Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 (K345)

Key downgrade. Lenovo tinkers around on its budget ThinkPad and gives the mini a matt screen as well as a new Athlon processor. However, we're taken aback in view of the 32 watt hour battery. Will the upgrade downgrade the previously very good mobility?

The first ThinkPad Edge 11 with an Intel Core i3-380UM (1.33 GHZ) struggled its way through our tests in November 2010. We were delighted about the viable application performance, the screen's high resolution and the extensive communication equipment (3G). The only thing that didn't evoke enthusiasm was the glare screen.

The Edge 11 with AMD Athlon II Neo K325 (1.3 GHz) also followed in November 2010 and excelled the Intel version with a better battery life (low load). The reflective 11.6 inch display however was also a thorn in our side here.

In the meantime, Lenovo has remedied the glare type problem and offers its Edge 11 in the Intel and AMD configurations with an anti-glare screen. Besides the expensive Intel version (starts at 536 euros), the aggressively priced AMD configurations with Athlon II Neo can be found. Our test device is the Black Smooth alternative with matt black surfaces. Price: starts at 369 euros.
  • Athlon II Neo K125 (1.70 GHz, 2048MB, 320GB, 658D835, glare)
  • Athlon II Neo X2 K325 (1.30 GHz, 2048MB, 320GB, 658D817, glare)
  • Athlon II Neo X2 K345 (1.40 GHz, 4096MB, 320GB, 665D830)
  • Athlon II Neo X2 K345 (1.40 GHz, 4096MB, 320GB, 665D829, test device)
Which strengths does the new CPU have? Is there still a performance difference to the Core i3-380UM? Can the battery life of 5 hours be maintained? Will the matt screen be suitable for use out in the sun? This test update about the Edge 11 answers all these questions.

Specifications Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 (665D830) :
  • Processor : AMD Athlon II Neo K345 1.4 GHz
  • Mainboard : AMD M785
  • Memory : 4096 MB, PC3-10600 (667 MHz)
  • Graphics adapter : ATI Radeon HD 4225 - 256 MB, Core: 382 MHz, Memory: 400 MHz, 8.753.0.0
  • Display : 11.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, LP116WH1-TLP1, glossy: no
  • Harddisk : WDC WD3200BEVT, 320GB 5400rpm
  • Soundcard : ATI RS690 HDMI @ ATI SB800
  • Connections : 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: combined headphone/microphone jack, Card Reader: 4in1 cardreader,
  • Networking : Realtek RTL8168D/8111D Family PCI-E GBE NIC (10/100/1000MBit), Thinkpad 1x1 11b/g/n Wireless LAN PCI Express Half Mini Card Adapter (bgn), 2.1 + EDR Bluetooth
  • Optical drive
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 30 x 284 x 211
  • Weight : 1.353 kg Power Supply: 0.244 kg
  • Battery : 32 Wh Lithium-Ion, 11.1V 2800mAh
  • Price : 399 Euro
  • Operating System : FreeDos
  • Additional features : Webcam: 0.3MP 640x480, none, 12 Months Warranty.
The handy case doesn't try to attract attention with fragility. The weight of 1353 grams is average for 11.6 inchers. For example, the Aspire One 722 weighs 1400 grams, and a Vaio YB1S1E/S has a weight of 1431 grams. The angular case with rounded edges is bulky to hold and we clearly sense that we are dealing with a serious work device.

Alike the 13.3 incher, the i-dot in both ThinkPad logos light up with a small red LED (permanent on / altering standby). Our model "Black Smooth" refers to the haptically non-slip but nevertheless smooth surfaces of wrist-rest and lid. To call them velvety would be exaggerated. It's more like light rubber that is mixed in the paint. This provides grip and prevents fingerprints to the largest extent.

There is a small handle on the display's silver band to open the laptop. If you try to take hold of the lid in the center, you could accidentally pull up the touchpad keys as well. They close flush with the display lid and base unit. It seems as if the display is to be pulled up here because the gap between the moveable touchpad keys and the base unit are larger here than between the display lid and base unit.

The plastic case bids very good pressure stability and the base unit's and display's torsional stiffness is excellent for this price range. The display bezel that yields when pressure is applied is a small flaw. The battery fits tight in the case. However, it leaves a gap above the keyboard when it's removed.

The hinges are identical with the 13.3 incher's. The small metal hinges are mounted tightly on the case. They have a firm hold on the lid and it doesn't teeter. The wide opening angle of 180 degrees is perfect for such a small device. It allows you to see what's on the screen in tight spatial conditions. Both hands are needed for opening or increasing the opening angle due to the base unit's low weight.

There is no transportation fastener (latch). Small objects could penetrate and damage the screen since the lid opens a few centimeters. While these latches have disappeared in consumer notebooks, many business laptops still have one.

