Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Thinkpad SL400 review part 1 (first impressions)

Surprise Surprise, I actually bought a new laptop. So new in fact, that it's a challenge getting linux to work with it. But that doesn't mean I'll give up! The Lenovo Thinkpad SL400.

I bought it a few days before Dell announced they would be releasing notebooks with Ubuntu pre-installed. If I had known then, what I know now, I might have gone for the Dell instead. It is quite infuriating that Lenovo does not give the option to install Ubuntu or at least not install Vista on the computer. But it was the only laptop they offered that had the features I desired, and it was at a decent deal, so I grabbed it without thinking. Also my old thinkpad A22m just isn't keeping up with the times anymore.

Anyways, I figured even though its bleeding edge, it shouldn't be too long before its better supported under linux. Plus it took them like 6 freakin weeks to ship it. And they shipped with UPS, the worst possible shipping company anyone can find. But oh well, I got it, and I'm going to go into details about my install.

First though, Specs.

Intel Core 2 Duo processor T5670 (1.8GHz 800MHz 2MBL2)
Genuine Windows Vista Home Basic (Genuine CRAP)
14.1 WXGA AntiGlare
Intel GMA X4500
1 GB PC2-5300 DDR2 (1 DIMM)
UltraNav (TrackPoint and TouchPad)
160GB Hard Disk Drive, 5400rpm
DVD Recordable, Fixed
Integrated Bluetooth PAN
Intel WiFi Link 5100
6 cell Li-Ion Battery (2.4Ah)
1 Year Depot/Express Warranty
ThinkPad and Lenovo 65W AC Adapter - with US/Canada/LA Line Cord (an extra one, they're not that expensive with the free shipping compared to ebay)
Sale price: $ 652.40
GST: $ 32.62
PST: $ 45.67
Estimated total: $ 730.69*

upon reflection, I shoulda gone for the 15 incher, cause with these widescreen laptops, 14 inches is a little less than it used to be, screen real estate-wise.

Other first impressions.. the Keyboard is not bad, its still a thinkpad quality keyboard, except the repositioned keys really do not help. I'd rather they got rid of the touchpad and put in a full trackpoint like exists on my A22M series. I know they won't, but I wish they would. The quality of the plastic is different than whatever my A22 is made of, but its not horrible. It's better than what you're going to find in most stores like Best Buy or Office Depot or Futureshop. The lid doesn't have any latches, nor a rollcage built in, But I've never been a heavy industrial user of my thinkpads so I can deal with it, though if I could have gotten a version with it included, I would have. As well, it apparently doesn't have the feature where if you spill something, its designed to safely come out of a hole somewhere with minimum fuss. I've never used that feature, but its a disapointing loss in this thinkpad series. They also got rid of the thinklight on this series, which I did occasionally use but never particularly effectively.

The black glossy cover really does easily get marked up with fingerprints and the like, but it does make the thinkpad look different, same with the little red LED on top of the i in Thinkpad on the lid. It's not really all that distracting either. With the lid open, I'd heard reports that the it flopped around, but mine is pretty steady. I don't miss the absense of latches, I broke mine on my thinkpad and they were a bit of a pain for me to fix. I am surprised that there isn't even one latch on this thing though.

A nitpick, the Camera, which I requested to be added on, cannot be covered or be manually shut off with a switch. Which is a design point I think I'm the only person who has ever considered. I know it can be handled in software, but theres something comforting about knowing if you press a switch nobody can take pictures of you without you knowing it. It happens. Never has to me, but I'm a paranoid person by my very nature. Also I thought there would be a wifi on/off switch but its built into the function keys on the keyboard, which again I think would have been better served in a different manner. Also the lack of a dedicated print screen button (you gotta use function!) is somewhat annoying, as at least in Linux, print screen usually tends to launch a screen grabber program, which is often useful when taking screenshots. Again, a shortcoming due to the Vista oriented design goals perhaps. Still, it has bluetooth, HDMI out, and bleeding edge hardware I expect will end up supported in Linux within a short time frame. Also its reasonably lighter than I expected it to be. Much lighter than the A series anyways. Also I can see my reflection in the cover. Which is a cute feature unless you're Medusa.

Next post I will discuss the "joys" of Vista (cough), and installing linux onto the SL400.

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