Lenovo ThinkPad T510 full review

The Lenovo ThinkPad T510 is a 15.6in-screen business laptop with a fast Intel Core i7-620M processor

Since Lenovo bought IBM's PC and notebook business, not much of the ThinkPad's iconic design has changed, and this is a good thing. The Lenovo ThinkPad T510 notebook has the same business-like look, the same sturdy build quality, and most of the features that make ThinkPads standout from other business laptops.

These features include the dual pointing devices, a screen-mounted light, and a good keyboard. However, the Lenovo ThinkPad T510 feels heavy (especially when a 9-cell battery is installed) and not very comfortable to use while resting on your lap.

Specifications and performance

Speedy performance is delivered by the dual-core Intel Core i7-620M CPU, which runs at 2.66GHz and has Hyper-Threading. It's great for multitasking and it will handle not only office tasks, but also more demanding ones such as video compression — and it will do so with ease.

In our Blender 3D rendering and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, the Lenovo ThinkPad T510 recorded 49sec and 54sec respectively — quick results, as we expected. In our video encoding test, where we use AutoGordianKnot to transcode a DVD file to a 1.5GB Xvid file, the ThinkPad took just 1hr 1min. This is also a solid result.

Our test Lenovo ThinkPad T510 came with 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM and the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Professional, but you can only buy the ThinkPad T510 with 3GB or more of RAM. Our test unit also featured a 7200rpm, 320GB Seagate Momentus hard drive. This recorded an average transfer rate of 30.72 megabytes per second in our tests.

nVidia Optimus graphics technology

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Lenovo ThinkPad T510's configuration is nVidia's Optimus technology. We've got a love-hate relationship with Optimus because it works well on some notebooks and not so well on others. With the Lenovo ThinkPad T510 it does a very good job. We didn't have to fiddle around with the graphics card's options in order to get the notebook to use the built-in Intel graphics while running Windows Media Player (like we did on the MSI FX600), and that's the way it's supposed to be.

Optimus is meant to automatically switch between the integrated Intel HD graphics and the discrete 512MB nVidia NVS 3100m graphics depending on the application that's being used.

In 3Dmark06, Optimus switched to the nVidia card and the notebook achieved a score of 3671. It's not spectacular, but it's indicative of a card that can run some games such as WoW and StarCraft2. You'll even be able to run car racing and sports games (such as NBA2K11).

But the Lenovo ThinkPad T510 isn't a gaming notebook so the biggest benefit of the dedicated card is that certain graphics tasks can be offloaded to it and the overall system performance increased.

Battery life

With a 9-cell battery, you can get plenty of life away from a power outlet. In the PC World Australia standard battery rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the Lenovo ThinkPad T510 lasted 3hr 48min. This is a good result for a big, 15.6in notebook with a bright, high-resolution screen.

When we implemented a balanced power plan, a medium brightness level for the screen and only used the Lenovo ThinkPad T510 notebook for web browsing and word processing, it lasted over six hours.

Design and features

The Lenovo ThinkPad T510's 15.6in screen has a resolution of 1600x900, which is great for lining up windows side by side while multitasking. (The notebook is also available with a 1366x768 screen.)

It's a high-brightness screen that allows documents and most web pages to be viewed even in direct sunlight, but the black palm rest will get very hot very quickly when you use it in the sun — if you use it outdoors, make sure you shade it.

The screen has excellent contrast and it makes the Lenovo ThinkPad T510 great for viewing photos and videos. It also has reasonably good viewing angles. The display features a 2-megapixel webcam and a built-in light that shines down on the keyboard — this works well and is very useful when typing at night.

The keyboard itself feels rock solid and doesn't bounce at all — until you use the arrow keys. The bottom-right corner bounces far too much, to the point where it makes a clicking noise as it moves; this is uncharacteristic of ThinkPads and may just be a quirk of our test model.

The keys are full-sized and they offer more resistance than ThinkPad keys of the past, but they are still very comfortable to hit. Above the keyboard you'll find dedicated volume controls, which are very convenient, especially as the Lenovo ThinkPad T510 ships with better-than-average speakers that sit either side of the keyboard. This means that you don't get a number pad on the T510, but you do get good sound quality until you turn the volume up, when the speakers will distort.

Two pointing devices are installed: you get a large touchpad as well as a TrackPoint device. The TrackPoint is sensitive and sometimes sticky, but it's great for when you don't want to move your hands too far from the typing position. The touchpad is also very responsive and feels good to use. It has little bumps on it that sometimes tickle, but you get used to them after a while.

It also supports gestures so you can use two fingers to scroll, zoom and rotate. The Lenovo ThinkPad T510 won't get warm on your lap until it's rendering 3D graphics — but it weighs a hefty 2.85kg and its edges can dig in to your legs, making it uncomfortable.

The design of the 15.6inLenovo ThinkPad T510 is neither slim nor sexy, but it's not meant to be. It's a workhorse that's designed for business users who want a powerful configuration, a roomy keyboard and plenty of built-in features.

You get a built-in DVD burner and almost every type of connectivity feature you could hope for: USB 2.0, FireWire, ExpressCard 34, gigabit ethernet, 802.11n wireless, eSATA, VGA, DisplayPort, SD card slot, and a 56Kbps modem. You can even opt for integrated 3G connectivity.

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Lenovo ThinkPad T510: Specs

  • 2.66GHz Intel Core i7-620M
  • 15.6in (1600x900) matt anti-glare LCD display
  • Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
  • nVidia NVS 3100m graphics with 512MB RAM
  • DisplayPort, VGA
  • SD card slot
  • FireWire
  • 320GB 7200rpm HDD
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • DVD±RW drive
  • ExpressCard 34
  • 9-cell battery
  • 373 x 245 x 36mm
  • 2.7kg