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Lenovo ThinkPad T430 Laptop

November 10th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

5 stars

ThinkPad T430

When I think of high-end business laptops, the first name that comes to mind is the ThinkPad T series. The T Series is somewhat of a throwback laptop, with Ultrabooks being the “it” design of late. The ThinkPad T Series’ classic design is precisely why I find it so appealing and why you’re probably reading this review. The T430 is Lenovo’s current T Series model and after taking a nice long look, I believe it’s a nice incremental upgrade from the T420.

PROS

  • Terrific build quality
  • Good performance
  • Many configuration options
  • Good upgradeability
  • Convenient Lenovo software tools
  • Stellar battery life

CONS

  • Smallish trackpad and buttons

BUILD & DESIGN
The distinctive overall design of the ThinkPad T Series hasn’t changed much on the T430. It still has a soft-touch black finish, a sturdy build, and a latch to secure the display. Its dimensions and weight are similar to the T420’s. It’s not Ultrabook-thin, but I don’t consider it overly bulky. Its thicker size is an advantage when it comes to upgradeability and the number of available I/O ports.

ThinkPad T430 top

The left side of the T430 has a VGA port, headphone/mic combo jack, MiniDisplayPort, and two USB 3.0 ports.

ThinkPad T430 left side

The right side includes the DVD burner, 4-in-1 SD card reader, an Express Card port, Wi-Fi on/off switch, USB 2.0 port, and a security slot for Kensington cable locks.

ThinkPad T430 right side

At the back of the T430, you’ll find the Gigabit Ethernet port, power connector, and an “always on” USB 2.0 port. If you elect for the 9 cell battery, it will protrude out the back by just under an inch.

ThinkPad T430 back side

The bottom of the ThinkPad T430 has three liquid drain holes just in case you experience a beverage spill. There’s also an access panel for the backup battery, Wi-Fi/mSATA PCIe card, and one of two memory modules. Unfortunately, the other memory module is located under the keyboard. Upgrading the storage drive is as easy as loosening a single capture screw, removing the old drive from its rubber rails and putting the new drive in. If you don’t have your own IT department to do the upgrades for you, you can download the maintenance manual from Lenovo, which walks you through just about any maintenance task you’d want to perform.

ThinkPad T430 bottom

DISPLAY & MULTIMEDIA
The ThinkPad 430’s 14-inch matte display is secured to the main body with metal hinges, making the lid very durable. It also opens to a full 180 degrees. My test unit came with a display that supports a resolution of 1366 x 768, driven by Intel’s integrated graphics card. Although it’s not the brightest panel I’ve ever used, it’s sufficient for most business uses and then some. Watching streaming Netflix and YouTube videos were more than acceptable. I really only had a problem with the low resolution, which for a high-end laptop, should probably start out at 1600 x 900. Anything less should be banished to budget, general purpose laptops. Fortunately, you can upgrade to the higher resolution display for just $50 more. You also have the option of upgrading from the Intel integrated graphics to the 1GB NVIDIA 5400M with Optimus Technology for $130.

ThinkPad T430 display

The stereo speakers on the T430 are located on the left and right edges of the keyboard. Lenovo uses Dolby Advanced Audio 2.0 and I thought they sounded pretty good –– better than most speakers on non-gaming laptops. The 720p HD webcam worked well, but like most webcams, worked much better in brightly lit environments.

ThinkPad T430 speaker

KEYBOARD & TRACKPAD
The ThinkPad keyboard has been historically one of the best laptop keyboards available and a strength of the T Series. Imagine my surprise then, when I found out that Lenovo changed the old keyboard for a newer island-style keyboard. Being a die-hard fan of the old keyboard, I was aghast and ready to pan the new keyboard. It turns out, however, that the new keyboard is pretty good. Very good, actually.

ThinkPad T430 keyboard hero

My typing speed with the new keyboard was about 80WPM, which is just about where I am on a desktop keyboard. The keys have a nice feel and good tactile response. Fans of the older keyboard need not worry about the new one, though, I’m sure there will be some who still prefer the old one. It’s also worth mentioning that Lenovo changed the keyboard layout. The old set of Delete, Home, End, PgUp, PgDn have been broken up with Home, End, Insert and Delete being relocated at the end of the F-key row. PgUp and PgDn are now next to the arrow keys and the Print Screen buttons sits in between the Alt and Ctrl keys on the right side.

