With the ThinkPad Edge 14, Lenovo has taken its small business offering to a new level, with more power and typing comfort than its 13-inch sibling, the Edge 13. This $699 notebook offers strong Core i3 performance, solid endurance, stylish looks, and an amazing keyboard, all at a price that even a struggling startup can afford.
Like the Edge 13, the Edge 14 has a different aesthetic than traditional ThinkPads. You can take your pick from three different lid colors: Midnight Black matte (our configuration), Midnight Black glossy, and Heatwave Red. The sides have a silver trim, which adds a touch of style, but would be even more attractive if it were metal rather than plastic. The rest of the notebook--its deck, bezel, and bottom--are made out of smooth black plastic that looks and feels sleeker than the grainy plastic found on other ThinkPads.
The biggest touch of style is the fancy ThinkPad logo that appears on both the lid and deck; it features a bright red light that stays solid when the notebook is on but blinks when it is asleep.
At 13.5 x 9.2 x 1.3 inches and 5 pounds (with the standard six-cell battery), the Edge 14 is no ultraportable, but it compares favorably to other 14-inch small business notebooks like the T410 (5.2 pounds), the Dell Latitude E5400 (5.6 pounds), and the HP ProBook 4510s (5.7 pounds). We were able to carry both the laptop and a giant pile of books with us back and forth from work on a couple of occasions without breaking a sweat.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Lenovo ThinkPads have long been famous for their incredibly responsive keyboards. However, the new Edge series has a spill-resistant island-style keyboard with a level of tactile feedback that makes it a touch typist's dream machine, offering perhaps the best typing experience we've ever had on a notebook. Using the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test, we were able to score 86 words per minute with a 1-percent error rate on our first attempt. That score matches this reviewer's all-time high.
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Click to enlargeThough the keyboard on the Edge 13 is the same, we found the typing experience better on the Edge 14 because its palm rest was a bit deeper and stayed cool throughout our use, while the smaller machine got as warm as 97 degrees.
As with other ThinkPads, the Edge 14 has a TrackPoint pointing stick located in between its G and H keys. By using the TrackPoint, you can navigate around the desktop without removing your fingers from the home row. However, if you don't like pointing sticks or you're doing something like running a presentation that doesn't require you to have your hands on the keyboard, you'll appreciate the huge, highly accurate touchpad. The 3.6 x 2.1-inch pad has a very pleasant, smooth plastic surface, and it supports multitouch gestures like pinch to zoom.
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A hot notebook can be a real distraction, particularly when you're trying to work. While the Edge 13 occasionally suffered from a warm palm rest, the Edge 14 stayed cool throughout our testing. After 15 minutes of streaming web videos at full screen, the touchpad measured a temperate 91 degrees Fahrenheit, the middle of the keyboard clocked in at a reasonable 93 degrees, and the bottom center chilled out at 91 degrees. The bottom left near the vent reached over 100 degrees, but that's not a major touch point for most users.
Display and Audio
The Edge 14's 14-inch, 1366 x 768 glossy screen provided bright colors and sharp images when viewed head on. However, when we moved 45 degrees to the left or right or stood up, colors started to wash out and we started seeing a lot of reflections. Watching movies from the head-on viewing angle was a pleasant experience. We were able to view a 1080p WMV file from Microsoft's HD showcase and a 720p streaming episode of Fringe without experiencing any serious noise or jerkiness. However, when playing a DVD of Jet Li's Fearless, we did notice some graininess.
The stereo speakers provided palatable sound that was acceptably loud, but not rich. When using Napster.com to stream "Life on MTV" by Miss Kittin and the Hacker, we noticed that the drum beats were a bit tinny, and the subtle tones were lost. However, we don't expect much more from a business machine.
Ports and Webcam
Lenovo didn't skimp on ports when designing the Edge 14. The right side of the notebook sports one USB port and the DVD drive while the back has another USB port. The left side is adorned with an Ethernet port, VGA, HDMI out, an ExpressCard/34 slot, a combo mic/speaker jack, another USB ports, and a combination eSATA/USB port for total of four available USB connections. The front lip has a 7-in-1 memory card reader.
The 2-megapixel webcam provided sharp, detailed images. When conducting a video call on Skype, fine details such as the folds in our skin were visible to the recipient.
The Edge 14's 2.13-GHz Intel Core i3 M330 CPU enabled it to provide fast performance on every task we threw at it, from circling the globe in Google Earth to compressing video. On PCMark Vantage, a benchmark that measures overall system speed, the Edge scored a strong 4,293, well above the thin and light notebook category average of 3,519 and even further ahead of the HP ProBook 5310m (3,382) and ThinkPad SL510 (3,493).
