Editor’s Note: During the review process, we were able to test two different configurations of the Lenovo ThinkPad T410, one with Intel integrated graphics and another with a more expensive, more powerful Nvidia NVS 3100M discrete graphics card. Unless otherwise noted, all test results apply to the configuration with integrated graphics.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad T Series has long been known as the gold standard for business notebooks. The T410 is the latest 14.1-inch member of this family and, with its Core i5 CPU and sleek new design, this machine ($1269 as configured) elevates the line to new levels of performance.
Last year, Lenovo slimmed down and jazzed up the traditional ThinkPad T Series design when it released the slimmer ThinkPad T400s. Now some of the most attractive elements of the T400s have made their way unto the T410, including the more angular shape of the sides, and the new keyboard / LCD light layout. This new look is more evolutionary than revolutionary, but it makes the system look much more modern and attractive.
The materials used in the T410’s chassis make it more durable and stylish at the same time. The chassis features a lid made from ABS plastic and a strong carbon-fiber reinforced plastic bottom. An internal roll cage helps protect the notebook from damage.
The T410 measures in at 13.1 x 9.4 x 1.3 inches, weighs 5.2 pounds with its standard 6-cell battery (the 9-cell extended battery will add 0.4 pounds), and is nearly equivalent in size and weight to the Lenovo ThinkPad T400 and the HP EliteBook 8440w. However, when we held the original ThinkPad T400 and then the new T410 in our hands, the T410 felt more compact and easier to carry. Perhaps the plastic bottom and more tapered edges gave us that impression.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Click to enlargeThe T410 sports the same keyboard that we fell in love with on the T400s. It feature the strong tactile feel which made Lenovo famous, along with new, enlarged Esc and Del keys. Using the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor, we were able to achieve our usual score of 80 words per minute. However, we found ourselves making more errors than usual, and, as a result, we longed for the even more responsive and well-spaced island keys of the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13.
Like most ThinkPads, the T410 features both a TrackPoint pointing stick and a touchpad. We are big fans of the TrackPoint because it’s highly accurate and allows you to navigate the desktop without lifting your fingers from the home row. However, if you prefer touchpads, you’ll appreciate the extremely accurate, textured surface on the touchpad. It also supports multi-touch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom and two finger scroll. Unlike some touchpads we’ve used, zooming in and out is smooth and accurate.
Throughout our testing, the T410 remained very cool to the touch. However, after playing 15 minutes of Hulu video, it got just a little warmer, measuring 103 degrees Fahrenheit at the bottom. We measured a more temperate 96 degrees Fahrenheit on the touchpad, and a cool 93 between the G and H keys.
Display and Sound
Click to enlargeThe ThinkPad T410’s 14.1-inch LED backlit screen is available in two resolutions, 1280 x 800 and 1440 x 900. We had the opportunity to test both screens and each offered sharp, bright images with excellent viewing angles, even at a full 90 degree angles to the right or left.
While still images and games looked good on the T410, video playback was another story. We tested the discrete and integrated models in both screen resolutions. Playback was smooth but dark areas were filled with obvious visual noise and pixilation. The problem occurred in every video we tried, from a 720p episode of <i>Fringe</i> streaming on Fox.com to a DVD of Dark City to a 1080p file we downloaded from Microsoft’s WMV HD Content Showcase.
The sound emanating from the T410’s speakers was also poor. While only a little tinny, the maximum volume was so low that it was difficult to hear.
Ports and Webcam
Click to enlargeThere’s no shortage of ports on the T410. The right side of the chassis contains an ExpressCard/34 slot as well as an eSATA, a powered USB, a FireWire 400 port, an audio in/out port, and a Kensington lock slot. The left side house VGA, Ethernet, and Display ports, a Smart Card reader, and three more USB ports, pushing the total tally to four USB ports. The front lip houses a 5-in-1 card reader for transferring files from cameras and other devices.
The webcam offers strong solid images, even in low light. When using the camera in our dimly lit living room, images were sharp and clear. The video while conducting a call on Skype was very smooth.
With its 2.53-GHz Intel Core i5-540M, the ThinkPad T410 produced some of the best performance scores we’d ever seen. On PCMark Vantage, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall system speed, the notebook scored a whopping 6,937, which is more than double the thin-and-light notebook category average of 3,467 and over 1,000 points higher than the ThinkPad T400s (5,893) which has a 2.53-GHz Core 2 Duo SP9600 CPU. The score was so high that it nearly matched the HP EliteBook 8440w (6,975), a mobile workstation that features a higher-end 2.66-GHz Intel Core i7-620M.
The 320GB 7,200-rpm hard drive booted Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) in a speedy 45 seconds. A lot of this progress is due to the work Lenovo has done with its Enhanced Experience program to improve Windows 7 boot times.
The drive also completed the LAPTOP Transfer Test, in which we copy 4.97 GB of mixed media, in a speedy 2 minutes and 55 seconds for a rate of 29.1 MBps. That is 7.6 MBps higher than the category average of 21.5 MBps and nearly double the score of the original T400 (16.5). The ThinkPad T400s we reviewed last year returned a rate of 66.0 MBps, but that notebook featured a solid-state drive.
Using HandBrake, the T410 transcoded an 114MB MP4 video to AVI format in a quick 3 minutes and 38 seconds, about twice as fast as the category average of 7 minutes and 6 seconds and only 20 seconds slower than the EliteBook 8440w. When we used Oxelon Media Converter, a program that uses multiple threads, the T410 finished transcoding in only 52 seconds, just 7 seconds slower than the 45 second time offered by the Core i7-wielding EliteBook 8440w.
