Lenovo ThinkPad L-Series: The Greenest ThinkPad Ever

Corporations like talking about being "green" these days, whether for energy savings or simply marketing purposes. Whatever the cause, there's no question that environmentally friendly devices and technologies are a major push. We recently spoke with Lenovo about their upcoming L-Series ThinkPad models, which are set to be the "greenest ThinkPads ever"—and we're not talking green in the same sense as the "heat wave red" ThinkPad Edge.

The new L-Series consists of two models at present, the L412 (14.0") and the L512 (15"). Externally, they bear a striking resemblance to other ThinkPad models like the T410 we recently reviewed. So what's new and/or different? One of the major differences is that the T412/512 use a lot of post consumer recycled content (PCC)—up to 30% for some aspects of the system, with an overall 18% PCC. That makes the new ThinkPad series the highest percentage of PCC of any current laptop, according to EPEAT (as of 4/20/2010), and the ThinkPad L-Series is rated EPEAT Gold in the US. The packaging is also "nearly" 100% recycled content, and Lenovo has committed to a reduction in packaging materials. Finally, efficiency of the power brick is also 80% according to Lenovo.

Outside of the green aspects, there aren't a whole lot of differences between the L-Series and the T-Series. The T-Series continues its "corporate premium" role, while the L-Series will eventually replace the current R-Series and target the "entry mainstream" market. (No word on the SL-series, though it looks like perhaps the R-Series and SL-Series might be merging into the new L-Series.) In terms of components, the L-Series uses the HM55 chipset while the T-Series gets the QM57. Similarly, T-Series offers support for i7 processors (i.e. i7-620M) while the L-Series is limited to i3/i5 processors. The LCD is still anti-glare, but the L412/L512 use a lower 1366x768 resolution panel. Along with support for Intel's HD Graphics, L-Series laptops also support optional ATI HD 5145 discrete graphics (essentially a slightly higher clock speed version of the HD 4570).

The keyboard area has also seen some minor updates with the L-Series, with multimedia buttons on the left and indicator lights plus the power and ThinkVantage buttons on the right, where they used to be above the keyboard. Outside of these differences, though, the L412/L512 will continue to offer everything customers have come to expect of a ThinkPad. All of the connectivity options are available (3G, 4G, WiFi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet), and there's an enhanced focus on connectivity and web conferencing technology. The webcam is a 2MP model with enhanced low light performance and automatic white balance, and it's paired with a digital array microphone to help with echo cancellation and improve quality in noisy environments. Additional expansion options are provided for via four USB 2.0 ports (one powered), eSATA (shared with one USB port), and ExpressCard/34. Video out ports include DisplayPort as well as VGA.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect for some is going to be the price: the new ThinkPad L-Series will start at just $649, and they still provide one of the most durable builds and the best keyboards in the mobile market. The L-Series meets the same set of Mil Spec ruggedness requirements as other ThinkPads, and it also supports the Generation 3 Mini Dock. The default battery is a small 4-cell unit good for an estimated three to four hours of battery life, but the L-Series uses the same batteries as the T-Series so users can opt for larger 6-cell and 9-cell batteries; the 9-cell battery should allow for over eight hours of light computing. Unlike the T-Series, there is no support for an optional battery slice.

Compared to the previous generation R-Series, the new L-Series should increase performance by up to 150% and improve Windows boot and shut down speeds by up to 57%. The new chassis is also 11% lighter and 12% thinner than the old R-Series equivalents. And the L-Series provides all this in a manner that's more friendly to the environment. Students looking for something that can last through the abuse of four years of college (or high school) might want to give the L412 and L512 a serious look. Public availability is scheduled for mid-May, with some corporate customers already receiving units.

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  • wicko - Tuesday, April 20, 2010 - link

    I definitely like the video options, it's nice to see something other than Intel "HD". I don't suppose that mid-may is not just a US release date and we'll see those in say, Canada :D Reply
  • Belard - Tuesday, April 20, 2010 - link

    The body, screen, keyboard is all SL-510/410. As stated in the article, no reason to have an R-series as its still using the older R-6x series body and its price difference puts the R within $75~100 of a T.
    The tech manual is the same for the L & SL... obvious changes are the CPU and motherboard of course.

    But I think that going from SL to L will save in INK and energy, so that is a good thing.

    That said, the L (and SL) are not close to the T-Series. Lenovo still plays with its screen options on the low end, so there is a good chance that it'll have a glossy screen.

    The L-Series notebooks are missing such T, X, R, W features as:
    - Crash cage body. Its a plastic tray in the L. (Most important)
    - HD anti-shock protective cage (On better Thinkpads, they have rubber corners).
    - ThinkLight (LED light that makes the keyboard usable in the dark)
    - hex-cage for LCD display (14" models)
    - ThinkPad keyboard layout, which was improved with the T400s before spreading out to other Ts.
    - Latch, okay and opinion. But it does keep accidental openings.
    - Metal hinges for LCD screen. Not so sure what they are using, but its not like T/R/X series hinges.
    - Thinkpad rubberized top (Used to make the notebook anti-slip)

    The L series chassis has flex. The chassis does attract finger-prints.

