The ThinkPad Edge E530 is a 15.6” screen business laptop that’s targeted at small business buyers that might not quite have the budget for the more expensive ThinkPad T530 or simply prefer the options and design that feature a hybrid of business and consumer tastes. The Edge E530 is the update to last years E520, and as the model numbering will suggest this is simply an evolution of that model and there are no drastic changes in terms of design. The biggest change for this year are the internals, you now get the option of configuring the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processors. At the time of this writing, the Core i7-3612QM is the only available 3rd generation Intel Core processor, but that should change when Intel releases its dual core Core i5 Ivy Bridge processors next week. The E530 model under review is actually configured with the Intel Core i3-2350M, which to be honest is likely powerful enough for the average small business user or student that might consider buying this. We’ll cover the performance concerns along with design, battery life and more in this full review.
Before we go much further, here’s a picture of the ThinkPad E530 we have:
And of course it’s important to list the all important specs for the unit under review:
- Processor: Intel Core i3-2350M 2.3GHz dual core (2nd Generation Sandy Bridge processor)
- Memory: 4GB RAM
- Screen: 15.6” 1366 x 768 resolution
- OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- Storage: 320GB 7200RPM HD (Western Digital WD3200BEKT)
- Ports: VGA Monitor out, two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0 (one powered), HDMI, Ethernet RJ-45, media card reader
- Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n
- Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion 62WH
- Weight: 5.4lbs
- Dimensions: 14.84″ x 9.65″ x 1.16-1.39″ (Width x Depth x Thickness)
- Price: Purchased from Lenovo.com for $559 (before taxes, free shipping)
After configuring the E530 on Lenovo.com it took just over two weeks to receive it, there was a build delay involved and the order was placed close to the release date in April, so this is probably an exceptionally long time frame. In the past orders from Lenovo.com have shipped in around 10-days.
Design and Build
The E530 actually has a few different options to vary the design by changing the lid color and finish. You can choose between either a matte black or red finish lid or a more expensive black aluminum top with brush metal finish. The standard design is simply the matte black rubberized lid and that’s what we have on the review unit and you see pictured here. I kind of like the matte black rubberized finish, it’s a little easier to grip if you pick it up and the look is more like the classic ThinkPad. The one design touch on this lid that’s much different to the classic ThinkPads is the red light on the dot above the “i” in ThinkPad, which is kind of a fun touch and breaks up the stodginess. There’s also a silver plastic trim around the edge of the lid to help break up the all black look. The lid closes using tension from the hinge, there’s no latch on the front.
The corners of the E530 are rounded off to prevent any sharp edges and make the look less boxy. The keyboard uses a chiclet / island style design, which is actually what all of the ThinkPads will now be using so it’s interesting to note the Edge series that had this design last year was the precursor for the switch – will a red light on the classic ThinkPad T530 be next? As you would expect with any ThinkPad, you get a red pointing stick (TrackPoint) and multi-navigation buttons at the bottom of the keyboard. For those that prefer a touchpad, you’re in luck, that’s included as well. The touchpad has integrated mouse buttons at the bottom, a la the MacBook design sometimes referred to as a clickpad.
The E530 now uses a drop hinge design, which is different to last years E520 model. That does mean the screen will not go back all the way to 180-degrees open, but it still goes back to around 135 degrees open which will suffice for most users needs.
The E530 weighs in at 5.4lbs, it’s too heavy to carry with one hand but you can still hold and carry it with two hands no problem. And its size is small enough to be able to put it in a standard size backpack, though it is likely going to take up a lot of room and it’s going to weigh you down a bit when you consider the books that might also be in the bag.
In regards to build quality, the casing is all plastic and does not feel as high quality as the flagship T-series ThinkPad, however it’s far from being chintzy and given the $500 starting price tag you’re getting an above average build and durability for the dollars you spend.
The E530 has a 15.6” screen with a standard 1366 x 768 resolution. Lenovo did at one point tout an HD+ 1600 x 900 resolution screen would be available for this model, but to date that option is missing. The only choice you have is between a matte (anti-glare) or glossy screen (VibrantView), both with a 1366 x 768 resolution. It’s certainly disappointing to see the same resolution used on a 15.6” screen laptop that is found on the much smaller ThinkPad X220 and even X130e. For those that have poor eyesight, at least you’ll appreciate the large icons and text you get with the WXGA resolution. Screen resolution junkies looking for HD+ or Full HD will need to look elsewhere.
