The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E425 is an AMD powered version of the popular ThinkPad E420 that I reviewed back in June. The ThinkPad E425 is the same as the E420 in every way but for two key features: it has a different chipset and starts at a cheaper price. So how does the Edge E425 perform compared to its cousin the E420 and are the savings worth it? Read on to find out!
First, let’s take a look at the specs for the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E425 being reviewed:
The base starting price of the ThinkPad E425 is $479 but the processor upgrade I made from the AMD E2-3000M to the A4-3300M was a $20 upgrade and so the final price before taxes was $499. Shipping was Free as it always is at Lenovo.com.
The Edge E425 was purchased directly from Lenovo.com, the price of this configuration at the time of order was $499. The order was placed on 10th may and the laptop shipped 7-days later on the 12th. The shipping was via UPS ground and it took until the 18th for the laptop to make it to my door. The box was rather beat up upon arrival, I firmly believe UPS and FedEx are on a mission to torture test laptops before they arrive at you. If they can survive UPS Ground, they can probably survive whatever you dish out to it:
Luckily the laptop inside was undamaged despite the crushed in the left side of the box. The E425 was resting snugly between some cardboard and plastic supports inside:
Below you can see everything you get in the box which includes the ThinkPad Edge E425 laptop itself, power adapter and cord, battery and various manuals:
The 14” screen ThinkPad Edge E425 was announced in August of 2011 but didn’t see the light of day until the end of September 2011. Right now configurations for sale are somewhat limited, when announced Lenovo listed several AMD Fusion processors that would be available for configuration but at this time there are only two processor choices and the most powerful is the rather humble AMD A4-3300M.
The ThinkPad E425 is geared towards business buyers with a small budget, but it can also work well as a student laptop since it is very reasonably priced and durable, both key features to look for in a student laptop. The starting price of $479 helps make the Edge E425 interesting, you get a laptop that has many of the features of the more expensive ThinkPad line at a much lower price point. The design may also appeal more to those that don’t dig the black and boxy look of the typical ThinkPad. The E425 uses a more rounded design and has consumer touches such as a chiclet keyboard and a couple of blinking lights on it. Thankfully it does not have the glossy screen popular in consumer notebooks, Lenovo stuck to a matte (anti-glare) screen that business notebooks typically have. So you get a nice blend of a few consumer design touches but keep enough of a business notebook characteristics to make it still fit well as a professional-looking work laptop.
The ThinkPad E425 has curved edges that are very noticeable when viewed from above with the lid closed. This adds a bit of a design touch over other more boxy ThinkPads such as the T420. Speaking of design touches, Lenovo went as far as to add blinking lights to the “i” in ThinkPad. Whether you consider this cool or tacky depends on your design tastes.
Open up the lid of the E425 and you’ll be presented with a chiclet-style keyboard, which isn’t typical for ThinkPad laptops. Chiclet keyboards are much more common in consumer laptops, but the more modern look will appeal to small business buyers who often use their work laptops for personal use as well. The design surprises end right about there because the rest of the story is that the E425 is all black just like any other ThinkPad. It also has the red pointing stick in the middle, a laptop couldn’t be called a ThinkPad without this iconic touch. It also has the blue Enter button and blue striped mouse buttons that all other ThinkPads have. Upon opening the lid the chiclet keyboard is a non-standard ThinkPad touch you’ll notice but one that’s more common among consumer laptops these days. It’s certainly a more modern look. Outside of that the Edge E420 is still all black and uses the same logos as other ThinkPad’s, it has the red pointing stick and red and blue striped mouse buttons common on all ThinkPads. Overall the design a nice balance between a fully-fledged ThinkPad and IdeaPad consumer notebook from Lenovo.
The ThinkPad E425 has a rubberized texture lid which makes it easy to grip when carrying and a silver plastic trims along the sides of the lid. The lid does not use any type of latch mechanism to stay closed, so there is no need to push or slide a button to raise the lid, you simply flip the lid open. Closing the lid is nice and easy to do, Lenovo uses a soft close hinge so even if you slam the laptop lid closed the hinges will prevent the lid from slamming down on the keyboard and instead softly close. When in the open position the hinges hold the screen firmly in place, there is no wobbling of the screen as you type, the hinges also do a nice job of holding the screen down when the lid is closed.
The ThinkPad Edge E425 weight is 4.6lbs according to my handy Salter kitchen scales, this is about average for a 14” laptop. It’s lighter than the ThinkPad T420 that weighs in a 4.8lbs. The travel weight of the ThinkPad E425 when you add in the power adapter goes up to 5lbs 6 ounces as the adapter brick and cord weigh exactly 1lb.
