February 13, 2012
- eSATA & mobile broadband
- Comfortable keyboard
- Long battery life
- Strong performance
- Bulky, outdated design
- No USB 3.0 or HDMI
The Lenovo ThinkPad T420 is a typical-looking 14-inch business laptop that has a few things going for it. First, it has really good performance due to its Intel Core i5 CPU and 4GB of RAM. It also has a decent amount of connectivity, including eSATA, and extra long battery life.
The design of the Lenovo ThinkPad T420 is a little antiquated, especially since it is on the bulky and thick side of things. This design, however, does make it very solid and resistant to the usual bumps and bruises. It has a magnesium chassis and a spill-resistant keyboard (we did not put that claim to the test for obvious reasons). Because of these features, this laptop makes a really great laptop for business or on-the-go users because those situations often come with a little wear and tear.
In total, it measures 13.4 x 1.2 x 9.1-inches (whd) and weighs 4.9-pounds, so as we said, it's on the slightly larger and heavier side. This extra size does lend to the increased performance and long battery life that we hinted at in the introduction.
The T420's keyboard is the standard ThinkPad keyboard that Lenovo has been using for quite awhile now. The keys are well-spaced and sized, so it's very comfortable to use especially since there is minimal flexing. Along the top of the keyboard, there is a row of the buttons for controlling media and teleconferencing for added ease of use. The touchpad has a textured-surface for added traction, but we found the pad to be on the small side for multitouch gestures. There is also the rubber stick embedded in the keyboard for users who like to use that it (we don't!).
This ThinkPad has a 14-inch matte LED-backlit display that has a native resolution of 1600 x 900-pixels. This resolution is a $50 upgrade over the standard resolution and it is well worth it. We found the display to be bright and very crisp. It is definitely provides good quality for streaming video from the Internet or DVD. The matte finish also helps to reduce reflections from ambient light or the sun.
With that slightly thicker size, you gain some ports that aren't usually on 14-inch laptops, but Lenovo has also choose to leave some crucial ones out. First we will start with what is missing: USB 3.0 & HDMI-out. We believe that USB 3.0 is a must have on every new laptop in order to keep it from becoming outdated almost instantly. The lack of HDMI-out limits the multimedia usage with this laptop, but for business users, that probably won't be an issue. You do, however, get three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 2.0/eSATA combo port, VGA-out, DisplayPort, mini-FireWire, Ethernet, an ExpressCard slot and an SD card slot. We did like the DisplayPort and eSATA ports, which aren't typical on 14-inch laptops.
Wireless options include 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and optional mobile broadband and WiMax ($55 upgrade). There is also a DVD+/-RW optical disc drive.
There are a few different configurations of the Lenovo ThinkPad T420, but our review model included an Intel Core i5-2520M 2.5GHz CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 7200RPM hard drive and 1GB Nvidia NVS 4200M discrete graphics.
These specifications provide an overall good level of performance for a 14-inch laptop. In fact, it is likely above average when compared to other similar laptops in the same category.
This laptop has Nvidia's Optimus dual-graphics: integrated Intel 3000 HD and Nvidia NVS 4200M discrete graphics. The Optimus technology automatically switches between the integrated and discrete graphics based upon your current activity. This allows you to have that added performance when necessary and the extra battery life when you don't need it. We found the graphics performance to be decent and definitely better than just integrated graphics, but it's nothing too great.
Battery life with the included 9-cell battery was impressive at around 7 hours. This puts it at or near the top of the 14-inch category, so it's a really great laptop for people with a long work day.