June 20, 2011
- Ultraportable, business design
- Durable construction
- Strong performance
- USB 3.0 & cellular data support
- Limited viewing angles
- Limited graphics performance
- Poor battery life
The Lenovo ThinkPad T420s is a 14-inch notebook that takes a step up from previous ThinkPads by the addition of the latest Intel Core i5 processor, which really increases performance. It has a very portable and professional design that has a comfortable keyboard, but it does have mediocre battery life.
The Lenovo ThinkPad T420s measures 13.5 x 9.1 x 1.1-inches (wdh) and weighs 4.0-pounds, which makes it extremely portable and lightweight too. It's definitely the size and weight of a computer that you could carry around with you all day without much fuss. The T420s has the usual ThinkPad professional-style design with blocky edges and a matte-black finish. The bottom of the laptop is made of a magnesium alloy, which adds some sturdiness. The black exterior has a non-slip paint, which helps you keep a sturdy grip. However, if you're looking for a computer to visually impress your friends and colleagues, look somewhere else.
A really unique feature that impressed us is the swappable bay on the side. While this feature is not revolutionary by any means, the ability to put in either an optical drive or spare battery for added power is. For $119, you can get a spare 3-cell battery from Lenovo and as you'll read later, this is probably a good idea.
Also another nice feature that adds to the portability aspect is that the internals are all protected from bumps, bruises and vibrations. The hard drive chassis sits on a rubber-lined cage that helps protect against sudden bumps. The keyboard is also rated as spill-proof for up to 4 ounces of liquids.
The WXGA+ LED-backlit 14-inch display has a native resolution of 1600 x 900-pixels, which is above most of the 768-pixel screens on other similar laptops. We felt the screen had decent brightness and contrast, as well as color representation. However, the viewing angles are somewhat limited. The screen does have an anti-glare coating, which really helps to cut down on glare from ambient lighting or sunlight.
Lenovo includes their usual keyboard with the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s, which is a good thing because they're known for their comfort. The Synaptics touchpad is also quite nice and provides multitouch gesture support. However, we found the two physical mouse buttons to be too close to the front edge of the body, which caused us some problems.
In terms of ports and connections, the T420s has two USB 2.0 ports (one is a sleep-and-charge port), one USB 3.0 port, VGA-out, a DisplayPort socket, Ethernet and ExpressCard 34mm slot, which also comes with an optical SD memory card adapter. In the battery compartment, there is a SIM card slot for WWAN cellular data access. The majority of the ports mentioned above are located on the laptop's back side, which doesn't follow the usual convention. This leads to some issues locating the proper USB port to use (2.0 vs 3.0 vs sleep-and-charge port).
Specifications of the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s laptop include the latest Sandy Bridge dual-core Intel Core i5-2520M CPU (2.5GHz w/ TurboBoost to 3.2GHz), 4GB of RAM, a 320GB 7200RPM hard drive, Intel Integrated HD 3000 graphics and 802.11b/g/n wireless. There's also an optical drive included, which is a dual-layer DVD burner. Lenovo does include an option for a 160GB solid state hard drive for a pricey $430. There's also a built-in fingerprint reader and hard drive encryption for added security. Lenovo's pre-installed operating system is Microsoft Windows 7 Professional.
The latest "Sandy Bridge" Intel CPU that's inside the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s makes the performance a step up from previous similar models. This new processor in partnership with the 7200RPM hard drive make for a speedy combination for everyday computing tasks and then some. However, the Intel integrated graphics don't give much in the way of graphics performance, so 3D gaming is out of the question, but we had no issues streaming and playing HD video from online.
Battery life with the T420s is disappointing, especially since we got only 2.5 hours of life with the included 6-cell battery. It's definitely a good idea to purchase the additional battery that slides into the optical drive bay if you need more battery life. When using this battery in conjunction with the main battery, we got an extra 1.25 hours of life.