What do you get when you cram every possible modern multifunction-printer feature—printing, copying, scanning, faxing, and CD/DVD labeling—into a very small and stylish chassis? Well, until now, we’ve always called the result ”all-in-ones” (AIOs), whatever their size. But Epson has just released a line of the smallest full-featured machines we’ve laid eyes on, dubbing them (cleverly) “Small-in-Ones.”
Almost everything is rosy about this printer—but not quite. Alas, above all, the XP-800 is a photo printer, and like most photo-centric models, its per-page cost of ink is higher than that of many business-oriented AIOs. In this printer’s case, the cost per page (CPP) is even higher than most other photo printers, too. That issue—the astronomical per-page cost of ink—is our only major complaint about this AIO. But it’s a really big one: The XP-800 costs so much to use that we just couldn’t see our way clear to award it our Editors’ Choice nod, though it was close. (We’ll talk more about this model’s CPP in the Setup & Paper Handling section, later on.)
This really is too bad, because we were otherwise very impressed with this printer. (Indeed, it’s a vast improvement on the first Epson Small-in-One model we tested, the Epson Stylus NX430 Small-in-One$ (69.00 at OfficeMax.) That ink cost is coupled to a feature set that would be impressive even in a much larger printer at its price. The XP-800 includes both an auto-duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF) and print engine, which, together, allow you to copy, scan, and print multipage two-sided documents without user intervention. The XP-800 also sports a gorgeous 3.5-inch touch screen, a tray for printing labels on printable CDs and DVDs, and support for several different types of flash-memory devices.
Overall, as we said earlier, this is an impressive printer, but you need to think about how much you’ll actually print on it, and temper your enthusiasm. The ink makes it relatively expensive to use, and that—as we see it, anyway—makes it best for homes and small offices with light printing needs. It works, too, for users who need impeccable photo and document output, so long as the cost of producing them is not their first—or second—concern.
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We’ve looked at a whole bunch of midrange all-in-one (AIO) inkjet printers recently, and many of them have had a few things in common. The most notable one is size, or lack thereof: Some, such as Epson’s Expression Premium XP-800 All-in-One ($279.99 at Best Buy), are much smaller than most full-featured multifunction machines we’ve seen to date. Plus, this recent batch, including the XP-800 and HP’s Photosmart 7520 e-All-in-One Printer ($149.99 at HP), are quite high-tech in appearance and even fashionable-looking.
Aside from looking good and being economical, the MFC-J4510DW has something else big going for it: the ability to print one-off ledger-size (11×17-inch) pages from a manual input tray on the back. That’s a feature totally unheard of in a printer as compact as this one. (Most printers that print to this size of paper are wide-carriage monsters.) And even though the printing is a little sluggish, the output quality is pretty good, especially when printing business documents containing images and graphics. We’ve seen better photo print quality, but this AIO’s image reproduction is way beyond passable.
Apart from the wide-format printing, this machine is loaded with other features, including a 20-page automatic document feeder (ADF) and a print engine with duplexing support, for churning out two-sided pages without manual intervention. It also has an updated 3.7-inch display that’s both touch- and gesture-sensitive. The screen helps you when you’re printing straight from several types of memory devices (i.e., printing without a PC) or downloading content from several cloud sites. It’s a big advance in control-panel quality from what we’ve seen on earlier Brother machines.
On the whole, we liked the MFC-J4510DW a bunch. Granted, its print quality with business documents is not quite laser-quality (versus that of, say, HP’s OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One–$217.47 at GoComputerSupplies.com), but it’s definitely close enough for most business applications. Apart from that caveat, we had few quibbles with this printer. We recommend it and knighted it with our Editors’ Choice award.
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With the glut of midpriced Android slates now on the market, it’s difficult to get excited about yet another one—especially when it’s another me-too model with little to differentiate itself in terms of price or features. That’s the dilemma we have with Lenovo’s IdeaTab S2110A. Lenovo has priced this slate at $339 list for the tablet alone, or $429 with its complementary keyboard dock. Our assessment? It’s a passable tablet with a few clear flaws, but little to recommend it above a horde of similarly priced models.
This IdeaTab reminded us most of all of Lenovo’s IdeaTab S2109, a 9.7-inch slate we looked at a few weeks before. Our primary disappointment with both of these tablets is that they’re built around less-efficient dual-core processors, instead of the quad-core CPUs we see in many recent mid-level tablets, such as Asus’ $399.99-list Transformer Pad TF300 and Acer’s $449-list Iconia Tab A510.