The Edge's 5,400-rpm, 250GB booted Windows 7 Professional in a remarkable 36 seconds. The drive took a somewhat leisurely 3 minutes and 54 seconds to complete the LAPTOP File Transfer test (in which we copy 4.97GB of mixed media files from one folder to another) for a rate of 21.6 MBps. That rate is below the 22.1 MBps category average and well behind the 26.2 MBps offered by the ProBook 5310m, the 29.2 MBps returned by the ThinkPad SL510, and the 23.5 MBps provided by the ThinkPad Edge 13. A faster, 7,200-rpm drive is available as an option.
When it came to video transcoding, the Edge 14 performed well, converting a 114MB MPEG-4 to AVI in just 1 minute and 7 seconds using Oxelon media encoder, 2 seconds faster than the thin-and-light category average.
Considering that it uses an integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD chip rather than discrete graphics, we didn't expect the Edge 14 to perform like a gaming notebook. However, it was more than adequate for watching 1080p video and playing basic games at low resolutions.
On 3DMark06, a benchmark that measures overall graphics prowess, the Edge 14 scored a respectable 1,486, which is a little bit below the category average of 1,700, but way ahead of the Edge 13 (908), the SL510 (1,011), and the ProBook 5310m (952).
At 1024 x 768 resolution, the Edge 14 was able to play World of Warcraft at a reasonable 46 frames per second. Though this was behind the 87 fps category average, anything above 30 fps is acceptable. At 1366 x 768 resolution, that rate dropped to an unplayable 9 fps. In the more demanding game Far Cry 2, the Edge managed only 10 fps at 1024 x 768 resolution and would not run at 1366 x 768.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
With its six-cell battery, the Edge 14 lasted 4 hours and 42 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. That number matched the thin-and-light category average exactly, but it's impressive in light of its newer Core i3 CPU, which uses more power than its Core 2 Duo predecessor. Note: we have not yet tested any other 14-inch Core i3 notebooks.
The Intel WiFi Link 1000 802.11n card provided a reasonable transfer rate of 30.4 MBps when positioned 15 feet from the router. That rate dropped slightly to 24.2 MBps when we moved to a distance of 50 feet.
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It took 1 hour and 28 minutes to charge the Edge 14's battery to 80 percent, and a total of 2 hours and 14 minutes to get up to 100 percent. During that time, the notebook used an average of 39.3 watts. Considering the 4:42 battery life, that gives the Edge 14 a green efficiency rating of 18.7, which is far better than the category average of 24.4 (lower is greener) and on a par with the much slower Edge 13's 18.6. The HP ProBook 5310m was even more efficient with a rating of 13.7.
Our review unit came with a retail price of $699, but you can get an Edge 14 at Lenovo.com starting at $649. The less expensive system comes with the same specs as ours--a 2.13-GHz Core i3 CPU, 2GB of RAM, and 250GB hard drive--but has a glossy lid and Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) instead of Windows 7 Professional (32-bit).
At present, Lenovo.com does not allow you to build your own Edge 14, instead offering three preconfigured models with prices ranging from $649 to $879, all with 2.13-GHz Core i3 CPUs, 2GB to 4GB of RAM, and 250GB or 320GB hard drives. The $729 configuration features a 7,200-rpm, 320GB hard drive.
However, the Edge 14 should eventually be available with a wide variety of component options, ranging from 1.86-GHz Intel Celeron P4500, 2.13- or 2.26-GHz Core i3, to a 2.26-GHz Core i5 CPUs. Hard drives will be available in 5,400- and 7,200-rpm speeds, with sizes ranging from 250GB to 500GB.
Software, Warranty, and Small Business Services
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Like the Edge 13, the Edge 14 comes with Lenovo's standard suite of ThinkVantage utilities, including its Power Manager, Access Connections wireless manager, and Rescue and Recovery utility. Our favorite of these is the Password Manager, because it stores and manages all of your accounts. WinDVD 8 is also included for playing movies.
The Edge 14 comes standard with a one-year warranty on parts and labor and 24/7 toll-free tech support. See how Lenovo did in our most recent Tech Support Showdown.
If you want longer coverage, you can upgrade the warranty to two or three years. And, if you're a small business without a lot of IT resources, you'll appreciate having the option to purchase ThinkPlus services like priority support, accidental damage protection, and online backup.
For $699, the Edge 14 is the most compelling 14-inch small business notebook on the market today. When you combine Core i3 processing power with the industry's best keyboard, a stylish chassis, and solid battery life, you have a laptop that's great not only for companies, but also for consumers and home users who are focused on work rather than play. If portability and battery life are more important to you than performance, you may want to consider a 13-inch system like the ThinkPad Edge 13 or HP ProBook 5310m. However, both of those systems offer less muscle for more money. If you want Core i3 productivity and a typing experience that makes you feel like you have a third hand, the Edge 14 is the system to get.