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ThinkPad Edge or faster cheap laptop?
March 13, 2013 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Is the quality of the ThinkPad Edge worth the performance hit? Critique my nearly-made laptop purchasing choice!

I’m looking at buying a 15.6" (no smaller) laptop for computationally light use: web browsing, Office applications and occasional watching of online video. Build quality and longevity is more important, so I’ve been looking at ThinkPads, which given the smallish budget means the E series. I’m aware that ThinkPad Edges are nowhere near as well-made as T series or X series, but I think they’re still a step up from entry-level laptops. Correct me if I’m wrong!

Within the budget available, the best ThinkPad deal I can find is the E530 (i3 2328M / 4GB RAM / 500GB 7200 / 6 cell battery / LED backlight 1366x768 screen). That’s only a 2nd generation i3, so I looked at what I could get elsewhere.

As a comparison, for a little more money, I can get a Dell Inspiron with i3-3227U / 4GB RAM / 500GB 5400 / 4 cell battery / WLED 1366x768 screen. So, better CPU and better screen. The Thinkpad has a slightly faster HD and a better battery, though the 2nd gen i3 is less efficient than the 3rd, as I understand it. Oh, and the ThinkPad comes with Win8 Pro, rather than vanilla Win8 on the Dell.

My question is whether the specification advantages of the Dell are enough that I should consider it. Given the light use outlined above, is there any reason I shouldn’t go for the ThinkPad or will it show its age in terms of performance very soon?

Bonus question: Whatever I buy, I’m planning to upgrade the RAM and add an SSD at some point. I think probably double the RAM straight away and add the SSD in a year or two when finances allow and SSD speed has further improved. Anything wrong with that plan?

Note that I’m buying in the UK. I haven’t given prices, as I’m more interested in performance comparisons, but I want to be closer to £300 than £350. If you have a specific alternative in the UK that’s better than my options above, please share it. I have spent some time looking into this, so suggestions I try ‘Dell Outlet’ or ‘get a refurbished T series on eBay’ aren’t helpful without a specific suggestion in my price range.
posted by Busy Old Fool to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can't speak to the build quality between the ThinkPad and the Inspiron, but I'd expect the battery life and slightly faster drive on the ThinkPad to balance out the faster CPU/GPU and better screen on the Inspiron. My three year old laptop has the first generation i3 mobile CPU, and the only time I ever see performance issues is with extremely heavy JavaScript use in Firefox. (Performance is better in Chrome, but I prefer Firefox for other reasons.)

Given your usage, the SSD will likely be a bigger bang-for-the-buck upgrade than the RAM. I understand finances are an obstacle at present, but there's not much need to wait for speed purposes. And, with the industry consolidating, there's no indication that prices will drop significantly, though I do imagine capacity per dollar will increase over time.
posted by maxim0512 at 4:34 PM on March 13, 2013


I had to use an E series Thinkpad for the better part of a year and it was hands-down the single worst laptop I have ever had to bear with for an extended amount of time.

The keyboard was horrible, the wireless kept dropping, and the viewing angles on that god-aweful screen meant I had to either keep tilting the screen or shifting my position just to see the whole picture [admittedly this was on an older non-LED model].

I highly recommend you turn around, run away, and never look back.
posted by xqwzts at 5:02 PM on March 13, 2013


Just wanted to add, I actually went through two of the Thinkpads as the first one's keyboard didn't last more than four months.
posted by xqwzts at 5:04 PM on March 13, 2013


You will hate a 15in 1366x768 screen very quickly. They're awful. I had serious trouble finding a system without one though. Before I even start, I'd also like to note that brand is pretty irrelevant with these 15in cheap commodity machines with the 720p screens. They're almost identical internally.

I'm at work waiting on a bunch of file system scans, so I decided to go through every major brands UK outlet/refurb shop. Lenovo was a crapshoot, dell as well, asus had a few slightly better deals. look at the k53e models. You can get one with a quad 2nd gen i7 for under 400 pounds!. The k73 also has a 1600x900 screen which would be a huge improvement over the 720p screens, but it's also a 17 incher. Either option is better than the dells and the Lenovo edge though.

