The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 420s (44013GQ) looks every part the business laptop it's intended to be and its sleek dark look gives of a very professional aura - I seem to have started describing most black laptops that comes our way in the same manner. Let's see if this Lenovo ThinkPad laptop delivers on the performance side of things as well.
The E420s has a blackish-grey soft touch finish on the chassis and backlid bordered by reflective metal strips that adds to the ThinkPad's very matter of fact appearance. The soft rubber-like finish is quite pleasant to the touch, but it has to be noted that it does attract its fair share of finger smudges and grease like stains. So be ready to clean the laptop regularly, if you want to keep the business look going on. There is a Lenovo logo imprinted on the top right side of the backlid with a diagonally place ThinkPad logo imprinted at both the top left end of the back lid and bottom right side of the chassis. There is a red light above the "i" of both the ThinkPad logos that lights up once the system is running - it also blinks when the laptop is in 'sleep' mode. Interestingly, there are no other LED status indicators on the laptop.
The laptop features a keyboard without a dedicated numpad, and some of the keys have been repositioned to save up on space. It also features a extended touchpad, positioned below the keyboard and towards the centre, with the three mouse buttons placed on top of the touchpad rather than at the bottom as in most other laptops. The keyboard keys are slightly elevated and this could lead to dirt and crumbs getting stuck inside them.
The screen is supported by metal hinges and the laptop has an overall solid build quality. The ability to tilt the screen back 180 plus degrees is a very handy feature as this will allow you to view the screen from a convenient angle. The ThinkPad weighs in at 1.88 kg with a non-removable battery - which is a downside given how users won't be able to easily change the battery. However do keep in mind that having an inbuilt battery allows the ThinkPad to come in its current slim form factor.
There are two exhaust vents on the E420s with one situated at the right side of the chassis and the smaller one located at its back. The speaker, located above the keyboard, extends horizontally along the length of the keyboard, encompassing the power button that is located near the top right corner of the chassis. There is also a HD webcam positioned at the top section of the bezel.
Distinctive designs are something I generally welcome, and the ThinkPad doesn’t disappoint with its design and soft touch texture. The E420s has a 14 inch screen with a resolution of 1366x768. There is an edge-to-edge plate that surrounds the screen and bezel, and it attracts its fair share of finger smudges. The reflective nature of the plate does occasionally become an irritant when viewing videos and text. The viewing angles are decent - you don’t notice much colour distortion when viewing the screen from a horizontal axis, but viewing the screen from a vertical axis, both top and bottom, does produce a darkish hue. However having a screen that can tilt 180 plus degrees back means that finding a suitable viewing angle, either for reading text or seeing images/videos, should not be a problem.
There is a fingerprint reader located towards the right side of the chassis above the ThinkPad logo. Users will have to swipe their finger once over the reader if they want to login to their system - you can either login biometrically through the fingerprint reader or alternatively just login with your user account password. You can choose which finger to use for the authentication process from within the ThinkVantage Fingerprint software.
The keyboard has Chiclet style keys which are comfortable to type on and provide very good tactile feedback. As mentioned earlier, the position of certain keys has been changed, for example the scroll buttons are placed alongside the arrow keys. Similarly, the button at the bottom left corner in most keyboards is the Ctrl button, but with in this laptop that space is occupied by the Function (Fn) key. So it would get quite irritating when I would habitually try (unsuccessfully) to copy- paste documents by pressing the left corner most button only to find out that nothing happens - all because that button is the Fn key and not the ctrl key. Luckily, Lenovo has thought ahead and included an option in the BIOS to swap the functionality between the Fn and Ctrl keys. However it has to be noted that since the physical symbols on those keys wont change - the key with the Fn symbol on it will still retain the functionality of the Ctrl button, and vice versa - it will still be confusing, especially for a new user.
Moreover the function keys, F1 through F12, had their alternate functions, such as increasing/decreasing the volume, brightness and so forth, as their main functions. So if you wanted to close a document - Alt-F4 on any other keyboard - in this laptop you would have had to use Alt-Fn-F4. Now this is just tedious. And as with the functionally interchangeable Fn and Ctrl keys, Lenovo has provided for an option in BIOS which allows for the Function keys to retain their original functionality, and only when used in conjunction with the Fn key will their alternate functions be accessible. As with the Ctrl and Fn keys, the symbols on the keys still point to the alternate function being the task that will be accessed if that particular key is pressed, further adding to the confusion. All this just seems to be too much of a hassle - I mean, if Lenovo were going to provide the option for restoring the default positions/functions of these keys, why not have just made the keyboard like that in the very first place. Having the ctrl button at the left most corner, and the Function keys all have their main functionality as the primary symbol imprinted on them, as in most other keyboards, would have really saved me a lot of grief.
The keyboard doesn’t feature backlit keys, unlike the previously reviewed Sony Vaio VPCCB15FG. However it does addresses the issue of providing the user the ability to type under dark or dim light settings - it has a "Think Light", a very handy 'lighting' feature that is positioned at the top of the screen bezel that illuminates the keyboard.
