Design and Build Quality
This machine exudes quality. In fact, every ThinkPad machine that we have touched is impressive from a quality standpoint. The ThinkPad brand has earned a reputation for being well-built machines for use in business, which means they're built with enough rigidity to be hauled around daily. And of course the "timeless" styling is still here. That means a matte black exterior, and all-black interior, a TrackPoint in the middle and a standard touchpad + mouse buttons at the bottom.
This is a ThinkPad through and through. It's built like a small tank, and despite being thin and light, it's quite rigid from top to bottom. Even the LCD panel is sturdy, and while the keyboard does have minimal flex if you really mash down on it, you won't feel any 'give' when typing normally. The LCD also reclines nearly flat, making this a great machine to get for those who end up in cramped airline seats or other strange angles when needing to use their notebook.
Along the left edge, there's a headphone jack, an Ethernet port, a single USB 2.0 port, a full-size HDMI output, an exhaust vent (which gets used a lot, but more on that later), and a Kensington lock port. Along the rear, there's a VGA output and an AC input, and considering that we have a unit with the extended 6-cell battery, quite a large bulge between those two ports. Over on the right edge, there are two more USB 2.0 ports (which are smartly spaced out so your peripherals don't bump into one another) and an SD/SDHC card slot.
If you remember back to our ThinkPad X100e review, most of the design remarks we had there ring true here. It's almost the same machine from a design standpoint. The TrackPoint functions well, and if you're not into that, the trackpad + mouse buttons are best-in-class. And we really mean it. The pad isn't textured, enabling smooth movements, and it's a multi-touch pad as well. That means that scrolling down web pages is possible by simply putting two fingertips on the pad and pulling down.
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We can't emphasize enough how much of a productivity booster this is if you're using your laptop as your main machine. The mouse buttons have an ideal amount of travel, and we struggle to understand how other companies simply cannot get this right. The input devices are the most important on a machine from a design standpoint, yet many can't nail them. Lenovo can, and has, on the X120e.