Lenovo is one of the more popular laptop makers in the market and their products have had favourable reviews. The ThinkPad is an iconic brand that combines professional respect, blandness and solid features that enjoys a surprising appeal. Their ThinkPad reminds most of us of the T series model which had an alloy uni-body chassis, a rubberized black paint and looked boxy. Most of us however, are not aware of the fact that Lenovo offers a small business line called the SL series which offers almost all the same features as that of the T series and at a much lower price.
The ThinkPad SL510 is a part of Lenovo’s Windows 7 Product launch and the company is using this as an opportunity to tweak and improve some of the features in its existing line. The SL510 will not surprise users who have already used a thinkpad before – Not only is an excellent laptop that is oriented towards no-nonsense use, it also has a stylish design and has a lightweight feel to it. We feel that it is a nice system for personal or business use that offers solid performance and will last a long time. Read the following review to judge whether the Lenovo ThinkPad SL510 is just what you need.
Toned down version of the T series:
No Surprises here. At first glance, the Lenovo ThinkPad SL510 Laptop looks just like its previous ThinkPad predecessors. However, it is a toned down version of the more rugged T series. It looks generic and could have been a model from five years ago. But the classic black design is simply timeless. The entire casing is made out of plastic but has a softer finish and a smooth texture when compared to the rubberized paint on the more expensive ones. The model has sloped sides and has seen a few aesthetic changes such as a redesigned screen hinge assembly and a few minor tweaks in the body. Otherwise, they look identical.
The build quality when compared to its predecessors the T400 and the T500, is inferior; but nevertheless still better than most other laptops in the market. The laptop’s little chassis flex gives it a very solid feel. The screen cover provides sufficient protection for the screen and prevents any form of visible distortion under moderate finger pressure. The keyboard and palm rest also work under strong pressure and the plastic feels durable enough to resist mild abuse. Thanks to the matte black finish, the scratches do not stand out. So, for business users, the laptop is a nice step up from the average multimedia laptop without costing as much as a high end one.
Access Panels provide for Easy access:
The panels on the bottom of the chassis allow easy access and upgrades. There is a primary panel which provides access to the system memory, hard drive and processor. One can notice no warranty void if stickers removed. There are two smaller access panels which when opened up uncover a mini PCIe slot for a WAN card and a sim card slot if the system is equipped with 3G.
A 16 x 9 inch screen is new to the SL510 and hence watching DVDs and HD movies would be more enjoyable. Lenovo gives the users a choice of both matte and a glossy screen included on the SL series both of them being WGXA Resolution. The model we reviewed happened to be a matte model, but if you prefer more vibrant colours and an increased glossy contrast, you could go for the other option. The 1366 x 768 pixels native resolution looked good although we have seen better resolutions than this. When compared to other notebooks in the consumer segment, the WXGA panel was average and could have got a boost from a higher resolution. The viewing angles were decent but once could notice the colours beginning to shift beyond 10 degrees. The horizontal viewing angles were true past 70 degrees forward or back and the viewing brightness was perfect for a bright office with partially visible outdoors.
The Keyboard of Lenovo ThinkPad SL510 15.6″ Laptop Computer was comfortable to use and was similar to the T series ThinkPads. However, the layout of the keyboard is different. The first noticeable difference is the lack of an extra row of function keys at the top. We do think that the exclusion of a number pad is rather odd as it could have been easily fit in the extra space on the keyboard. The main area has been left unchanged. As mentioned earlier, the key action was great and required some moderate pressure to use. But thanks to the soft spring, this keyboard is quieter than the others. It has a red pointing stick in the middle of a full sized keyboard and two mouse buttons below the spacebar. That red pointing stick is actually a track point rubber nubbin lodged between G, H and B keys. Under that is the muti touch keypad which is a really unique feature to this model. Under this track pad are two more pointer buttons. The multi touch track pad allows for two fingers gesturing such as pinching, rotating and scrolling and allows you to slide, zoom and etc. One can turn the pad off if you are not using it and that makes it handy. On the whole, we think it works great and is a nice touch. There are some quick access buttons on the left side which can be used for muting the volume and microphone and adjust volume levels.
The Touch Pad is an ALPS model that feels identical to the newer ThinkPad models. The pad is mount to the palm rest and has a soft texture. But in general, the touchpad was very responsive and we found no difference between this and the one found in higher end models. When tapped to select, the cursor would sometimes not let go of an object after a deliberate click. But then again, this problem is common in the ALPS model and can be avoided most of the time.
Located below the screen, facing outwards, the speakers performed reasonably well for a basic mid size desktop replacement notebook. The Bass and mid range seemed to be lacking, but if you listen or stream radio or even YouTube videos the audio was good. The quality was passably fine and it did not suffer from any sort of sound muffling thankfully. The peak volume level was better when compared to other consumer notebooks. But if you want a better experience, try connecting the analogue audio out to a pair of external speakers. You could also use the HDMI to pass a digital stream to an outside stereo system.
