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The X300’s L7100 processor

Lenovo's X300 vs. Apple's MacBook Air
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Let’s start with something interesting: the X300’s processor. Lenovo used a Core 2 Duo L7100 processor. This device, which could not be located on Intel’s Website, is something out of the normal fray.

A Core 2 Duo SFF

Like MacBook Air’s processor, the L7100 uses a SFF package (Small Form Factor). The advantage is simple: the processor takes up less space on the motherboard. It is soldered in place and can’t be removed or changed. Its frequency is low (1.2 GHz) and its listed TDP is just 12 W.

apple macbook air

The Clock Speed Issue

The L7100 has a 1.2 GHz clock speed, with an 800 MHz front-side bus (FSB). However, according the results of our first tests, CPU-Z sent us back a different reading for the clock speed: 1.6 GHz (8x 200 MHz). After doing some research, and with France Delattre’s help, we uncovered the reason for this frequency change: Intel’s Dynamic FSB feature.

Lenovo X300

In reality, the processor runs at 1.2 GHz (6x200 MHz) when plugged in, but once it goes into power economy mode on a battery charge, the Dynamic FSB technology kicks in. Here lies the source of the problem: to reduce power consumption, Intel designed the processor to function like an 800 MHz processor by adding idle cycles in the FSB and raising the coefficient multiplier to x8 instead of x6. This way the FSB runs at 200 MHz (and the processor at 1.6 GHz) but an idle cycle is inserted between every processor cycle, so the Core 2 Duo functions like a device with a 100 MHz FSB instead (and thus, an 800 MHz CPU).

Why Include Idle Cycles?

Intel uses this technique because it is easy to implement, but more so because it can be activated quickly. Really modifying the FSB’s frequency would clearly be a more elegant solution but it would also mean changing all of the FSB’s synchronized clocks (memory, PCI-Express, PCI etc.). Plus, even when possible, changing the FSB on the fly requires the insertion of more than just idle cycles.

Lenovo X300Lenovo X300

In the end, even if CPU-Z and other benchmarks indicate that the actual frequency is 1.6 GHz, you have to keep in mind that the processor is really acting like an 800 MHz model. Let us take note that special versions of CPU-Z allow you to label the frequency as “relative,” as you can see in the images.

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  • 2 Hide
    anonymous x , April 30, 2008 8:46 PM
    I would say its better than the macbook air.
    The air is so limiting (you can't even change the battery- its an ultraportable without flexible battery options!
  • 0 Hide
    CptnVortex , April 30, 2008 8:55 PM
    Did you forget about the 3 year Lenovo Warranty? And the optional 6 Cell main battery? The X300 is an amazing laptop, got one myself! $2550 CAD. Also, mine came with a single 2GB module installed, so I upgraded to 4GB for $39!!
  • 0 Hide
    CptnVortex , April 30, 2008 8:57 PM
    What about the 3 year Warranty the Lenovo comes with? Also, the one I ordered and recieved came with a single 2gb module isntalled, so $39 CAD and I was at 4GB! A great deal for such an AWESOME and rigid notebook. Dont forget there is also an optional 6 Cell Main battery available too
  • 0 Hide
    kalpesh , April 30, 2008 9:00 PM
    Mac Great show of your money and style
  • 0 Hide
    huafi , April 30, 2008 10:14 PM
    Have you mixed up some of your data? For instance, the article says that "The time it takes for Photoshop CS3 to load up is comparable on both machines, even if the Windows version is faster", but the data shows that the MBA launched Photoshop in 8 seconds, vs 46 seconds for Windows. That makes the Mac nearly 6 times as fast! And if you're going to show the data for the MBA with mechanical drive, you should note more clearly that that model is much, much cheaper than either SSD machine.

