Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E430 Review

The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E430 is a 14.0” screen notebook targeted at small business buyers or really anyone that’s on a budget but still wants a laptop with good build quality.  The E430 starts at a very reasonable price of $ 549 when configured with an Intel Core i3 2nd generation processor.  At the current time the latest 3rd generation of Intel Core i3 and i5 processors are not available, though we expect that will change in the coming months.  However, for most small business or home office users, there’s no real need for the latest and greatest technology.  Rather, what you’ll be looking for is a durable and reliable work horse that’s got at least some portability factor.

ThinkPad Edge E430

Let’s go over the ThinkPad E430 specs as configured for this review unit:

  • Screen: 14.0” 1366 x 768
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-2350 2.30GHz
  • Memory: 4GB RAM
  • OS: Windows 7 Premium 64-bit
  • Graphics: Intel HD 3000
  • Storage: 320GB HD 7200RPM
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-Ion
  • Optical Drive: DVD Burner
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
  • Weight: 4.74lbs
  • Dimensions: 13.36″ x 9.21″ x 1.12-1.33″
  • Ports: 2 USB 2.0 (1 powered), 2 USB 3.0, HDMI, monitor out, Headphone/Microphone port
  • Warranty: 1-year

This model was ordered directly from Lenovo.com for $ 549 before taxes which will vary by state, shipping is always free from Lenovo.  It took about 2-weeks between ordering and receiving the laptop.  Here’s a look at the packaging the notebook came in:

ThinkPad E430 box

Design and Build

The ThinkPad E430 comes with a rubberized matte black lid finish, making it easy to grip when picking up.  There is an option for a red lid or brushed aluminum finish, both of those upgrade options will cost you money though.  The standard black finish is going to be the choice for most, it’s professional looking, classic and an unmistakably ThinkPad look.  Around the edge of the lid is a silver plastic trim which helps break up the otherwise all black color.  There is no latch used for closing the lid down, it relies on tension from the hinge.

ThinkPad E430 logo

The edges and corners of the laptop are all noticeably curved, this prevents any sharp edges and makes for a less boxy look.  The lid and keyboard area have a ThinkPad logo in which the dot on the “i” lights up, an interesting design touch.   The keyboard uses a chiclet style design, while we would say this is different from a typical ThinkPad, rumor has it all future models will adopt this.  You still get the red pointing stick and multi-navigation buttons at the bottom of the keyboard, along with a touchpad that has integrated mouse buttons as well.

One interesting design change with the Edge series is that they now have a drop hinge.  This is good for those who need to use a laptop when traveling as it makes the screen height slightly less, if you’re on an airplane with the person in front tilted back you’ll come to understand why.  It’s worth noting that the hinges are strong, stiff and prevent any screen wobble from occurring as you type.

drop hinge on the e430

The E430 weighs in at 4.74lbs, that’s not exactly light for a 14” laptop but still means you have a good degree of portability.  If you’re a student you could easily slip this into your backpack and it’d pretty much feel just like another textbook. 

In regards to build quality, the casing is all plastic and does not feel as high quality as the flagship T-series ThinkPads, however it’s far from being chintzy and given the $ 500 or so price tag you’re getting an above average build and durability for the price.  The keyboard is of course very good, we’ll cover more on that later in the review.

Screen

The ThinkPad Edge E430 has a 14.0” screen with 1366 x 768 resolution.  There are no options to upgrade the resolution, though you can choose between either glossy (VibrantView) or matte (AntiGlare).  If you’re a business user I highly recommend sticking with the standard matte screen finish, it reduces eye strain which is important when you have to stare at a screen for several hours on end.  As far as screen quality, the E430 screen is nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done and is certainly bright enough for indoor use.  The viewing angles are just so-so, below are some pictures I took of the screen tilted at various angles:

Performance

The performance on the ThinkPad Edge E430 is quite amazing for the price.   While some will be disappointed not to see the latest 3rd generation Intel processors available in this model yet, the reality is most small business or student users will be just fine with last years Intel Core i3 or i5 processor.  The 2nd Generation Sandy Bridge Intel processors offer excellent performance and battery life and, best of all, a budget friendly price.   For those just using a computer to surf the web, use Office applications and do productivity work there’s no need to pay for any component upgrades.  However, if you insist on having a faster machine then to boost performance you can get a mini SSD drive to speed the boot up and wake from sleep times, Lenovo is currently charging $ 60 for a 16GB mSSD.  It’s nice that the standard 320GB hard drive is a faster spinning 7200RPM drive.  I think for most people on a budget looking to spend under $ 600 the standard hard drive option and maybe a $ 50 upgrade to a faster Core i5 processor will be the only real areas worth spending a bit more if you feel the need.

