Design and Build

I’ll go ahead and state it upfront: to my hands, the ThinkPad Edge doesn’t exude the same “hewn from a block of granite” feel as the classic line of ThinkPads. In fact, I don’t even think it feels quite as solid as the literally “machined from a block of aluminum” Apple MacBook Pro. Hardcore ThinkPad nuts have been lamenting that the build quality of the standard ThinkPad line has been slipping ever so slightly with each passing generation since Lenovo took over from IBM. For the most part, they’ve been in the minority, as ThinkPads really haven't changed much and remain the gold standard in build quality and ruggedness for mobile computers. This time, however, it’s different – this time the formula has changed and those ThinkPad fanatics are right.

Most of the traditional elements of a ThinkPad are missing from the Edge. The rubberized black lid, the high-res matte screen, the ThinkLight, the lid latch, the metal hinges, the best mobile keyboard in the business, the blue enter key, the internal magnesium frame, the industrial grade casing, the boxy styling – it’s all gone. Other than the angled ThinkPad logo in the corner, the singular link the Edge shares with the classic ThinkPads is the red TrackPoint located in the center of the keyboard.

With all this said, if you take the ThinkPad glasses off the Edge is a fairly well built CULV machine. It just doesn’t stand out compared to its rivals in the CULV class as a true ThinkPad would. The palm rests are solid and don’t flex, but the LCD lid does twist and exhibits rippling under pressure. The plastics are decent quality, and overall, the Edge should hold up well under mobile use. But don’t expect the kind of longevity a T-series would get you.

The new look is somewhat hard to define; it’s neither as "sleek" as most consumer-centric notebooks, nor as business-functional as the classic ThinkPads and Latitudes. With a matte black lid, palm rest, and bezel, some will definitely feel the Edge has a monotonous design and isn’t particularly attractive. On the other hand, the matte surfaces won't pick up every little fingerprint like the typical consumer laptop. The only real visual interest worth noting is the silver character line along the side; the large LCD bezel also suggests that a 16:10 LCD panel would have been a better match. If you want a business style laptop, the Edge 13 is all well and good, but other than the logo there's nothing else about the Edge that's particularly ThinkPad-like.

If the matte black is too much for you, the alternative on the CULV Edge 13 is a glossy piano black, which is on the other end of the spectrum. As for the aforementioned Heatwave Red, you'll have to go with the AMD model there and lose performance and battery life while saving money and getting a better IGP... and fingerprints will still abound. What's in a name? Depending on your perspective it matters a lot or not at all; the Edge feels more like an IdeaPad than a ThinkPad but let's move on.

Things begin to look better for the Edge when you start to use it. It won't be mistaken for the old school ThinkPad keyboards, but the new chiclet keyboard does work surprisingly well. It has a good amount of keystroke depth, far more than most other chiclet-style keyboards, and operates smoothly. Unfortunately, and it pains me to say this, there is a slight amount of flex in the center of the keyboard. Flex in a ThinkPad keyboard. Hell froze over twice just now. However, it's a pleasant keyboard to use, and I'd rate it above most if not all other chiclet keyboards with regards to typing experience.

The touchpad is larger than average and works well, which is nice. Lenovo finally seems to be taking touchpads seriously with the ThinkPad line; back in the days of the T42 and T43, the touchpad seemed almost tacked on as an oversight. Thankfully, the TrackPoint remains, in all of its rubber-capped glory. I find that I tend to use the TrackPoint more than the touchpad given the option, but it varies by personal preference. The buttons are very tactile and the center scroll button is a great feature. Hardware scrolling tops the edge of a touchpad any day.

The underside of the Edge has a single panel offering access to the RAM, hard disk, wireless card, and processor. Unfortunately, as in all CULV notebooks, the processor is soldered into the motherboard and cannot be removed. The battery takes up the back portion of the notebook and can be easily swapped out. The 6-cell battery sticks out underneath the system by a half inch, giving the keyboard a mild incline. There is also an available 4-cell battery that remains flush with the system. The hinge can open 180 degrees, which is a feature that many consumer notebooks lack.

The left side of the notebook has one USB port, Ethernet, VGA, and HDMI, while the right side has two USBs, an ExpressCard/34 slot, and a combination headphone/mic jack. Note that the ExpressCard/34 is about the only feature you won't find on competing CULV offerings. I'm a fan of the headset jacks that laptop manufacturer's are starting to use, since they allow use of iPhone headsets. This is a good thing, because the built-in mic located near the keyboard offers poor quality audio. It means that to hold a meaningful Skype conversation, you need to plug in a headset. The webcam works well, offering decent resolution for video chatting. The speakers are located under the front edge of the notebook and have mediocre sound output - enough for YouTube and Hulu, but overall a bit lacking in volume and depth.

