Lenovo ThinkPad T500 review

28 Nov 2008

A real prizefighter of a laptop: powerful, well-built and reasonably mobile too.

Price when reviewed: 
1,137(£1,133 inc VAT)
5

Slim, sleek and sexy ultraportables are all very well, but there are times when you need a bit more oomph. That's why we like the Sony VGN-Z21MN/B so much, and why it's resident on our A List. It may not be as thin as a MacBook Air or a Lenovo X300, but it is light, boasts much more power and - thanks to its switchable graphics - has incredible battery life as well.

Lenovo's latest, the T500, might not be able to compete with the ultraportables when it comes to stamina and portability, but one thing it certainly isn't lacking in is power. And while it can't quite boast supermodel looks, with its business-like straight lines, sharp, pointy corners, bevelled edges and all-black cloak, its sheer practicality races to the forefront.

Powerful specification

It boasts the same powerful processor - a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 - which, coupled 2GB of DDR2 RAM, was enough to achieve a highly respectable score of 1.19 in our application-based benchmarks. That's plenty enough for the more intensive tasks, from video and photo editing to software development and compiling, it's intended for.

And, hidden beneath the black-suited exterior, there's another similarity. The T500 is equipped with dual switchable graphics: an ATI Radeon Mobililty HD 3650 offers a bit more power for when it's connected to the mains, and Intel's lower-powered GMA X4500MHD for when you're out and about. The former isn't too shabby when it comes to gaming performance either, achieving 61fps in our low settings Crysis test and 17fps in the medium settings test.

Gaming isn't what this laptop's all about, though, but the screen is a different matter. It's both larger at 15.4in than the Sony's 13.1in panel, and also higher resolution, with a massive 1,680 x 1,050 offering acres of desktop space. The backlight isn't an LED one so it isn't as quite bright as we'd like, but colour balance is fine, there's no backlight bleed and no evidence of grain either.

Ergonomics and extras

If the looks aren't anything to write home about, the T500's ergonomics certainly are. In traditional Lenovo fashion, there are both track point and trackpad, and both are very usable. The trackpad, in particular, is an improvement over the X300's rather erratic affair, and it's set very slightly below the level of the wristrest, reducing the risk of brushing it by accident.

The keyboard is solid Lenovo fare, though it isn't quite up to the standards we've come to expect. Though still superior to most those on most laptops we review, the one adorning the T500 feels more rattly and lighter to the touch than previous workstation Lenovos we've tested.

That black chassis is as strong as its aggressive lines suggest, too, with thick, sturdy plastic all-round and a screen that feels strong enough to resist being trodden on by an elephant. We certainly couldn't make an impression - twisting it every which way and prodding it with all our might failed to produce any ripples or show-through on the screen.

And while the T500 is far from what you'd call skinny at 2.6kg you do get plenty of goodies to justify the extra heft. This laptop is equipped with an HSDPA modem with a Vodafone SIM ready for connection out of the box, there's a DVD-writer, a displayport external monitor output (in addition to a standard D-SUB socket), Bluetooth, a TPM module and a fingerprint reader.

Battery life

Details

Price ex VAT £989
Price inc VAT £1,137
Overall rating 5

Warranty

Warranty 3 year(s) return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 358 x 255 x 34mm (WDH)
Weight 2.600kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo P8600
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Screen size 15.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,680
Resolution screen vertical 1,050
Resolution 1680 x 1050
Graphics chipset Intel GMA X4500MHD
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1

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 1
USB ports (downstream) 3
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
Pointing device type Touchpad, trackpoint
Speaker location Above keyboard
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 340
Battery life, heavy use 82
Overall application benchmark score 1.19
Office application benchmark score 1.27
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.28
Encoding application benchmark score 1.07
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.16
3D performance (crysis) low settings Fail
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Business
OS family Windows Vista