    Don't get me wrong; I think the X300 is a fantastic machine. It's a bummer that they didn't give it a good screen, and I hope that some of the quality issues with recent Lenovos don't manifest with this one, because it's an amazing engineering accomplishment. It has several features (especially WWAN and much better expandability/connectivity) that I really wish the MBA hadn't compromised on. Then again, aesthetically there's no comparing the two; the MBA is simply an amazingly desirable object, where the X300 just comes across as...competent. Whether that matters to you or not is purely personal.
  • 0 Hide
    LikesMacsToo , May 1, 2008 1:21 AM
    The thing that I would like to know is......in what way did you actually compare the two machines? This is a lenovo review with the mac used as merely reference to something of similar size. My beef here is not that its mac vs pc but it's just a lousy article with a misleading title. WTF THG, this is not up to your standards.
  • 0 Hide
    croc , May 1, 2008 3:19 AM
    I have a sony vaio that's about the same specs, and it's two years old! I just don't see what's so 'new' about this lappy from Lenovo. The MBA is cute, but the lack of devices and options just makes it impractical for my uses. BTW, my Sony has one of the best screens for the size that I've seen. Much better than the MBA, (I've done a side by side comparison, really pissed off the Apple store folks) but have yet to compare the Lenovo.

    The MBA is 4400 AUD with the solid drive, I can get a Mtron 64GB for about 1400 AUD, making my Sony cost about 3900 AUD. Battery life? My non-extended battery can play two DVD's without needing a charge, (barely) or just about enough time to get me from SYD to HI :-)
  • 0 Hide
    bitburn , May 1, 2008 1:47 PM
    Since they are both way to expensive, I would still pick the Air just for its style and OS superiority. But that's just me ;-)
  • 0 Hide
    MadHacker , May 1, 2008 3:01 PM
    strange that they compare load time of 2 different OS's
    they should have installed vista on the macbook or MAC OSX on the x300
    that would give a proper benchmark of the hardware.
  • 0 Hide
    TechieXP , May 1, 2008 3:04 PM
    What was Apple thinking? A laptop with no CDROM? So how am I suppose to install application/game? Oh I have to go out an buy one? Why? For the price of teh laptop they didnt include and external one? Thay only cost $20 to make if that much. And why external anyway. In the sleek design they couldnt have squeezed in a slot loading one? Come on Apple and you wonder why you're at the end of the computer gene pool. A laptop is suppose to be a portable computer with some of the features of my desktop. What happens if I am in class and the teacher hands us an instruction CD? I dont want to have to carry an additional component.
  • 0 Hide
    TechieXP , May 1, 2008 3:11 PM
    The MBA is a very nice piece of hardware. The ThinkPad will always be what IBM original made it. It designed for the business man. Not that you would want to drop your laptop, but I bet the TP can take a lil more pounding. And Lenovo could have gaveit a glossy screen with a higher resolution. But overall its pretty nice. You dont need an elegant laptop you need one that works and has the features you need. I dont know anyone who would really need a laptop with no cdrom. that a heartbreaker.
  • 0 Hide
    rantsky , May 1, 2008 4:17 PM
    Wow, I really don't get all those internal DVD complaints! I've been using a ThinkPad X61 for over a year now and it has no built in DVD. Nor did the X60, X40 or X30 that came before it. It is just fine! In fact, it's better than fine - it just makes the thing lighter and smaller. I think getting it out was one of the cleverer things they did to laptops recently. Really, who needs a DVD when they're on the go?? My backups I do to USB - smaller, faster, and more reliable. I only install software when I'm home, where I have an external drive. So why should I be forced to carry the thing around with me if it's so rarely used??
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 1, 2008 5:54 PM
    Did you guys mention CAD, do you mean that 3D designer autoCAD? I never expect you can ran that on ultra portable. I did not read every comment.
  • 0 Hide
    Tjik , May 2, 2008 10:37 AM
    "The launching and initialization of Microsoft Word (2008 on Mac, 2007 on Windows) was interesting to compare, since the Windows version launched almost immediately, while the Mac version was very slow."

    I'm not a Mac fan so that's not my issue here. Still I can't see the point of using Microsoft Word as a measurement for comparison. Microsoft does tweak their Office suite to load very fast even on older hardware (it's integrated with system to operate with high priority). If Microsoft Word would have loaded faster on the Mac, yes then I would immediately send a bug report to Microsoft about it! The Photoshop comparison is much more relevant since we're talking about an equally third party software. Just as you added "the two systems with the different operating systems are not directly comparable..." in the section about boot up speed, the same applies to Microsoft Word.

    These kinds of details add either a favourable or unfavourable mark of quality to a article.

