Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11

12 Apr


With IT directors eking out every scrap of value from their budget in the coming months, we can expect to see a slew of cheap business laptops. Lenovo’s is an ll.6in ultraportable -albeit barely scraping into this category – that prioritizes battery life and power over sleekness.
For this is no MacBook Air 11 in. Weighing 1.53kg and measuring 31 mm at the rear, it looks and feels distinctly podgy. In fact, it’s almost the same chassis as the ThinkPad x100e tech gadgets.
The similarities stretch to the D-SUB out and power socket either side of the protruding six-cell battery, and to their battery life: the x100e gave us 6hrs 34mins of light use; the Edge 11 6hrs 32mins.
The big difference comes inside, with a low-voltage 1.33GHz Intel Core i3-380UM replacing the lackluster AMD Neo MV-40. And that transforms it. Where the x100e was essentially a netbook rival capable of only basic tasks, the Edge – with its 4GB of RAM -produced a fine 0.89 in our benchmarks.
You could just about use the Edge as a main PC, and its corporate credentials are enhanced by a Gigabit Ethernet port. Note, though, that there’s no docking station port: you’ll need to slot a USB docking station into one of the three USB 2 ports. One of those ports is powered too, so you can charge accessories even when the Edge 11 is asleep.
Lenovo includes a single 3.5mm jack, so Skype callers wishing to use the webcam should take note that their existing headsets may not work. A little incongruously, there’s an HDMI port to go with the memory card slot for SD, MMC and Memory Stick/Pro media for these tech gadgets.
There’s no discrete graphics chip, but Intel’s HD Graphics are enough to ensure 720p videos play without stuttering. They’ll look good too. The display is a cut above that of the x100e, with a glossy finish adding vibrancy to movies. Photos look superb too, and even in everyday work use it’s a pleasure to gaze at.
The keyboard feels surprisingly close to the ThinkPads of old, despite the Scrabble-tile design. Purists may not like the reduced key travel, but we reached high typing speeds without any issues: the only compromises are the Page Up and Down squeezed into the cursor key area. Consolation comes in the form of a touchpad and TrackPoint making it easier to use in confined spaces when travelling.
The Edge should survive the daily commute as well, with Lenovo’s usual high build quality evident in the sturdy chassis. There is arguably a little too much flexibility in the lid, but we’d be happy to throw this ThinkPad into a rucksack.
There’s also an AMD equivalent that uses a 1.3GHz Athlon II Neo K325, integrated Mobility Radeon 4225 graphics and 4GB of RAM. It lasted a similar 6hrs 29mins of light use, but scored 0.67. Factor in the £659 exc VAT early pricing and the fact the AMD version comes with Windows 7 Home Premium rather than Professional here, and we’d stick with Intel for now.
Of the two new Intel models, unless 3G is vital the lesser 2GB one looks a bargain. Had that been the unit on review here you’d likely be looking at an award; at close to £400 it’s an attractive budget business choice. Our sample’s appeal is diminished by rising above £500. Still, both tech gadgets deliver performance way beyond netbooks, and give IT managers a cheap, well-made business laptop that’s also a pleasure to use.

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