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13: Intro and Overview ThinkPad Edge 13: LCD Analysis
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  • Belard - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    Lenovo has been making $500~600 low end notebooks for some time. They are the SL & R series with slower/smaller parts. To get the $500 price, its usually a Celeron system with 1 GB.

    A basic Core2Duo SL starts at $600... a friend added Wifi and WAN, more memory brought the price up to $700. The R series is now about $800 with Core2... The Ts at $1000. About 2 years ago, I bought an R61 for $550 off the shelf... not bad.
  • OCedHrt - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    it is a piece of shit. The IBM branded T60 is infinitely better. The T61 doesn't feel much better than a regular off the shelf HP or Dell or any other regular laptop.
  • hangthe9 - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    Aside from the article being nothing about the T60, the T60 and T61 have pretty much identical chasis and specs. T60, T61, T400, all hard to tell apart, all solid build.
  • Belard - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    Hmmm.... there are slight differences between the R/T-60 and R/T-61... in most reviews, the 61 series are considered an improvement.

    The IBM logo looks better thou.

    Compared to typical HP and other computers, they are easily better... for not too much more money.

    In this market, there is no way to continue selling R / T Thinkpads for $2000~4000.

    The SL is the cheapest THinkPad that looks kind of like a Thinkpad with some of the feature sets.
  • jabber - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    So it sits in the middle of a range of benchmarks. Big deal.

    Whats this going to be used for? Mainly web browsing and maybe the odd word doc.

    CULV is the ideal choice for this kind of machine. It doesnt need anymore power.

    I have a 13" laptop with the same CPU and a Nvidia 105M. Runs everything just great. I even get around 60fps in Eve Online bonus! I can use it for a days work without mains power...even bigger bonus.

    If you gave most of those machines to a group of users to do what they normally do on a laptop I bet they could hardly tell the difference performance wise between any of them.

    Benchmarks...make me dispair.
  • jabber - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link loss there at all.

    Who hooks up this kind of machine (or most laptops) to external stuff except the odd USB device...maybe less than 2%?

    Thats why they dont have the slots. Listed as 'mostly useless'.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    There was no "whining" in this article--merely pointing out that unlike most CULV laptops, this one has EC/34. It's the only feature that's out of the norm. As for being stuck in the middle, with a price that's higher than average it's certainly a problem. I don't get why you bring up other points as though we missed them. This will work as well as any CULV laptop, but it gets less battery life, it costs more, etc.

    You mention your laptop with a 105M, but the Edge doesn't have the NVIDIA 105M (or any discrete GPU option) so that's a non sequitur. For the record, it also doesn't have a Blu-ray drive, and I have a laptop that plays Blu-ray movies perfectly! Hmmm....

    No one is giving away laptops here, and that's why we have to review in comparison to other offerings. A lot of people would take any free laptop and not complain, but that doesn't mean they got a good laptop. I actually like the Edge (with matte finish) more than the Acer 1810T, as it has a nicer keyboard and feels more solid to me. It's definitely not solid like the ThinkPad T series, but many consumer laptops feel flimsy at best.

    The question still boils down to whether you'd pay $100 more for what is essentially a change in appearance. If you're willing to get an SU4100 processor instead of the SU7300, you could even get the price down ~$200. So in a crowded market, the Edge is stuck in the middle because it does nothing to stand out. We should all celebrate the athletes that finish in the middle of the pack as well, I guess?
  • Shinobi123 - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    From the picture I can't see any latch to hold the lid closed.
    And why a glossy screen? Who still uses that anyway?
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    You're correct: no latch on this "ThinkPad". It's one of the points Vivek mentioned (on page 2):

    "Most of the traditional elements of a ThinkPad are missing from the Edge. The rubberized black lid, the high-res matte screen, the ThinkLight, the lid latch, the metal hinges, the best mobile keyboard in the business, the blue enter key, the internal magnesium frame, the industrial grade casing, the boxy styling – it’s all gone. Other than the angled ThinkPad logo in the corner, the singular link the Edge shares with the classic ThinkPads is the red TrackPoint located in the center of the keyboard."

    It's not a bad CULV laptop, but it's not spectacular either. It's a middle of the road, slightly more expensive alternative to designs like the Acer 3810T.
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    Unfortunately just about everyone still uses glossy screens

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