Business users may be slightly more predictable in their usage, but that doesn’t mean they’re satisfied with five-year-old machines. Lenovo’s new SL-series of lappies – the SL300, SL400 and SL500 – all have an options list weighed under with choices such as Vodafone-powered mobile broadband, Blu-ray and more. What’s also cool is that the SL300 reviewed here uses a 13.3-inch LED-backlit panel (1280×800, 300 nit), and all three have Lenovo’s Active Protection System which secures the hard disk drive in the case of a fall. A Web camera is optional, but there’s both VGA and HDMI outputs fitted as standard.

Aimed at small-to-medium business (SMB) users, the ThinkPad SL300 sports the same high quality we’ve come to expect in addition to amazing value-added software and unique service packages that really set the machine apart from the crowd. The machine might look like it has just rolled out of a military R&D lab, but it’s built for business and nothing comes close to a ThinkPad. Don’t let the stuffy exterior fool you – the ThinkPad SL300 features cutting-edge technologies including built-in high-speed mobile broadband connectivity and excellent multimedia capabilities with an optional Blu-ray player. Lenovo has even tried – bless ‘em – to gain a little kudos with a black glossy cover, the first ever for a ThinkPad! The ‘i’ in the ThinkPad logo on the lid cover even illuminates red for added eye-candy – er, that’s better than a ThinkLight, right?.

To make the computing experience productive and simple, Lenovo combined software that helps with everything from data recovery to simplifying Internet connections with service packages featuring online data backup and on-site warranty repair. The laptop is no slouch at multimedia duties, either. Stereo speakers, mono microphone and an optional front-facing Web camera provide excellent support for Internet voice and video conferencing, and support for HDMI/VGA means you can watch movies in high-definition.

Lenovo has also managed to fit a 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5670 processor, 2GB of DDR2 system memory (up to 4GB configurable), Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500M graphics chipset, 250GB SATA hard drive (5400rpm), and a dual-layer CD/DVD recordable drive. Connectivity is impressive: Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n, V.90 modem, BlueTooth 2.0 EDR port, IEEE 1394a port, three USB 2.0 ports, 5-in-1 memory card reader, ExpressCard/54 slot, and an optional fingerprint reader. Amazingly, there are even dedicated audio control buttons, and a really useful Lenovo Care button that opens up the laptop’s built-in system utilities and documentation. More good news is that the included 6-cell battery is good for a full 4 hours with the Wi-Fi enabled – turning it off buys you an extra 30 minutes. It runs Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 as standard.

The ThinkPad name is synonymous for leadership in computing for the business user. With the ThinkPad SL300, Lenovo has done a great job of bringing the same quality and reliability ThinkPad is known for to users in the small business/budget space. The system can’t be called lightweight or sleek (318×238×36mm, 2.1kg), but using it is child’s play. The multimedia features are fantastic for meetings and relaxing at home, and its wireless connectivity features are a must have for any small-business owner.

For the price, quality and performance, this one beats most Dell models. Plus it has dual pointing devices (Trackpoint and Trackpad), an awesome keyboard, plenty of safety features and HDMI. It isn’t as portable or lightweight as some machines from Apple or Dell, and it uses plastic instead of magnesium for its casing, but it does a great job for the price. Being a small-business laptop it doesn’t need to look flashy; it just needs to be functional and reliable. If you’re in the market for a robust machine for business that’s easy on the wallet, the ThinkPad SL300 should be considered.