What's hot: ThinkPad build quality at a more affordable price, sleek and slim.
What's not: No built-in optical drive.
Reviewed March 18, 2010 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Times have changed: a ThinkPad doesn’t have to come in black and it doesn’t have to have a matte lid. We are talking about the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13-inch notebook whose cover is so glossy you can see your own reflection. The Edge is available in glossy black or glossy Heatwave Red. If that’s entirely too much gloss for you, Lenovo also offers it with a smooth black option. The ThinkPad Edge is indeed a new breed of ThinkPad notebooks that offers low voltage CPU options which use a lot less power and are significantly cheaper than other ThinkPad notebooks. So folks who want that Lenovo build quality and other ThinkPad signature features like the excellent keyboard, the unique joystick pointer and more, can have a piece of the action at a much lower price.
Lenovo currently offers the ThinkPad Edge in two flavors: AMD Athlon Neo X2 CPU at 1.50GHz and the Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 CPU at 1.3GHz. The AMD version comes with ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics while the Intel version has Intel GMA integrated graphics. The Intel version has longer battery life but the AMD version is cheaper. We have the Intel version for this review.
Design and Ergonomics
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge has a clean and modern design with pronounced straight lines and a shiny flat cover. The dot on the ThinkPad logo is also an LED that flashes red when the notebook is in hibernation. Open the lid to unveil the 13.3” display that has 1366 x 768 max native resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. The backlit LED display glares but it does have decent viewing angles and good brightness. Above the display, the Lenovo has a 1.3 megapixel webcam that’s low-light sensitive.
The standard keyboard has been redesigned from the traditional ThinkPad keyboard, and it provides an excellent typing experience. The chicklet keyboard has large keys and great travel. Like other ThinkPad models, the ThinkPad Edge has both the signature ThinkPad TrackPoint and a multi-touch trackpad, each with its own set of mouse buttons. The top deck is uncluttered: the power button is at the top right corner and the speakers live under the notebook, in netbook fashion, rather than on the top deck. The speaker grille has a curve so that the two 2-watt stereo speakers aren’t firing directly toward your desk, but the location does affect the volume. With the system volume turned to half full, the notebook generates enough volume for the user to hear it, but the person sitting a pace or two from you won’t be able to hear it at all, which is good for privacy but not good for a party. The notebook does have a headphone jack for a better audio experience. The 6-cell battery creates a bump on the bottom to give the notebook a tilt for a better typing angle as well as heat dissipation, though the heat vent blows out on the left.
Horsepower and Performance
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge runs on an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor at 1.3GHz with 800MHZ FSB and 3MB cache. The AMD version of the ThinkPad Edge runs on the AMD Athlon Neo X2 Dual-Core L325 at 1.5GHz with the AMD M780G chipset. The Intel version has Intel GMA 4500MHD integrated graphics while the AMD version has ATI Radeon HD 3200 IGP with 128MB graphics memory. The ThinkPad Edge can have a maximum of 4 gigs memory in 2 slots with PC3-8500 DDR3 1066MHz SDRAM. The graphics power on the Intel version is good enough for playing videos but you won’t play any graphics intensive games. The Lenovo currently comes with a 320GB hard drive (5400rpm or 7200rpm) and it has built-in Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (Realtek) and Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR. There is also a WiMAX 6250 option available. There is no integrated optical drive.
