Since its 2010 debut, Lenovo's ThinkPad Edge series has provided small businesses with an affordable option that combines legendary ThinkPad quality with updated looks. With the introduction of the 12.5-inch ThinkPad Edge E220s ($869 as configured), Lenovo has turned the style volume up to 11 with a sexy, soft-plastic body and chrome accents. But does this luscious laptop perform as well as it looks?
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E220s is the new-look Jaguar of small business notebooks, offering a sporty reinterpretation of a classic aesthetic. While the Edge E220s's dark color, ThinkPad logo, and red trackpoint all whisper "ThinkPad," its rubberized chassis and chrome bumpers scream "jet set." We particularly like the Edge E220's color, which appears black in dark light, but is actually a very dark pool-table green when viewed in bright light. A red light sits above the letter "I" in "ThinkPad" and blinks when the system is in sleep mode, while the clean, smooth bottom makes the Edge E220s look almost as attractive when it's upside-down. The edge-to-edge "infinity glass" that covers the screen adds another high-end design element to the mix. The Edge E220's only design downside is that its surfaces pick up fingerprints far too easily.
At a mere 12.3 x 8.4 x 0.85 inches and 3.2 pounds, the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E220s is one of the thinnest and lightest business laptops on the market, even thinner than the ThinkPad X220 (1.25 inches thick) and just a little thicker than the Toshiba Portege R835 and the Lenovo IdeaPad U260 (both 0.7 inches thick).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The island-style, spill-resistant keyboard on the ThinkPad Edge E220s has three important things going for it: powerful tactile feedback, curved keys that help you avoid errant strokes, and a comfortable, soft palm rest. Thanks to these ingredients, we achieved a strong score of 86 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, better than our typical 80 wpm score.
Like all ThinkPads, the Edge E220s has a bright red TrackPoint pointing stick in between its G and H keys. The stick provides the most accurate navigation of any built-in notebook pointing device.
For those who don't like pointing sticks, the 2.9 x 1.9-inch touchpad on the Edge E220s provides smooth, precise navigation around the desktop. Better still, multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom are smooth. Rather than offering discrete buttons, the left and right buttons are built into the pad itself. Though we've complained about the inaccuracy of so-called "clickpads" in the past, the left and right buttons on the E220's pad were quite precise and did not cause the cursor to jump when clicked.
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The ThinkPad Edge E220s stayed pleasantly cool throughout our testing. After streaming video at full screen for 15 minutes, we measured the touchpad at a frigid 82 degrees, the keyboard at a cool 89 degrees, and the bottom at a reasonable 96 degrees Fahrenheit. We consider temperatures above 95 degrees uncomfortable for the top surfaces of a notebook, and 100 degrees on the underside to be too high.
Display and Audio
Click to enlargeWhether we were streaming a 720p episode of Fringe from Fox.com or playing a 1080p QuickTime trailer of Priest, the 12.5-inch, 1366 x 768 glossy screen provided sharp, bright images, though colors seemed a bit dull. Unfortunately, the 200-nit screen and its "infinity glass" coating are so reflective that left and right viewing angles are poor. With a light source behind us and the screen at full brightness, video washed out significantly at angles even less than 45 degrees.
Lenovo uses Dolby Home Theater v4 technology to boost the ThinkPad Edge E220s's audio performance, but even with Dolby software enabled and set to the music listening profile, sound was quite tinny on the built-in speakers. Whether we were listening to a jazz standard such as Kool and the Gang's "Summer Madness," Motley Crue's "Too Young to Fall in Love," or Sade's "Smooth Operator," percussion sounds were distorted and unpleasant. Disabling the Dolby software made the music sound completely flat and dropped its volume to nearly inaudible levels.
Ports and Webcam
For a 12.5-inch ultraportable notebook, the ThinkPad Edge E220s has more than its fair share of ports. On the right side are two USB ports--one of which doubles as an eSATA connection--and an HDMI out. On the back is an optional 3G SIM slot for those who buy the Edge with built-in mobile broadband. On the right are an SD card reader, Ethernet, VGA, headset jack, and a powered USB port that can charge your devices even when the notebook is asleep. Because the notebook has a 2nd Generation Core i5 CPU, it also supports Intel's Wireless Display technology for streaming 1080p video to a TV set. However, you have to buy the $99 receiver adapter separately.
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The 720p webcam provided sharp images with reasonable color fidelity, even in low light. In our dim living room, fine details of our face were clear, and reasonably colorful despite the conditions. Unfortunately, the camera is not Skype HD-certified, so you'll need to use a different chat client, such as ooVoo, if you want to chat at 1280 x 720 resolution.
With its 1.4-GHz Core i5-2537M CPU, 4GB of RAM, and Intel HD graphics, the ThinkPad Edge E220s offers solid performance that's good enough for any business application or for playing full HD movies. On PCMark Vantage, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall system speed, the ThinkPad E220s scored a strong 5,886, well above the ultraportable category average of 4,185 and the 1.3-GHz Core i5-powered Dell Vostro V130 (4,246). However, the 2.3-GHz Core i5-powered Toshiba Portege R835 (6,115) and the Core i7-powered ThinkPad X220 (7,719) fared better.
