Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13 (K685)

The ThinkPad Edge series consists of the cheapest ThinkPad models. Our 13.3 inch test model is available for as little as 399 Euros (without an operating system). The hardware may not be high-end but users who are looking for a matt display and first-class input devices will not be disappointed.

Last March (2010), we wrote an in-depth review on the first Edge 13. At that time, the test model had a glossy display and lacked an eSata port. Since then, the manufacturer has also replaced the AMD Turion X2 Neo K625 or L625 (1.5/1.6 GHz) CPU with a Neo K685 (1.80 GHz). The hard disk capacity has increased from 320 to 500 GB. In short: the latest Edge 13 comes with a few new features. So what should buyers expect?

The test model we picked was the cheapest available as it did not include an OS. As the input devices and the connectivity of the device have remained more or less the same, with the exception of the eSata interface, we will not discuss them at length in this review. In the following review we will concentrate on the new features the Edge 13 (NUE2UGE) has to offer.

Specifications Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13 (665D817) :
  • Processor : AMD Turion II Neo K685 1.8 GHz
  • Mainboard : AMD M785
  • Memory : 4096 MB, 2x 2048MB
  • Graphics adapter : ATI Radeon HD 4225 - 256 MB, Core: 382 MHz, Memory: 400 MHz, Catalyst 9.7; 8.632.1.2000
  • Display : 13.3 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, LP133WH2-TLM3, glossy: no
  • Harddisk : Hitachi HTS725050A9A364, 500GB 7200rpm
  • Soundcard : ATI RS690 HDMI @ ATI SB800
  • Connections : 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, Audio Connections: Audio in/out combi, Card Reader: 5-in-1 cardreader (SD (SDHC), MMC, MS, MS Pro, xD),
  • Networking : Realtek RTL8168D/8111D Family PCI-E GBE NIC (10/100/1000MBit), 802.11 b/g/n (bgn), 2.1 +EDR Bluetooth
  • Optical drive
  • Size : height x width x depth (in mm): 25 x 332 x 228
  • Weight : 1.775 kg Power Supply: 0.237 kg
  • Battery : 63 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6-cell, 11.25V
  • Price : 399 Euro
  • Operating System : FreeDos
  • Additional features : Webcam: 2MP, Manuals, None, 12 Months Warranty.
The ThinkPad Edge has good connectivity. On the left side, the notebook offers a fast e-SATA interface which is combined with the third USB 2.0 port. A USB 3.0 port would have crowned the connectivity, however, that port is not (yet) available for notebooks of this price class.

The user will not be able to add extra ports as there is no ExpressCard slot. The placing of a few ports on the back of the device would have been better, but the battery hinders that. The power outlet and the USB 2.0 ports are placed far back on the right side, which means that the respective cables can be wound around the back of the laptop to prevent a clutter.

Sadly, the anti-glare panel from LG-Phillips (Type LP133WH2-TLM3) is nothing exceptional. The display has a 16:9 format and a native resolution of 1.366x768 pixels, which is standard for this form factor. The low contrast of 151:1 is also typical for subnotebooks. The displayed colors are not very strong, and the black areas of the screen seem to have a slight gray sheen.

The low contrast is not due to the matt display of the laptop. A glare type display would show stronger colors but the black value would remain the same. Our first Edge 13 (glare-type) also had a low contrast (164:1). The color space of the panel does not include the sRGB space, which means that it can not display the colors of that spectrum. However, this feature is only important to professional picture editors.

The new ThinkPad Edge 13 still uses an AMD Turion Neo X2. However, this time, instead of the L625 (1.6 GHz, TDP 18 W), the laptop is equipped with the K685 (1.8 GHz, TDP 15 W). The difference is in the specifications of the processor, as the latest processor is a Turion II, which means that it has a form factor of 45 nm (Geneva) instead of the old 65 nm (Congo). That is the reason why despite the higher clock frequency, the power consumption of the new CPU is lower.

The Level 1 cache has doubled (K685: 256 KB), and the Level 2 cache has stayed the same (1024 KB). The Geneva platform supports the faster DDR3 RAM (Congo could only support DDR2) via an integrated controller in the CPU.

The ATI Radeon HD 4225 graphic unit (IGP) is responsible for displaying the graphics on the laptop (Congo platform: HD 3200). The unit runs at a core frequency of 382 MHz, and memory is stored on the main RAM modules (up to 256 MB). The playback and decoding of HD videos is supported by the UVD 2 video decoder. The GPU is DirectX 10.1 ready but is too weak to run latest games.

Was the upgrade from the AMD Congo platform to the Geneva platform worth it? As the L625 (1.6 GHz) processor from the first Edge 13 is no longer available on the market, we used the K625 (1.5 GHz) and the E-350 (1.6 GHz) for our benchmarks. These AMD CPUs lie in the same price range of 330 to 420 Euros. Another alternative, the L325 (1.5 GHz), has not yet been tested by us.

The CPU Multi-Core test Cinebench R11.5 showed an end score of 1.0 points. The K625 (0.9) and the E-350 (0.6) are beaten by the result. The Intel alternative (i3 380UM - 2.1 GHz) also scores 1.0 (Sony Vaio VPC-YA1V9E/B) or 1.1 points (Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 NVY3PPB), but costs 100 Euros more. Other CPU benchmarks such as wPrime 2.0 (small results are better!) and Cinebench R10 Multi 64 Bit confirm the previous result: K625 (1.657/3.327), E-350 (2.200/2.250), 380UM (1.329/4.266). Our K685 reached 1.410/3.839 seconds/points. So among the AMD CPUs, the K685 (our test model) is number one. However, the Intel CPU processes slightly faster.

Can the Intel CPU stay on top in other system benchmarks which also include the HDD, RAM, GPU support? PCMark Vantage calculated a score of 3,753 points for our test model. This is the same score as the Edge 11 which has an i3 380UM and Intel HD Graphics (3,623 points). The AMD alternatives: K625 (3,017; Dell Inspiron M301z) and E-350 (2,293; HP Pavilion dm1-3180eg) are left far behind.

The new PCMark 7 provided a result of 1,235 points. The Edge 11 based on the E-350 (APU) manages to score 1,101 points. The reason for the small difference: PCMark 7 gives a higher score for better hardware support, which in this case is due to the HD 6310 (80 pipelines instead of 40, DirectX 11 instead of 10.1). That is why the HD 4225 got a lower score in this benchmark. Unfortunately, we do not have the results for the 380UM.

The fact that an i3 380UM Edge 13 is faster does not surprise us. Buyers would be picking the slowest Edge 13 laptop if they picked the brand-new E-350 APU. The better 3D performance of the HD 6310 in the APU will not be enough for most users who will have to deal with longer waiting times and weaker system performance. We recommend the buyer pick the K685 CPU, even if it costs a few more Euros.

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