Lenovo's ThinkPad Edge 11" is the smallest and lightest ThinkPad Edge available and succeeds the ThinkPad X100e. The screen actually measures 11.6in. across the diagonal, so the product name rather sells the product short.
Available with either Intel and AMD processors and at a starting price of around £420 (inc. VAT; £357 ex. VAT), the ThinkPad Edge 11" seems enticing. However, you may well end up spending more to get the specification you require.
Our review sample of the ThinkPad Edge 11" had a stunning glossy red lid that arguably would look more at home on a consumer notebook than a system designed for business users. If red isn't your thing, it's also available in black with either a glossy or matte finish.
The 11.6in. ThinkPad Edge is available matte or glossy black as well as red
The diminutive 11.6in. ThinkPad Edge, which weighs 1.5kg, comes with a 6-cell Li-ion battery that protrudes from the back of the casing. Although this disrupts the clean lines of the chassis, it helps to deliver reasonable battery life.
The ThinkPad Edge 11" measures 28.4cm wide by 21.1cm deep (with a 6-cell battery) by 2.95-1.56cm thick. It's light enough to carry almost everywhere, and small enough to fit into most bags. The chassis construction feels quite tough, too. There's no clasp to keep the lid and base sections together, so foreign objects could get between screen and keyboard unless you invest in a protective sleeve.
The glossy, anti-glare-coated 11.6in. screen has a native resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels. As ever with this type of screen, it can be irritating to work with a window or other light source to the side or rear. Viewing angles are good in the horizontal plane, but less impressive in the vertical.
Lenovo claims that the keyboard is spill-proof, although we're not sure it would survive a deluge of liquid.
The isolated keys won't be to everyone's taste, but we found them comfortable to use at speed. Lenovo has decided to make the main keys, including the number row, as large as possible and, as with the X100e, has done away with Scroll Lock and Pause/Break keys. This has a knock-on effect for the row of function keys, which is very small. Interestingly the control-key icons are far larger than the function-key numbers. This is a reverse of the usual situation, but it works fine.
There is a small inverted-T arrangement of cursor keys to the right of the keyboard, with PgUp and PgDn keys in the top-right and top-left spaces .
Lenovo's usual dual pointing system is present. This comprises a red pointing stick between the G, H and B keys. Immediately beneath the space bar are two mouse buttons and a third rocker button that lets you use the TrackPoint for vertical and horizontal scrolling.
Beneath these buttons is the trackpad, which two further mouse buttons of its own, plus embedded vertical and horizontal scroll zones aand pinch-to-zoom support. We found the latter a little awkward to get used to.
Although the pointing stick-plus-trackpad arrangement is useful in larger 14in. and 15in. devices, it feels rather cramped here. The two lower trackpad buttons, in particular, are tiny and a little awkward to use. Lenovo may have given in to its trademark arrangement here without actually giving enough consideration to the ergonomics.
There is a webcam above the screen, which will be handy for video calling, but security-conscious business users may bemoan the absence of a fingerprint sensor.
There are currently three iterations of the ThinkPad Edge 11" available. The entry-level model, which we reviewed, costs £419.71 (inc. VAT; £357.20 ex. VAT) and has a 1.7GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K125 processor. If you fancy this price and processor, you're stuck with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit as the operating system.
The other two models use Intel's 1.33GHz Core i3-380 and run Windows Professional 64-bit. These cost £525.76 and £630.69 (inc. VAT) — the summary specifications at Lenovo's web site are identical, but we assume that the more expensive model incorporates extras such as the optional mobile broadband.
In all models Windows 7 incorporates Lenovo's Enhanced Experience services. One of its features is an accelerated boot sequence (up to 57 percent faster, according to Lenovo) compared to non-optimised Windows 7, Vista or XP systems. Another is shutdown in as little as 5 seconds. Our review sample took 45 seconds to boot and 15 seconds to shut down, which is hardly stunningly fast.
You get just 2GB of RAM as standard across all models. Also standard is a 320GB hard drive, which should be adequate for this size of notebook. For connectivity, there's WI-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) and wired Gigabit Ethernet. Mobile broadband is available as an optional extra.
There's no room in the chassis for an optical drive, but Lenovo does provide a reasonable range of connections. The right edge houses a reader for SD-compatible media and a pair of well-spaced USB slots (one at the back and one towards the front). There's a third USB port on the left edge, along with the Ethernet (RJ-45) connector and an HDMI port. There's also a microphone/headset combo jack on the left. We prefer separate ports, but the supplied solution is perfectly adequate if you're happy to use a headset for video calling.
The front of the chassis is bare, while at the back, flanking the protruding 6-cell battery, is the power connector and a VGA port .
Performance & battery life
The 1.7GHz AMD processor and 2G of RAM in our review sample performed well enough. We didn't notice any major issues with the web browsing, word processing, video watching or other basic tasks we ran during the review period. Open a multitude of apps, though, and the processor/RAM combination may begin to struggle.
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) for the ThinkPad Edge 11" was disappointing at 3.2 (out of 7.9). The overall WEI corresponds to the lowest subsystem score, which in this case was Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero). The other graphics score, Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) was a much more respectable 4.7. Processor (calculations per second) got 3.9, RAM (Memory operations per second) 5.5 and Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) 5.8.
Lenovo rates the 6-cell battery as good for 6 hours with the AMD Athlon II Neo K125, or 6.4 hours with Intel's 1.33GHz Core i3-380. As usual with Lenovo notebooks, you get the Power Manager utility that lets you fine-tune the power management settings.
Lenovo Power Manager
We chose the ThinkPad power scheme on its default settings and played a movie from a USB stick on a continuous loop. Under these conditions we got a very respectable 3 hours 48 minutes of movie playback.
The speakers produce reasonable quality sound to a fairly high volume. You could probably deliver an audio-enhanced presentation to up to half-a-dozen people, if they didn't mind looking at a fairly small screen. Larger numbers than that will struggle to see and hear.
At its entry-level price point, Lenovo's ThinkPad Edge 11" gives top-end netbooks a run for their money, offering a capable processor, decent hard drive capacity and a screen of reasonable size and resolution.