With either Intel integrated graphics or the Nvidia NVS 3100M discrete chip, we were able to navigate smoothly around the globe in Google Earth, surf the Web with ease, view photos, and watch smooth (though a little noisy) high def video.
On 3DMark06, a benchmark that measures overall graphics prowess, the integrated graphics T410 scored 1,374, over 200 points below the category average of 1,584. However, the model with discrete graphics returned a strong 3,698, which was higher than both the HP EliteBook 8440w (3,687) and the original T400 on its high performance setting (2,557).
With either graphics solution, you can play World of Warcraft on the ThinkPad T410. With integrated graphics, we managed a serviceable frame rate of 27 frames per second at 1024 x 768 resolution, which increased to a whopping 60 frames per second with discrete graphics. However, when we configured the game to use each panel’s native resolution (1280 x 800 for the integrated and 1440 x 900 for the discrete), the frame rate on the integrated graphics T410 dropped to an unplayable 8 frames per second while the discrete graphics T410 got a reasonable 28 frames per second.
On the discrete graphics ThinkPad T410 we were even able to play the graphics-intensive game Far Cry 2. At 1024 x 768 resolution, we got 45 frames per second, but only 9 frames per second on the integrated T410. The discrete frame rate was far above the category average of 21 fps and virtually equal to the performance offered by the HP EliteBook 8440w (46 fps). At native resolution (1440 x 900 or 1280 x 800), Far Cry 2 wasn’t playable on either the discrete or the integrated graphics T410s, returning weak frame rates of 11 and 4 fps respectively.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
The ThinkPad T410 is available with a standard 6-cell battery or an extended 9-cell unit. Using the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi, we found that the integrated graphics T410 lasted 3 hours and 53 minutes with the 6-cell battery and 6:02 with the 9-cell. Because discrete graphics use more power, we weren’t surprised to see that the discrete graphics T410 lasted only 3:09 with the 6-cell battery and 4:56 with the 9-cell. Both 9-cell times were higher than the category average of 4:37, but even the 6:02 time fell a few minutes short of the original T400 on its lower power setting (6:26) and the HP EliteBook 8440w (6:36), both of which also had 9-cell batteries. That’s the price you pay for Core i5 performance.
The ThinkPad T410’s 802.11b/g/n wireless card managed reasonable transfer rates of 20.3 and 18.6 Mbps from distances of 15 and 50 feet from the router. The first score was very close to the category averages of 20.8 Mbps while the 50-foot score exceeded the category average of 16.9 Mbps.
The ThinkPad T410 took 1 hour and 35 minutes to reach the 80-percent mark while charging and 3:16 to get to 100 percent. During that time, it used an average of 36.6 watts. Its LAPTOP Battery Efficiency rating of 30.8 is a little worse than the category average of 26.1. EPEAT has given the T410 a gold rating.
Click to enlargeSince Lenovo lets you configure the T410 online, you can choose from a variety of options to suit your needs. For the CPU, you can get either a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-520M, 2.53-GHz Intel Core i5-540M, or 2.66-GHz Intel Core i7-620M. When it comes to storage, you can opt for a 128GB SSD, or hard drives ranging in size from 250GB to 500GB in both 5,400 rpm and 7,200 rpm speeds.
As we mentioned previously, you can get the T410 with either Intel GMA HD integrated or Nvidia NVS 3100M discrete graphics. The system supports up to 8GB of RAM too.
There are also options when it comes to screen resolution and battery capacity. We highly recommend springing for the 1440x900 screen ($30) and the 9-cell battery ($50) for longer battery life.
For $1,269, our integrated graphics review config featured a 2.53-GHz Intel Core i5-540M CPU, 320GB 7,200-rpm hard drive, 4GB of RAM, Intel GMA HD graphics, a 1280 x 800 resolution screen, and a 6-cell battery. For $1,485, you get Nvidia NVS 3100M graphics, a 1440 x 900 screen, and a 9-cell battery.
The ThinkPad T410 comes with a standard suite of Lenovo ThinkVantage utilities, including Power Manager 3, Airbag Protection for hard drive shock protection, and the Access Connections 5 Internet connection manager. The most useful of these programs might be Lenovo's Password Vault, which stores and encrypts all of your usernames and passwords. In addition, the notebook comes with Corel DVD MovieFactory 7, a basic video editing program, and Ulead Burn.Now 4.5 SE, a DVD burning application.
In addition to its software, the T410 offers plenty of enterprise-level security features, including an optional fingerprint reader ($20) and Smart Card ($10). The fingerprint reader is particularly convenient as it stays powered on even when the system is off and users can turn on the computer and log into Windows with just a swipe.
The ThinkPad T410 comes standard with a one-year warranty on parts and labor and 24/7 toll-free phone support. To see how Lenovo did in our tech support showdown, click here.
Like all ThinkPads, the T410’s warranty can be upgraded to two or three years. Small businesses with limited IT budgets can also purchase additional services such as priority support and accidental damage protection.
The ThinkPad T410 continues the ThinkPad T Series’s long tradition of providing workstation level performance in a portable package. If you want a lighter business notebook, you might want to consider the slimmer but more expensive T400s. However, if you’re looking for a top performing 14-inch business system with a comfortable keyboard and a dash of style, the T410 is a great choice. We wish the speakers and video playback were better, but overall this is one of our favorite business notebooks.