Discussion of screen resolution aside, the screen has good brightness and the matte finish is certainly appreciated. The E530 screen viewing angles are fairly typical for laptops using the same TN-panel technology, the screen is best viewed straight on perpendicular to the eye, when you tilt the screen to large degrees vertically the colors tend to distort. Here’s a look at various viewing angles:
Processor and Performance
As previously mentioned, you have the option of upgrading the E530 to the latest and greatest Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7 quad core processor, or sticking with a budget friendly Core i3 / i5 Sandy Bridge second generation Core processor. This model uses the base level Core i3-2350m, which is certainly not on the same performance level as the Core i7, but for a majority of users looking to use this for productivity work and research the starting processor option is going to be ample and probably the best choice. It’s power friendly, budget friendly and a great processor in its own right. That all said, if you’re a power user and know more processing power will help you get work done, for instance those that rely on Photoshop to do a lot of photo file processing, then an upgraded processor can certainly help things move along. The Intel HD 4000 graphics you get with the Ivy Bridge platform are also better than the integrated graphics provided by the Intel HD 3000 in the Sandy Bridge family of processors. Those of us that are more pedestrian and are just using Office apps, writing code in an IDE or using a web browser to do work then the Core i3 offering is just fine.
One thing that would really help overall system performance is an SSD instead of typical hard drive. However, at the current time Lenovo does not offer this during configuration, likely because it would blow the budget of many small business buyers they’re targeting. Lenovo does offer a 16GB mini SSD that’s designed to boost hard drive performance by acting as a cache, sort of like memory but with more capacity. It’s a $60 upgrade, which is pretty steep and probably not worth it for most as its hard to quantify the performance boost. Although there’s no way to get dedicated SSD in the E430 at purchase, you can always upgrade on your own after the fact. Also, the standard 320GB hard drive included with the E530 is a 7200RPM spinning variety, which is faster than the average offered in consumer notebooks.
I ran some benchmarks on the E530 so you can get an idea for what the performance is like on the system as configured. First up is the always popular but not so useful Windows Experience Index:
The Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics are indicated as being the bottleneck here with a 4.8 score. If you were to upgrade to the Intel Ivy Bridge processor platform that has Intel HD 4000 graphics the score would be much higher, in the low 6 range.
The benchmark program PCMark Vantage is a good program for generating an overall performance score of a laptop. The E530 scored 5,843 PCMarks:
Here’s a comparison of that score to other similar notebooks:
PCMark Vantage Benchmark Results
|Laptop||PCMark Vantage Score|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E530 – Intel Core i3-2350M 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||5,843 PCMarks|
|SONY VAIO SA – Intel Core i5-2430M, AMD 6750M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||7,007 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM||6,056 PCMarks|
|Dell Vostro 3450 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30Ghz, 4GB RAM||5,901 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron N411z – Intel Core i3-2330m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM||5,285 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T420 – Intel Core i3-2310m 2.1GHz, 2GB RAM||3,204 PCMarks|
With the configuration of this review unit there are no high score awards to be won, but any score above 5,000 on PCMark Vantage indicates very capable performance that will meet or exceed most business user or student needs. Tasks such as Full HD video playback via HDMI will be smooth, you can have tons of browser tabs open at the same time and be fine. You’re not going to run into a program that can’t run on this machine unless it’s a cutting edge game, and if your aim is to find a gaming laptop then you’re barking up the wrong tree here!
Keyboard and Touchpad
The ThinkPad Edge E530 has a chiclet style keyboard, the same design as that found in the new classic ThinkPad lineup such as the ThinkPad X230 we recently previewed. The keyboard on the E530 isn’t quite up to par with the regular ThinkPads, it doesn’t have exactly the same feel, for instance the keys are a little more loose and don’t have the same travel distance. However, it’s still a good keyboard in its own right and very comfortable to type on. The fact you get both a pointing stick and touchpad, offering a choice of cursor navigation, is great. Long time ThinkPad users will feel right at home using the trackpoint and those that prefer the touchpad will find the E530 has an ample size touchpad due to its integrated mouse button styling.
