Industry-leading keyboard; Long battery life with bay battery; Bright, hi-res screen; Good low-light webcam
Dull colors on display; Touchpad gestures not smooth
The Lenovo ThinkPad T430s is a first-class business notebook that strikes just the right balance of power, portability and endurance.
A thinner and lighter version of Lenovo's popular ThinkPad T430 business notebook, the 14-inch ThinkPad T430s provides equal doses of power, portability and usability. With its light-weight chassis, industry-leading keyboard, high-res screen and more than 8 hours of battery life, this $1,145 business system ($779 to start) is well worth the price for anyone who cares about productivity.
At just 4 pounds (4.4 pounds with bay battery) and 13.50 x 9.05 x 0.83 - 1.02 inches, the ThinkPad T430s is significantly thinner and lighter than the ThinkPad T430 (13.8 x 9.13 x 1.18 inches, 4.8 pounds / 5.2 pounds with 9-cell battery) and the Dell Latitude E6430 (13.9 x 9.5 x 1.3 inches, 5.2 pounds). When we tried picking up both notebooks, the 0.8-pound difference between the larger T430 and the T430s seemed particularly great. We would much prefer to travel with the T430s.
Touchpad and TrackPoint
Users who don't like pointing sticks will appreciate the comfort and accuracy of the 3 x 1.75-inch touchpad. In our testing, the pad's textured surface provided just the right amount of friction as we navigated around the desktop without a hint of jerkiness. We also appreciated the two discrete mouse buttons that offered firm feedback.
The pad also supports multitouch gestures, including pinch-to-zoom, rotate, three-finger flick and three finger press to launch an app of your choice. While all of these gestures worked for us, we found ourselves having to repeat the pinch and rotate gestures to make them work.
At 249 lux on our light meter, the T430s's screen is about 20 percent brighter than the thin-and-light notebook category average and double the brightness of the ThinkPad T430 (with 1366 x 768 screen). The Dell Latitude E6430 comes close at 237 lux.
Even at maximum volume, the music was loud enough only for a small space. The bundled Dolby Home Theater v. 4 audio software has profiles for music, movies and games, along with an equalizer and volume leveler. Disabling the software, which is on by default, made music sound completely hollow.
The ThinkPad T430s stayed pleasantly cool throughout our testing. After streaming a video for 15 minutes, the keyboard measured a cool 85 degrees, the touchpad clocked in at a chilly 77 degrees and the underside hit a reasonable 90 degrees Fahrenheit. We consider temperatures below 95 degrees comfortable and those under 90 degrees imperceptible.
Ports and WebcamThinkPad X1 Carbon eschew the all-important Ethernet port, we appreciated having these options on the T430s.
The 1.3-MP webcam captured sharp, bright images even in low light. When we shot pictures of our face both under the fluorescent lights of our newsroom and the shadowy corner of an unlit conference room, the camera captured bright, colorful images of our features.
On PCMark 7, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall system speed, the T430s scored a solid 2,460, slightly less than the 2,555 thin-and-light notebook category average. On Geekbench, another measure of total PC performance, the T430s scored 5,529, just slightly above the 5,425 category average.
The 7,200-rpm, 500GB hard drive booted Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) in a speedy 34 seconds, much faster than the 52-second category average and quite strong for a notebook without an SSD. On our file transfer test, where we duplicate a 4.97GB folder of multimedia files, the drive took a reasonable 2 minutes and 25 seconds. That's a rate of 35.1 MBps, slightly higher than the 33.7 Mbps category average, but far slower than systems configured with SSDs such as our review configuration of the Dell Latitude E6430. That notebook copied files at a rate of 169.6 MBps.
Its Intel 3rd Generation Core i5 CPU enabled the ThinkPad T430s to transcode an HD video to iPod Touch format in just 18 seconds using Cyberlink Media Espresso. That time is much faster than the 59-second category average, but slower than the 15 seconds turned in by the Dell Latitude E6430 and its 2.9-GHz Core i7-3420M CPU.
The T430s completed the LAPTOP Spreadsheet Macro Test, which matches 20,000 names with their addresses, in a strong 4 minutes and 26 seconds. That showing is considerably better than the 6 minute and 5 second category average, but a little slower than the Core i7-powered Dell Latitude E6430's time of 4:11.
When we played "World of Warcraft," the ThinkPad T430s managed a strong frame rate of 97 fps on autodetect settings. When we turned the effects up, that rate dropped to a still-strong 44 fps.
However, the much more graphically intense "Batman: Arkham City" was barely playable at low settings, managing just 25 fps. At high settings, the ThinkPad T430s provided only a slide show-like 10 fps.
However, without the bay battery, the T430s managed a more pedestrian time of 5:09, more than an hour less than the 6:33 thin-and-light notebook category average. Because of the 3.5-hour improvement in battery life, we highly recommend the bay battery, even though it adds $130 to the system's price and 0.4 pounds to its weight.
Our configuration of the Lenovo ThinkPad T430s carries a street price of $1,130. For that, you get the 2.6-GHz Intel Core i5-3320M CPU, Nvidia NVS 5200 discrete graphics, a 500 GB 7,200 rpm hard drive, a 1600 x 900 screen, 4GB of RAM, and the bay battery. However, the T430s starts at just $789 and comes with a 2.5-GHz Core i5-3310M CPU, a 1366 x 768 screen, a 320GB hard drive, and the same Nvidia graphics chip as our unit, but no bay battery and no backlit keyboard.
If you buy the ThinkPad T430s from Lenovo.com, you can configure your system to order with your choice of CPU, screen resolution, storage device, backlit or not backlit keyboard, discrete or integrated graphics, and more. Whatever you choose, we highly recommend the 1600 x 900 screen upgrade ($50) and the bay battery ($130).
Software, Security and Warranty
Lenovo's Web conferencing utility is particularly useful because it not only controls the webcam, but also allows you to configure the dual-array microphone for single or multiple voices and keyboard noise suppression.
Lenovo also includes its SimpleTap UI, which provides a simple but attractive, tile-based environment filled with three screens of mini-apps that launch popular websites like Facebook and Wikipedia. Though this is an attractive-looking shell, it doesn't serve much purpose on a device without a touch screen.
After swiping a few times to register our right index finger, we powered down the computer and confirmed that the fingerprint reader remained on, with a flashing green light directly below it. The first time we swiped our finger, the system immediately recognized it and booted us right to the desktop without requiring further input.
Lenovo bundles the ThinkPad T430s with a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor. As with other ThinkPads, Lenovo offers warranty upgrades, the ability to extend your warranty to four years or get on-site service.
VerdictThinkPad T430, which weighs 0.8 pounds more but lasts 13 hours on a charge. Those who want the ultimate in business portability should consider the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which weighs just 3 pounds but has fewer ports and lacks discrete graphics. However, if you want a thin-and-light business laptop that provides an optimal balance between mobility and heavy-duty productivity, the ThinkPad T430s is your best option.
|CPU||2.6-GHz Intel Core i5-3320M|
|Operating System||MS Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)|
|RAM Upgradable to||4GB|
|Hard Drive Size||500GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||7,200rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Optical Drive||DVD+/-RW DL|
|Optical Drive Speed|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia NVS 5200M|
|Wi-Fi Model||Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205|
|Touchpad Size||3 x 1.75 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||DisplayPort|
|Warranty/Support||One year standard parts and labor|
|Size||13.50 x 9.05 x 0.83 - 1.02 inches|
|Weight||4 pounds / 4.4 pounds with bay battery|