- Decent mobile design
- Price potentially right (if you shop around)
- Frustrating, shallow keyboard
- Insufficient battery life
- Price potentially too high (if you don't shop around)
The Lenovo S21e is an acceptable to decent companion device with good-enough processing power. Get it for the right price and you'll be able to see past the frustrating keyboard and mediocre display. The poor battery life is a bit harder to accept, however.
It’s not hard to see where Lenovo cut corners on its S21e Windows laptop. It creaks and flexes when pressed, its keyboard is bouncy, and its non-touch display appears drab. Meanwhile, its spec sheet reveals its mediocre internals, with an Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM, and only 32GB of storage.
But that should not deter any would-be buyers, at least at a glance. Because so long as they keep expectations in line, budget devices can be both solid and reliable. This one in particular is thin, light, and obviously portable. In other words, it could be a great complementary device. Too bad it has one major flaw.
Build & Design
The Lenovo S21e looks like a laptop, straight up. There are no design flourishes or different “modes,” it simply sports the tried-and-true clamshell design, with a silver lid and bottom, accented with a black trim.
It measures 11.5 x 8.5 x .7 inches (wdh), and weighs a bit more than 2.5 pounds, making it both thin and light. Its polycarbonate display lid shows plenty of flex when stressed, as does the bottom panel. The whole machine creeks with a moderate amount of force, particularly on the display lid and portions of the keyboard, and it seems like a user with average strength could crack the S21e in half, bare handed (and certainly over his or her knee).
But that’s the cost of low cost, and it’s unreasonable to expect much more from a budget device.
Display & Speakers
The 11.6-inch LED backlit display features 1366 x 768 pixels and a 16:9 ratio. It’s anti-glare, meaning it’s not glossy like many touchscreens, and gives when pressed, temporarily distorting around the edges. While it’s not very bright at max setting, it does a decent job of repelling glare, and is visible under direct sunlight, though not comfortably.
Overall, the display works in that its visible and not horrible. However, it’s drab, which is typical of budget notebooks. Viewing angles are poor, as is contrast, but colors are fairly accurate. Given its relatively low pixel density of 135, some pixelation is noticeable with media. It’s not a touchsreen, and the display bezel is atypically thick. It houses a .3-megapixel camera and microphone.
The speakers are situated on the bottom, in the front edge, and are surprisingly loud. The sound is mediocre, with a noticeably limited range, but there are worse speakers are more expensive devices.
Ports & Connectivity
It’s nice to see the sides house a useful array or ports and inputs, including a Lenovo OneLink port that doubles as a charging input, full-sized USB 3.0, and a microHDMI output on the left side, while the right side houses a full-sized USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card slot.
It’s tough to complain about the selection, given Lenovo could have easily gone with just one USB input. However, an Ethernet port would have been an excellent addition. Though it’s becoming increasingly rare, any device not explicitly going for ultra thin and impossibly light should have one.
This Windows laptop supports 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Both functioned appropriately, with the expected range. It does not support 5GHz connections.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The 83-key QWERTY features Chiclet-style keys that are suitably sizeable and well-spaced. Unfortunately, this is one of the bouncier keyboards we’ve come across, and the keys feel especially mushy, with little to no travel. Missed keystrokes are all too common, which is surprising and disappointing, considering the key size and space.
Thankfully, the large trackpad is functions much better. It’s a single piece and it’s responsive. The multi-finger gestures necessary to navigate Windows 8.1 sans touchscreen work especially well.