    (PS. your site generates a lot of script errors if checked DS.)
  • 0 Hide
    TheGreatGrapeApe , May 2, 2008 6:30 PM
    I don't think either the author or other readers her have ever used these laptops in a business / mobile environment.

    the comment that a matte screen is a drawback is somewhat myopic IMO, and obviously you don't even use your laptops in well lit bright environments, let alone outdoors. Glossy screens are great for dark environments, but for most people they aren't buying these laptops for DVD colour vibrance (that's why you would buy an LEDlit Glossy laptop), you want it to be functional.

    Also, while I appreciate the comment on VGA being a drawback, the connector footprint for DVI is bigger, to me the combo of choice is what I have for mine, VGA+HDMI, you have the best of both worlds and no silly uncommon compromise like mini-DVI other macbooks.

    I think like one of the posters above said, it's about an asthetic versus functional laptop. I wouldn't want an Air of work, but I'd want one for travel (either that or a Sony UMPC).

    It would've been interesting to add something more Air-ish like the Toshiba R500.
  • 0 Hide
    skypecakes , May 2, 2008 6:56 PM
    Lack of firewire is a negative? You do remember that this is the non-Mac machine you're reviewing, don't you? It lacks an Apple Desktop Bus connector too, should we mention that?
  • 0 Hide
    SeafoodPho , May 2, 2008 7:50 PM
    I rather go with the Lenovo because the MacBook Air is extremely fragile compare to the Lenovo. I saw a guy accidently break it when he took it out of the book to put it on display.
  • 0 Hide
    skythra , May 3, 2008 3:11 AM
    This article is terrible.

    I expected to read a blow by blow account of pro's and con's of the Lenovo's X300 compared to the Apple MacBook Air.

    Instead 90% of the discussion was about the Lenovo's X300 and it was compared to.. well nothing! Only when benchmarking the system was there a comparison.

    I expected a fair account of "The Lenovo doesnt have firewire, which is a downside compared to the macbook, however conversely, the Lenovo runs a solid state HDD."

    I mean the title of the article is "Lenovo's X300 vs. Apple's MacBook Air" but the discussion and conclusion referred to Pro's and Con's to some immaginary system that was a dream.

    This should be Labelled "Our love of the Lenovo with some benchmarks to compare to Apple to get attention of apple fans stirred up".

    What a waste. The Discussion and conclusion should directly refer to the Topic/Hypothesis. If you were in school, you'd get a FAIL.
  • 0 Hide
    7773 , May 4, 2008 3:25 AM
    TechieXP: "Thay only cost $20 to make if that much"

    Given the size of that machine, integrate the CDROM would cost way more than 20 if they keep the same style. I have seen one of those MBA, and that was insane, for the first time I have saw a laptop with its body thinner than the LCD. The CDROM would even cost less than 20 but consider that device takes up a good fraction of space and unable to scale down due to the size of the disk, the only option to house CDROM inside the machine is to make other components "step aside". In the case of ultra-portable, the size of machine is already 'notebook' include CDROM would make even less space for CPU/GPU/RAM/HDD/PSU/etc. If apple include stander size CDROM in MBA, the result will be at least 2x expansive while perform at least 0.5x less that what it is now.

    Also that aerodynamic exterior of the MBA means its utilizable space is even less that what I see. Just think it as an expanded ipod that looks like a computer :p 
  • 0 Hide
    7773 , May 4, 2008 3:26 AM
    TechieXP: "Thay only cost $20 to make if that much"

    Given the size of that machine, integrate the CDROM would cost way more than 20 if they keep the same style. I have seen one of those MBA, and that was insane, for the first time I have saw a laptop with its body thinner than the LCD. The CDROM would even cost less than 20 but consider that device takes up a good fraction of space and unable to scale down due to the size of the disk, the only option to house CDROM inside the machine is to make other components "step aside". In the case of ultra-portable, the size of machine is already 'notebook' include CDROM would make even less space for CPU/GPU/RAM/HDD/PSU/etc. If apple include stander size CDROM in MBA, the result will be at least 2x expansive while perform at least 0.5x less that what it is now.

    Also that aerodynamic exterior of the MBA means its utilizable space is even less that what I see. Just think it as an expanded ipod that looks like a computer :p 
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