Ports and Webcam:
If you tend to travel a lot, then the SL510 Notebook Computer has a complete assortment of ports which would not disappoint users. Like earlier models in the ThinkPad series, the port selection was surprisingly good. There are 3 USB ports, an eSATA/USB combo port, VGA, HDMI and audio jacks. There are also a SDHC card slot and an ExpressCard /34 slot for expansion. Apart from all these, there is a wireless on/off switch and a standard 20 V ThinkPad power connection. There is a dual layer 8x DVD recorder disc drive but a Blu-ray and DVD RW combo drive is also available.
There is a 2.0 megapixel webcam on top of the screen provides workable and yet unremarkable image quality. A Skype call revealed smooth video accented with muted colours.
We reviewed a Lenovo ThinkPad SL510 that ran Windows 7 Professional and a 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8700. There are configuration options that let you choose between a 5400 and a 7200 rpm drives with sizes up to 500 GB. One can include an optional ATI Radeon 4570 graphics chip up to 8 GB of DDR 3 RAM, a four, six or a nine cell battery and a variety of Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs.
Built for Business:
The ThinkPads have always been focused on the business users. Hence the SL510 is tailored to suit their needs. Apart from a robust Intel Core 2 processor and multi-touch, the ThinkPad SL510 laptop features a long battery life and an array of connectivity options. Video conferencing is possible because of the adaptive 2 megapixel camera and the HQ speakers. There is Skype included as well. Security is assured considering the laptip features fingerprint ID which allows only the user to access the laptop. Features such as Self Encrypting drives and Hardware password Manager enhance security on the laptop.
ThinkVantage Tool Box:
The SL510 consists of a ThinkVantage Toolbox that combines system health, security and support services to keep your ThinkPad run safely and efficiently. The toolbox monitors critical system components and not only do they notify users of problems, they also offer solutions to quickly repair the system before any data is lost. The push button operation and the intuitive interface make using the toolbox a comprehensive solution for your laptop. The main menu has 5 following tabs: System Health Tab, System Security Tab, Ultimate Business Tool Tab, Diagnostic Tab and the Support Tab. The System Health tab displays the status of key processes in the system. The Security Tab monitors password anti-virus firewall and other security settings. The Ultimate Business Tool tab provides the user with an overview of support messages and information from Lenovo. The Diagnostics tab provides component and system diagnostics and resolves issues. The Support tab displays information from Lenovo.
Like other ThinkPads, the SL510 features Rescue and Recovery 4.2 with Express Repair that can correct many corruptions within a span of just 2 – 3 minutes making it the fast recovery solution in the market. This one button rescue solution includes a set of self recovery tools which help users diagnose, get help and recover from a virus or a crash. There are administrative tools that can be configured to help deploy updates to corrupted systems. There is the Antidote Delivery manager which allows delivering of customized critical updates to your systems. The System Rejuvenation option lets you restore back your system while keeping all your data and personality settings. The specialty of the Rescue and Recovery 4.2 is the fact that it can help you recover files that were not backed up prior to the problem and can save them to a storage device.
The ThinkPad SL510 Laptop Notebook comes with a standard suite of ThinkVantage utilities which includes a power manager, a Wi-Fi manager and a PC health monitor. There is InterVideo Win DVD which allows users to play discs and the Roxio Creator Small Business Edition for burning discs and editing simple videos.
The SL510’s 2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU and 3GB RAM allowed the system to achieve a decent score of 3493 on the PCMark Vantage test which measures overall system performance. This score was slightly more than the score of the HP ProBook 4510s. The System was smooth and responsive.
The SL510 was ahead of its competitors when it comes to video transcending. It was able to convert a 115 MB MPEG 4 file to AVI in a little under 6 and half minutes, almost a minute faster than its competitors. The SL510’s 7200 rpm 320GB Hitachi drive booted up Windows 7 in a minute which is pretty much the standard time. The speed of the drive was apparent when we conducted our laptop transfer tests. It took 3 whole minutes to transfer 5 GB of media files from one folder to another. That is about 30 MBps per second beating the ProBook’s measly 15 MBPs and the ThinkPad T400S’s 17 MBps. Also the active protection system is capable of detecting movement and stops the hard drive to prevent data damage.
The SL510 has both discrete and integrated graphics options. The Integrated Intel GMA X4500 graphics chip returned a weak score in our 3DMark06 test, roughly about the third of the category average. However, the ProBook did even worse. These scores indicate that these laptops are not meant for hard core gaming. When we played Far Cry 2 on the system, the rate was as low as 3 fps which made the game look more like a slide show. However, for lower intensity graphics such as navigating around in Google Earth rendering was smooth.