Acer makes a seriously strong showing here. Look at this, for £289 you get what the other companies are charging >300 or even 350 for. And you get 6gb of ram and a 1tb hdd too! The rest of their site was fairly uninspiring though.

I would also like to add that I love the British English on some of these sites. "Certified A1 condition with no broken bits!"

Honestly though, for this price range I'd just go to eBay.co.uk and search "i7" or "i5" in the laptops and notebooks section, and refresh for a day or so looking at ending soonest. You'll probably get something better that way in this price range anyways. The brand basically doesn't matter with these basic 15 inchers, as I said. Msi, asus, acer, toshiba, gateway, Packard, dell, Lenovo. They're all basically the same thing with these specific types of models.
posted by emptythought at 6:05 PM on March 13, 2013


Is the "Edge" really a ThinkPad or does it belong to the cheaper set of laptops made by Lenovo in China?
posted by xammerboy at 6:05 PM on March 13, 2013


Is the "Edge" really a ThinkPad or does it belong to the cheaper set of laptops made by Lenovo in China?

All Thinkpads are made by Lenovo in China and have been for many years now. The "business" Thinkpad model is generally prefaced with a "t" (e.g t420). These are much more expensive that what the OP is looking at.
posted by smoke at 8:25 PM on March 13, 2013


I had to use an E series Thinkpad for the better part of a year and it was hands-down the single worst laptop I have ever had to bear with for an extended amount of time.

The keyboard was horrible, the wireless kept dropping, and the viewing angles on that god-aweful screen meant I had to either keep tilting the screen or shifting my position just to see the whole picture [admittedly this was on an older non-LED model].


That's a useful data point, thanks. Do you have experience of laptops in the same price range which you found to be better?

As you say, the screen won't be the same, but the poor wifi, ergonomics and reliability you experienced is worrying. I'll make sure the eventual user checks an E series keyboard before purchase.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 12:18 AM on March 14, 2013


...brand is pretty irrelevant with these 15in cheap commodity machines with the 720p screens. They're almost identical internally.

Interesting. I thought that by buying a ThinkPad Edge, I was moving slightly out of the most basic range. I took it that the IdeaPad and G-series Lenovos were the commodity machines, so it's good to know that the E series is much the same in terms of build.

You will hate a 15in 1366x768 screen very quickly. They're awful.

I agree, all my desktops use proper 4:3 monitors, but as you say, it seems to be almost impossible to avoid 1366x768 in low-end laptops these days. If I saw an alternative in my price range, I'd snap it up...

I'm at work waiting on a bunch of file system scans, so I decided to go through every major brands UK outlet/refurb shop

Well, bugger me. That is seriously kind of you to take the time to do. Much appreciated. Like you, I was underwhelmed by the offerings in the Lenovo and Dell outlets and after I found Toshiba to be much the same I gave up on UK outlets. My mistake, obviously. I'm going to take a closer look at those Asus and Acer models. Thanks again.

for this price range I'd just go to eBay.co.uk and search "i7" or "i5" in the laptops and notebooks section

Thanks, but I'm a bit leery about that sort of pricey electronics purchase on eBay, especially since I'm not in the UK and won't be able to inspect the laptop myself when it arrives and sending it back will be complex. Long story, but basically I'd rather buy from somewhere with a low chance of needing to send it back. Manufacturer outlet stores I can live with, eBay is a bit riskier than I'd like.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 1:42 AM on March 14, 2013


Follow-up: I went for the Acer (well, Packard Bell) that emptythought suggested. Three months later, it's still working well and I'm hugely grateful to emptythought for the work he put into his answer.

For anyone who reads this in the future, it's worth noting that AcerDirect is not an official Acer Outlet site and indeed has quite a lot of bad reviews for customer service. I decided to risk it and got lucky, but caveat emptor.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:18 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, that's a bit scummy actually. I assumed through everything I saw that they were an affiliated site like the weird seperate-domained dell off lease site, I believe the toshiba one, and several others.

Happy you're having a good time though :)
posted by emptythought at 1:26 PM on July 10, 2013


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