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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  • wicko - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    That intel gpu is just garbage.. not asking for much, just something that can play 1080p content without stuttering and using up the CPU like crazy.
  • AstroGuardian - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    You are so "off topic" here dude. Please concentrate on the topic.
  • wicko - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    Uhh, right, so commenting on the laptop being discussed at hand is off-topic? Right.. I suggest laying off whatever it is you're smoking.
  • MadMan007 - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    Maybe he means you're off topic because the G45 does in fact do video acceleration?
  • AstroGuardian - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    My point exactly! And also, these CPUs are not garbage. I am not content with the word "garbage".
    The CPU is great in what it does. And would you play a 1080p movie on a 13' notebook? If you have a HD screen at home you could get a HTPC for cheap these days and do whatever you like with 1080p. The CULV is better than the Atom and everything else AMD has to offer in that range...
  • Cali3350 - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    Im loving all the notebook reviews you guys have been pumping out lately.

    If I may make a request, could you look into the Sony CW line? It offers a i5 520, Geforce 330M and 1600*900 screen and is selling very well. I think a lot would be interested in a review on it. Its just a request though, I'm loving what you guys already put on the site.

    You guys are the gold standard for laptop review for me, you cover everything, and then back it up. I love it!
  • saj4u - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    Just like to add to the notebook list the Lenovo X201. Curious to see how it stands from the T410 you guys just reviewed.
  • aspenland - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    I own x100e... it has the same keyboard and it is horrible. I also own a T400 and T60 with IPS Flexview screen -- best laptop ever, but getting old. The standard ThinkPad keyboards are miles better... This new fashion of square boxy keys introduced by the shape-obsessed and ergonomics-retarded Apple designers is a nightmare for the industry -- I am really scared the ThinkPad T line will now go the same route... it is a clear regress.

    The new keyboard is physically monotonous -- the feeling of physical articulation is completely lost. Lenovo, please fire your originality-lacking marketing and design people. They will poison your technological marvels with the dumb Apple tricks tailored for the mindless masses...

    A cry of despair...
  • Belard - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    Hopefully Lenovo won't mess with the T-Line... I doubt it... They are one of the important hold-outs with the CTRL-Fn key switch...

    They are proud of their new keyboards, introduced in the T400s with the enhanced ESC and DEL keys.

    The things I'd like to see with ThinkPads: switch Ctrl<>Fn (so CTRL is on outside) - some purist will complain which is WHY they haven't... but having a BIOS option to switch the keys would resolve that.

    I like the new power & VOL button... easier to find the power button.
    The new keyboard standard on ALL Thinkpads, including the SL series.

    Stop using decals on keys... which is what EVERYONE does nowadays :(
    Wouldn't mind the keyboards having LED lighting (like Apple) so the keys stand out in low-light environments. That would remove the need for the think light :) I'd pay an extra $50 for that option.

    Get rid of the stupid USB "expansion" bay which is supposed to replace a true docking bay, it sucks.

    Move the EDGE over to IdeaPad or cancel it out.... they have the S-series (netbooks), general notebooks and gaming/multimedia noteboos ($950 for 15" ATI 5730... not bad)... so keep only the AMD Edge version as a very portable notebook between net-book and the mid-range.

    Also be cool is Lenovo was clear that which notebooks didn't have ANY horrible GLOSSY screens.

    OH... we have some X200s, which are Core2 with 13" screens.
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    It doesn't have any of the good Thinkpad features, except for the track point which I don't use. Why the **** is it called Thinkpad? And why didn't Lenovo at least try to stand out of the CULV croud and offer something they already have: the excellent keyboard and matte screens. That could be enough to tip the balance in favor of the Edge.
    Now give it an e-IPS panel and you've got a really nice machine.

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