Good for Business users:
The Lenovo ThinkPad SL510 Business Laptop offers quick startups and shutdowns and a snappy application use as well. Adobe Photoshop was able to handle big files very well. Multimedia use was also pretty pleasant considering the DVD movies were able to load quickly and play without hiccups.
The SL510’s Intel Wi-Fi Link 5100 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless card was able to connect to a router and transfer data up to 19.5 mbps from a distance of 15 feet. And as we got further away, the speed came down. It was able to transfer data with speeds of 16 mbps from 50 odd feet away. These are pretty much average scores and the HP ProBook returned slightly better scores and so did the ThinkPad SL 400 series.
Heat and Noise:
The system generated less amount of heat but a couple of spots on the laptop did feel warm. The panel the hard drive at the bottom was the warmest spot and it was expected so because the 7200 rpm drive consumes a lot of power and emits more heat. Under mild stress, the plastic panels were within very reasonable temperature ranges without any inconvenience. The fan noise was also minimal with the fan staying off majority of the time when running on battery power. Sometimes it turns on to bring fresh air to the system. Even under high stress levels, the fan would not get very loud.
Decent Battery Life:
The Lenovo ThinkPad SL510 ran for almost 3 hours 21 minutes when we tested it for our video drain test using the six included cell battery. When compared to the ThinkPad T 400 series it is better than average for a laptop about this size. It lasted 4 hours when backlight was at about 50 percent and with Wi-Fi on. That is impressive but the HP ProBook 4510s lasted almost 4 and a half hours and the original ThinkPad lasted a solid 5 hours 20 minutes. If you are a casual user and tend to use the laptop for Web browsing and office use, expect the laptop to last longer. This is using the standard 55Wh battery which does not extend from the back of the system. There are customizable options and buyers have the choice to opt for a 4, 6 or a 9 cell battery.
The older CCFL backlight screen made sure power consumption of the SL510 was double than that of the more efficient T series. Under a light load, the system used almost 12 watts.
There is a one year, parts and labour, mail in warranty with the laptop; although there are models in the market those offers a 3 year warranty and we expected the SL510 to have the same. One can access to a three year warranty plan for some amount. One even can purchase extra services which are targeted at businesses that do not have large IT departments. These services include backing up data, onsite service, accidental damage protection and theft protection. Lenovo offers hard disc retention which lets you keep a failed hard drive even after a replacement so that you do not have to hand over any sensitive data to them. There is support available 24 x 7 through toll free line and an easy to navigate online support with a reasonable knowledge base and driver downloads is available.
The Lenovo ThinkPad SL510 is a solid notebook for business users that has a couple of security related features added to it, but it also makes a nice home office or personal laptop. While it is slightly bulky and is less rugged than the T series models, it is a good solution for workers looking for a sturdy laptop as it combines above average performance, a comfortable keyboard and business features. Though it is a good buy in a highly competitive market, it is an appreciable evolution of the SL series.
Lenovo ThinkPad SL510 – Technical Specification Table
|Series||Lenovo ThinkPad SL|
|Name||Lenovo ThinkPad SL 510|
|DIMENSIONS AND DISPLAY|
|Dimensions (H x W x D)||15 x 9.7 x 1.4 inches|
|Available colours||Matte Black|
|Display type||TFT active matrix|
|Display resolution||1366 x 768|
|PROCESSOR, MEMORY, STORAGE|
|Processor type||Intel Core 2 Duo P8700|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GL40 Express|
|RAM||2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM onboard max : 8GB|
|Hard drive size||320 GB Serial ATA and 500GB – Optional|
|Spindle speed||7200 rpm|
|RAM form factor||SO DIMM 204-pin|
|Keyboard localization||English US|
|Input Devices||Keyboard , UltraNav , TrackPoint|
|GRAPHICS, VIDEO AND SOUND|
|Installed Graphics Type||256MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory|
|Graphics processor||Intel GMA X4500 Dynamic Video Memory Technology 5.0|
|Speaker Details||Built-in mono speakers|
|Microphone||Built-in omni directional microphone|
|Audio Output||Sound card|
|Wireless||Intel WiFi Link 5100|
|Wireless LAN supported||Yes|
|CONNECTIVITY||3 x Hi-Speed USB – 4 pin USB Type A,
1 x Display / video – VGA – 15 pin HD D-Sub (HD-15),
1 x Audio / video – HDMI,
1 x Network – Ethernet 10Base-T/100Base-TX – RJ-45,
1 x eSATA / Hi-Speed USB,
1 x Microphone – Input – Mini-phone 3.5 mm,
1 x Headphones – Output – Mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium – English|
|Battery technology||4 cell lithium battery|
|Estimated battery life (mfr)||3 and a half hours|
|Energy Star Compliant||Yes|
|WARRANTY AND SERVICE||WARRANTY AND SERVICE One year warranty for
Parts and Labour
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