Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13: Not your Father's ThinkPadby Vivek Gowri on April 7, 2010 1:40 AM EST
The ThinkPad Edge ends up being a product of compromise, trying to bridge the gap between the business-like ThinkPads and the consumer-centric IdeaPads. But this leaves it somewhere in the middle. It’s a competent and functional laptop, but it’s not good at any one thing, it doesn’t stand out. And on top of that, it’s not a particularly good value. Sure, it costs about the same as the similarly specced Acer Timeline 3810T, but then we wouldn't necessarily recommend that laptop either. If you don't need VT-x, dropping to a Pentium SU4100 will get you about 97% of the SU7300 performance while saving $120.
The Edge 13 CULV can be had for $698, which is the $100 less than the base Alienware M11x (SU4100/2GB/160GB/GT335M) and only $50 less than the ASUS UL30Vt and UL80Vt, which both offer an overclockable SU7300, 4GB/500GB, and switchable NVIDIA G210M graphics. All three offer 8-cell batteries and more battery life than the ThinkPad Edge, in addition to the overall better specs. The Alienware is a legitimately serviceable portable gaming machine, and even though it weighs more and has a smaller screen than the Edge, the sheer amount of graphical horsepower packed into it is astounding. The two ASUS machines have excellent battery life and offer a dedicated GPU for those who need it (though not nearly as powerful as the M11x). The Edge simply does not feature anything compelling over those models. The build quality and keyboard are solid, but not at the classic ThinkPad level and not good enough to make up for the performance deficiencies.
So who is the ThinkPad Edge actually for? A business user would likely get a Dell Latitude for the same price or spend the extra $150 to get a real ThinkPad. Gamers obviously would go for the Alienware M11x, and multimedia/general mobile computing users would probably be more interested in the faster and longer-running ASUS UL series. Bring up the cheaper Acer Timeline series with SU4100 CPUs and it's difficult to recommend the ThinkPad Edge over competing offerings. The base AMD model at under $500 is a more attractive proposition, but you lose a lot of performance and with the 4-cell battery, you’re looking at a somewhat laughable three hours of runtime. So, maybe that’s not so attractive, especially priced in Timeline territory.
Ultimately, the ThinkPad Edge falls right in the middle of a large group of CULV laptops. It has the same performance, but for only slightly more money there are clearly faster laptops; there are also significantly cheaper laptops that provide essentially the same performance. The Edge lacks the build quality of the ThinkPad Classic, but then it's also over $200 cheaper. It should hold up reasonably well over time, and if you need ExpressCard/34 support with CULV it's one of the few offerings to fill that need. Still, there's not enough here to warrant a strong recommendation, unless you really like the matte black aesthetic. We feel most users will be better served by Lenovo's already successful business and consumer notebook lines; the Edge ends up sitting between the proverbial rock and a hard place.