The Edge 14 is the latest consumer and small business-oriented ThinkPad from Lenovo. Edge notebooks offer toned down looks compared to the SL and T-series ThinkPads, even including modified Chiclet-style keyboards. In this review, we take an in-depth look at the 14-inch ThinkPad Edge and see how well it stacks up against other similar notebooks.
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 14 Specifications:
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 14 has a consumer-driven design that goes a few steps beyond SL-series ThinkPads. While the SL-series looks like a ThinkPad with the rubbery paint replaced with matte-black paint, the Edge has a completely new shape and contrasting paint scheme. The borders of the screen cover and keyboard are trimmed with silver plastic. The top cover on our review unit is matte black, but Lenovo offers it in other colors too. Another subtle change is the standard indicator lights have been replaced with a single red LED that also happens to be the dot above the ThinkPad "i". The design is so different from other ThinkPad models that if you were to cover the logo with another sticker, few people would recognize it as a ThinkPad (In fact, most people wouldn't believe you right now even if you said it was a ThinkPad.)
Build quality is above average compared to consumer notebooks, but a step below business-grade ThinkPads. The screen hinges are noticeably smaller than what you might find on a standard ThinkPad; they are plastic-faced, not metal. ThinkPads have been known for strong screen hinges that last throughout the notebook's life without wearing out. Some smaller models, like the X200, have used smaller hinges to complement the smaller design, but the hinges on the ThinkPad Edge feel weak in comparison. Unlike the Edge 13 we reviewed a couple of months ago, the Edge 14 doesn't have the same glossy paint problems. Lenovo went with a matte finish on the Edge 14, which has a much more consistent look and feel than a glossy finish. That said, glossy finish options are offered on the Edge 14 in "midnight black" and "heatwave red" colors.
Users can easily upgrade components on the Edge 14 through two access panels on the bottom of the notebook. One panel houses the SIM-card and WWAN PCIe slot while the other is to access the system memory, CPU and hard drive. Our review model did not come with WWAN preinstalled and it lacked the needed connectors soldered in place for a future upgrade. Most ThinkPad models have offered the slots on all models, but it appears that if you want WWAN on the Edge 14, you should order it when you purchase the notebook.
Screen and Speakers
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 14 comes with a glossy 14-inch WXGA panel. The panel rates average compared to other 13 and 14-inch screens we have reviewed. Color and contrast are adequate but fall short of some nicer panels we have seen on the market, including one on the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro and HP Envy 13. At its maximum backlight level, we measured a screen brightness of 224 cd/m2 at the center of the screen. Backlight uniformity was great with the top, bottom and sides staying within 20 cd/m2. Viewing angles are average with colors starting to invert in 10-15 degrees titled forward or back.
The Edge 14 has speakers located right below display on a panel covered by a mesh surface. The speakers are average compared to other CULV notebooks, lacking both bass and most mid-range sound. Though for basic listening purposes or streaming music or video, they should suffice. When watching movies, using headphones or a stereo connected through the Edge 14's HDMI port would be a better option.
When I first saw the leaked images of the new ThinkPad keyboard, I have to admit I was less than pleased. The keyboard is one of the few remaining original and unchanged parts of ThinkPad notebooks. The layout has been updated over the years, but the keyboard could always be identified as "ThinkPad." With the new design, Lenovo took a hint from other new keyboard designs hitting the market and blended a combination of form and function.
The keyboard takes a Chiclet/Island-style that's common on notebooks ranging from the latest netbooks to the newest Apple MacBook, and merges it with a traditional ThinkPad design. What makes the keyboard unique is that it's the first Chiclet keyboard I have found that's very comfortable and easy to type on. Most Chiclet-style keyboards have flat top keys, different spacing and a shallower throw than a normal keyboard. The ThinkPad Edge 14 doesn't have these problems, creating an ideal hybrid keyboard that I can easily say is among the best implementations I have used to date.
Typing pressure and feedback is similar to a typical ThinkPad keyboard, so similar in fact that if you type with your eyes closed you might not even realize the key shape changed. The throw distance seems to be identical to my T60 with the same type of click sound made when fully pressed. Removing the keytops reveal the familiar scissor-action found in traditional ThinkPad keyboards. My best guess would be Lenovo kept the original frame and action assembly, only updating the keytops and adding an internal bezel structure. The change doesn't compromise strength; it shows no flex under strong typing pressure.
Ports and Features
Compared to the Edge 13, the Edge 14 has additional ports and a nicer SDHC-card reader. The Edge 14 gains eSATA through a combo port that includes three USB ports and one eSATA/USB connection. The larger Edge model also now offers an ExpressCard/34 slot for future expansion and an optical drive.
One aspect of the clean design I disliked on the Edge 14 is its lack of both hard drive indicator and wireless activity lights. Compared to other notebooks, this setup prevents you from seeing if wireless cards are currently powered on, which is handy if you have multiple wireless devices like Bluetooth and WWAN or if some activity is really tasking your hard drive.
Front: SDHC-card reader
Rear: One USB
Left: VGA, eSATA/USB combo port, LAN, HDMI, ExpressCard/34, headphone/mic combo port
Right: Two USB ports, optical drive, AC-power
Performance and Benchmarks
The Edge 14's system performance, with an Intel Core i3-330m processor and Intel GMA HD graphics, was very good compared to the CULV-based Edge 13. Overall system performance and 3D-performance nearly double compared to the SU7300 processor and X4500M graphics in the previous Edge. The Edge 14 can easily handle normal system activities like surfing the Web, typing documents, listening to music and watching movies. It can also decode HD video without a hitch; the notebook decoded our 720P and 1080P downloaded movies with ease. HD flash found on sites like YouTube also didn't present any problems in our testing.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 comparison results against notebooks @ 1280 x 800 resolution (higher scores mean better performance):
CrystalDiskMark hard drive performance test:
Heat and Noise
The larger Edge 14 kept up with the thermal demands of its Intel Core i3-330m processor combined with the Intel GMA HD graphics. Under constant stress, the chassis warms up on average 10 degrees more than room temperature. During our stress test, the fan noise is slightly above background noise and barely noticeable even in direct proximity of the notebook. If you are a person who doesn't like to draw attention to yourself in quiet places with loud notebook noise, you'll like the Edge 14. All temperatures are listed in degrees Fahrenheit.
The Edge 14 didn't do as well in our battery test as the Edge 13. The Edge 14 has a 6Wh smaller battery than its brother and has much faster hardware. In our test with screen brightness reduced to 70%, wireless active and Windows 7 on a balanced profile, the Edge 14 stayed on for four hours and 33 minutes.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 14 is a solid choice for people who want a consumer or small business-oriented notebook. It offers an extremely comfortable island-style keyboard that is a step above many other models. Compared to its smaller sibling, the Edge 13, the Edge 14 has nearly twice the system performance moving from the CULV-based Intel SU7300 CPU and chipset to the higher-performing Core i3 and GMA HD. The only area that doesn't improve on the Edge 14 is battery life, but given the performance boost and the similar-sized batteries, it's expected to take a hit. Overall, the ThinkPad Edge 14 is a nice alternative if you want to avoid buying standard T-series business models.