, especially after you factor in the operating system and software which would leave only about 40GB available.

Winner: ThinkPad EDGE e120

As  you can see, it is close. Each has its advantages, but ultimately the ThinkPad EDGE e120 will cost you 20% to 30%  depending on configuration. The entry level MacBook Air would need a external hard drive to be a practical choice making the ThinkPad EDGE e120 a much better value for money proposition.

If the MacBook Air has a 128 GB SSD for the price of Php49,900 it would be a have a hard choice. But with a 64 GB SSD and 20% to 30% cheaper, I would have to recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge e120 with a RAM upgrade, as the value for money option.

For other options, check out another ultraportable showdown:

11-inch Apple MacBook Air versus the 12-inch Samsung Series 3 NP350U2B


  1. These were my exact considerations for selecting the E120/E125. Imagine getting the Thinkpad badge at its price. As for keyboard I give it to the Thinkpad. The feedback is crisp reminiscent of all the other Thinkpads I ever used. Moreover I work in a Windows environment anyway so it was a no brainer on my part.

  2. As an update here is what the Thinkpad E120 can do. One it ran Sega Rally at 40fps at medium settings. No lags! I played for 4 hours with still enough time to do the usual facebook stuff. So in real-life use the battery life is indeed long (about 1 to 2 hours longer than its E450-powered sister) but by no means this book is for gamers (just casual gaming). It can render AutoCad drawings at about the same time as it does on my Ivy-bridge powered desktop at the office (bought specifically for the purpose of handling these tasks). Bang for the Buck!!! Yup!

  3. Thanks for the feedback. Not a very good endorsement for Ivy Bridge, if a Sandy Bridge mobile chip can keep up with a Ivy Bridesktop chip. Trust me though, the Ivy Bridge desktop chip is much faster in both processing and graphics power.

  4. I'm typing now using my Thinkpad E120. So far, so Good! Gotta love it's rigidity. Really solid construction.


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