Apple products are expensive, so it makes sense to avoid buying anything that's nearing the end of its lifecycle, or when you can buy something of equivalent quality from another vendor. ...
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Lenovo's ThinkPad T series has recently had a refresh, with several new models added to the range. Our review sample is the T410s, a 14.1in. system with a multitouch screen and the option of switchable graphics. It sounds alluring, but it's not cheap.
The T410s is a conventional ThinkPad, so it's solidly built, but less stylish than the recently introduced ThinkPad Edge. The lid has the characteristic Lenovo lip that descends onto the front edge of the chassis, giving it a somewhat boxy appearance. A high-quality catch keeps lid and base firmly together in transit.
The ThinkPad T401s measures 33.7cm by 24.1cm by 2.1cm and weighs 1.77kg. A pair of speaker grilles sit on either side of the keyboard, which leaves more space than usual for a deep wrist-rest area. This allows Lenovo to include its usual dual touchpad/trackpoint configuration in spacious and comfortable surroundings.
The keyboard doesn't feel cramped and its large, contiguous keys are easy to operate at full touch-typing speed. The Enter key is both large and coloured blue to make it even easier to find by eye.
Above the QWERTY keys is a row of full-sized number keys, and above that a set of half-height Fn keys. A number of control buttons also occupy the area between the screen and the main body of the keyboard. The positioning of some keys may take a little getting used to.
The Esc key, for example, is large and vertically oriented, and located to the far left of this upper area; the Delete key, towards the right-hand side, is the same shape. Home, End, PgUp and PgDn are grouped in a rectangle to right of the Delete key rather than piggy-backing on the inverted-T cursor control keys (whose secondary functions are for media control). In the gaps left and right of the Up key are Back and Forward web browsing buttons. These let you navigate within tabs, but not between them.
Fn keys 9 to 12 also include PrtSc, ScrLk, Pause and Insert, while Fn keys 1 to 8 are on a single row, with above them an array of smaller buttons: on/off; microphone mute; volume; and speaker mute. There's also a blue ThinkVantage button, which accesses system settings and Lenovo support services.
It's a busy keyboard layout, but it does place a lot of services at your fingertips.
Further adding to the complication of the keyboard area is Lenovo's customary use of both a touchpad and a trackpoint. The latter is a red dot between the G, H and B keys, with left and right mouse buttons immediately beneath the space bar, separated by a scroll button.
The touchpad sits flush with the wrist rest, and has a stippled feel that makes it easy to find. It incorporates horizontal and vertical scroll zones and supports multitouch zoom: you hold one finger down and make circling motions with another to zoom in and out, a system we found a little tricky to master.
The 14.1in. display is superb. With a resolution of 1,440 by 900 pixels, it's big enough to accommodate two open document windows at once. It's also a multitouch screen, and you can use this for general application control — although application icons can be a little small for accuracy.
SimpleTap provides an array of large tappable icons for accessing various system functions
There's a feature called SimpleTap too. Tap a tab at the top right of the screen, or double-tap on the screen with two fingers, to call up a collection of large tappable icons for basic functions such as volume and screen brightness. These screen-based features are easy to use, but they feel a little gimmicky, and the display is prone to collecting fingerprints as a result. In everyday use we'd probably avoid them.
A light above the screen can be used when ambient lighting conditions are poor. A fingerprint reader sits in the wrist rest.
The Lenovo ThinkPad T140s is built around a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-520M processor. It comes with 2GB of RAM and runs Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. There's an option for switchable graphics between integrated Intel HD Graphics and a discrete Nvidia chipset, but the latter wasn't present on our review sample.
Our review unit had a conventional 250GB 5,400rpm hard drive, although SSD options are also available in 80GB and 128GB capacities. All configurations have Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and there's an upgrade option for mobile broadband. The SIM slot sits in the usual location, beneath the battery.
An optical drive sits in a bay on the right side of the chassis. It's easily removable and can be replaced with a second battery if you wish to extend the system's mains-free uptime.
Ports and connectors are ranged around three sides of the system, with the majority at the back — an unusual arrangement, made possible because the battery sits in a bay on the underside of the chassis, towards the front edge.
On the left edge is a USB port and a microphone/headset jack, along with a slot for SD-compatible media. The right edge houses the optical drive and a very small hardware switch for the wireless radios.
The back houses the power input, VGA-out, Ethernet, HDMI, DisplayPort and two further USB ports. One of the latter doubles as an eSATA port, while the other offers powered charging (you can charge peripherals when the notebooks is switched off and plugged in).
Performance & battery life
The ThinkPad T410s's Windows Experience Index (WEI) of 3.9 (out of 7.9) is slightly lower than we anticipated. The overall rating was brought down by the score for Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero), the lowest component score corresponding to the WEI. Other subsystems all scored much better: 5.0 for Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate); 5.2 for Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance); 5.5 for RAM (Memory operations per second); and 6.5 for Processor (calculations per second).
The Power Manager utility lets you manage the trade-off between performance and battery life
Because the T410s's 6-cell battery fits into the base, there's no option to choose a larger-capacity spare. To get extra battery life, you'll need to replace the optical drive bay with a 3-cell Ultrabay battery (£59.93 inc. VAT). Working with the main battery only and a balanced performance/battery-saving power plan, we got just under two hours of video playback from the optical drive, which isn't very impressive.
Sound output is very good, and we'd be happy to use this notebook to deliver presentations with audio to small groups.
Lenovo's ThinkPad T410s is a well-built ultraportable notebook with a good specification. The touchscreen features won't find favour with everyone, but they don't intrude. What concerns us is the battery life: you'll be pushed to get a full day's work away from mains power unless you ditch the optical drive and invest in a second battery.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel