Sunday, May 15, 2011

ThinkPad T420s Review

A little gallery to go along with it:

My Config
  • Type:  4170-CTO
  • Processor:  Intel Core i5-2540M Processor (2.6GHz, 3MB L3)       
  • Operating system:  Windows 7 Home Premium 64 -> clean installed Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on UEFI
  • Display type:  14.0 HD+ (1600 x 900) LED Backlit Antiglare Display        
  • System graphics:  Integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • Total memory:  2 GB DDR3 - 1333MHz (1 DIMM) -> Upgraded to 8GB Samsung RAM ordered off Amazon
  • Pointing device:  UltraNav with TrackPoint & TouchPad plus Fingerprint reader       
  • Camera:  720p HD Camera       
  • Hard drive:  250 GB Hard Disk Drive, 5400rpm -> Upgraded to Intel 320 series 160GB SSD
  • Optical device:  DVD Recordable       
  • System expansion slots:  Express Card Slot & 4 in 1 Card Reader       
  • Battery:  6 cell Li-Ion Battery - 66+ and ThinkPad Battery 42 (UltraBay Battery III)
  • Power cord:  Country Pack North America with Line cord & 65W AC adapter
  • Wireless LAN adapters:  Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 (2x2 AGN)
Awesome Features
  • Excellent ThinkPad keyboard and TrackPoint as usual, still the best in the industry even though they never really change all that much; I'm a regularTrackPoint user myself and the EliteBook "PointStyk" is just horrendous (same with the DELL & Toshiba pointing sticks)
  • Relatively good battery life in a lightweight, compact form factor; no need for big, clunky batteries to last through a day (still less battery life than the T420/T520 though sadly even with the bay battery)
  • Relatively good build quality holds true, along with the classic matte finish which I like a lot; the nice non-slip finish makes it easier to grip than most other laptops
  • Excellent VOIP call quality with VOIP mode enabled from the audio control panel; good webcam quality as well
  • Really no crapware at all installed on the stock OS that Lenovo ships out; you actually don't have to do a clean install to have a usable and quick system; ThinkVantage power manager is quite handy as well and I like it a lot
  • Extremely speedy performance and boot times (using the fingerprint reader security does slow down the boot a bit though - I hope Lenovo works on making this faster)
  • Being able to swipe your finger to bootup your computer is a nice little feature that I use on a regular basis
  • InstantResume is quite handy for when I move between locations and I use it quite often
  • You get a USB3.0 port unlike the rest of the T series...this is sadly one of the major reasons I didn't go for a T420 or T520
Terrible Annoyances
  • Mediocre viewing angles for the screen as gets the job done...but I wish they would just stick IPS screens onto all ThinkPads; I could never understand why they think business users don't need decent screens
  • Found a little bit of flex in the lower right corner of the keyboard, (fixed with a bit of duct tape) as well as around the power/mute button area; there's a little bit of creaking in the lower left corner where the HDD cover is as well  (EDIT:  now fixed after I sent it in to the service depot)
  • Some kinks to work out with the fingerprint reader software/driver and UEFI installations of Windows; fingerprint functionality is not as streamlined as HP EliteBook's implementation in my opinion (using it seems to slow down the ThinkPad boot time)
  • Fan is rather noisy and seems to be spinning up and down all the freakin time - already tried all the different fan settings in TV PowMam - temps are a bit higher than I'd expect as well; I suggest you use TPFC if you want to keep fan noise down; there is a huge thread raging on about this right now at the Lenovo Forums
  • UltraBay devices seem to be wobbling around inside the UltraBay slot since there is just too much free space in there; this is especially annoying with the optical drive because it is sorta clanking around noisily in that UltraBay when you are reading/burning discs; not sure if this is a design level or manufacturing level issue but I wish it would fit more snugly and seamlessly in there (not fixed at service depot when I complained about it)
  • Hinge is a bit flappier than I'd like - I wish the screen would hold itself in one position a bit better, as when I set the laptop down sometimes it'll end up falling back a bit
  • I feel port placement could've been slightly better on the sides - they should've been able to squeeze at least another USB/eSATA combo port in there
  • Odd bug where screen switches over to 50Hz when you unplug from a power source - does not switch back to 60Hz when you plug back in; probably just a minor software bug  (fixed I believe)
Other Notes
  • Fingerprint reader on T420s is a bit narrower than I'd like, but it also seems to be a bit more responsive than others I've dealt with
  • Speakers are better quality than they used to be….I think...but I suppose that isn't saying much, as they're still worse than what you'd find on most consumer laptops
  • Still wish there were HDMI on all ThinkPads, as VGA is becoming seriously outdated and DisplayPort is nowhere - even at work all the projectors have HDMI

Bottom Line
  • Is the T420s really all of the power of the T420 in a slimmer form factor with no compromises?  Pfft no...The T420s is definitely less sturdy, runs hotter, has less ports, and has less battery life/options than its big brother, but if you're enough of a maniac to give all that up to get a laptop that's a good pound lighter and a bit slimmer....then go for it...

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