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Can Faster Memory and Storage Make an Entry-Level Laptop Sing?

CORSAIR Technical Marketing

Notebooks have become extremely inexpensive, almost staggeringly. While the netbook rush of yesteryear flooded the market with cheap, light laptops, those systems were nowhere near as capable as modern entry-level systems. Systems based on Intel’s Bay Trail platform and AMD’s Kabini platform and their derivatives offer a remarkably usable computing experience, a far cry from where we were three years ago.

Yet cheap laptops often hit their price points by cutting potentially more expensive components, components that can dramatically improve the user experience. Poor memory speed or capacity and slow mechanical storage keep prices low but can hamstring an otherwise capable machine. To demonstrate what a modest upgrade can do for you, we took Lenovo’s ThinkPad X140e and installed faster memory and an entry-level SSD and ran some performance tests.


The ThinkPad X140e comes equipped with AMD’s A4-5000 APU and Radeon HD 8330 integrated graphics; that’s a 1.5GHz quad core processor strapped to 128 of AMD’s GCN compute cores running at 500MHz. It’s not an especially fast chip; the four cores are based on AMD’s low performance, low power Jaguar architecture. There’s also only a single channel memory controller, so memory bandwidth is at a premium. Stock configuration includes 4GB of DDR3L-1600 running at CAS 11 and a punishingly slow 500GB, 5400-RPM mechanical hard disk.


Our upgrades are modest: a 60GB Force LS SSD is just $49.99 on our site, and this is arguably the best upgrade you can make. AMD’s memory controller on the A4-5000 is very limited; adding a second DIMM will force the memory speed down to just 1333MHz, while trying to use higher speed memory (we used an 8GB DDR3L-2133 CAS11 DIMM) can get you tighter timings but not much else. We tested with the memory upgraded (8GB of DDR3L-1600 CAS 9), and that helped a little bit, but unless you need the memory capacity you’ll probably be fine with just an SSD.




% Improved

Battery Life

371 min.

407 min.


PCMark 8 MS Office




PCMark 8 Storage




Ultra Street Fighter IV

48 fps

48.88 fps


Final Fantasy XIV

17.45 fps

17.71 fps


Gaming benchmarks were run at the laptop’s native 1366x768 resolution and low-to-minimum settings, and you can see they’re pretty much entirely limited by the APU itself. But productivity is where our upgrades shine: something as basic as Microsoft Office 2013 gets a very healthy speed bump, the SSD is worlds away in performance from the stock mechanical hard drive, and most impressively, we score an extra half hour worth of productive battery life.


While the memory upgrade is questionable and ultimately more of a convenience than anything else, switching from mechanical storage to solid state is highly recommended. This is something you probably already knew; common wisdom dictates that an SSD is the single biggest upgrade anyone can make to improve the user experience, and even an absolutely barebones, entry-level one is still going to make a big difference. With SSDs as inexpensive as they are now, there’s very little reason not to make the jump and eke more performance and more battery life out of your laptop.


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