In the beginning of 2013, everyone at work received new computers: laptops, desktops and thin clients depending on role and rank. All of us in the SAP project group got brand spanking new ThinkPad T430 or X230 laptops. At first, I wasn't too impressed by my T430, but that was just on visual inspection. After getting some stick time with it, I grew to like it, and thus when time came to replace my old HP at home, Lenovo was a strong candidate.
I always promise myself that I will buy my next computer in a store, where I can give it a little test drive, and I always wind up buying the machine sight unseen online. But I did read a couple of online reviews, and spent some time poring over pictures, just so that I wouldn't get any nasty ergonomic surprises when I opened the package.
In my opinion, a laptop computer lives or dies by its keyboard. I can learn to live with most computer quirks and annoyances, but not a bad or unintuitive keyboard. The B590 has every key in the right place - no switching of the Ctrl and Fn keys like on my office computer. It even has the navigation keys in exactly the same place as on my old HP! The keys are noticeably smaller than on the HP, but it only took an hour or so of insistent typing before I got used to them. I like the keyboard a lot, it feels solid and you get nice tactile and auditory feedback.
Since it's a widescreen laptop, there's even space for a numeric keypad to the right of the ordinary keyboard. I don't crunch a lot of numbers at home, but the keypad is a big bonus when I play Civilization and Alpha Centauri (I have a USB keypad lying around for contingencies). The drawback is that the keypad is a lot smaller than the regular keyboard. Additionally, the 0 key is not double-sized the way it would be on a standard computer keyboard, which leads us into my second complaint. The keyboard is just packed with keys. There isn't any spacing between the ordinary keyboard section, the numeric keypad and the arrow keys; everything is smushed together, which makes navigation by feel iffy at best. I will have to reprogram my muscle memory to look for the very clearly marked arrow keys.
Another important part of a laptop computer is the pointer solution. IBM's old laptops had that weird pointer stick in the middle of the keyboard, and I never learned how to use one properly. At least the Lenovo I use at work has a dual arrangement with both a stick and a touchpad, as well as dual sets of buttons. It's crowded, but at least it works. The B590 has only the touchpad, and it is way nicer and smoother than the one on my office computer. The buttons could have been a little less recessed, but it's not a dealbreaker by a long shot. I especially like that you can use smartphone-style two-finger gestures on touchpads nowadays: pinch to zoom, and drag with two fingers to scroll. Neat!
The general layout of the B590 is organized and logical. All the ports and sockets are situated on the sides, and there is nothing on the back. I can see at a glance what's plugged in and what's not, and I don't have to worry about bending or breaking a plug or a socket should I take the computer off the table and put it on my lap or on the couch. It is a good thing that not all USB ports are nestled together, because some of my USB plugs are a tad too big and tend to crowd the neighboring port, with unpredictable results. USB, by the way, is also a major dealbreaker for me when picking a computer. The more, the merrier, especially if I can get the faster USB 3 ports. This computer has four in total, two of which are USB 3, which is a good compromise. Another piece of hardware that I've learned to depend on is the SD card reader - essential when offloading pictures from my Nikon or sound files from my Zoom recorder.
I wish I could say something sensible about the performance, just to round out the review. But it would be pointless, really. Performance is pretty far down my list of priorities when selecting a
new computer. Or rather: a machine that meets my I/O demands (SD card reader, DVD burner) also tends to have average or better specs, at least for the sort of stuff I do on a computer. I write, record and edit digital photographs. I don't do video or state-of-the-art computer games. Basically any modern computer will do for my purposes. The ergonomic issues are more important by far. And since the Lenovo Essential B590 nails them, I have to conclude that this was a good purchase. You do get a lot of computer for the money, and again I find that in electronics, last year's model on closeout is indeed the best deal you can find.