ThinkPad Edge Hero

The dudes with pocket protectors at Lenovo must have got an image consultant and a hot girlfriend. This newfound confidence has given them the push to make something edgy. The new series of Lenovo ThinkPad Edge laptops.

You know that clichéd story where the popular jock is dared to take the ugly girl to the dance, but when she comes down the stairs, she’s a stunner. Well that is the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge in a nutshell. It’s all about expectations, and mine were low.

Lenovo have been making consumer laptops for a while now with some success. Like their corporate counterparts they have all looked a bit, well, boring. So, when they announced they will be sending us their new consumer/SME laptop I wasn’t exactly excited. This changed the second I took it out the box.

The ThinkPad Edge is sexy. It really is a slick looking thing, with its piano black (or shiny red) cover and thin silver bezel. The bezel did annoy me a bit, as in the pictures it looks like aluminum, but it’s not. The bezel is silver plastic. It also helps to makes it look thinner than it is. While the Edge is not exactly chunky, competition like the Acer Aspire Timeline is far thinner.

This brings us on to the build quality. It is not amazing, but it is certainly on par with the competition and since it is made by the same crowd as the other Lenovo laptops, it should last well.

An aspect the boys at Lenovo were very proud of was the keyboard. I know it takes a lot to get excited over a keyboard, but it really is fantastic. Never mind the fact it is spill resistant (yeah, how awesome!) It is soft yet has very positive feedback. This allows you to type faster and for longer, without getting tired or uncomfortable. The palm rests are also made of a soft-to-the-touch plastic, which adds to the quality feel of the laptop. It also shows that Lenovo have – as they do on their corporate modes – focused on the little things; to improve your computing experience.

Paired with the great keyboard is one of the best track pads on the market. It feels as natural to use as Apple’s glass track pad on their MacBook Pro’s. This is high praise as anyone who has used the Mac’s track pad will know.

Another, “little thing” is the bank of shortcut buttons on the top of the keyboard, similar to Apple, you can adjust the volume, screen brightness and other commonly used functions without going into any menus.

There are two main versions of the Edge. The first is powered by AMD the other by Intel.

The Intel is the more powerful machine. It has far better graphic and processing performance than the AMD. It comes with a 6 hour battery life, while using the built in 3G, more if you turn if off. For around R12 000, a very impressive package.

One issue though, for R12 000 there is a clear market leader, if you are happy to use Mac OSX and don’t mainly use Windows, The MacBook Pro. While the Edge is a very capable laptop, I have to say, the MacBook Pro would get my money. It is better looking, better built and while it lacks 3G, has a smaller hard drive and comes without Widows, it is still a the more attractive option. No one is ever disappointed when they purchase a MacBook Pro.

So, the expensive Intel powered Edge is out. This leaves the AMD powered version.

The AMD version is about R3 000 cheaper than the Intel version, but you do give up quite a bit; Battery life and processing power being the two main losses. The AMD version gets about 3 hours of solid use out of the battery, about half that of its big brother. On the upside, you will only notice the processor isn’t very powerful if you really push it hard.

That said, the AMD version is R9 000, which considering what you are getting is very good value for money. It has the usual suite of features, a webcam, WiFi, Bluetooth and HD LED backlit screen. Like the Intel version it comes with built in 3G which, when paired to Lenovo’s pre-installed networking software, works like a bomb.

Both versions come with Windows 7 Home Premium. Here is where it gets interesting though. Lenovo seem to be the only Windows powered laptop manufacture in the entire universe that makes proprietary software that actually improves the user experience.

When you buy a laptop from Dell, HP, Sony, ASUS etc it comes with about 1,000,000GB of pre-installed crap that slows down your PC and pops up every two seconds asking you stupid questions, like “would you like to register for our bi-hourly newsletter?”

Lenovo have none of this. There are three main pieces of software that come pre-installed on the Edge, they handle networking, backup and computer maintenance. These three apps make using Windows 7 even more seamless. My favorite application was the networking application.

When I’m at varsity, I have to have certain, uber-complex network settings to download my email. So, I create a profile on the networking app called “Varsity” and as soon as it detects the wireless networks at WITS it switches to that profile and loads those specific settings. This is all in the background; I don’t do a thing, all I know is my Internet now works. Another impressive feature of the networking app is, let’s say I am busy downloading a 2GB file off the interweb, and because I’m on Telkom my internet dies. It will switch to the built in 3G (with a SIM card installed obviously) without interrupting the download, or presenting me with a distracting pop-up telling me what its doing.

All three of these apps integrate perfectly with Windows 7, they don’t look or act like 3rd party apps. Lenovo put a lot of effort into these apps and it was worth it. They have managed to stitch Windows 7 into their hardware better than any other manufacturer.

It is these apps that make the Lenovo a must if you have R9 000 to spend on a laptop. Yes, it is pretty and no, it is not the fastest laptop for the money. Neither of these things really matters though. Because in truth when you are working, really working, the Lenovo leaves the competition looking stupid.

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge Specs

Brendon Ambrose