    The SL/L-x10 does look nice and sexy.... for $650, it can have options that are simply not available on other $500~800 notebooks. Internal WAN for Clear, at&t & Verizon. 4 USB, eSATA, Display port. Being that I wokred with an SL-510, the battery time was about 4~5hours. It does have the spill-resistant keyboard and trackpoint (which I use half the time). Current SL still has high GREEN scores. There is almost nothing in the bland-brown box.

    I'll admit I don't know what the "L-Series meets the same set of Mil Spec ruggedness requirements as other ThinkPads" means... but no, the L is a plastic case, it no-where near as tough as a T. Take apart an R, T, X and then an L and you'll see the difference. No recovery discs are included. :(

    The L should be pretty good, but won't ever equal a T in weight, size and ruggedness.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - link

    The LCDs definitely specced as anti-glare. As for the durability, here's the direct quote from the spec sheet:

    "[The L412 and L512] meet eight different military specification tests for high and low temperatures, vibration, altitude, dust and more."

    I don't disagree that it's basically an i3/i5 refresh of the SL series, but it should still be a healthy step up from typical consumer notebooks.
    Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - link

    I am a ThinkPad owner and I sell them to clients as a consultant. The specs for their lower end products are constantly changing to available or not. The current SL series are "Vibrant View" were are GLOSSY like any other notebook. When I ordered a SL510 for a client, "vibrant" doesn't mean glossy or matte - its a buzz word... we got glossy. The SL510 I've seen in stores were matte. This type of confusion has always made me wonder what Lenovo's is thinking.

    Military specs... 8 of them. Are there more than 8? I'll bet ya money that a T-510 will score higher.
    Check out Lenovo's own "features" pages of the SL/L and the T and compare the feature set.

    The "Magnesium structure frame" which you can see on their service manuals is an important part to make these notebooks tough on the T5xx notebooks. The SL/L manuals are the same, while the T500 and the T510 are different manuals. Which by the way - are interesting to look over as you can see the complexity into making a notebook. Download from here: http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/documen...

    For example, the Structure Frame in a T510 is different for a discrete GPU and standard chip-set graphics.

    "I don't disagree that it's basically an i3/i5 refresh of the SL series, but it should still be a healthy step up from typical consumer notebooks."

    I'm know... I'm being public of what Lenovo is doing. I'm calling it what it is - but I also agree its a better way to go... but they might as well called them "L500 / L400" :) The standardized power supplies, excellent keyboards and spill-proof keyboards make them worth buying over a typical notebooks. But I'd never consider them as "full" Thinkpads.

    I sent back a SL510 (for a client), it had the glossy screen but it was also defective. So we figured for $200 more, he'd get the stronger T-series, faster i5 CPU, lighter and smaller case. Which BTW, the height of a 14" screen is the same as a 15.5" types used in current Thinkpads. I don't care much for these EXTRA wide screen... it adds about 3" to the size of the notebook. Someday, I think I may want a future T400s model... droool.
    Reply
  • Baldy18 - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - link

    No mention in the article but the pics seem to show speaker placement moved to below the LCD. This could be a welcomed change as speaker performance has always been very poor in Thinkpads. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - link

    Correct. Another quote from the PR:

    "The speakers are placed directly underneath the screen and above the keyboard for rich sound quality."

    I think having the speakers closer to the microphones will aid in echo cancellation as well, though without testing I can't say for sure. :-)
    Reply
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - link

    16:9 on a business laptop?

    GTFO.
    Reply
  • Belard - Thursday, April 22, 2010 - link

    Agreed. The new standard of 15" screens (15.6") is horrible. All these 16:9 ratios are a bit TOOO wide. Already my 2-year old 24" (1920x1200) is a tad wider than the early Samsung 24" displays, but the price difference of $3000 vs $350 is much better :)

    Now, even buying a new 26~27" is now 1920x1080.... grrr...

    I placed the SL-510 (L510) next to my older 15" Thinkpad, my screen is easily an inch taller and the notebook itself is almost 2" narrower. YEP, those 16:9 screens MEANS that the notebooks GOT bigger!

    Anyways, I showed a client that the 14" Thinkpad screens are the same height as 15.6" screens. So he changed his mind to get a 15" model. In return, he gets a notebook that is 1lb lighter, smaller, has slightly more battery life and costs the same.

    So, business people SHOULD consider 14" model ThinkPads over the 15" models because of the lame 16:9... it does suck! And since business people tend to have more money to work with, might as well spend $175 more for the lighter and smaller T model.

    BTW! When ordering a Thinkpad notebooks - google "ecoupons"... I was about to finish my order for a client for a T410 at $1035. The eCoupon takes $100 off *if* the price is $1099+.... so I changed order from 2GB to 4GB which LOWERED the price down to $1020. LOL!
    Reply
  • araczynski - Friday, April 23, 2010 - link

    too bad these things look like the ancient gray winbook si units.... these lenovo guys should at least TRY to make the things look modern. Reply

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