Lenovo ThinkPad T430u Hands-On: First Ultrabook with Power-On Fingerprint Reader, Removable Bottom

LAS VEGAS -- Though it won't be coming out until the second half of this year, Lenovo is showing off its first ThinkPad ultrabook, the ThinkPad T430u, here at CES. In a brief hands-on demonstration, we had a chance to handle the incredibly lightweight notebook and identify a couple of unique features we have not seen on any previous ultrabook.

The 0.8-inch thick, 3.9-pound ThinkPad T430u felt a lot more like the luxurious ThinkPad X1, with surfaces that had a very slim, soft-touch feel. The soft touch palmrest is a key feature, because it is much more comfortable for the wrists than the hard plastic we've seen on the T420 and T420s notebooks. 

The 14-inch screen seemed extremely bright and colorful, though we wish it had a higher resolution than 1366 x 768. Our demo unit had a glossy panel, but the final unit will have a matte display, which is much better.

Though the keyboard on our demo unit was not final, an Intel rep told us that it is virtually identical to the amazing keyboard on the ThinkPad X1, with the only difference being a reduction in travel from 2mm to 1.8mm in order to accomodate the thinner chassis. The clickpad on our demo unit was smooth but will be textured in the final build.

To the right of the keyboard is a fingerprint reader that features the company's amazing power-on authentication. The sensor stays powered even when the laptop is off and then allows the user to boot the computer and log into Windows with just a single finger swipe. Though select models of the Toshiba Portege Z830 have fingerprint readers, this is the first ultrabook to over this single-swipe login capability.

In another ultrabook first, the ThinkPad T430u has a bottom panel that pops off when the user slides a release switch. Underneath this panel, the user will find the RAM and hard drive or SSD so those will be easily replaceable. The battery may be accessible from this panel as well, but a Lenovo rep said that it will not be user-replaceable.

The 14-inch ThinkPad T430u will be powered by Intel's Ivy Bridge processors when it ships some time in Q3 of 2012 for a starting price of $849. Users will be able to configure the system with either a hard drive or SSD. We look forward to getting a closer look at this system when production units become available.

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.