The E220s' 320GB 7,200-rpm hard drive booted into Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) in a reasonable 62 seconds, on a par with the 61-second category average. The drive took a reasonable 2 minutes and 49 seconds to complete the LAPTOP File Transfer Test, which involves transferring 4.97 GB of files. That's a rate of 30.1 MBps, roughly equivalent to the 32.6 MBps category average.
The ThinkPad Edge E220s is more than powerful enough to transcode video quickly. It took just 1 minute and 1 second to convert a 114MB MP4 file to AVI, using Oxelon Media Encoder; that's 49 seconds faster than the category average and much faster than the Dell Vostro V130's 1:26 time, but still a shade slower than the Portege R835. When we used Cyberlink Media Espresso to transcode an HD video, the Edge E220s took just 41 seconds, more than 2 minutes quicker than the 2:47 category average, but a little slower than the 28 seconds offered by the Portege R835.
The ThinkPad Edge E220s's integrated Intel HD graphics chip is good enough to play HD video, but not for gaming. On 3DMark06, a synthetic benchmark which measures graphics prowess, the Edge E220s scored 3,135, about 60 percent higher than the category average and better than the Dell Vostro V130's 1,147 score. In World of Warcraft, the notebook managed a barely playable 24 frames per second--well below the 41.2 fps category average--with the effects at the recommended setting. With the effects turned up to max, that rate dropped to an unplayable 10 fps.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
Click to enlargeWith its built-in, sealed battery, the ThinkPad Edge E220s lasted a mediocre 4 hours and 55 minutes on the LAPTOP battery test, an hour less than the 6:01 ultraportable category average. That time was still better than the Dell Vostro V130's lame 2:45 of endurance, but it pales in comparison to the Toshiba Portege R835's 6:22 and the ThinkPad X220's epic battery life, which ranges from 7:51 with a six-cell battery to more than 20 hours with a nine-cell battery and optional slice. For some users, nearly 5 hours of endurance may be enough, but there are better options.
The ThinkPad Edge E220's Intel WiFi Link 1000 802.11n radio provided modest transfer rates of 24.4 and 16.6 Mbps at distances of 15 and 50 feet from our router. That's a bit below the category averages of 33.5 / 19.8 Mbps, but faster than the 20.6 / 8.6 Mbps offered by the Toshiba Portege R835 and about on par with the Dell Vostro V130's 25.6 / 15.7 Mbps rates.
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Click to enlargeOur configuration of the ThinkPad E220s costs $869. For that price, you get a 1.4-GHz Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, Windows 7 Professional, and a 320GB 7,200-rpm hard drive. However, the starting price for the Edge E220s is $749. That gets you the same CPU, but only 2GB of RAM, a 250GB 5,400-rpm hard drive, and Windows Home Premium.
If you want a little more speed, you can configure the ThinkPad Edge E220s with a 2.6-GHz Core i7-2617M CPU for $70 more. You can also choose between a 250GB hard drive, a 320GB 7,200-rpm unit ($70), and a 128GB SSD ($350). A $749 configuration comes with an integrated Ericsson F5521gw 3G card, which works on HSPA networks from AT&T and T-Mobile.
Unfortunately, Lenovo does not offer discrete graphics, USB 3.0, or a higher capacity battery for the Thinkpad Edge E220s. We recommend that users configure the ThinkPad Edge E220s with 4GB of RAM and a 7,200-rpm drive for best performance.
Software, Fingerprint Security, Warranty
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E220s comes with the standard ThinkVantage software package of utilities. These include Airbag for protecting your hard drive from falls, the Power Manager for asserting fine control over power settings, and a Web Conferencing control panel that lets you optimize the microphone and webcam for single or multi-person chats. The Lenovo Screen Reading Optimizer utility allows you to put your notebook's display into portrait mode for reading--something we can't imagine many people doing on a clamshell notebook. Enhanced Backup and Recovery allows you to store copies of your system and data.
As mentioned above, the notebook also comes with Dolby Digital software, which allows you to exert fine control over the audio settings and even has different profiles for music and movies. The Dolby software even enables volume leveling so that all your media files play at the master level you set no matter the recording.
All ThinkPad Edge E220s configurations come with a fingerprint reader, a welcome feature for small businesses with an eye on security. Using the Lenovo Fingerprint manager, we were able to quickly and easily set up two different fingers and use them to log into Windows, instead of typing a password. In our experience, the reader was extremely accurate and did not require repeated swipes to register our finger. However, the reader only works when the system is on; it can't turn on your computer like those you'll find on the ThinkPad W520 or T410.
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Lenovo backs the ThinkPad Edge E220s with a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor. However, small businesses can purchase extended warranties of up to three years, get accidental damage protection, and add in on-site service for additional fees.
Click to enlargeThe ThinkPad Edge E220s is the best-looking and most comfortable small business notebook on the market. Its gorgeous soft-plastic and chrome design makes a bold statement in the boardroom or the coffee shop and its keyboard provides the best typing experience in the business. Plus, its slight frame fits comfortably in even the smallest bag. Our only issue is the E220's below-average battery life, though the approximate 5 hours of runtime will be long enough for many users. If you need more endurance, consider the $855 Toshiba Portege R835, which lasts an hour and a half longer on a charge. However, if you want the ultimate in small business style and comfort, the ThinkPad Edge E220s should be at the top of your list.