While the IdeaTab S2110A’s processor, compared to some other dual-core slates, performed reasonably well on our suite of benchmark tests, the slate as a whole fell far short in one key area: battery life. Many quad-core tablets we’ve looked at this year delivered from four to seven more hours unplugged runtime than this IdeaTab. The way we see it, a tablet at this price that runs for only seven or eight hours without recharging is borderline unacceptable.
Furthermore, while this plastic-encased IdeaTab is thin, light, and attractive, it feels too pliable. That said, when we weren’t test-bending the S2110A, we found more than a few things to like about it. Its 1,200×800-pixel screen was bright, clear, and colorful, and, as we mentioned, the tablet itself performed well. Sound-playback quality was good, and we shot some nice-looking photos and video with the rear camera.
Our review unit came with 16GB of storage, as well as a black-and-silver keyboard dock in the same box—a combo package Lenovo sells for $429 list, and you can buy a 16GB tablet-only version for $339 list. There’s also a 32GB tablet-only version for $419 list, and a combination 32GB tablet-and-dock package for $499 list.
To our eyes, the $429 or $499 packages are the best deal. The keyboard dock (displayed in the image below) turns this slate into a small laptop-like machine for basic e-mailing and Web work, and the dock holds an additional battery, which Lenovo says can add an extra 10 hours of battery life.
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So-called “photo printers” that also double as all-in-one (AIO) copy/scan/fax machines are convenient hardware—but, too often, we run into a little problem with them: They cost more to use than similarly priced business AIO models. A good case in point? The $199-list HP Photosmart 7520 e-All-in-One Printer ($149.00 at PCNation.com). It, like many other photo-optimized AIO models we’ve tested, prints nice-looking photos. But everything else you print on this machine—such as business documents, flyers, and letters—costs more per page than when you print the same documents on a business-focused machine. That’s because the ink is more expensive, on a cost-per-page (CPP) basis, with this machine than on several comparably priced business-oriented models.
That said, you should ask yourself two important questions before buying a photo-optimized AIO like this one. First, does it actually print photos better than a comparable business-centric model? (Not all photo printers actually do.) And, second, is having the ability to print photos—in some cases, slightly better-looking ones—worth the extra expense you’ll incur when using it to print other types of documents? If you use your AIO a lot, over time, the cost difference can be substantial.
Also, dubbing a machine a “photo printer” doesn’t automatically mean it prints superior images. Canon’s photo-centric Pixma MG4220 ($99.00 at Amazon Marketplace), for instance, doesn’t churn out photos that look a whole lot better than those from several business-oriented AIOs, while, on the other hand, the company’s slightly higher-end Pixma MG5320 ($89.00 at Walmart.com) does. Both models, however, have high CPPs—too high, as we see it.
Without question, the Photosmart 7520 prints great-looking photographs, but then so does Kodak’s photo-optimized ESP 3.2 ($69.00 at Walmart.com), which costs half as much and offers significantly lower CPPs. The Photosmart 7520 does, however, provide, in addition to great photo printing, several other convenience features for the additional cost, such as an automatic document feeder (ADF) for copying, scanning, and faxing multipage originals, as well as support for memory cards and automatic two-sided printing.
This machine does load on the features compared to the $100 AIO set, and aside from the high CPP, we did find plenty to like about the Photosmart 7520. It’s high-tech, fancy-looking, even attractive. It has a handy, easy-to-use color touch screen for navigating features and making configuration changes. Plus, it supports HP’s printer apps, which allow you to download and print content from an ever-increasing number of providers on the Web. And in our tests, we found it very easy to set up, and it printed reliably.
Still, don’t be misled by the price: It may cost close to double what some entry-level inkjet AIOs do, but this is still a low-volume specialty machine that, over time, will cost you a good bit to use if you print much. We like it for homes and home offices that need to print quality photos, and occasionally need the convenience of a full-featured AIO. Households that care more about décor than price or cost of ownership will also like this machine—it has an interesting-looking form. But it’s not for heavy print duty, and it will cost you if you print plenty of images.
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For some time now, we (as well as several other reviewers) have been predicting a convergence of the color inkjet and color laser printer markets—that the day would come when deciding between a multifunction color laser and a business-ready inkjet all-in-one (AIO) no longer constituted such a clear choice.
Looks like that day is here.
