Lenovo ThinkPad SL500 review

£499
Price when reviewed

UPDATE: Since this review was written Lenovo has changed the specifications slightly. Under the new part code of NRJAJUK, the SL500 now costs £500 (£575 inc VAT) but features a 2GHz Core 2 Duo T5870 and a much larger 250GB hard disk. This led to a benchmark score of 0.99 and five hours of light use battery life. The score and award still stand.

We’re usually big fans of Lenovo’s no-nonsense approach to producing laptops. Its thin and light ThinkPad X300 is still one of our favourite ultraportables, some 16 month after its initial release and, last month, its business workstation – the T500 – also impressed us.

This month, things have taken a different tack entirely, from the seriously expensive T-series to the ultra-cheap IdeaPad S10e and this – another reasonably-priced laptop, the SL500, which at ?434 exc VAT is less than half the price of the T500.

Initially at least there’s no discernible drop in quality, either. Open the lid and there’s the usual solid feel to the hinges. Unusually for a ThinkPad the closure mechanism is magnetic rather than mechanical, but it closes with a good, solid thunk and the lid stays tightly shut until you prise it open again.

The SL500’s control points are typically fine too. The keyboard boasts a positive click, a robust feel and a sensible layout – we can’t fault it, though as with the T500 it’s a touch lighter and more rattly than previous ThinkPads we’ve reviewed.

And there’s a choice between touchpad and trackpoint, as with other ThinkPad laptops. Both are sensitive and easy on the finger.

There are nods to consumer styling here too, something we haven’t seen from Lenovo in recent times. The lid, for instance, is finished in a posh, glossy piano black lacquer, and the dot on the i of the ThinkPad logo glows red when the laptop is switched on or in standby.

The edges of the main body of the laptop are set at a rakish angle, a move we’re rather taken with, and one that certainly makes a change from the usual boxy ThinkPad chassis.

The SL500 runs surprisingly cool, too. Sit it on your lap in High Performance mode and you’ll not be bothered at all – there are no hot vents and the base doesn’t cook your thighs as other machines of this size and specifications can do.

It’s only when you start to manhandle the chassis that you discover where cutbacks have occurred. The plastics are a little flexy – tug at the wristrest firmly just below the trackpad and, surprisingly, the body pops apart at the catches.

But this is a fair compromise, and though it has an undeniably cheaper feel than the firm’s premium products it’s still a much more solid machine than the Dell Vostro 1500 – it’s principal rival in this sector.

So far, so Lenovo, but with quality this good we expected the ThinkPad to suffer elsewhere. Not a bit of it: though the core specifications of a 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5670, 2GB of RAM and 160GB hard disk aren’t exactly earth shattering, for under ?600 they’re perfectly acceptable, driving the SL500 to a decent score of 0.92 in our benchmarks.

Unsurprisingly there’s nothing as fancy as the dual graphics found on the T500 here – just Intel’s integrated X4500, so no chance of anything but the lightest of gaming sessions when you knock off work at the end of the day.

Battery life is fine if not outstanding: the SL500 lasted 4hrs 10mins in our light use tests and 2hrs 8mins when flat out. In fact, the only disappointment is the screen.

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 328 x 260 x 42mm (WDH)
Weight 2.900kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo T5670
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR2

Screen and video

Screen size 15.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics chipset Intel GMA X4500
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 160GB
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes

Other Features

ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 1
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 4
FireWire ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
Pointing device type Touchpad, trackpoint
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 300
Battery life, heavy use 128
Overall application benchmark score 0.99
3D performance (crysis) low settings Fail
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Business
OS family Windows Vista

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