Lenovo ThinkPad L-Series: The Greenest ThinkPad Everby Jarred Walton on April 20, 2010 8:04 PM EST
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.