Lenovo ThinkPad T520i review

18 Aug 2011

A typical ThinkPad: well built, with excellent design and a fair price, even if the internals aren’t quite so impressive

Price when reviewed: 
816(£817 inc VAT)
5

When most people think of business laptops they invariably think of ThinkPads, as few brands are as consistently reliable as Lenovo’s flagship. The ThinkPad T series is often the best of the lot, and the T520i effortlessly continues that fine tradition.

It’s a traditional 15.6in laptop, and it bears so many of the hallmarks that make the brand so popular: the curved protective lip on the lid and base, the red trackpoint partnered by a trio of dedicated buttons beneath the keyboard, and that instantly recognisable logo in the corner of the wristrest.

Lenovo ThinkPad T520i

It’s classic rather than stylish – especially compared to the A-Listed Sony VAIO S – but the ThinkPad outstrips the dearer Sony when it comes to build quality. That’s in part due to its larger dimensions, as a 15in, 2.9kg laptop is easier to make sturdy than one at 13.3in and 1.69kg. But the construction is excellent throughout: there’s hardly any give in the wristrest and base, and the lid is strong, requiring a hefty prod to produce any show-through on the display.

Lenovo ThinkPad T520i

Lenovo has stuck with a traditional keyboard layout rather than following the current trend for Scrabble-tile keys, and as such it offers a deep, comfortable and responsive typing action. The left-hand side of the keyboard suffers from a slightly bouncy base, but the right side is rock-solid, and we didn’t notice the difference in general use. The trackpad, meanwhile, is modestly sized but paired with clicky, comfortable buttons.

As with the Sony, the T520i’s screen has a matte finish to suit the bright lighting of an office, but the quality is merely reasonable. Its measured maximum brightness of 219cd/m[sup]2[/sup] and contrast ratio of 217:1 are both disappointing, and a decent average Delta E measurement of 6 isn’t enough to prevent the Lenovo from looking pretty pallid and muted on the whole. The native resolution of 1,366 x 768 is also disappointing for a 15.6in laptop. In the Lenovo’s defence, the screen is also the Sony VAIO S’s weakest point, and since neither is meant for entertainment, it isn’t a deal-breaker.

Details

Price ex VAT £680
Price inc VAT £816
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 3 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 374 x 246 x 40mm (WDH)
Weight 2.900kg
Travelling weight 2.9kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i3-2310M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM65
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 1
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 3000
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 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 298GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Seagate Barracuda 7200.12
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Replacement battery price ex VAT £31
Replacement battery price inc VAT £37

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 no
Bluetooth support no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem yes
ExpressCard34 slots 1
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
FireWire ports 1
eSATA 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
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad, trackpoint
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 6hr 26min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 58min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 26fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.57
Responsiveness score 0.69
Media score 0.58
Multitasking score 0.43

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Partition
Software supplied Lenovo ThinkVantage