With each new manufacturing cycle, the distinction between these two imaging technologies (in terms of speed, output quality, and print volume) has become increasingly less…distinct. Nowadays, several higher-end business-centric inkjet models, such as HP’s OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One Printer, churn out prints as fast as (or, in some cases, faster than) some of their similarly priced laser counterparts. Plus, often, there’s no significant difference in output quality between the two technologies. As a matter of fact, inkjets frequently do a better job—especially when printing photographs and intricately shaded graphics.
Where most color lasers have held on to their supremacy, though, has been in their lower per-page operational costs, or cost per page (CPP). Traditionally, that has made them a better value over the long haul. In other words, laser machines are typically cheaper (often, much cheaper) to use. Small offices and businesses with high-volume print demands rely on them to help keep day-to-day printing costs down.
Enter Epson’s WorkForce Pro WP-4590 ($433.99 at TheNerds.net). This $499-MSRP inkjet AIO not only delivers one of the lowest per-page costs of ink we’ve seen, but it’s also one of the few inkjets we know that delivers CPPs close to or below those of several high-volume lasers. That makes the WP-4590 one of the most-economical-to-use multifunction printers on the market today for small and medium-size businesses.
In addition to the low per-page operational cost, the WP-4590 comes with a few other features that place it in direct competition with high-volume color lasers. It supports, for example, both of the two most common page-description languages, HP’s PCL and Adobe’s PostScript, used by the majority of laser printers. (We discuss why this is important in the Design & Features section on the next page.) In addition, its performance on our print-speed benchmark tests matched or exceeded the print times of several color laser models we’ve tested.
Not only is the WP-4590 fast and inexpensive to use, it prints great-looking documents and photographs. We were also impressed with how well it scanned and copied our test document pages and images. In fact, aside from its $499 list price, which is hefty for an inkjet AIO, and the lack of support for wireless networking and flash memory cards, we couldn’t find much to quibble about with this printer.
And in fact, when we wrote this, a few online outlets were offering this printer for more than 10 percent off the list price. Sure, $450 to $499 may seem like a lot to pay for an inkjet machine. But if you use this one for what it’s designed for—to print and copy hundreds, even thousands, of pages each month—what you save on ink will quickly make up for (and surpass) the difference in cost between the WP-4590 and most other high-volume inkjet AIOs.
When all else is equal—print quality, speed, ease of use, convenience features, and so on—our advice is to choose the model with the lowest CPP. In this case, the WP-4590 delivers the speed and economic benefits of a color laser, as well as the stellar photograph printing you’d expect from an inkjet. Unless you simply must have memory-card and Wi-Fi support, we can’t think of any reason not to recommend this printer.
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After all our years of reviewing multifunction laser printers (and all sorts of other printers, mind you), we sometimes still can’t figure out how manufacturers determine which features to include—and how they set prices—for models within same family. A $100 price difference between, say, two similar HP lasers might get you a vastly different set of options than on two similarly classed Brother models. Often, it seems more like sharp-elbowed market jockeying than any rational balancing of features.
We do understand that pricing and features depend on competing products, parts and construction costs, market trends, and other factors, but too often, it seems that printer manufacturers aren’t working from the same market research. And they’re not all using the same playbook, that’s for sure. Case in point is Brother’s recently released MFC-8910DW, a multifunction (print/scan/copy/fax) monochrome laser that lists for $499.
The MFC-8910DW is essentially a pared-down version of the $599 MFC-8950DW we reviewed a few weeks before it. While we’re fairly certain that these two models cost about the same to manufacture, we find ourselves scratching our heads at just how much you give up for the $100 price difference between them. For example, the more expensive MFC-8950DW has a 500-sheet input drawer, compared to the MFC-8910DW’s middling 250-sheet input-tray capacity.
Also, the cheaper model has half the monthly duty cycle: 50,000 sheets per month, versus 100,000. (“Monthly duty cycle” is the total number of pages Brother says you can print each month without wearing out the printer prematurely.) And, on top of that, the MFC-8910DW doesn’t support Brother’s high-capacity (12,000-page) toner cartridges, which the MFC-8950DW does. That means you can’t get from the MFC-8910DW as low a cost per page (CPP) as you can from other models with this Brother engine inside.
Why is this perplexing? For one thing, these compromises are steep ones for $100—especially considering the MFC-8910DW’s already slightly high price—but here’s a bigger reason: Given the MFC-8910’s blazing print speeds and potential capacity, it, like its higher-priced sibling, is a high-volume laser. As you’ll see in our per-page cost comparison between these two Brother printers (in the Design & Features section on the next page), saving $100 up front on the purchase price might actually cost you before long. Because these are high-volume lasers, if you plan to use the MFC-8910DW for what it’s designed for—printing thousands of pages each month—the cost per page will catch up with you quickly.
