Tactical Advice

Lenovo's Netbook Alternative

The ThinkPad SL510 is a low-cost, lightweight notebook that meets users' portability needs.
This story appears in the December 2009 issue of BizTech Magazine.

The Lenovo ThinkPad SL510 is a quality notebook computer for users who are seeking an inexpensive and lightweight alternative to bulky notebooks.

The SL510 is also an excellent alternative to netbooks, allowing users a convenient and portable computing package that doesn’t suffer from the small screens, cramped keyboards and scaled-back system resources of most netbooks. The SL510 is a great option for a low-cost, right-size notebook that’s easy to use — and weighing in at 5.7 pounds, it is also very easy to take on the road.

End-User Advantages

The SL510 ships with Windows 7 Professional installed on a system with an Intel 2 gigahertz Core 2 Duo T5870 processor and 3 gigabytes of RAM. This delivers ample processing power and memory for most office applications. Users should have no problems multitasking with a variety of applications, a feat made easier by the crisp and clear, 15.6 inch, 1366x768 WXGA display. Battery life varies from four to six hours based on power tuning and use. The notebook ships with ThinkVantage power management software, which allows for easy modification of power-use profiles.

The keyboard is comfortable and responsive, with plenty of space to rest your palms. The entire notebook has an expansive feel to it, with quick access buttons to the left and right of the keyboard that provide volume controls. Users will appreciate the SL510’s clean design and durable construction, especially compared with similarly priced consumer notebooks.

At 5,400 revolutions per minute, the Hitachi 320GB hard drive offers ample local storage and reasonable performance, while limiting power consumption to preserve battery life. Users will appreciate the many peri­pheral connectivity options available through the SL510’s three USB ports, HDMI and VGA ports, and eSATA and audio ports. The notebook is further expandible with a Secure Digital High Capacity card and ExpressCard slots. The included DVD/CD-RW drive completes the package.

Why It Works for IT

IT departments will find the SL510 works well for mobile computing. The notebook is designed for easy maintenance and support, with single-panel access to the processor, system memory and hard drive.

The unit is also well-built physically, with very little flexing in the screen or body panels. Its solid construction should withstand the additional abuse that a notebook is likely to receive.

IT departments will also appreciate the SL510’s connectivity. The included Intel WiFi Link 5100 AGN wireless adapter and RealTek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet adapter offer a range of connectivity options that are on par with high-end notebooks and desktop PCs. Support for Wake-on-LAN technology lets systems administrators wake the notebook remotely to push critical patches and software updates.

Perhaps the most notable advantage for sysadmins is that the SL510 has been designed as an enterprise-class notebook with a price point well below other enterprise units.

From processor to memory to internal components, the SL510 represents what an IT department would expect to encounter in a more feature-rich notebook. IT departments can use conventional desktop and network management tools to manage the SL510 as they would any other desktop or notebook in their environment. Although it may cost more than a netbook, the SL510 provides more computing power and cost savings over its lifespan than you would get from its humbler counterpart.


The SL510 is a capable platform for common business applications, but it does have some limitations in terms of performance.

Video performance from the 1366x768 WXGA video card was more than adequate for standard business applications, but it might not be suitable for graphics-intensive applications such as video editing. Similarly, the Core 2 Duo processor performed well for most normal business applications, but may not be sufficient for some computing-intensive tasks such as application development or virtualization.

Tom Jordan is network operations center manager at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

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