As far as business notebooks go, the Lenovo ThinkPad T series has always received high marks for its excellent keyboards, TrackPoints, and performance. The latest in this line, the T410s, is the Weight Watchers version of the 14-inch T410. It's lighter and thinner, yet possesses nearly the same performance. But is it worth $1,504?
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 into the T410s, 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 T410s'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.
While the T410 measured 13.1 x 9.4 x 1.3 inches and weighed 5.2 pounds with its standard six-cell battery, the T410s is a much lighter 3.8 pounds and only 1 inch thick, making it closer to the Sony VAIO Z than the HP EliteBook 8450p.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The T410s sports the same keyboard that we fell in love with on the T400s. It feature the strong tactile feel that made Lenovo famous, along with new, enlarged Esc and Delete keys.
Like most ThinkPads, the T410s features both a TrackPoint pointing stick and a touchpad. We're 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 multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolls. Unlike some touchpads we've used, zooming in and out is smooth and accurate.
Throughout our testing, the T410s remained very cool to the touch. After playing 15 minutes of Hulu video, it measured 88 degrees Fahrenheit at the bottom, 77 degrees on the touchpad, and 86 degrees between the G and H keys. All are well below the T410, which exceeded 90 degrees in every area.
Display and Sound
The ThinkPad T410s' 14.1-inch LED backlit screen is available in just one resolution: 1440 x 900 (the T410 can be purchased with a 1280 x 800-pixel screen). It offered sharp, bright images. Vertical viewing angles were limited to just a few degrees, but were decent horizontally to nearly 90 degree angles to the right or left.
While still images and games looked good on the T410s, videos were another story. Playback was smooth, but dark areas were filled with some noise and pixelation. We noticed it more when watching Star Trek VII: First Contact on Hulu than we did on a file downloaded from Microsoft's WMV HD Content Showcase.
Audio from the T410s' speakers was good for a business system. While slightly soft, there was adequate bass, and higher tones were well defined.
Ports and Webcam
Unlike the more spacious T410, ports are kept to a minimum on the T410s. The left side of the chassis contains an ExpressCard/34 slot, one USB port, and an audio in/out port. The back holds an eSATA connection, a powered USB, VGA, Ethernet, and DisplayPort. The right is empty save for the tray-loading DVD drive and Kensington lock slot.
Images were sharp and clear when using the webcam in our dimly lit living room. The video over Skype was very smooth.
A 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-520M processor and 4GB of RAM in the T410s combined to provide strong overall performance. In PCMark Vantage the system scored 6,234--700 points less than the T410 (which has a 2.53-GHz Intel Core i5-540M CPU), but it still trounced the thin-and-light average by 2,000 points. The HP EliteBook 8440p, which has the same processor but just 2GB of RAM, scored 5,552.
The 5,400-rpm, 250GB hard drive booted Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) in 1 minute and 7 seconds, just slightly behind the average (59 seconds). The drive completed the LAPTOP Transfer Test, in which we copy 4.97GB of mixed media, in a slow 4 minutes and 50 seconds (a rate of 17.5 MBps). That's 6.3 MBps lower than the category average, and just barely better than the original T400 (16.5 MBps).
Using Oxelon Media Encoder, the T410s transcoded an 114MB MPEG-4 video to the AVI format in a quick 58 seconds, 7 seconds faster than the average. However, the T410 finished transcoding in only 52 seconds.
Even with Intel integrated GMA HD graphics, we were able to navigate smoothly around the globe in Google Earth, surf the web with ease, view photos, and watch high-def video (though it was a little noisy). On 3DMark06, a benchmark that measures overall graphics prowess, the T410s scored 1,899, about 360 points below the thin-and-light average.
Frame rates exhibited during gameplay were barely passable. In World of Warcraft, we managed 37 frames per second with the resolution at 1024 x 768 and effects set to default; that dropped to just 10 fps with everything maxed out. The typical thin-and-light laptop sees 86 and 26 fps, respectively, on that test. The same goes for the more demanding Far Cry 2: 33 fps at 1024 x 768, and 10 fps at the max resolution of 1440 x 900.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
Sadly, we didn't see any improvement in endurance with the T410s; its six-cell battery lasted just 4 hours and 8 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (web surfing via Wi-Fi), 18 minutes less than the original T400s (4:26). That's also almost 40 minutes less than the thin-and-light notebook average, and only about 15 minutes longer than the T410 with a six-cell battery. Also, the placement of the T410s' battery under the front rim means you can't swap in a nine-cell battery; the only way to extend endurance is to swap the DVD drive for a three-cell ultrabay battery ($120).
The ThinkPad T410s' Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200 802.11b/g/n wireless card managed excellent transfer rates of 50.4 and 23.7 Mbps from distances of 15 and 50 feet from the router. The first score nearly doubles the category average of 27.6 Mbps, while the 50-foot score exceeded the category average of 19.8 Mbps.
The ThinkPad T410s took 1 hour and 4 minutes to reach the 80-percent mark while charging, and 2:08 to get to 100 percent capacity. During that time it used an average of 35.1 watts. Its LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating of 18.1 is a bit better than the category average of 22.2 (lower is better). EPEAT has given the T410s a silver rating of 20 (out of 28).
Lenovo offers three different primary configurations of the T410s. Ours was the starting model; you can get one with the same processor, 2GB of RAM, and an 80GB Intel SSD for $1,599. Another model features a 2.53-GHz Intel Core i5-540M processor, 128GB SSD, 2GB of RAM, and switchable Nvidia NVS graphics for $1,879. A multitouch display can be added for $400; the notebook can support up to 8GB of RAM, and Gobi 2000 3G with GPS is a $150 add-on.
Given the below-average speed of the 5,400-rpm hard drive in our review unit, we definitely recommend splurging for an SSD if your budget allows. If you do a lot of graphics intensive work, the switchable Nvidia graphics could help too.
Software, Security Features, and Warranty
The ThinkPad T410s 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 T410s offers plenty of enterprise-level security features, including an optional fingerprint reader ($20) and Smart Card reader ($10). The fingerprint reader is particularly convenient; 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 T410s 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 latest Tech Support Showdown, click here.
Like all ThinkPads, the T410s' 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.
Like an aspiring younger brother, the Lenovo ThinkPad T410s is thinner and lighter than the T410, yet manages to perform nearly as well. However, a sub-4-pound machine that lasts only 4 hours on a charge doesn't seem worth the $260 premium (when identically configured). Not only does the T410s cost more--$1,504, to the T410's $1,269--but you're not getting that much more in terms of endurance. There's a lot to like about the T410s, but we wouldn't buy one without the three-cell ultrabay battery.