The E530 keyboard is nice and spacious, you will notice on the right side there’s a number pad integrated, a popular feature for number crunchers such as accountants. This is one way in which the E530 differentiates itself from the smaller ThinkPad E430 that does not have a built-in number pad. The fingerprint reader you see next to the touchpad is also a standard feature, this can be used as an alternative to using a password login, be it passwords for Windows or websites.
ThinkPad E530 Battery Life
You can configure the Edge E530 with either a 6-cell 48WH or 62WH battery, this review unit has the higher capacity 62WH. The battery is replaceable, meaning you can take it out and swap in a spare new battery whenever you need to and there’s no need to mail the laptop to Lenovo once the battery doesn’t hold a charge 3-years down the road.
To test the battery life of the ThinkPad E530 I set the brightness level to the 3rd notch, set the Windows power settings to “Power Saver”, left wireless on and a browser window open that refreshed every 60 seconds. Under this usage scenario the battery lasted a rather amazing 7 hours and 30 minutes (7.5 hours). That means if you’re doing more intensive work such as watching streaming Full HD video and using the screen at full brightness you should be able to get up to 5 hours of battery life, this is very good for a laptop of this size.
ThinkPad E530 Input and Output Ports
The ThinkPad E530 comes with a decent amount of ports, valuable to some is the fact it has an HDMI port instead of the DisplayPort used on regular ThinkPads. HDMI is more ubiquitous among flat panel TVs and makes it easy to plug in to your 40”+ TV in the living room and stream Netflix or Youtube videos to that should you so choose. Here’s a tour of what ports you get on which sides of the E530 notebook:
On the left side you get a VGA monitor out port, 1 USB 2.0 port, 2 USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port
On the right side you get 1 USB 2.0 port that is powered (allowing you to charge devices such as a cell phone via USB), an Ethernet RJ-45 port and headphone/microphone combo port
The SD card reader is located on the front right side of the E530
From this reviewers perspective Lenovo has all the major bases covered here for port selection for the average user. It’s missing the ExpressCard slot seen on classic ThinkPads but most small business users and students don’t need the accessories or expandability that offers.
Heat & Noise
The Edge E530 has a large heat vent located on the left side. The E530 is quite thick so there’s plenty of room for ventilation inside. While the E530 is heavy at 5.4lbs, it stays cool enough to use on your lap. The only question is whether the weight will be too much for you or not! Under normal usage the fan rarely came on so you won’t be that annoying person in the room with a loud laptop fan.
Many small business buyers and students are on a budget and can’t afford the $1,000+ ThinkPad T530. If that’s the case for you, the ThinkPad Edge E530 is a nice alternative. You still get great build quality and a top notch keyboard. Granted, it’s not quite on par with the more expensive enterprise focused T530, but it’s better than an average consumer grade laptop. You might even prefer the design of the E530 over the T530 as it’s less boxy, using curved edges and having different lid color options. You also get an HDMI port, something not offered in the T530, and yet it’s a port that many people look for when buying a laptop.
Downsides to the E530 include a lack of options for the screen resolution, at the time of this writing the only thing available is a 1366 x 768 resolution screen. There are no dedicated graphics options nor dedicated SSD storage, though you can certainly upgrade that after purchase. If you were hoping for an integrated docking station solution like you get with regular ThinkPads – sorry, there is no such thing.
Those are all minor complaints and maybe not even pertinent to your needs and concerns. For many people looking for a budget friendly 15” screen laptop that’s both well built and well rounded with features the ThinkPad Edge E530 is nice choice.
- Optional Intel Ivy Bridge processor for extra performance, or budget friendly Intel Sandy Bridge Core i3 / i5
- Great starting price of around $500
- Sturdy build quality
- Nice keyboard with both touchpad and trackpoint, built in number pad
- Good battery life, over 7 hours with conservative usage
- No HD+ screen resolution option, 1366 x 768 resolution only
- No docking station connector or Express Card slot to easily expand port selection
- Thick and quite heavy for its size