As usual, Lenovo keeps the Windows 7 install exceptionally clean, appeasing even the most obsessive-compulsive neat freaks with a nearly perfect desktop right out of the box (we only had to trash a 60-day Microsoft Office Trial to get it spotless). Although it’s beyond a minor complaint, we can’t help pointing out that Lenovo’s 1999-style blue-to-black gradient as a background doesn’t do much to flatter the screen for new users. Even the default Windows 7 backgrounds make a machine look a little hipper than this dud, which we immediately canned.
Lenovo’s comprehensive ThinkVantage suite of utilities has always struck us as a little overbearing, and it has gotten no more transparent in Windows 7, where an enormous battery meter, ThinkVantage toolbox icon and Wi-Fi signal meter consume a gigantic and unnecessary chunk of bottom toolbar real estate. It feels like someone switched this thing into “Elderly Mode” at the factory and forgot to turn it off.
Lenovo’s 13.3-inch display comes in standard 1366 x 768 resolution. In our opinion, that gives users just enough room to stretch their legs for comfortable browsing, typing, and some limited multi-tasking, such as opening an AIM buddy list beside a browser. Like all ThinkPads, it also leans backwards over 180 degrees, a gymnastic move that can sometimes prove useful in cramped places like cars and planes. (Unfortunately, a glossy coating can prove equally troublesome in the scenarios when you end up under florescent overhead lights or bright windows.)
The screen looks above-average from a dead-on viewing angle, but moving off-axis by tilting the screen up or down even a few degrees begins to distort it quite quickly.
Lenovo’s Edge hits the desktop in a little over 50 seconds, and fires up a Chrome window in at about the minute and five second mark. That’s about average for a machine with these specs, and totally usable.
As we would expect from any Core 2 Duo machine, the Edge steps quite briskly around normal Windows tasks including browsing, navigation, and instant messaging. Streaming movies from SouthParkStudios.com, YouTube and Hulu all played fluidly – including the high-quality and high-definition (720p) versions. However, step up to high-quality video, like Apple’s 720p or 1080p movie trailers, and you’ll reach the limits of what it will do, encountering choppy (but not totally unwatchable) video.
In Futuremark’s PCMark Vantage suite, the Lenovo Edge turned up a score of 2823, an acceptable but not particularly exciting number to be expected from a machine with a relatively tame CPU and no dedicated graphics.
Although Lenovo predicts up to eight hours of battery life with the Intel configuration we used, we found a little more than six hours to be a far more accurate estimate with Wi-Fi engaged and screen brightness to maximum.
It’s worth noting that Lenovo’s Edge displayed superb Wi-Fi reception in our time with it, posting full signal strength in areas where smaller laptops have been struggled to connect in the past (and where Eye-Fi’s Share Video card, humbled by a stamp-sized antenna, couldn’t connect at all).
Lenovo’s Edge is a notebook caught between extremes. It’s still too conservative to truly be edgy, but too dressed-up to feel like a real ThinkPad. It’s too expensive to seem like a bargain, but too cheap to boast powerful hardware like a discrete graphics card. It’s too big to compete with netbooks, but too small to get an optical drive.
This middle ground isn’t hell. In fact, in many ways it’s very practical. But it makes for a somewhat wishy-washy, bland notebook that doesn’t particularly excel at anything. For the $800 buyers would spend on an Intel-equipped version, Sony’s superb CW series offers a newer Intel Core i3 CPU, discrete graphics from Nvidia, and a sleeker design, in a 14.1-inch chassis that’s just a tad more cumbersome.
- Large, responsive touchpad
- Our favorite Chiclet-style keyboard
- Strong Wi-Fi reception
- Reasonably bright LED-backlit display
- Light weight
- Handles basic computing tasks well
- Clean initial software load
- Expensive relative to specs
- Insufficient for gaming and HD video
- Krylon-looking paint job on lid
- No discrete graphics cards available
- No optical drive
- Cumbersome ThinkVantage suite