- Good construction
- same build quality as SL-series ThinkPad
- Modest performance
- Screen could be improved
The Lenovo ThinkPad SL512 offers a good blend of strength and performance for small businesses looking for an eco-friendly notebook.
Green is the new game in town for many manufacturers and Lenovo just launched a new notebook designed to fill the eco-friendly market segment. The new ThinkPad L-series is a near carbon copy of the previous SL-series but with a huge increase in recycled content. The L-series offers up to 30% post-consumer content, LED-backlit screens and green packaging that takes up 20% less space. If you’re interested in a new eco-friendly notebook, check out our full review of the new Lenovo ThinkPad L512.
Our Lenovo ThinkPad L512 Specifications:
- Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
- 15.6-inch HD 1366 x 768 WXGA Anti-glare
- Intel Core i3-350M processor (2.26GHz, 3MB cache)
- 3GB DDR3 RAM (2GB x 1GB)
- 250GB Hitachi 5400RPM Hard Drive
- Intel 6200AGN, Bluetooth, Realtek 1Gb LAN
- Intel GMA HD Integrated
- Built-in 2.0M web camera
- 6-cell 10.8v 48Wh
- Dimensions: (LxWxH) 14.96 x 9.72 x 1.26-1.42 inches
- Weight: 5.63lbs
- MSRP: $1,174 ($844 street)
Build and Design
As soon as we pulled the new ThinkPad L512 out of the box, it was as if we were staring at the previous SL-series notebook. (insert link here) The two designs are identical, down to the lid texture, touchpad contours, port layout and even bottom panels. The main updates are newer recycled plastic content and updated internal hardware.
The ThinkPad L512 has a consumer take on the rugged, business-oriented T-series ThinkPad. Unlike the Edge series which is really a consumer-focused model, the L- and SL-series ThinkPads keep the general look and feel of the T-series with a few tweaks to the design. Most notably is the lack of rubbery black paint around the chassis, which has been replaced with smooth black plastic. For some users this type of finish maintains a cleaner look and feel compared to the rubbery finish that can wear off over time. Inside, the slightly rough black plastic palmrest and keyboard surround on the T-series is replaced with the same smooth finish plastic; some users will argue that it feels nicer on the wrists. The other big change is the shift from a squared-off chassis with right-angled edges to an inward-sloping profile that tucks the ports into the sides.
Build quality falls somewhere between the T-series and Edge-series ThinkPads. The 15-inch L512 didn’t seem to have as much chassis flex as the larger Edge 15 that we reviewed last month, but it still had more than the similarly sized T-series. Screen protection is very good on the L512, showing no distortion on the LCD with heavy pressure applied to the cover. The screen does have some flex but it doesn’t seem to impact the display itself. The screen hinges on our review models held the screen in place very well without any wobble but the clutching force didn’t seem to be as strong as other models. For example, if you were to walk around with the screen open, you might inadvertently change the angle of the opened screen as you moved.
Access to internal components is very easy through three access panels on the bottom of the notebook. On the far left, the small panel is used to install a jumper for the fingerprint scanner, the middle used for WWAN upgrades and the large panel on the right contains the processor, heatsink, system memory and hard drive. One aspect that slightly annoyed us was the lack of SIM-card or WWAN-slots soldered onto the motherboard. Lenovo currently lists the L512 and L412 as being “Integrated Mobile Broadband – Upgradable” as standard, but from what we have seen on our review model that might not be the case. The system also did not include any wireless antennas indicating the system came pre-wired. If you plan on using integrated-WWAN, make sure you order it at the time of purchase or you might be sorely disappointed down the road.
Screen and Speakers
The L512 includes a matte-finish LED-backlit display with a 1366×768 WXGA resolution. Compared to most consumer displays we have seen, colors and contrast were slightly below average. For some business models, however, this could be considered average. We measured peak viewing brightness at 212 cd/m^2, which is more than enough for viewing in bright office conditions and even partially visible outdoors. As long as you aren’t in direct sunlight the matte-finish screen at high brightness should be usable outside. Viewing angles were good to about 15 degrees forward or back before colors started to shift or invert. Horizontal viewing angles were better with the screen staying readable to between 60and 70 degrees.
Speaker performance was very average for a 15-inch notebook and scored lower than most consumer notebooks. Bass and midrange were very weak, but volume levels were fine for a small room. The speakers are forward-facing, located directly underneath the screen; they shouldn’t get blocked when you put the notebook on your lap.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is very comfortable to type on and has a very similar look and feel to the keyboards on the T-series ThinkPads. The layout has been slightly tweaked, using a single row of function keys instead of the two rows seen on higher models. Tactile feedback is excellent from the keyboard with soft key-presses that give off a very mild click when fully triggered. Media buttons have been moved from above the top row as seen on the T-series to the left side of the keyboard. Lenovo still gives buttons for speaker mute, microphone mute and volume up and down.
Lenovo seems to have switched back to a Synaptics touchpad on the L512. The previous SL510 we reviewed used an ALPS model touchpad, so this is a nice update. The touchpad supports multitouch gestures including two finger tap, pinch zoom, rotation, three finger press and three finger flick. Sensitivity is excellent out of the box and once you “break in” the touchpad surface, cursor movement is very fluid. Tap and drag movements were flawless, which can be a weakness with some touchpads, releasing the item too soon or not at all. The L512 also includes a pointing stick for those interested in using that form of navigation over the touchpad. We found the interface very snappy with minimal wandering after you lifted off from the pointer. Both sets of touchpad and pointing stick buttons were easy to use and offered excellent feedback. The buttons have a very soft click with a long throw.
Ports and Features
Port selection on the ThinkPad L512 is pretty good with three USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA/USB combo port, VGA and DisplayPort-out, and LAN. Expansion slots include an SDHC-card reader and ExpressCard/34 slot. Compared to the SL510, Lenovo swapped out the HDMI port in favor of the DisplayPort connection. For home theater users this could be a big disappointment since DisplayPort doesn’t use the same standard for passing digital audio to a stereo or TV.