Lenovo ThinkPad Edge review (13-inch): Lenovo ThinkPad Edge (13-inch)

Do looks matter in a budget business notebook? Budget laptops are necessary for the self-employed and those without lots of money to burn, but those same users might also be entrepreneurs who prefer affordable, nicely designed machines that do double-duty as personal laptops rather than boxy generic systems. Lenovo clearly felt the same way: the uptight ThinkPad image has been taken in a relatively bold new direction in the new Edge line.

Using AMD or Intel ULV processors, these laptops add gloss and silver touches, and skip the optical drive–a risky move for a 13-inch laptop. The new ThinkPads even come in red, as if the shift to “new and bold” wasn’t clear enough.

Is that enough to entice someone who otherwise might lean away from the ThinkPad brand, or has Lenovo compromised its image into something stuck halfway between the consumer IdeaPad and biz ThinkPad lines?

At first glance, the 13-inch ThinkPad Edge doesn’t seem so unlike a ThinkPad, save for the extremely glossy lid. The Edge has a low starting price of $579, although that’s with an AMD processor: Intel configs of the Edge start at $799. Our review version, with 4GB of RAM, a U7300 Intel Core 2 ULV, and a 320GB hard drive, sells for $899. At the lower end of the range, the Edge could represent great value for someone looking for a thin laptop with business software built in. However, when you’re getting up to $899, there might be better values elsewhere.

Starting price / Price as reviewed $579/$899
Processor 1.3 GHz Intel Core 2 ULV SU7300
Memory 4GB, DDR3 1066MHz
Hard drive 320GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel GM45 Express
Graphics Intel GMA 4500MHD
Operating system Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 12.6 x 8.9 inches
Height 1.4 inches (at thickest point)
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.9 / 4.5 pounds
Category Thin-and-light

There is no optical drive on the 13-inch ThinkPad Edge, which might annoy some. On the other hand, the Edge is compact, clean, and has a battery that only protrudes slightly from the laptop’s underside. Covered in glossy black plastic on the outer lid and somewhat cheap-looking silvery edges, the Edge has an appearance much closer to an IdeaPad.

The overly flat and slick lid was a little much for us, and the inner lid’s overabundance of matte plastic surrounding the 13.3-inch LED screen gave it a somewhat budget look. But the Edge is a budget machine, so we forgive it. In another new wrinkle, the Edge comes in both black and red. The flashier cherry red in its glossy case looks attractive, and we might prefer it a bit more to the slightly generic black.

More impressive is the Edge’s newly redesigned raised keyboard, a replacement to the venerable ThinkPad tapered keyboard. The slightly concave keys do a good job at mimicking the feel of a Lenovo traditional keyboard and prevent the slippage some raised keyboards have. The larger multitouch touch pad also feels very comfortable, along with the ample and smooth matte-surfaced palm rest. For lovers of the old trackpoint nubbin, no worries: it’s been retained. The Edge’s entire lower half, including keyboard, touch pad, and palm rest, is our favorite part of the new ThinkPad. It might be the most comfortable raised keyboard we’ve ever used, and the large pad is an excellent improvement.

We’re less fond of the upper lid, which contains the screen. The overly glossy back seems destined for scratches or smudges, and the gray edges and thick borders make the unit seem a bit tacky. We’d have actually preferred a little more understatement. The screen itself, with a 1,366×768-pixel resolution, is as bright and clear as other ThinkPads to our eyes. The system sound, however, is slightly soft. The Edge is designed as a business thin-and-light, and the embedded speakers don’t make this ideal for media playback.

  ThinkPad Edge 13-inch Average for category [thin-and-light]
Video VGA, HDMI output VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Sound Loudspeaker, single headphone / microphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone / microphone jack
Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion nobody ExpressCard / 54
Network connections Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b / g / n, Bluetooth, WWAN and WiMAX optional Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b / g / n, Bluetooth, WWAN optional
Optical drive nobody dVD recorder

With three USB ports, an HDMI port, VGA and a memory card reader, these ports are pretty standard on the ThinkPad Edge. However, there is no optical drive. While the Edge doesn’t have an ultra-low voltage processor, it’s not really thin, and isn’t really light enough to drop the DVD / CD burner. We wish it was included here or the Edge even thinner. It seems that many would still wish for an optical drive in larger laptops, and the omission is simply unnecessary. Unless you are MacBook Air, it is better to keep the optical drive.

The ThinkPad Edge, in its lower cost versions, comes with a dual-core AMD processor, a 1.5 GHz Athlon Neo X2 L325 or a 1.6 GHz Turion Neo X2 L625. All Intel models use the 1.3-GHz SU7300 processor, the one we’ve seen on some of the recent thin and light devices and all run Windows 7 Professional instead of the regular Home Premium. more often. Our configuration responds quickly and works at the same level as other machines in normal usage: great for everyday work and suitable for media consumption, but not ideal for any What type of game or video editing do. Its performance drops right among the comparable SU7300 laptops, its closest performance equals HP Pavilion dm3-1002.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Lenovo Thinkpad Edge

1810

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