Lenovo is best known for making robust, no-nonsense laptops which are rugged bodied for the business traveller and designed with user ergonomics rather than flashy features in mind. The ThinkPad Edge 11 is no different. In case you are wondering about the odd name, you can get similar variants of this laptop with 13- and 15-inch screens.
What is it and who is it for?
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 is the smallest screened and lightest laptop in the ThinkPad Edge range. If anyone remembers the ThinkPad X100e, this is that laptop’s logical successor.
There is a wide range of iterations available and with a starting price of just over £411 (ex. VAT), the ThinkPad Edge 11 could have instant appeal for businesses currently suffering a budget squeeze but needing to update their laptop stocks. However, don’t get over excited at that price. As we’ll show, you may well need to pay more to get a configuration that meets your needs.
Does it do it well?
The ThinkPad Edge 11 is light at 1.5kg and small at 26x285x119mm. There is a protrusion on the back edge which takes it away from a uniformly rectangular format and this is caused by the jutting out 6-cell battery. We prefer this to the provision of a smaller battery as the 6-cell one delivered well. It managed close to 4 hours of movie playback and got us through a similar length of working time with constant Wi-Fi use.
The ThinkPad Edge 11 is supplied with either an AMD or Intel processor. If you choose the AMD option Dell says you can get up to 6 hours of life, or 6.4 hours with the Intel option. You’ll probably have to wind services down to approach those figures, though.
The isolation style keyboard, which incidentally is spill proof, is a delight to use for normal QWERTY typing being responsive and well sprung. The usual dual system of a TrackPoint and multitouch trackpad with two pairs of mouse keys has been implemented. It is great if you like the variety, but in a chassis this small it does feel somewhat squeezed.
Furthermore, the Scroll Lock and Pause/Break keys have been dispensed with, and the ‘Function’ row is small. This may take a little getting used to. So there are pros and cons on the ergonomics front. Wi-Fi and Ethernet are of course included as standard and there is an option of 3G data too. All models have a 320GB hard drive, which is large enough for everyday business use.
Where does it disappoint?
As we said from the outset, the lowest cost laptop in the ThinkPad Edge 11 range costs just £411 (ex. VAT). This sounds attractive, but at that price you get an AMD Athlon II Neo Single-Core K125 processor running at 1.7GHz and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. An Intel Core i3-380 processor at 1.33GHz and Windows Professional 64-bit will cost a little more, with the top-end of two Intel models coming in at £502 (ex. VAT).
We have to say that the AMD processor in our review model coped well with our testing regime, but we suspect it will start to flounder if asked to do too many tasks at once. It won’t be helped by the rather meager RAM allocation. You’ll have to buy the most expensive model if you want 4GB of RAM, as 2GB is standard in the lower-priced options. No model in the series can accommodate an optical drive and an external drive is not supplied as standard.
With just three USB 2.0 ports the ThinkPad Edge 11 is arguably slightly under provisioned, but these are joined by an HDMI port, external monitor connector, card reader, and combination headphones and microphone slot.
The screen is necessarily small though it measures 11.6 inches across rather than the 11 inches the laptop’s name implies. Its 1366 x 768 pixels are delivered into a glossy anti-glare panel that made working with a light source behind or to the side difficult. If you do a lot of working on trains, light streaming in through the windows may cause irritating reflections.
Would we recommend it?
There is no doubting that the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 is an attractive machine both in terms of looks and price. It is light and portable and its battery life is conducive to working outside the office. However, the reflective nature of the screen may prove a challenge for some people and the somewhat cramped keyboard might make it difficult for larger hands to work comfortably.
You will need to go to the top of the range to get the better processor and RAM configuration, and even then you will need to be able to survive without an optical drive—or factor an external one into the budget. There is no fingerprint reader and this, in the end, could be the deal breaker for many corporate users.