The E425 ranges from 1.10” thick at the front to 1.29” thick at the back, so it’s not exactly a “thin and light” 14-inch laptop, but it also won’t break your back to carry around for short distances either.
The major differentiator between the Edge E425 and E420 is the fact the E425 has an AMD Fusion chipset while the E420 uses Intel’s Core i3 and i5 Sandy Bridge chipset. AMD boasts that its Fusion chipset will give better graphics performance and battery life. The AMD processor aboard this review unit is the A4-3300M and is part of the Llano family of AMD processors. The processor is dual-core and has a clock speed of 1.90GHz and can overclock to 2.50GHz. It’s fairly comparable on paper to the Intel Core i3-2310m processor, which is Intel’s budget play in its latest Sandy Bridge lineup of Core i3 and Core i5 processors. The A4-3300M has an integrated Radeon HD 6480G graphics card which is the supposed advantage the AMD Fusion family has over competing Intel processors – it can boast decent graphics and video decoding performance but still, play nice with battery life. While the AMD 6480G does have DirectX 11 support and the new UVD3 video decoder, it’s still considered on par with an entry-level dedicated graphics cards and will not enable you to turn the E425 into a gaming machine. As far as video playback and decoding, I viewed several 1080p videos on YouTube.com such as the Kung Fu Panda 2 trailer and playback were seamless with the processor usage hovering around 50% during playback of the 1080p HD video.
ThinkPad Edge E425 PCMark Score: 3,784
ThinkPad Edge E425 3DMark Score: 2,290
ThinkPad Edge E425 Windows Experience Index Score: 4.7
The ThinkPad T420i that was benchmarked was unfortunately hobbled by 2GB of graphics and a slow 5400RPM hard drive. The E425 benefits from 4GB of RAM and a 7200RPM hard drive to give it a performance boost. Bottom line, overall the AMD A4-3300M is probably almost as fast as the Intel Core i3-2310m processor, but not quite. Notebookcheck.net claims that the performance of the AMD A4-3300M is “clearly worse than similar clocked Sandy Bridge processors” but that’s a little harsh, it’s close and each processor has different benefits.
Interestingly Lenovo claims the ThinkPad E425 gets around 8.3 hours of battery life on their website. That’s a very precise number for battery life, and quite frankly overinflated based on what I was able to achieve with the E425. For a battery rundown test, I put the E425 into the Lenovo Balanced Power mode, set screen brightness to level 4 out of 15, left wi-fi turned on, and then opened a web page that refreshed every 60-seconds. I forced the screen to remain on and then started up BatteryMon to test the battery run downtime. 4 hours and 46 minutes later the E425 hit 5% battery life remaining and went into hibernate. That’s over 3 hours short of the claimed 8+ hour battery life claimed by Lenovo. You can of course dim screen brightness further, turn off wi-fi, and do all sorts of other things to squeeze out more battery, but there’s little chance of gaining another 3 hours magically. I’d say 6 hours is the most you could squeeze out of the E425, and it’d take putting the laptop in a near vegetable idle state to achieve that, 8 hours is out of the question.
Still, close to 5 hours of battery life with conservative usage isn’t bad. A more realistic usage scenario with the screen brighter and more intensive tasks being performed such as video playback would bring you closer to 4 hours of battery life. That’s not bad, but it doesn’t break any records and 14” screen laptops do better. The E425 does just sneak by the E420 with better battery life, I got 4 hours and 9 minutes on the E420 using the same test that netted 4 hours and 46 minutes on the E425.
The ThinkPad Edge E425 has a 14.0” 1366 x 768 matte screen with a standard 1366 x 768 resolution. The screen isn’t going to blow anyone away with its features, overall it’s a very average screen. The brightness level is fine, viewing angles typical for a laptop, resolution exactly average, and the color richness nothing to write home about. In other words, the screen is just fine for everyday business application usage but it can be a little disappointing when it comes to movie watching as the screen is slightly grainy and has a warm yellow hue, whites are not perfectly white.
It’s too bad there is no option for a screen upgrade such as a better resolution, the ThinkPad T420 offers a higher resolution HD+ (1600 x 900) screen which is great for fitting more of a web page or Excel sheet on a page. At the cost of sounding overly negative, praise is due for the choice of a matte screen that is anti-glare. Lenovo could have gone with a glossy screen finish as another consumer touch to the laptop, but they opted for the more business-friendly matte screen. Having a matte screen is important if you have to stare at the screen 8 hours a day for work, glossy screens give off a lot of reflection and can cause eye strain.
Some different angle pictures of the ThinkPad Edge E425 screen:
The Edge E425 comes with a built-in web camera with 720p video quality recording and a built-in microphone so that you’re ready to go with Skype out of the box.
