Testing the ThinkPad Edge

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2010-04-06

ThinkPad Edge Woos SMBs with Color Cases, New Keyboard

The latest addition to the ThinkPad family is filled with firsts, most of which skew toward making the newly minted Edge appealing to business buyers who are walking the aisles of the local big box.

Enterprise IT managers who encounter the ThinkPad Edge should have no problem applying standard enterprise desktop management tools. The ThinkPad Edge has standard serviceable parts, comes preloaded with ThinkVantage management tools and can be covered by extended warranty plans.

There is a USB port replicator but no traditional docking station. The keyboard, the standard setter for laptop systems, has been redesigned to emphasize media player use over function key operation.

To further lower prices while offering business-class performance, Lenovo for the first time in a ThinkPad is offering Advanced Micro Devices dual-core processors as an option in addition to continuing its long reliance on Intel processors. Even with this change, my test unit came with an Intel Core i3 processor. These adjustments to a laptop bearing the ThinkPad brand make the Edge more appropriate for smaller organizations that buy directly from retail as opposed to being designed for large enterprise IT managers.

For a look at the ThinkPad Edge, click here.

The ThinkPad Edge, which started shipping March 25, comes in black or red and brings high-end Lenovo features including hard drive protection and a spill-resistant keyboard in a low-priced laptop.

The ThinkPad Edge starts at $599 and comes in three sizes, 13.3 inches, 14 inches and 15.6 inches, with a variety of hard disk drive and memory options. I tested the ThinkPad Edge 14". At the Lenovo online store a unit similar to the one I tested-with the Intel Core i3-330M processor, 2GB of PC3 1066MHz RAM and a 5400 rpm hard drive with 250GB storage-was listed at $649. This is competitive with similar "prosumer" laptops and a low price for a ThinkPad-branded laptop. The ThinkPad Edge comes with a one-year carry or mail-in warranty. Lenovo offers a variety of extended warranty and service plans.

I ran the full suite of tests in FutureMark's PCMark Vantage 32-bit professional edition. Running at full power, the ThinkPad Edge scored a respectable 4058 overall PCMark. The lowest score was for gaming, which is unsurprising given that this system was using the integrated Intel graphics hardware. The overall Windows experience score for my system was a 4.0, again bounded by the integrated graphics. It's worth noting that the graphics subsystem is more than adequate for most multimedia applications and that the ThinkPad Edge is by no means intended as a high-performance gaming system.

Testing the ThinkPad Edge

The ThinkPad Edge is like a low-cost airline, certainly usable in the enterprise but oriented toward small business and consumer users. The battery, memory and hard drive are all accessible for depot service. My 14-inch test system had three USB ports, one powered, a combination eSATA/USB port, HDMI, a media card reader, and a VGA and network port. The Edge has a sufficient number of USB and media connectors so that the laptop would be useful in the office when connected to a external monitor, keyboard and mouse, especially when used with the optional USB port replicator.

The ThinkPad Edge user experience is unremarkable. The system I tested weighs about 5 pounds and has outside dimensions of approximately 13.5 by 9.25 by 1.5 inches when closed. The glossy screen is easy to see in normal office lighting. The typing experience is not that different from a standard Lenovo keyboard. It did take a few minutes to locate some of the repositioned keys. Most users for whom the ThinkPad Edge also doubles as a personal system will likely find the repositioned keys to their liking, since media functions such as volume control and screen brightness are the primary operation of the top row keys. These keys are secondarily function keys, which is the reverse of most business-class computers.

As is common with laptops designed to work with the Windows 7 operating system, start-up and shutdown are fairly snappy. Shutdown is much faster than start-up. When I started my system with only the original ThinkVantage tools and a mainstream antivirus product installed, overall start-up time was 41 seconds. Shutdown took 9 seconds.

The ThinkPad Edge comes with plenty of ports and connectivity features. In addition to the ports mentioned, my test unit came with 802.11 a/b/g/n and optional wireless WAN connectivity.

The Edge also comes with a suite of ThinkVantage tools including Toolbox for system diagnosis, Password Manager, Rescue and Recovery, and Power Manager. It also comes with tools designed to protect the system and encourage users to add security products as needed to the laptop, including antivirus and Internet security tools. Windows 7 is preloaded.

My out-of-the-box experience was quite pleasant. I wasn't bombarded with offers for third-party applications, and the preloaded ThinkVantage tools are easy to access and use. During my tests it took only a couple of key clicks to get to and use the backup and restore functions.

The ThinkPad Edge didn't replicate my normal experience with small-business-oriented systems, which is a good thing. I'm usually gun-shy about preloaded tools because my experience has been that these tools are a booby-trap for a sales pitch. The ThinkVantage tools are actually useful. I expect that small business users will be able to quickly access these tools and use the system maintenance options to actually enhance business productivity. In this category, Lenovo sets the standard for providing useful user productivity tools. 

Rocket Fuel