The E420s red TrackPoint is very responsive, although using it does take some getting used to. The 'clickpad', together with the three buttons positioned towards its top, also work well.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 420s laptop features a Intel second generation 2.30 Ghz Intel Core i5-2410M (Sandy Bridge) processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, on-board Intel HD graphics and a 320GB (7200 RPM) hard drive.
The laptop has three USB 2.0 ports, including one eSATA/USB combo, and a powered USB ports, HDMI, headphone cum microphone combo jack, a slot loading DVD writer - with a physical eject button, a multi-card reader and features Wireless N and Bluetooth connectivity. In keeping with the laptop's overall clean design, the SIM card slot, Gigabit Ethernet port, and VGA port which are placed at the back of the laptop. While there is no separate physical switch for enabling/disabling wireless network connectivity, one of the ways that this functionality is activated is by pressing the F9 button - or if u have reversed the button functionality Fn plus F9.
More details can be seen on this review's "Specifications" page.
The laptop comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Professional OS and also comes with handy software bundle. The proprietary software can be found under the ThinkVantage tools section. The ThinkVantage Password Manager, lets you manage you login/password details for the system and web sites. If you haven't set up a password for the particular windows user account through which you started Password Manager, it does prompt you to create one. Then there is Rescue and Recovery (4.3.1) which allows you to restore and backup data. ThinkVantage System Update (4) for searching and then applying the necessary updates to your laptop. ThinkVantage Access Connections (5) for managing local internet profiles. ThinkVantage Power Manager (3) that lets you to manage various power profile and battery options - shows additional power profiles like Maximum Performance, Maximum Battery life, Energy Saver, Power Source Optimized, Video Playback, Timers off and it provides useful information about the battery such as how long it will take for the battery to be fully recharged, the condition of your battery and how much power it consumes. The ThinkVantage Airbag protection which pauses your hard disk when a shock or vibration is detected. Lenovo Simple Tap that allows you an easy way to access certain computer settings such as enabling/disabling wireless connectivity, switching on/off the ThinkLight. The Screen Reading Optimization option is a very handy feature that basically tilts the screen to either a portrait view or landscape view depending on whether your screen is positioned along a vertical of horizontal axis respectively. The ThinkVantage AutoLock software that locks your computer when it detects, through facial feature recognition by using the inbuilt camera, that no one is using the laptop. One has to keep in mind that many of the features discussed here are rather redundant as Windows already provides most of this functionality.
Other preloaded software include Microsoft Office 2010 starter edition, Business-in-a-Box Lite which provides business document templates, Corel DVD Movie Factory Lenovo Edition, and Norton Internet Security 2011 trial edition.
Based on the results of our synthetic benchmarks, this laptop should have no problem in performing most of the multiple processor and memory intensive tasks - an exception would be gaming, and given the integrated gaprhics (an option for a discrete graphics cars is available) this is not an issue as this computer was never intended to be used as such.
The Lenovo E420s had a very good score of 114 on the Worldbench 6 benchmark. During synthetic testing, the laptop's hard disk recorded an average read speed of 73 MB/s and recorded a PC Mark Vantage score of 6599.
Watching both 720p and 1080p HD videos was comfortable. The sound output from the built in speakers, is appropriately loud a single person, although it does sound rather muffled. As always, listening through headphones would be the best option.
Throughout our testing, the E420s did a good job of keeping itself cool, which given it's intended use and how it will mostly be carried around, is a positive characteristic for it to possess. Moreover, the laptop was barely audible during operation, except maybe at start-up, which is another positive to take from this laptop.
The laptop's battery lasted for 1 hour 6 minutes through one of our battery tests, at high performance mode, and with the wireless internet mode enabled. While that statistic is not particularly encouraging, you should be able to extract an average of around 4 plus hours out of the laptop's battery for doing every-day work such as browsing the web and listening to music. Given how the laptop is intended for business folks who will most probably be on the move, this is a workable timeframe in which to find a power outlet to recharge the laptop.
There is a single removable cover at the right side of the chassis, which accommodates the hard drive. Removing this cover was very easy and you can then proceed to comfortably slide out the hard disk. However as an overall unit, the E420s doesn’t give the user the freedom to easily update other hardware components such as memory modules. If you did want to upgrade the other sections, you would have to open the entire base of the laptop and this is not an advisable option for the regular user.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420s does make a case for being your choice as a good, portable small business laptop, but it does have it flaws, which pull it back from earning a higher score. The design makes the E420s stand out, not in a very in-your-face manner, but in a very understated and respectable way, which is appropriate for a professional business setting. If you're willing to look beyond the drawbacks such as the lack of USB 3.0, or that it could have done with a better screen, and are just looking for a laptop that will do the job that it's intended for, then you should definitely check the E420s.
Other Similar Reviews
Acer Aspire 5755G
Lenovo ThinkPad T400s
Apple MacBook Air 11-inch