We’re open-minded about our laptops here at Computer Shopper. That said, when we’re offered a Lenovo ThinkPad for review, our mind can’t help but shift to a specific preconception: “relatively expensive business laptop.” Most of the time, that image fits—unless it’s one of the many iterations of the company’s small-business-friendly ThinkPad Edge models.
The Edge family includes multiple, highly customizable configurations of models with a 14-inch screen (the Edge E430) or a 15.6-incher (the Edge E530 or E535). When you take advantage of the “Customize & Buy” option on Lenovo’s Web site, you can end up with a ThinkPad Edge for a bit under $500, well above $1,000, or anywhere between, depending on the options you choose.
Indeed, the Edge models are bit tricky to categorize, since they’re so configurable. Depending on your budget, for instance, you can equip your Edge with any number of processors, ranging from the somewhat dated and slow second-generation (“Sandy Bridge”) Intel Core i3 all the way up to the speedy third-generation (“Ivy Bridge”) Core i7 chip. In all, Lenovo offers more than half a dozen CPU options, as well as several memory (4GB to 16GB) and hard drive size and speed (5,400rpm or 7,200rpm) configurations, for these models. You can even specify that your ThinkPad Edge come with or without a built-in Webcam.
For our review, Lenovo sent us a moderately equipped ThinkPad Edge E530. As we wrote this, early in September 2012, the model we tested listed for $729, with an instant “eCoupon” discount on Lenovo’s site that reduced the price to $656. It featured a second-generation Intel Core i5-2450M processor (smack-dab in the middle of Lenovo’s CPU choices for this model), 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive, as well as a Webcam. Overall, while the hot-rodder in us was disappointed to find a Sandy Bridge rather than Ivy Bridge processor here, the realist in us was pleased that it wasn’t the Pentium or Celeron you can find in some bargain 15-inch laptops. Indeed, the Edge E530’s scores on our suite of benchmark tests were on target, with no notable surprises for a laptop in this price range.
We weren’t thrilled with our test unit’s mediocre display panel, however, and its Webcam and sound system both left us wanting more. In comparison, we liked the sound reproduction on a few other entry-level systems, such as the recently reviewed 14-inch Acer Aspire V5-471-6569 and Lenovo’s own $729 IdeaPad Z580, better.
Granted, you can get a faster, better-performing ThinkPad Edge by spending a little more money to uptick the CPU and RAM, but Lenovo doesn’t offer upgrades to the Webcam and sound system. You do, though, get a metal lid and deck with this model (the one we tested, anyway—it’s an option), which is unusual for an under-$700 notebook. The IdeaPad Edge E530 is attractive and well-built, but it’s also a bit thick and heavy for our liking.
Still, the Lenovo proved both sturdy and serviceable, and it comes with a strong complement of expansion ports and security options, including a fingerprint reader for keeping intruders out. All in all, while the ThinkPad Edge E530 offers little to thrill small-business shoppers, it’s as safe a buy for them as the company’s more costly ThinkPads are for corporate IT departments.
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