Lenovo ThinkPad T500 review
A real prizefighter of a laptop: powerful, well-built and reasonably mobile too.
Review Date: 28 Nov 2008
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: £989 (£1,137 inc VAT)
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.
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.
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