That said, we still found plenty to like about this printer. Like most Brother lasers, it’s built to last; it prints good-looking black-and-white documents; it’s fast; and it’s easy to set up and use. Just keep those “buts” we just mentioned in mind: It costs a little too much for a printer that doesn’t print color, and if high-volume printing is what you’re looking for, the higher-priced MFC-8950DW (as well as several other models, including a few color lasers) will save you money—potentially, lots of it—over time.
The bottom line? The less you print, the more saving $100 on this model makes sense.
See the full review at Computer Shopper.
Until now, Fujitsu’s Stylistic line of tablets brought to mind powerful Windows 7-based slates, such as the Stylistic Q550 Slate PC that we looked at back in mid-2011. Designed primarily as notebook replacements for business and enterprise users, Stylistic tablets typically ran Windows 7 Professional on beefy processors with lots of RAM. The company’s latest offering, then, a 10-inch Android-based model, the Stylistic M532, is a huge departure from the tablets we’ve seen to date from this Japanese electronics giant.
Also aimed at business users, the $549-list Stylistic M532 is (by today’s standards, anyway) a rather basic tablet overall—aside from its MIL-STD-810G military-grade durability rating, that is. (We talk more about this in the Design & Features section on the next page.) Fujitsu has hung its hopes on this enhanced toughness to make this slate stand out from competing models. From what we can tell from our testing and hands-on time, this compliance is the only reason for offering it at such a premium price.
Aside from the chassis being dust-, moisture-, and shock-resistant (and, yes, the tablet does feel quite durable), the Stylistic M532’s components and features don’t differ much from what’s in several other everyday consumer tablets, such as the Asus Transformer Pad TF300 or Acer Iconia Tab A510, released earlier this year. Compared to some of the more recent higher-resolution models, including Acer’s Iconia Tab A700, though, the Stylistic M532 seems a little late to the Android-tablet party.
Not only is this model’s 1,280×800-resolution screen, in terms of pixel depth, a little too ordinary for the price, but the overall display quality is lacking a bit, compared to several like-resolution models from Samsung, Asus and Toshiba. We certainly weren’t wowed with this tablet’s display detail and vibrancy. It’s not bad, by any means, but we’ve seen better clarity not only from similarly priced slates, but also from a bunch that don’t cost quite this much.
In terms of overall performance, though, the Stylistic M532 held up well on most of our benchmark tests, except for a dismal showing on our battery-longevity trial. It conked out several hours sooner than most other slates we’ve tested recently running Android 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich,” or ICS) on Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 3 processor. The unplugged runtime on this model came much closer to what we saw from last year’s Tegra 2-based slates.
We give battery life and display quality a lot of weight in our evaluations. (After all, a tablet is nothing if not its screen.) Then again, this is the first slate we’ve seen that meets military durability standards. Some business users, especially those that use their slates in damp or dusty factory, assembly-line, or warehouse settings, for example, may find this extra protection valuable. But you’ll want to be sure you really do need the ruggedness, because you’ll be resigning yourself to a somewhat lesser display and battery life that’s shorter than most. A higher-res tablet with a stronger battery, nestled in a good case, might serve you just as well.
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It’s not often that we see full-fledged under-$500 notebooks, and, when we do, they’re usually cheaply constructed and don’t perform well, making them difficult to take seriously. Hence, our pleasant surprise after spending a few days with Acer’s recently released Aspire V5-471-6569, a $498 Walmart model ($498.00 at Walmart.com) that passed through our labs. While this budget laptop won’t win any beauty contests—and it’s certainly no powerhouse—it’s more than sufficient for running standard productivity applications such as Quicken and Word, as well as for Web browsing, social-media surfing, and e-mail.
Often, when writing about low-priced machines like this one, we find ourselves discussing them from a get-you-what-pay-for perspective—in other words, as machines fraught with sometimes unacceptable compromises. In this case, though, the Aspire V5-471-6569 provides exceptional value for the money. Here, “entry-level” doesn’t mean intolerable sacrifices—that is, unless you crave a notebook for playing the latest resource-intensive games. No model at or near this price can do that.
