Lenovo Thinkpad SL500 Quicktake/Review

After I got laid off, I needed a laptop. A cheap ( < $1000 ), but good laptop that I could work on. My main requirement be that it had a good/excellent screen with a resolution at least that of 1400×900, but I would have gone higher. I also didn’t want anything bigger than 15.4” and I also needed something that came with a Core 2 Duo. A short list, but a pretty tall order once you start looking. The screen resolution was a real killer, with almost NO manufacturer offering anything in my price range.

Fortunately, slickdeals.net came to the rescue with a great deal on the Lenovo Thinkpad SL500, with the computer and all options I wanted clocking in at around $650 after tax and shipping. The machine’s final specs:

Intel P7370 Core 2 Duo @2Ghz, 3 GB Ram, 320 GB HD, Wireless A/B/G/Draft-N, DVD-RW, and a 15.4” LCD with a 1680×1050 resolution matte screen.

Ecstasy! And my ex-fiance Stacy in a magnanimous gesture of pure kindness paid for it.  Thanks Em.

So what do I think? Well, let’s briefly talk about the SL500 series Thinkpads since not too many people are familiar with them. Most people know about the bullet-proof T- and X-series Thinkpads. Those have all the bells and whistles, usually come in smaller sizes, and cost alot more. The SL500 is more geared toward Small Businesses that want reliability and performance, but don’t need the amount that the T-series does, so its chassis is cheaper plastic, it doesn’t have the spill proof keyboard, doesn’t have the smallest components etc etc. What it does have is a glossy cover that looks very different, and cheaper price tag.

Hardware-wise, the SL500 is really well equipped: 4 USB ports, SD slot, HDMI and VGA, firewire, microphone/headphone jacks, ethernet and phone jacks, DVD-RW, trackpad and ultranav ( or the nub as I like to call it ), acceptable ( but not good ) speakers, and a really great keyboard. I don’t think there can be any complaint here. The HDMI is a really awesome addition, making the laptop a fine portable DVD player capable of being hooked up to a much larger TV.

Software-wise, things are still good, but lots of things to go over. Mine came equipped with Vista Home Basic…not so great, but I’ll be upgrading to Windows 7 shortly, so no biggie. It’s not Oct 22nd yet, so let’s just deal with what we’ve got. What we’ve got is a laptop with almost NO bloatware! And the little bloatware it does have, it can easily be removed. Note: I don’t consider the thinkpad apps to be bloatware – you can still remove these however if you dislike them. Also, I configured my laptop to come with as little software as possible, so your experience may differ.

So after you boot up the machine for the first time, be smart, register, and then create your backup media. The easiest way to do this is to go into windows explorer and double click on the Q drive. It will ask you to create media or recover the space. Go create the media, it takes 3 single-layer DVD’s and takes a LONG time, so go watch a movie or something. You’ll need to check intermittently to change the DVD’s, but seriously, it takes a few hours. I had a friend who was having issues with his creation process, and he was able to fix it by following my recommendation and using newer DVD media.

Once you’ve created the discs, test them out, and once you’re done, we can start removing stuff. First thing to do is recover the Q drive space. You’ll want to delete the McAfee shortcut after doing this, it’s useless now since it was pointing to the Q drive. Once you are done with that, go into the control panel and find the Lenovo Welcome entry. Remove it, and after that the Lenovo Registration. If you’ve been listening to me, you’ve already registered so now you can remove it too. Find the Microsoft Office activation entry. I have to digress here a moment and wonder at the uselessness of this thing – when you start it up, it has 3 options: Activate, Purchase, and Start. You can use Office for up to 30 days before registering, so if you are in dire need you can use this. The activate part will let you activate a key if you already have one, BUT it won’t work on MSDN retail keys. If you are like me, you probably have a MSDN key and when you type it in, it won’t work. Pretty useless for us developers! So just uninstall this program and re-install from the media you already have. That should clear up most of the just on the desktop.

So now you’re ready to rumble! I’ll be posting alot about the SL500 later as I migrate to Windows 7, so hopefully it all goes well. I’ve already got a failed 64-bit installation under my belt, so hopefully when the 22nd roles around, I’ll finally be running smooth.