Back in the days when IBM still had a personal computer division, the Thinkpad series (first released in 1992) were targeted at mid- to large enterprises that wanted transportable computers that were rugged, asthetic and had the computing power needed to run most business applications. The classic Thinkpad designed has remained largely unchained over the years. However, the business dynamics of enterprises have changed. Economic downturns and the need for greater cost control have led managers to agree to use other brands as long as they did the job.

This changed in the perception among business executives is one of the reasons why Dell and HP successfully penetrated the enterprise despite being considered of inferior design and manufacture (to date, I still hear executives swear they will never use either brand with reliability cited as the most common reason).

When Lenovo bought the PC division from IBM, the Chinese company (in China they were known as Legend) decided to keep what it saw was a ‘winning’ design formula in the Thinkpad. Lenovo launched less the less pricy, 3000 series to target small businesses as well as consumers. The 3000 (C, N and V) series was eventually discontinued and giving rise to the Ideapad series with a much better aesthetic formfactor to meet a more design-conscious market. The Thinkpad family continued to be sold at a premium and despite new technology and materials, the external design remained the same – staid, boxy, heavy and black. Most executives I see carried their Thinkpad on a carry-case with wheels (that should tell you something).

If Apple Computer were to be credited with changing industry perception about personal computers is that you don’t have to be drab (dressed in black) to be productive, efficient and business-like. In fact you can be all of these and also be cool.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2010, Lenovo decided to give the Thinkpad a facelift. The first two models to come off the show floor were the Thinkpad X100e and the Thinkpad Edge. The X100e is the first netbook for the business executive. I’ve read a number of very positive reviews about the X100e and so did my own review when I was handed the new netbook for a few days of handholding. True to its legacy, the X100e is a laptop with the business executive in mind. It carried everything you ever needed from your laptop at netbook prices. There were only two things I didn’t like about the X100e – weight (it was heavy at 1.36 kg) and the processor that came with the test unit was and AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 was not as energy efficient as the Intel Atom processors (of course the AMD chip has more compute horsepower compared to its Intel counterpart).

In the conventional laptop category, Lenovo launched the Thinkpad Edge, a 13.3″ laptop sporting a new body and new keyboard, while retaining the Thinkpad tradition of rugged, solid design.

The Thinkpad Edge is targeted at small business users – those who want the Thinkpad quality but always bulked at the Thinkpad price. You have a choice of Intel Core2Duo SU7300 or AMD Turion X2 L625 for the Edge (price difference here). The AMD equipped laptop uses an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200 graphic card whereas the Intel GMA 4500MHD powers the more expensive Edge.

Bear in mind that this is not your daddy’s Thinkpad. For now, the chasis comes in three colors:  glossy Midnight Black, matte Midnight Black, and Heatwave red. Each Edge comes standard with 2GB of memory expandable to 4GB and a 320GB 5,400 rpm internal hard drive. The 13.3″ screen offers a resolution of 1366×768.

Other standard components are 3 x USB 2.0, VGA out, and HDMI ports, a low-light sensitive built-in camera, 5-in-1 card reader, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet and b/g/n WiFi. 

If you decide to order an AMD CPU for your Edge, expect a shorter battery life (3.6 hours versus 5.3 hours for the Intel equipped model).

At work, I use a Thinkpad x200 that comes with the standard (and long admired keyboard with its tactile double-click action).  The Edge uses narrowly-spaced island-style (chiklet) keys with a different shape and surface. There are fewer keys at the top, with some keys like the Scroll lock disappearing altogether. You can spill liquid on the Edge keyboard and it won’t fry your laptop. There is a drainage hole for liquids to flow out at the bottom of the laptop.

One thing I never liked with the Thinkpad is the TrackPoint pointing device (I can never figure out why this is labeled an innovation). I am grateful for the large trackpad which supports multitouch gestures such as pinch to zoom, and rotating fingers to rotate images.

One of the things I didn’t like about my old Dell Latitude D420 was the heat that permeated the keyboard and palm rest. On the Edge, the heat can be adjusted using Lenovo’s Power Manager utility but you can still feel the heat on the left half of the keyboard including the left palm rest and trackpad.

Would I recommend the Thinkpad Edge? Other than getting used to the keyboard, I actually like this new addition to the Thinkpad series particularly as it comes at a much lower price point than other members of the Thinkpad family except for the X100e. The new look is a welcome escape from the drab cold tradition that is a Thinkpad heritage.

Other people reviews

Lenovo Thinkpad Edge 13

Lenovo Thinkpad Edge 13