Lenovo ThinkPad T420s Review – The Slim Functional Business Notebook


For many years, Windows based notebooks (laptops) have been a pretty standard shape and size – this however changed when Apple began to dominate and inspire the market with products that not only functioned well, but also featured a design that appealed to everyone.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad T420s notebook appears to have taken some of the cues from the Apple mandate by slimming down its physique and becoming lighter.

So let’s take a closer look at this particular notebook from Lenovo:

Hardware


The Lenovo ThinkPad T420s is purely designed for business and judging by the numerous features this particular model includes, it’s hard to argue otherwise. In fact in a bizarre unusual twist, it’s probably a little too functional – which I will explain in a moment.

One thing is for certain, this is an extremely fast notebook with, in this case, a Core i5 CPU running at 2.5GHz, 4GB RAM, 320GB hard drive, Intel HD 3000 graphics and Windows 7 Professional 64bit operating system.

The notebook itself is a very typical Lenovo black, with a very durable skin and keyboard. It certainly feels like a device that enjoys a high level of build quality.

The power at your fingertips within such a slim form factor is actually quite staggering and although the integrated graphics won’t be playing any of the latest games any time soon, it will however thrust your office applications into overdrive. Everything zips along at a very impressive pace with the powerful hardware contained within, making every moment a pleasurable one.


Even with all this brute force, for me the 14″ screen is one of the best highlights of the T420s, with its 1600×900 resolution display that is viewable from most angles. The colours seem to lack intensity and compared to other notebooks I have used, it isn’t amazing – however the display is crisp and clear and certainly functional. The extra resolution allows you to enjoy far more desktop space compared to most other notebooks, providing more text on screen at any one time. You can even utilise the Windows 7 feature of snapping applications either side of the display – perfect for placing reference material on one side while on the other you create the all important presentation or document.

Weighing at a very respectable 1.84 kg, the Lenovo is hardly noticeable when resting on your lap or when carrying to your next meeting. Just 21.2 mm in height and 337 mm in depth helps add to this quite thin physique.

Even with this slender body, the T420s includes plenty of ports including on the left a multi-card reader, headset port and USB 2.0 connection. To the rear a VGA connection for outputting to an external display, E-SATA port, USB 2.0 port, a newer and faster USB 3.0 port, wired LAN Ethernal port and power connection. Finally on the right hand side a DVD dual layer re-writable drive.

Above the display is a built-in 720p HD webcam with dual microphones, perfect for video communication’s utilising software such as Skype. Video and audio quality worked well and with these features built-in, there is little need to carry further accessories – reducing wires and clutter.


When opening the notebook by switching a latch on the right hand side, a world of buttons surrounds the touchpad. This is the start of where the function overrides any design aspirations Lenovo may have had.

To the front of the touchpad are two selectable mouse buttons for left and right clicks. Nothing new here you might say, but strangely there are another three above the touchpad that when pressed act as left, middle and right mouse buttons. On one hand, this is great for choice – giving you the option to either utilise the below or above mouse buttons that may work better when rested on a desk or on your lap. From a visual aspect though, it feels just a little cluttered and unnecessary.

This is further amplified when you notice the red control sitting in the center of the keyboard. I haven’t seen one of these controls in years and I actually thought we had moved on, but there it is, for you to control the mouse cursor with this little sticking out ‘TrackPoint’.

To be fair though, whichever set of mouse buttons you use either below or above the touchpad – the ease of use is just wonderful. Particularly the top set that have plenty of cushion and are a pleasure to utilise. The touchpad itself didn’t appeal to me though and the little raised dots left me with a bizarre sensation every time I moved the cursor around the screen.


The keyboard itself is also a delight to type with, with a good fair size and placement increasing your accuracy and speed – with a pleasing action that encourages you to type for long periods without discomfort.

Included are separate buttons for controlling the volume up and down, yet the brightness controls are only adjustable when you hold down the Function key and either press Home or End to raise or lower the brightness display parameters respectively.

The speakers reside on the far left and right of the keyboard, providing a decent volume and good stereo separation. In fact, I wish more notebooks would follow this example, as the placement works very well for most scenarios.

For the more security concious among us, also included is a fingerprint scanner so you can unlock your notebook with literally the power of your finger… well fingerprint anyway. Of course, wireless connections are included for the typical B,G and N standards.

Specifications Highlights

  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2520M Processor (2.5GHz, 3MB L3, 1333MHz DDR3)
  • Memory: 4 GB DDR3 – 1333MHz (1 DIMM)
  • Display: 14.0 HD+ (1600 x 900) LED Backlit Antiglare Display – Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • Hard Drive: 320GB SATA
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64bit
  • Size: Depth 337 mm, Height 21.2 mm, Weight 1.84 kg
  • Estimated Battery Life: Not specified

Software

Included with the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s is Windows 7 Professional 64bit. This will allow you to have all the benefits of the latest Microsoft operating system and utilise the full 4GB of RAM included with this machine.

Lenovo also includes their own set of software enhancements and tools to add to the Windows experience. These are called the ThinkVantage utilities that offer a user friendly way of increasing and monitoring battery performance in particular. Battery life is indicated within the Windows taskbar, so rather than just an icon that provides a vague impression of how much juice within the system is left – the Lenovo software will actually give a clear indication of how many hours and minutes remain at the current rate of depletion. This guide will jump around if you are running different tasks throughout its time disconnected from the mains supply, but it is a far easier method of keeping an eye on battery performance and more importantly when you will need to hook up to the mains to replenish what has been lost.

The DVD re-writable bay can also be replaced with an additional battery, extending the disconnected life (claimed to be up to 10 hours with the additional battery) for a good few more hours – a nice option if you wish to spend a little more cash for this feature and don’t need a DVD re-writer within.

There are also a set of applications by Corel for authoring and watching DVD movies. Also included is the typical Microsoft Office 2010 software trial.

Final Thoughts


The Lenovo ThinkPad T420s is an extremely functional notebook designed specifically for business use and it certainly shows. It lacks a little in the aesthetics department and the numerous controls are possibly a little overkill, however you certainly can’t complain with the variety of options available.

The Lenovo ThinkPad T420s is a lightweight yet powerful computer that will happily sit on your lap or on your desk with pride. It is designed to be used everyday and you will no doubt be impressed with the level of comfort particularly over long periods of time.

If you are looking for a true business workhorse that is still portable enough to take with you on your travels, the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s should certainly be a consideration.

Features I loved:

  • Lightweight
  • High resolution screen
  • Lovely notebook to work with

Features that lacked a little:

  • Display colours could have been more accurate
  • Touchpad a little uncomfortable
  • Possibly too many control options

James Woodcock

Freelance Journalist, Author, Blogger & Podcaster specialising in gaming and technology. Ever since he experienced the first controllable pixel movement on the television screen, he has been entranced by the possibilities and rewarding entertainment value generated from these metal and plastic boxes of delight. Writing hundreds of articles including commentary and reviews on various gaming platforms, while also interviewing well known industry figures for popular online publications.