High-end gaming, professional-grade media editing, and intensive 3D-graphics rendering may be out, but the V5-471-6569 is equipped to pull off everyday computing tasks, including moderate multimedia consumption. Its screen, while not dazzling, displays text, images, and video acceptably. It has an optical drive, a decent set of ports for connecting to peripherals, and a memory-card reader, making it a well-rounded entry-level laptop.
Still, when you spend under five C-notes for a notebook, you have to expect some corner-cutting. Here, rather than sacrificing useful features, Acer made trade-offs mostly in the internal components—its use, for example, of Intel’s relatively slow and dated second-generation (a.k.a. “Sandy Bridge”) Core i3-2367M processor, paired with a modest 4GB of system memory and a tepid 5,400rpm, 500GB hard drive.
While this combination of components may not add up to fiery computing power, it allowed Acer to offer a fairly capable laptop at a very affordable price. This configuration is, in terms of overall computing muscle, a bare minimum by today’s standards, but we still got passable performance from this model on most of our benchmark tests.
If you’re looking for fast and snazzy, this isn’t it, but then, you won’t land an exceptional laptop for $500. You’ll have to dig deeper for that—perhaps much deeper. But the Aspire V5-471-6569 is a good all-around light-duty machine at a fair price, making it a good buy for first-time buyers, families seeking a third or fourth PC, certain students, and, yes, even some business users.
See full review at Computer Shopper.
If Canon’s Pixma MG2220 were a summer movie, it would be the low-budget conclusion to a ho-hum trilogy. Of Canon’s summer-2012 photo-printer efforts, all of them entry-level all-in-one (AIO) photo inkjets, this one’s the cheapest. (The other models are the Pixma MG4220 and Pixma MG3220.) At the core, all three of these new Pixmas are direct rehashes of three models we saw in 2011: the Pixma MG4120, MG3120, and MG2120, respectively. Alas, those machines were not overly impressive in their time, and since so little has changed in the 2012 versions, the three newer models didn’t stand out, either.
At $69 list, the Pixma MG2220Best Deal: $59.11 at Amazon Store is the cheapest of the 2012 trio, and, as you’d expect, it has the fewest features. One of the least-expensive AIOs we’ve seen, it’s also one of the most stripped-down. Indeed, you give up a lot for the $10 difference between it and Canon’s next model up in this line, the MG3220Best Deal: $79.00 at Amazon Store. For example, the Pixma MG3220 supports wireless networking, printing to the machine from mobile devices, and automatic two-sided printing, all features the MG2220 does not.
To get certain other basic features in a Pixma machine (“basic” by today’s standards, anyway, such as a color LCD and printing from flash-memory devices and cloud sites), you’ll have to step up a bit further, to the $149-list Pixma MG4220Best Deal: $141.25 at ANTOnline. Of these three Pixmas, the MG3220, with its better connectivity options and auto-duplexing print engine, is the best value for the budget-strapped. (In our eyes, that model’s biggest trade-off is its inability to print directly from memory cards, something of a no-brainer for a photo printer.)
Under what possible circumstances, then, would the Pixma MG2220 make sense? If you have only one computer and no wireless network in your home—and you don’t think you’ll ever need to connect to the printer wirelessly, and you don’t mind flipping pages manually when you need two-sided prints—well, then, saving $10 with the MG2220 over the MG3220 might make sense. But that’s a stretch.
The Pixma MG2220′s lack of Wi-Fi support and convenience features are not our only concerns about the value proposition of this printer. While Canon continues reusing the same print engine in this current family of Pixma MG models, other manufacturers, such as Kodak (with its $99-list ESP 3.2 All-in-One PrinterBest Deal: $69.00 at Walmart.com), have meanwhile souped up their previous models, making them faster and more efficient. In addition, the Pixma MG2220 uses the same print cartridges as the other two Canon MG models discussed here, and they’re pricey on a cost-per-page (CPP) basis. That makes using this printer one of the dearest in the budget-printer field. If you’ll print on it much at all, the initial savings will get eaten up quickly (and soon, forgotten) by what you pay for the ink to keep it going.
Still, $69 isn’t much to pay for a machine that prints, copies, and scans, and if you just want to print the occasional photograph or business document, the MG2220 will give you respectable-looking output, albeit slower than most competitors. It also scans and copies well—but then, too, so do most competing models. Were sluggishness the MG2220′s only shortcoming, we could overlook that for the price. But the high ink cost is a huge drawback, and it makes this AIO hard to recommend for anything more than occasional use.
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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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