The ThinkPad Edge E425 keyboard uses a chiclet-style design. This is one noticeable difference between the regular ThinkPad and the Edge series, the enterprise targeted ThinkPad sticks with the same design used for several years now. I prefer the regular style ThinkPad keyboard, from time to time I do find myself catching a finger under a key on the E425 chiclet keyboard. Since keys have more space and clearance under them with this design I have experienced catching my finger under the “J” key as I move from having pushed the “M” key and move up to pushing the “Y” key. Take a look at the keyboard layout and you might imagine how this happens, it’s a little hard to put in words.
Other than this minor complaint that is related to chiclet keyboards in general, the E425 keyboard is very good. It feels much like a regular ThinkPad keyboard — each key has a nice travel distance and a very solid stroke, there is no flex or “clickety-clack”. The keyboard allows you to move your fingers fast and the noise is minimal even if you have a punishing keystroke. The Page Up and Page Down keys are very small and poorly located, there’s no way you’ll be able to use them in a touch type fashion. The top row of function keys are also shrunken to fit the keyboard, this isn’t a big deal but if you’re clumsy or have big hands then it could be irritating to have to peck at such small buttons to adjust things such as volume and screen brightness. One thing I do like is that the top row of keys function as media buttons first and foremost, so for instance if you hit the button labeled F1 it mutes the volume. You have to hold in the Fn key + F1 to get it to perform the typical F1 function which is generally opening a Help menu in an application.
The touchpad on the E425 is large and nice and easy to move the cursor around the screen if you prefer the touchpad over the pointing stick. I tend to use the red pointing stick Lenovo puts in the middle of the keyboard, it’s nice to have this feature on a laptop that costs only $500 – generally, it’s reserved for expensive $1,000+ business laptops. Either way, having multiple methods of mouse input means you can choose which works best for you and that’s a plus. The touchpad and mouse buttons overall work great, the touchpad offers to scroll and zooming gestures. The only minor knock I can give is that the two mouse buttons below the touchpad are rather chintzy – use the red striped buttons above the touchpad and you’re set as they’re excellent and easy to reach while touch typing.
The input and output ports you get on a laptop is of course an important aspect. The E425 has a good number of ports, certainly enough to satisfy most small business usage scenarios. Here’s a look around the E425 to see what ports are located where:
On the left side you get a VGA monitor out port, 3 USB 2.0 ports one of which is a combo eSata / USB 2.0 port, an HDMI port, headphone/microphone combo port, and media card reader slot.
On the back of the E425 you just get an Ethernet port, it is Gigabit enabled.
On the right side, you get a 34mm ExpressCard slot for expansion, 1 USB 2.0 port that is powered so you can charge devices such as a SmartPhone via USB even when the laptop is turned off. The power jack is on the back right side. Notice the optical drive is here on the right side too.
There are no ports located on the front of the Edge E420, the forward-facing speakers are located here.
The ThinkPad E425 does not have the latest USB 3.0 port technology, but the eSata port is a fine substitute to allow for fast data transfer to an external hard drive. It’s interesting to note that Lenovo went with an HDMI port, normally business notebooks include a DisplayPort, but since the E425 is a blend of business and consumer they went with the more TV-friendly HDMI port.
The Edge E425 uses a large vent on the back left side and since this isn’t an extremely thin laptop there’s plenty of ventilation for the components inside which results in an overall cool running laptop and legs that remain to burn free. The fans rarely came on during normal usage, you wouldn’t need to worry about disrupting meetings with loud fan noise. It seems the cooling system and processor have been well designed to keep the E425 at a comfortable temperature and free of excessive noise.
The AMD Fusion powered ThinkPad E425 is priced right at under $500 for a decent configuration. The build quality is very good for such a priced laptop and it is overall a very practical purchase. The performance is good enough for most tasks a student would need it for. If you’re an engineering student in need of a workstation for 3D design then the graphics card onboard the E425 will not be powerful enough. As far as the decision between the Intel-powered ThinkPad E420 and AMD powered E425, it’s a tough call, but overall the Intel Core i3 gives slightly better performance over the comparable AMD Fusion processors, but you do get a slightly better graphics to boost thanks to the integrated AMD 6470m. The E425 with the AMD Fusion APU also has better battery life compared to the E420. If you can afford to configure the ThinkPad Edge E420 with a Core i5-2410m processor you’re going to get much better performance than the E425 AMD A4-3300M Fusion equipped, so if you don’t mind paying for an upgrade to the Core i5 that’s my overall recommendation. If you cannot afford the upgrade and want to stay under $500, the Edge E425 could be a better bet, especially if battery life and graphics performance are important to you.