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Lenovo ThinkPad Edge Review

Lenovo was kind enough to send me a loaner unit for the ThinkPad Edge -- which fits somewhere between the netbook and notebook family. I've had it for about a month now. Here's some thoughts and impressions on the 3-month-old member of the Lenovo mobile computer family...

Dave Courbanou

March 15, 2010

7 Min Read
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge Review

lenovo-thinkpad-edge_1Lenovo was kind enough to send me a loaner unit for the ThinkPad Edge — which fits somewhere between the netbook and notebook family. I’ve had it for about a month now. Here’s some thoughts and impressions on the 3-month-old member of the Lenovo mobile computer family…

For the anxious, here’s a one line review: Great computer, weak touch pad, killer keyboard. The ThinkPad Edge is Lenovo’s answer to finding the right space between netbook and laptop. The Edge doesn’t have any optical drives, and it doesn’t have too many fancy features, but it delivers where it matters most…almost…

Pros

The first thing you’ll notice about the Edge is the new shiny…well..everything. The Edge is one of the first new Lenovo laptops to ship without the classic matte black you’re used to. It’s now super-glossy, and available in black or red (seen above). The screen is glossy too. I like glossy, but some prefer a matte screen because of glare, but with or without the gloss, most would agree it’s a sharp screen. At 1366 x 768 it’s pretty typical for a 13 inch screen. It’s similar in size to my Macbook’s screen resolution (1280 x 800) just slightly different proportions.  It’s crisp and vivid, all text is very well defined.

The screen comes adorned with a webcam, which is incredibly good. I tried it out in low light with Skype and for some reason, it displayed a very bright image despite the less-than-stellar lighting conditions.

Lenovo has also updated the entire line of laptop keyboards, and the Edge was no exception. Lenovo has done away with the square boxy keys you’re used to, and have given it a new ‘modern’ design. I call it following the Macbook keyboard trend, but the colloquialism on the web is to all it the ‘chicklet’ style keyboard; the keys are recessed into the plastic of the laptop and “pop” out. The keys feel great. They’re responsive, they have a very pleasing clack to them, and they’re also have just the right amount of ‘squish’ to ‘click.’ My favorite feature of the keyboard is the “page up” and “page down” keys recessed deeper into the keyboard tray. They’re positioned either side of the ‘up’ arrow key. It makes for easy navigation through documents and web pages and facilitates a great way to ‘read’ with the arrow keys poking up and down, and then ‘scan’ through the page with page up and down. Very cool, very nice. The most used feature on the machine.

Lastly, it’s got HDMI out, VGA out,  three USB slots, an Ethernet port, and a 5-in1 card reader. It’s the perfect setup for a road-computer doing presentations and anything else. With 4GB of RAM and Windows 7 it was completely fast and responsive (though it did randomly freeze on me, but just once…) And how could I forget the battery life? It was incredible: 7 hours on a single charge, I went days without plugging it in, since all I did was merely browse the web and blog.

Cons

I really wanted to say nothing but good things about the Edge, but there’s one thing I just need to be really blunt about. It’s got the worst touch-pad I’ve ever used. Lenovo packaged the touch pad with an intense amount of features. It does multi-touch, two finger scrolling, one finger scrolling, three finger gestures, touch-clicking, and a whole list of other things I turned off right away. Writing on this machine felt like boxing with my computer.

At first, I thought maybe it was just the touch-pad software that was wonky, so I turned off all the advanced features. But even with them turned off (and after a reboot) the system still was registering ‘one finger scrolling’ when my finger reached the edge of the touch pad, despite it being turned completely off. Also, despite all the fancy features turned off, the slightly-off centered touch pad would contact the inside palm of my left hand, between my thumb and wrist. This would mean that while I was typing, it would register a ‘click’ and move the cursor to a new location, causing me to start typing inside a paragraph somewhere else. That meant I could either type like I was playing proper piano, wrists in the air, or move the cursor far far away, and hope that if it did ‘click’ it wouldn’t be inside a text box. I resorted to turning the touch pad “off” and using the red-eraser nub that Lenovo’s ThinkPads are so renown with — but I couldn’t get precision text selection I needed with it.

Last resort? I moved to uninstall the mouse software all together. I figured that would solve everything, and the touch pad would just function like a plain old touch pad. It worked, somewhat. But it still registered my palm-clicks, and on occasion, a quick mouse movement across the entire screen resulted in the cursor shooting across to the opposite side of screen. Sometimes the touch pad would just feel all together unresponsive or overly sensitive — the cursor sometimes would hop or skip across the screen randomly.

On a final note, the Edge makes a very annoyingly loud “BEEP” when it goes in and out of sleep mode. I didn’t check the BIOS to see if I could turn this off, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind when you open it in a library or a quiet cafe…like I did…

Fun

All work and no play makes the ThinkPad Edge a dull machine. The Edge is actually outfitted pretty well. It’s sporting an Intel SU7300 CPU at 1.30 GHz and 4GB of RAM. The video card is an Intel Integrated Mobile 4500MHD Series. It’s not going to be breaking any benchmark scores, but it’s not terrible. In fact, it put up with about two hours worth of an ad-hoc Quake 3 Arena LAN party one evening. Just a note: The Edge did get a little warm, but fans turned on when needed.

What would’ve been fun, but I didn’t get to test — was the WiMAX and 3G connectivity. I assume they work just fine. A word of caution — Lenovo’s built-in software that enables 3G and WiMAX automatically turns off the WiFi. To turn it back on, I had to run the Windows 7 troubleshooter; I think there’s a conflict between Lenovo’s software and Windows somewhere…

Bottom Line

The price tag is starting at $599 shipping with Win 7 Home Basic and an AMD Turion CPU, but my loaner unit was outfitted at nearly $900 with Win 7 Professional and the Intel CPU. The build quality on this machine feels solid and it held up to mild abuse between my car, Starbucks, my desk, kitchen and back to my desk. The power charger is small and unobtrusive. It catches eyes easily, and it’s cosmetically pleasing. Expect fingerprints on the glossy finish. Nothing a microfiber cloth can’t fix.

But the touch pad was a real challenge. As I type this on the Edge, I’m currently using an external mouse, and my left hand is slightly raised as to not touch the touch pad. I really wanted this to be my new work horse laptop, but it became so frustrating that I stopped using the Edge to blog for over a week.

But I really love the keyboard. I love the light weight, the simplicity, the perfect size, and the battery life.

Overall review? I give the ThinkPad Edge a solid 8 /10.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments, I’m happy to answer. The loaner doesn’t go back ’till April so I’m happy to test something for a reader or two.

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