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The ThinkPad L412 is a chunky notebook and you'll need to add a few upgrades from the entry-level spec to get a business-ready configuration. Some may find the keyboard noisy and the ports are tricky to access, but Lenovo's use of recycled materials is admirable.
Lenovo's ThinkPad L412 is the greenest notebook the company has ever produced, including up to 30 percent 'post-consumer' content. Lenovo says materials like office water jugs and used IT equipment have been used to make parts like the LCD cover, wrist rest and top and bottom chassis. The ThinkPad L412 is also highly energy efficient and comes with management tools to help you monitor power consumption. The notebook also ships in nearly 100 percent recycled packaging.
If your company wishes to be a good environmental citizen, the L412 is worth considering — provided, of course, that it does its primary job as a notebook. We find that it does, as long as you don't need superb battery life.
The ThinkPad L412 has a traditional look about it. With the lid closed, the chassis is brick-like, eschewing the tapered look that's more common these days. The smooth finish to the lid gives no indication that it's made from recycled materials: it's also extremely solid, offering excellent protection for the screen.
Inside, you'll find the familiar black, blue and red livery of Lenovo's 'classic' ThinkPad line — red for the TrackPoint and highlights on the two mouse buttons beneath the space bar. A third button between these two, when held down, lets you use the TrackPoint for vertical and horizontal scrolling.
The 14.1in. ThinkPad L412 has a 'classic' design with a traditional keyboard, and makes extensive use of recycled materials
There's also a touchpad, which incorporates scroll zones on its right and bottom edges, withs some multitouch features including zooming. The touchpad has a textured finish that helps you find it easily — this is handy as it sits flush to the wrist rest. Beneath it is another pair of mouse buttons.
The keyboard is a traditional ThinkPad offering rather than the fashionable 'chiclet' style. Individual keys are raised and substantial. They depress well and make plenty of clatter as you type. A row full-size number keys is topped by a row of half-height Fn keys which ends, on the right, with a quartet comprising Insert, Delete, Home and End.
The Enter key is double height, wide, and blue in colour. The arrow keys double up as media playback controls with a Fn key combination, and the adjacent PgUp and PgDn keys have browser back and forward Fn functions. This is something we've seen before from Lenovo, and we like it.
There's room on each side of the keyboard for a vertical strip of buttons and indicators. On the right is the power switch and the ThinkVantage button, which accesses a range of system tools and utilities, plus various system indicator lights. On the left are volume control and mute buttons, and a button that mute's the device's microphone. The mic sits above the screen next to the optional webcam. There's a fingerprint scanner on the right side of the wrist rest.
The ThinkPad L412 has a 14.1in. screen with a native resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels, which is sufficient to have two document windows open on-screen side-by-side. The screen has an anti-glare coating so it's not distractingly reflective — although it's noticeably dull when playing video. Viewing angles aren't brilliant, but are perfectly adequate.
The L412 is a little on the portly side, but it's still perfectly bag-friendly. It weighs 2.4kg — not exactly lightweight, but perfectly totable.
The Lenovo ThinkPad L412 can be user customised in several ways. The default configuration, which costs £687.46 (inc. VAT; £585 ex. VAT) has a 2.26GHz Intel Core i3-370M processor. You can specify Core i5 (three models) or Core i7 (620M) CPUs if you wish. Our review sample had a 2.4GHz Core i5-520M.
You will also want to change the preinstalled operating system from the default Windows 7 Home Premium to either 32-bit or 64-bit Windows 7 Professional. Our unit had 32-bit Windows 7 Professional.
The 2GB of RAM in the default configuration can be upgraded to 4GB, 6GB or 8GB. Beware that the top memory specification will add a huge £225.34 (inc. VAT) to the overall price.
Graphics are handled by the CPU-integrated Intel HD Graphics, and there's no option for a discrete graphics processing unit.
For storage, there's a 250GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm, which can be upgraded to 320GB or 500GB with both 5,400rpm and 7,200rpm options at both higher capacities. The optical drive is an 8x dual-layer DVD writer that sits on the right edge of the chassis and is not removable.
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) is the default wireless connection, although our review unit had the 802.11a/g/n option (£10.11 inc. VAT extra). Wireless broadband is not available with this notebook. Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth come as standard.
The right edge of the chassis carries two USB 2.0 ports and a flash card reader as well as a physical switch for the notebook's wireless components. On the left edge there's a combined USB 2.0/eSATA port, a DisplayPort, an Ethernet (RJ-45) port, an ExpressCard slot, a headset connector and a VGA connector.
These left-hand ports are all rather squeezed together towards the front. Like the right-hand ports, these sit under a lip on the chassis, which makes them rather tricky to access. Icons are etched into the chassis to help you locate the ports, but you still have to crane your neck and look in order to insert whatever connector you're working with into its slot. This is irritating, as the lips on either side serve no practical use that we can discern.
The ThinkPad L412 comes with the usual set of ThinkVantage tools, including a well-featured Power Manager utility
Performance & battery life
Our ThinkPad L412 had a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32-bit Windows 7 Professional and a 250GB hard drive. The default battery is a 4-cell 2,200mAh Li-ion unit. If you need more uptime away from the mains, you can specify either a 6-cell (2,600mAh) or a 9-cell (2,800mAh) battery. Our review unit, with a 6-cell battery, costs £888.56 (inc. VAT; £756.22 ex. VAT).
The system's Windows Experience Index (WEI) of 4.0 (out of 7.0) is determined by the lowest-scoring subsystem — in this case, Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero). The highest score, 6.5, went to Processor (calculations per second), the remaining ones being 5.7 for Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate), 5.5 for RAM (Memory operations per second) and 5.2 for Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance). Clearly, the system's weakest link is its integrated Intel HD Graphics.
We tested the supplied 6-cell battery by asking it to play a movie from a full charge. We chose the maximum lifespan power plan, which caused the notebook to automatically stop movie playback after 1 hour 45 minutes — although the notebook kept going for a further 1 hour 14 minutes, giving a total battery life of 2 hours 59 minutes.
Sound output is very good — loud and clear, and good quality.
The Lenovo ThinkPad L412 is a chunky notebook and you'll need to add a few upgrades from the entry-level specification to get a business-ready configuration. Keyboard clatter might be a problem if you work in a particularly quiet environment, and the lips on the chassis make it trick to access ports and connectors. We admire Lenovo for its use of recycled materials, and would like to see more of this.