As part of the festivities this week at the 2011 Consumer Electronics show, Lenovo is announcing a slew of new products. Check our other posts for coverage of the other products announcing this week, but we’ll be taking a look at the new ThinkPad Edge E220s and E420s notebooks.
These new notebooks join the Edge lineup focused on small business and add a new premium segment to those models. The 12.5-inch E220s and 14-inch E420s feature soft matte finishes, aluminum-magnesium covers, and a spill-proof keyboard to help them stand above the rest.
Now that you know what type of laptop we’re looking at, let’s ramble through some specs:
|Specs||Edge E220s||Edge E420s|
Sandy Bridge 2011 Core i5/i7 ULV
Sandy Bridge 2011 Core i3/i5/i7
Up 4GB DDR3 (1 DIMM slot)
Up 8GB DDR3 (2 DIMM slots)
Intel HD 2000/3000
Intel HD 2000/3000, Radeon HD 6330M 2GB switchable
250GB-320GB HDD, 128GB SSD, 80GB RapidDrive
12.5-inch HD (1366×768) LED backlit “Infinity”
14-inch HD (1366×768) LED backlit “Infinity”
Slot-loading DVD burner
|Ports||4-in-1 card reader|
(3) USB 2.0 (one with eSATA)
VGA & HDMI output
12.3 x 8.4 x 0.86 inches
13.7 x 9.3 x 0.9-1.2 inches
|Price / Availability|
$899 / April
$749 / April
As you can tell, we’ve got two very similar machines here. The E220s loses the optical drive and some performance for its portability. One important detail that we are still awaiting confirmation on is the Intel HD graphics. Lenovo indicates that the 2000 and 3000 versions will be available on the E220s and E420s. The HD 2000 appears to be nearly identical to the previous Intel HD graphics, whereas the HD 3000 is a true upgrade and offers nearly twice the performance.
Unfortunately the displays aren’t looking to fly up anybody’s skirt. The “Infinity” designation likely refers to an edge-to-edge glass design, which may allow for thinner design but doesn’t necessarily help viewing angles, colors, or the all-important resolution. These should be HD resolution, which is reasonable on the 12.5-inch panel and borderline unsuitable on the 14-inch. Hopefully Lenovo is putting decent panels into their premium systems so we can all experience reasonable color reproduction, while classic ThinkPads keep their washed out look.
A true first for ThinkPad is the optional Lenovo RapidDrive. Previously only available on select IdeaPads, RapidDrive combines a high capacity magnetic hard drive with a smaller portion of Flash memory for the best of both worlds. Your most needed files are stored in the Flash memory, in essence a small SSD, for maximum performance, with your less critical files staying in the cheaper, more plentiful magnetic storage. This provides increased performance without the full cost of an SSD.
Both models also have high performance microphones, keyboard noise suppression technology, and HD low-light capable webcams. The keyboard noise suppression seems to be software based, helping filter out your typing noise while you’re conferencing.
You may also notice a slight gleam around the edge of the new models: these are “ribbon-like” metal accents that seem to be fairly well polished. Hopefully they aren’t garish chrome accents, but a more subtle brushed metal look.
Let’s not forget the “regular” E420 and E520
Lenovo is also announcing two more ThinkPad Edge models: the E420 (no ‘s’ on this one) and E520. These models are far cheaper, less sleek & sexy, and accordingly get less headlines than the premium models. The E420 gains 0.6 pounds and 0.2 inches on its sexy sibling the E420s. While it has the same features on the whole, it also loses the sexy slot loading DVD drive and has a mid-range AMD GPU option. The chubby members of the Edge E Series family will be priced starting at $599 in April.
While a Lenovo rep did indicate the prior Edge 13, 14, 15 models would continue on, it would seem that with the premium 12 & 14-inch models as well as “mainstream” 14 & 15-inch models, the SMB space would be as crowded as the consumer space.
Is this the stylish, alternative ThinkPad?
We’ve got some slick looking new ThinkPads here, aimed at filling out the premium part of the SMB market. They are more stylish and luxurious than the Edge or classic Thinkpad models, with high end feature sets carefully chosen to eliminate un-used bits and save cost. These price points are all a bit above the existing Edge models, which we are told will remain, and will certainly go up hundreds of dollars for the i5/i7, SSD, etc equipped versions.
Broaching the $1000 price point, how would your average computer shopper (or even an SMB owner) compare the new E Series against a classic ThinkPad like the T or X Series? “Classic” ThinkPads were never sold in large numbers to individual or SMB customers, so I don’t expect much if any cannibalization, but I do expect the Edge E220s/E420s to get some more people to consider ThinkPad.
With a more (commonly) aesthetically pleasing design, the newest technology & features (with USB 3.0 being the only conspicuously absent feature), and a reasonable price point, I think this is a notebook that more people are willing to invest in than a classic ThinkPad. Those of us who love the classic, simple ThinkPad design are relatively few and that does hurt ThinkPad adoption, no matter which way you slice it. Perhaps if enough people know about the Edge E220s/E420s, ThinkPad might see more adoption with the “commoners.”