Our test device its the new Edge 11 AMD standard configuration on the market. The Athlon II Neo X2 K345 (1.40 GHz, Champlain) replaces the somewhat lower clocked K325 (1.3 GHz, Geneva) from the same type. Apart from the clock rate, there is no difference between the CPUs. The level 2 cache is still small with 256 KB and the TDP of 12 watts is still suitable for subnotebooks (45 nm structure width).

The incorporated GPU, AMD Radeon HD 4225 (up to 256 MB shared memory) is maintained and has the same clock rates as in the K325-Edge (core clock: 382 MHz, memory clock: 2775 MHz). The system is accompanied by a 4096 MB DDR3 memory and a slow rotating 320 GB hard disk from Western Digital.

The CPU benchmarks barely measure the change from K325 to K345 and are therefore actually irrelevant for the consumer. The K325 (0.7 points) and the K345 (0.8) are very close in Cinebench R11.5 CPU 64 bit. Wprime 1024 shows that the difference is almost negligible (fewer seconds is faster): K325 (1884s) and K345 (1742s). Another test, Cinebench R10, confirms this: K325 (2518 points) and K345 (2787). Thus, the difference is around 10-12%.

The Intel alternative runs overall faster through these tests. The i3-380UM (2x1.33GHz) manages 1.1 points (R11.5), 1329 seconds (Wprime) and 4266 points (R10) in the synthetic CPU benchmarks. The speed advantage with i3 thus equals 24 to 41%. It is primarily Hyper Threading (calculating on four threads on two cores) that brings advantages in multi-tasking.

The PCMark Vantage test adds up the overall performance and rates the interplay of CPU, Radeon graphics, RAM and HDD. The graphics performance plays an inferior role, but the hard disk's speed has a high impact. The Edge achieves a total score of 2409 points. Thus, the Edge clearly surpasses a Lenovo X100e with older hardware (Athlon Neo MV-40, HD3200, 1387 points). The K325 Edge is on a par with 2486 points. The Edge's Intel version can set itself apart clearly from this with 3619 points.

Potential buyers ought to consider the following should the ThinkPad Edge E125 (11 inch) or X120e with the Fusion APU, E-350 "Brazos", be launched onto the German market: Fusion will speed up certain applications with the faster Radeon HD 6310 (compared to HD 4225), but the overall application performance could be lower. For example, the HP Pavilion dm1-3180eg with this APU only accomplishes 2277 points in PCMark Vantage. First the brand new PCMark 7 gives the HD 6310 a bit more credit like the Lenovo ThinkPad X120e shows: 1101 points versus 1003 points of our Edge 11 K345.

The Edge reaches 980 points in 3DMark2006. Thus, the Radeon HD 4225 is clearly inferior to a HD 6310 (3588, Acer Aspire 5253) of future Edge laptops with Fusion APU E-350. Even the HD netbooks with the C-50 APU partly have more 3D power: Aspire One 521 (1046 3DMarks06), Asus Eee PC 1015PN (1155), Asus Eee PC 1015B (1411) and Aspire One 722 (1460). 3DMark 11 and Unigine Heaven couldn't be executed due to the lack of DirectX 11.

The installed HD 4225 only manages 2.85 points in Cinebench R11.5's OpenGL test. All previous Fusion notebooks were clearly in the lead with 7.5 points (E-350) and 5.0 points (C-50) here.

Lenovo no longer relies on Hitachi but on Western Digital for the mass memory. However, the capacity of 320 GB stays the same. The HDTune rates of the 5400 rpm HDD turn out fairly low, as expected. The average in sequential read is 70 MB/s. CrystalDiskMark uses a different routine and determines a more comprehensive picture about the through puts during the read/write of small and large data packages (92 MB/s).

The low figures in read and write performance of random 4K blocks is striking (0.48 / 1.0 MB/s). This slowness is however typical for rotating HDDs because the write/read heads have to first be placed in position mechanically every time. This takes a lot of time and can only be remedied by an SSD.

Gaming: No issue for the Edge 11

There are better entry level cores than the HD 4225 for gaming, which we prove with a random test with Left4Dead. Zombie hunting runs even slower on the Edge 11 than on the 13.3 inch Edge with a higher clocked K685. It's only smooth in the utmost minimum resolution of 640x480 pixels (low details). This results in a just still smooth game play of 29 fps (34 fps, Edge 13 K685). The frames cave-in in high details with 1024x768: 12 fps (13 fps, Edge 13 K685).

Short: The Edge 11 K345 isn't suitable for gaming. If you'd like to add "a bit" more 3D to your work life, you should take a look at the upcoming Edge devices with a Fusion E-350 (11.6 inch: Lenovo ThinkPad X120e / X121e, Edge E125).

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