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|
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 1,366x768-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-out, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Speakers, single headphone/microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN and WiMAX||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
With three USB ports, an HDMI port, VGA, and a memory card reader, the ports are fairly standard on the ThinkPad Edge. However, there is no optical disc drive. Though the Edge does have an ultralow-voltage processor, it's neither truly thin nor truly light enough to merit dropping the DVD/CD burner. We wish it had been included here, or the Edge made even slimmer. It seems that many people still desire optical drives in larger laptops, and the omission here simply didn't seem necessary. Unless you're a MacBook Air, it might be better to keep the optical drive.
The ThinkPad Edge, in its lower-cost iterations, comes with a dual-core AMD processor, either a 1.5GHz Athlon Neo X2 L325 or a 1.6GHz Turion Neo X2 L625. All Intel models use the 1.3GHz SU7300 processor, one we've seen on a number of recent thin-and-lights, and all run Windows 7 Professional as opposed to the more common Home Premium. Our configuration responded snappily and performed on a similar level to those other machines in anecdotal usage: great for everyday work, and decent for media consumption, but not ideal for any sort of gaming or video editing. Its performance fell right in the middle of equivalent SU7300 laptops, its closest performance equal being the HP Pavilion dm3-1002.