We put the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge through PCMark Vantage X64 benchmark tests and provide the score comparison with the Lenovo IdeaPad U550 which runs on the same Intel CPU with 4 gigs of memory. The ThinkPad Edge scored a little better than the IdeaPad except in gaming, and that’s because the IdeaPad U550 has ATI dedicated graphics. Here are the PCMark Vantage scores as well as Windows Experience Index:
PCMark Vantage Benchmark Results:
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge:
PCMark Suite: 3034
Memory Suite: 2029
TV and Movie Suite: 2213
Gaming Suite: 1461
Music Suite: 3439
Communication Suite: 2960
Productivity Suite: 2109
HDD Test Suite: 3599
Lenovo IdeaPad U550:
PCMark Suite: 2961
Memory Suite: 1856
TV and Movie Suite: 1907
Gaming Suite: 2402
Music Suite: 3100
Communication Suite: 2850
Productivity Suite: 2080
HDD Test Suite: 2676
The Windows 7 Experience Index for the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge: (on a scale of 1.0 to 7.9)
Microsoft Office software runs smoothly on the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge. Web pages load with decent speed in IE 8, and music plays well. Streaming Netflix movies via Wi-Fi is smooth, and Hulu had noticeable frame drops which isn’t that surprising since many faster notebooks have trouble with Hulu. Casual games play fine and even some graphics intensive games from a few years ago play just fine. We don’t recommend you to throw games like Crysis at it though.
The ultra-modern body of the ThinkPad Edge houses 3 USB ports, one of which is powered, VGA out, an HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet, a mic/headphone combo jack and 5-in-1 card reader that works with MMC, SD, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro and xD cards.
The ThinkPad Edge has a 6-cell 5.6 Ah 63 Wh Lithium-Ion battery. For productivity tasks with the power setting at the default (screen brightness at 13 out of 15), the notebook can last about 5-6 hours with Wi-Fi on. Streaming movies from Netflix over Wi-Fi with the screen brightness setting to max (15) and the power management set to Video Playback, the notebook lasted about 4 hours. When streaming Hulu using the same settings, the ThinkPad Edge lasted 3:45 hours. The standby time isn’t very impressive; it made it through a few days in hibernation, but didn’t last a week. Be aware that these are the battery life tests with the Intel version; the AMD version will have shorter battery life in all categories.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge comes with Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. Since the notebook doesn’t have a built-in optical drive or fingerprint scanner, the bundled software includes only essential tools such as ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery 4.2 for restoring systems and files, Password Manager 3.0 and Power Manager. A Microsoft Office 2007 60-day trial is included, but not MS Works. The notebook also comes with Norton Internet Security 30-day trial software.
In an effort to compete in the mid-level notebook market, Lenovo created a sleek and slim ThinkPad that’s affordable yet has a solid build. The ThinkPad Edge reaches a good balance between giving users enough power to run essential business and entertainment software while using ultra-low voltage CPUs that give the notebook long battery life by 13” notebook standards, especially with the Intel configuration. The ThinkPad Edge has an excellent keyboard, nice screen, a good number of ports, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a WiMAX option. Users who need a built-in optical drive or who want a strong gaming experience should look elsewhere.
Pro: ThinkPad build quality at a more affordable price, sleek and slim.
Con: No built-in optical drive, not for serious gaming.
Price: List price is $1,059 for the Intel processor, sale price: $799. List price is $799 for the AMD processor, sale price: $579
Display: 13.3” Widescreen LED backlit display, 1366 x 768 resolution, 16:9 ratio. Intel GMA 4500MHD with Intel CPU and ATI Radeon HD 3200 wwith AMD CPU.
Battery: 6-cell Lithium-Ion battery. AC charger 100-240V.
Performance: Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 1.3GHz with 3MB cache and 800MHz FSB, or AMD Athlon Neo X2 Dual-core L325 1.5GHz. 4GB PC3-855 DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz on 2 slots. 320GB hard drive, 5400rpm or 7200 rpm. A 250GB HDD option available.
Size: 13.07 x 8.97 x 0.67-1.23 inches. Weight: 3.6 pounds with 4-cell battery.
Drives: No built-in optical drive.
Networking: 10/100 Ethernet, WiFi 802.11b/g/n (Realtek) and Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR. Webcam with built-in mic.
Ports and Slots: 3 USB slots (1 powered), VGA, Ethernet RJ45, mic and headphone combo jack, HDMI port and 5-in-1 media reader.
Audio: Stereo speakers on the bottom.
Software: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit OS. Microsoft Office 2007 trial (60-day). ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery 4.2, Password Manager 3.0 and Power Manager included. Also included are Adobe Reader and a 30-day trial of Norton Internet Security.