ThinkPad Edge 13 ImpressionsThat "sophisticated simplicity" Lenovo talks about becomes immediately evident by looking at the system with the lid closed. The front bezel is completely featureless. There are no power or Wi-Fi switches nor lid latches to be found. In fact, Lenovo has cut the plethora of LEDs indicators we're accustomed to down to only two on the whole system: one on the outside and one on the inside, for the sole purpose of indicating the system state (on or sleep).
On the right side of the machine is a 5-in-1 card reader (MMC, SD, MS, MS-Pro and xD), a microphone / headphone jack, two USB 2.0 ports and the power connector. The back of the system carries the same metallic band used to unify and frame the system, while on the left we find a Kensington lock slot, ventilation slots, VGA and HDMI ports, an Ethernet jack and another USB 2.0 port.
The bottom of the ThinkPad Edge features two battery latches, additional ventilation slots and a long vertical speaker grill. The Windows Serial Key sticker is located under the battery along with a SIM card slot. Five screws hold the access panel in place, which houses two populated memory slots and the system's hard drive. You'll also find the WiMAX card and provisions for an additional add-in accessory here.
The outer lid is glossy black and certainly acts as a fingerprint magnet. The ThinkPad name is embossed on the bottom right corner with the red dot topping the letter "i" in ThinkPad serving as the external power status LED.
With the lid open we see the glossy 13.3" LCD screen with a webcam and microphone integrated above the display. The bezel is matte black with the Lenovo name printed in white on the bottom left corner. The excessive space above and below the screen looks a bit out of place, unfortunately.
Lenovo made some bold moves with the design, layout and function of the keyboard. Most notably it did away with some keys that most users never use, like SysRq (System Request), Screen Lock and Pause / Break. I fully agree with this decision and also like the placement of the Page Up / Down keys beside the arrow keys.
Another neat idea was to rework how the Function keys operate. Instead of making F1 F12 keys the primary operation for these buttons, Lenovo has set the alternate function as default, so pressing F5 now turns the camera on or off, for example, while holding down the Fn key and pressing F5 will run a refresh.
This actually makes a lot of sense for commonly used operations like screen brightness and volume adjustments, but it might take some time getting used to in other cases -- F2 for renaming, F3 for searching, F5 for refreshing. Thankfully, Lenovo saw fit to include an option to swap this behavior via a BIOS menu option.
Other than that all of the important keys like Backspace, Tab, Shift and Enter are full-size. The spill resistant keyboard uses the island-style keys made popular by Apple and is also similar to the ones we saw on the Acer Timeline. That said, Lenovo's island keys are concave whereas the Timeline had flat top buttons.
A ThinkPad would not be complete without a TrackPoint and the Edge does not disappoint. The TrackPoint is located between the G, H and B keys. For those unfamiliar, this is a pointing device that emulates a mouse pointer using your finger. Lenovo includes an extra set of mouse click buttons directly below the Spacebar for use with the TrackPoint, so you don't have to reach way down under the TouchPad to access them. Between these two buttons is the center button that can be used to scroll through documents or web pages, and can also activate a magnifying glass that enlarges items on the screen.
The touchpad is multi-gesture and has a lot of surface area. The mouse click buttons below it, like the two above, are separate buttons and have more of a button-type feel than other mouse click buttons I have used. I like this tactical feel more than simply an audible clicking noise with no real sense of the button actually being depressed.