As the maker of the longtime industry standard in business laptops, Lenovo walks a fine line between the practicality expected from loyal ThinkPad users and the pressure to deliver the sexier, thinner, and more stylish products becoming increasingly popular in the consumer-centric notebook market. As we saw with theÂ ThinkPad T431sÂ recently, with each update, the Chinese computer giant appears to be on a mission to make the stalwart, matte-black-brick ThinkPad more fashionable.
But then, the T431s is a member of Lenovo’s higher-end T Series. The company also offers an affordable line of ThinkPads for small business, positioned between the enterprise models and its consumer IdeaPads. Starting at only $599 (before Lenovo.com’s ever-changing “eCoupon” discounts), the ThinkPad Edge Series needs to strike a balance between style and substance while meeting aggressive price points. Doing that while offering the features businesspeople need, as we saw while reviewing last year’s 15.6-inchÂ ThinkPad Edge E530, is, well, difficult.
While we liked the E530 overall, we found its screen, sound, and Webcam quality lacking, to the point that our recommendation was tepid at best. Here, we’re looking at a refresh of last year’s 14-inch modelâ€”the ThinkPad Edge E431 ($647 after eCoupon as tested). As with the update of the T430s to the T431s, the E431 is slightly thinner and lighter than its predecessor, as well as a bit more stylish. Better yet, most of our complaints about last year’s Edge models have been addressed, making us much more enthusiastic about this ThinkPad.
The real news here, though, is the introduction of an all-new docking solution Lenovo has dubbed OneLink Dock, which, compared to previous Edge Series docking solutions, provides increased data throughput, as well as compression-free video. As discussed a little later in this review, this new system uses a proprietary data connection between the PC and docking station that Lenovo says not only increases USB, audio, video, and Ethernet transfer rates compared to USB docking, but does so with little to no impact on the laptop’s overall performance.
Speaking of performance, the E431 scored on the low side of average on several of our tests, and slightly above average on a few others. We were, however, disappointed in the Lenovo’s poor showing in our battery-rundown benchmark. The good news is that, unlike most competing models, this laptop lets you swap out the battery, which of course lets you double or triple the time between charges, depending on how many additional batteries you’re willing to buy. Lenovo also offers an optional longer-life, higher-capacity battery for the E431 on its Web site.Â
Slotting between the corporate ThinkPads and the IdeaPads for consumers, the ThinkPad Edge targets small offices and value hunters.Â Â
Short battery life aside, we liked this notebook. True to the ThinkPad brand, it came through where a business-centric laptop should in terms of build quality and security options. Then too, it comes with Lenovo’s AccuType keyboard, one of the best laptop keyboards available, as well as a highly accurate and easy-to-use touch pad. Granted, the Edge is not futuristic, sexy, or stylish, but as sturdy, business-ready laptops go, it provides excellent value.
Read complete review atÂ Computer Shopper.