I ran a couple of benchmarks so you can get an idea for what the performance is like on the Edge E430.  First up is the always popular but not so useful Windows Experience Index:

image

The 4.8 score the ThinkPad E430 achieved reflects the overall lowest sub-component score, which is the graphics in this case.  The rest of the components scored nearly 6 or above, indicating the graphics is the bottleneck in performance.  However, since most people will not be using the E430 for gaming it’s really not a big deal.

The benchmark program PCMark Vantage is a good program for generating an overall performance score of a laptop.  The E430 scored 5,816 PCMarks:

image

Here’s a comparison of that score to other similar notebooks:

PCMark Vantage Benchmark Results

Laptop PCMark Vantage Score
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E430 – Intel Core i3-2350M 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 5,816 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

Obviously the E430 does not win the battle of being the most powerful laptop with its given configuration, but any score in the 5,000+ range still indicates a very capable machine and will suffice for most business needs.  You’ll have no problem multi-tasking and having several browser tabs open if you have either a Core i3 or i5 processor.  Full HD video playback will also be smooth, a lot of people mistakenly believe Flash and Silverlight video such as Netflix uses needs a good graphics card to run smoothly, but in fact processing power is more important.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The ThinkPad Edge E430 has a chiclet style keyboard, something you’ll see in most laptops today and rumor has it will make its way into all of the ThinkPads released this year.  The use of an island style keyboard does have the benefit of offering more spacing between keys and also preventing my personal peeve of seeing crumbs get between keys never to be seen again (I know, you shouldn’t be eating or drinking over a keyboard, but many still do it).   The downside of a chiclet style design is that if you have long fingernails they may get caught under the more raised type keys, and if you really hate change then the different key spacing may throw you off.

ThinkPad E430 keyboard

With that all said, despite the different design the E430 keyboard 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” going on at all. The keyboard allows you to move your fingers fast and the noise is minimal even if you’re a key punishing typist like myself. One complaint is that the The Page Up and Page Down keys are ridiculously small and poorly located on the lower right side.

The touchpad on the E430 is a generous size which is nice for moving the cursor around the screen if you prefer the touchpad over the pointing stick.  There are left and right mouse buttons integrated into the bottom of the touchpad, just like the clickpad you get with the MacBook Pro.  Personally I prefer using the red pointing stick Lenovo puts in the middle of the keyboard, it’s nice to have this feature on a laptop that cost just over $ 500 – generally it’s reserved for expensive $ 1,000+ business laptops.

ThinkPad E430 Battery Life

You can configure the Edge E430 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.  This is a better solution than laptops that have sealed batteries like the MacBook lineup, but that’s just my opinion.  To test battery life I set the screen brightness to 1/3 level, left wireless on and a browser open that refreshed every 60 seconds.  Under this scenario the E430 achieved 5 hours and 25 minutes of battery life.  If you were to be watching video with screen brightness all the way up then the amount of battery life would most certainly drop to around 4 hours.

ThinkPad E420 Input and Output Ports

The input and output ports you get on a laptop is of course an important aspect.  The E420 has a generous array of ports that will fulfill most student needs.  We’ll take a tour around the E420 and detail what port is located where:

ThinkPad E430 left side

On the left side you get a VGA monitor out port, 1 USB 2.0 port, 2 USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, headphone/microphone combo port and media card reader slot. 

IMGT3680

On the right side you get 1 USB 2.0 port that is powered so you can charge devices such as a cell phone via USB even when the laptop is turned off. You also get a headphone/microphone combo jack and Ethernet RJ-45 port. Notice the optical drive is here on the right side too.

E430 front side

On the front side of the E430 there is an SD card reader, handy for transferring photos from your camera and other small devices.

There are no ports located on the front of the Edge E430, the forward facing speakers are located here.  Overall this is a very good port selection and should suit the needs of 99% of business users.

Heat & Noise

The Edge E430 uses a large vent that’s located on the left side toward the back.  The laptop isn’t all that thin so there’s plenty of room for ventilation which results in an overall cool running laptop and your legs will remain burn free.  The fan hardly ever came on during normal usage so you don’t need to worry about being that guy in the meeting room or classroom that distracts everyone with the noisy laptop.

ThinkPad Edge E430 Review Conclusion

If you’re on a budget, as many small and medium business buyers are these days, then the ThinkPad E430 with its quality build and good performance is a great buy in the mid $ 500 range.  The E430 is small and light enough to carry around from meeting to meeting and can easily be plugged into a larger monitor via HDMI or VGA out when you’re at your desk.  The design of the Edge series is a little more modern than the boxy classic ThinkPads; the curved edges, option of a colored lid and illuminated ThinkPad logo are just a few examples.   That said, the E430 is still not going to really turn heads in public.  Nonetheless, if you’re a practically minded person and you don’t need a flashy computer but rather one that is built well, costs a reasonable amount and gets the job done then the E430 should be on your short list to consider.

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