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Maximum PC Staff Dec 08, 2009

Lenovo Thinkpad SL510

At A Glance

Thoughtful

Easy system diagnostics and updates with ThinkVantage software; very good performance for its class; sturdy construction

Thoughtless

Poor screen contrast gives washed-out appearance; limited RAM; boring industrial design

Five years ago, when IBM sold its consumer PC division to Chinese manufacturer Lenovo, business users trembled. ThinkPads were a staple of the IT community not because they were attractive, nor especially powerful, nor dirt cheap. IT guys often insisted on ThinkPads because they were simple, durable, and reliable. Price was "low enough" and performance was "good enough." Five years later, we can safely say that Lenovo has kept the ThinkPad principles alive. If anything, one could complain that it hasn't evolved enough. The SL510 model is a good example of this.

Is it fast? It's fast enough. The particular configuration we reviewed, clocking in at $999.00 at press time, comes with a Core 2 Duo P8700 (2.53GHz with 3MB of L2 cache), a decent 320GB 7200 RPM hard drive, but only 3GB of DDR3-1066 memory. It's outfitted with Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. It's built on Intel's GM965 chipset platform with GMA4500 integrated graphics. Our configuration includes Intel's 5100 AGN wireless adapter as well as an AT&T-ready 3G radio with GPS. If you can't decide whether you like to use a touchpad or a eraser-head like "nub", you'll be happy to see the SL510 includes both.

It's enough hardware muscle to turn in a perfectly respectable PCMark Vantage score of 4,308, which compares favorably to other business-class laptops in this price range. It takes 45 seconds to go from power-on to Windows desktop, and another 15 seconds before it has finished loading everything and is fully usable. It's faster than many notebooks in its class, but won't break any performance records.

The 1366x768 15.6" widescreen LED backlit display is available with either an anti-glare or VibrantView coating. We tested the anti-glare version, and it certainly gets very bright. At maximum brightness it's probably too much for comfort. Unfortunately, apparent contrast takes a dive as you lower the brightness to more comfortable and battery-friendly levels. At half brightness, the screen has a bit of a washed-out look to it.

Battery life is also quite good, but by no means record-breaking. The system is available with a 4-cell, 6-cell, or 9-cell battery. Ours was configured with the 4800 mAh 6-cell battery, and ran for about 4 hours 15 minutes at half brightness just idling at the desktop. Running productivity software and web browsing non-stop runs down the battery about an hour sooner, and playing a DVD non-stop kills it in about 2:45. This is a little better than many comparable laptops, but definitely not the longest life we've seen.

Included software is minimal and unobtrusive. Lenovo adds convenient battery and Wi-Fi meters to the taskbar, and includes the ThinkVantage Tools application, which updates the system software and device drivers as well as providing system health and security diagnostics. It's a nice application that provides useful features for small business users without getting in the way of everyday use.

Perhaps the most succinct way to describe the ThinkPad SL510 is to simply say, "it's a ThinkPad." The name conjures up boring-looking matte black slabs of business-class notebooks that are durable and reliable, with good (but not industry-leading) performance and battery life. That's exactly what you get with the SL510.

Specifications

Lenovo Thinkpad SL510
CPU2.53GHz Core 2 Duo P8700
RAM 3GB DDR3/1066MHz
Chipset
Intel GM965
Hard Drive
320GB  7200RPM
Optical HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GSA-T50N
GPU Integrated GMA4500
Ports Ethernet modem, four USB, headphone, mic, Intel 5100 AGM wireless, 3G
THE VERDICT

Lenovo Thinkpad SL510

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