The ThinkPad range is long established as being among the best laptops for be-suited business types in need of reliable mobile computing. Naturally, this has also solidified its status as being among the dullest.
So Lenovo has released the Edge, a range of affordable, business-centric laptops with 'progressive, sophisticated' designs intended to combat the yawns. Our review model, the ThinkPad Edge 15, features a 15.6-inch display, an Intel Core i5 M430 CPU, 4GB of RAM and Windows 7 Professional edition. It's available direct from Lenovo for around £900.
Red or dead
Ask 100 designers to create a contemporary, attractive laptop and 98 of them will paint the lid red. One will paint it matte black to shy away from the plethora of glossy laptops on the market, and the other will go with the tried and tested glossy black finish, but name it something trendy like 'Hollywood Noir'.
All 100 of those hypothetical designers seem to be working for Lenovo. Its Edge range is available in -- you guessed it -- Heatwave red, Midnight black with a glossy finish or Midnight black in matte. None of these colours is particularly adventurous, if you ask us. The red model, which is by far the most eye-catching, was cheeful enough, but was oddly reminiscent of a lady's nail varnish.
Fashion faux pas
Wherever Lenovo got its designers, it either didn't pay them very much or didn't give them any design freedom, because the 'sexy' runs out quicker than Pringles at a party. The major culprit is the keyboard area. The keyboard itself is comfortable to use, but it's set in a sea of cheap-looking black plastics -- totally betraying the machine's aspirations towards hotness.
The mouse trackpad on the Edge works well, so we're a little confused by the decision to include an old-school mouse trackpoint between the G and H keys. Clearly some people prefer this style of mouse, but if Lenovo wants to appeal to a younger, more fashion-conscious audience -- going as far as to spray the Edge a youthful red -- surely it would have been smarter to leave the old-school inputs alone?
The 'Edge' nomenclature is a little confusing. The 38mm-thick chassis on the Edge 15 isn't exactly thin, its 2.5kg weight isn't particularly light and its edges are so blunt they'd have trouble cutting through hot butter.
To its credit, Lenovo seems to have made the most of the Edge's extra fatness. The machine has four USB ports, one of which is powered so you can charge devices without the laptop being switched on, and one that doubles as an eSATA port. The Edge 13 also has D-Sub and HDMI graphics outputs, so connecting to a projector or other external display is a breeze.
The Edge 13 comes with a copy of Windows 7 Professional edition and Lenovo ThinkVantage Tools -- a suite of applications designed to help you get the most out of the laptop. It includes a password vault, which remembers and securely enters all your passwords for Web sites and Windows applications; backup and repair software to protect in case of the worst; Airbag Protection software that lets you adjust the sensitivity of the accelerometer system that protects the hard drive from bumps and shocks; and power controls, which let you toggle between high performance and long battery life.
Usefully, that last feature gives you a clear indication of how much energy (in Watts) your current power configuration is using, and whether it meets standards set by the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, a non-profit group of eco-conscious consumers, business and conservation organisations -- of which Lenovo proudly trumpets its membership.
Power to the people
The ThinkPad Edge is a very well-equipped machine. Its 15.6-inch display has a comparatively low 1,366x768-pixel resolution, but we're guessing business types won't mind so much, since watching 1080p videos is the last thing you should be attempting in a business meeting.
Where the ThinkPad 15 excels, though, is with its solid core specification. Inside, it uses 4GB of RAM and an Intel Core i5 CPU M430, which runs at 2.27GHz when not being asked to perform intensive tasks and can go as high as 2.53GHz whenever the going gets tough. It scored an impressive 5,647 in our PCMark 2005 test.
Battery life was fairly mediocre, however. Its four-cell, 48Wh battery pack ticked away for 1 hour 37 minutes in our Battery Eater Classic test, which runs the CPU at full tilt to reduce battery life as quickly as possible, in order to indicate worst-case run-time. It lasted 2 hours 50 minutes in the Battery Eater Reader benchmark -- a less intense test designed to mimic extremely light use.
Lenovo has attempted to add a peck of contemporary spice to its range with the Edge series. In our opinion, it's failed. It's going to have to try an awful lot harder than painting the lid red to convince us it's down with the kids. That being said, the ThinkPad 15 is a solid laptop with effortless performance.
Update: A previous version of this review stated the Edge 15 was available for £650. This is a lower-specced version, available here.
Edited by Nick Hide