ThinkPad T430 keyboard

The Synaptics trackpad appears identical to the one used on the T420, which is good and bad. The trackpad is responsive and the textured surface feels nice when running your fingers over it. The limited number of gestures also work well most of the time. However, the trackpad surface is still relatively small, as are the buttons. You still have the option of using the TrackPoint ball, which is part of what Lenovo calls, UltraNav. Very few laptop manufacturers still use the “eraser” head pointer nowadays, but it’s about the only way to mouse on a laptop without having to move your hands off of the keyboard.

ThinkPad T430 UltraNav

PERFORMANCE
The T430 test unit I received came with an Intel Core i5-3320M processor, but you can configure it all the way up to an Intel Core i7-3520M. With the Intel Core i5-3320M, the T430 felt snappy in Windows 7. Programs loaded up reasonably quick and running multiple programs caused no issues. Still, 4GB of RAM is a bit low and I’d recommend upgrading to at least 8GB –– 16GB if you have the budget.

The 7200RPM hard disk performed well for a mechanical drive, but one of the first things I’d do is upgrade to an SSD. Whether you buy the T430 with an SSD or upgrade it later, it is the one piece of hardware I would recommend upgrading above all others. Boot and shutdown times will improve tremendously and programs will load incredibly fast. Battery life should also improve as well.

The standard 6 cell battery is rated at just under 10 hours. A 9 cell battery is also available and will last well over 10 hours. Paired with a slice battery, Lenovo estimates a run time of 30 hours. During my testing, I used the T430 for a few hours at a time, and estimate that I got over 12 hours between charges with the 9 cell battery.

SOFTWARE
The T430 is one of the few laptops you can still get with Windows 7 installed. You can opt for Windows 8, but if your business uses programs that aren’t compatible with Windows 8 or if you just prefer Windows 7, you’re not forced to use Windows 8 on the T430. It does come with some third-party programs, but if you don’t want them, they’re easily uninstalled. However, I found a lot of value in the Lenovo ThinkVantage tools.

Lenovo ThinkVantage

The ThinkVantage software allows you to do things like set up backups, create recovery media, configure the fingerprint reader (optional), and most importantly, keep your software and drivers up to date. One of the best ways to keep your system humming along is to keep it updated, especially its hardware drivers. And Lenovo’s tools lets you do that without a fuss.

ThinkPad T430 ThinkVantage

SPECS (as tested)

T430

Processor 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3320M
OS Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
RAM 4GB DDR3, 1600MHz (up to 16GB)
Hard disk 500GB 7200RPM
Graphics Intel HD 4000 integrated
Display 14-inch (1366 x 768) 200 nits
Optical drive DVD multiburner
Wi-Fi Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205
USB ports 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x “always” on USB 2.0
Card slots 4-in-1 SD card reader, Express Card slot
Warranty 1 year
Dimensions 13.8″ x 9.13″ x 1.18″
Weight Starts at 4.77lbs
Price as tested $1,064

CONCLUSION
The ThinkPad T430 is more of the same from Lenovo, which is to say that it has a premium build, quality keyboard, solid performance and a fair price. The biggest difference between the older T420 model and the T430 is the keyboard, but for most people, the new keyboard should feel just as good as the old. I would love to see a larger trackpad in the T Series’ future, but aside from that, I enjoyed using the T430 quite a bit. The ThinkPad T Series is also relatively easy to self maintain, which is a feature that’s becoming increasingly hard to find. Laptops that are easy to self maintain can significantly increase their longevity. If you’re looking for a bonafide premium business laptop, the ThinkPad T430 should to be on your shortlist.

Available from Lenovo direct.

* Review unit loaned by Lenovo

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  1. Ed Rhee
    July 11th, 2015 at 13:51 | #1

    Jenn :

    Hi I have a T430 but I can’t find the wireless radio switch that my computer says I need to turn on for WiFi. I’ve checked my computer numerous times and it is not on the left or right side.Could you please help me?

    Looks like it’s on the right side, next to the optical drive.

    http://techdadreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ThinkPad-T430-right-side.jpg

  2. Jenn
    July 11th, 2015 at 13:39 | #2

    Hi I have a T430 but I can’t find the wireless radio switch that my computer says I need to turn on for WiFi. I’ve checked my computer numerous times and it is not on the left or right side.Could you please help me?

  3. Laura Elkins
    March 21st, 2015 at 11:19 | #3

    They are drain holes in case you spill something on the keyboard… nice feature 🙂

  4. Gabe
    April 11th, 2014 at 13:09 | #4

    I’ve got this laptop from the company with Win 7 installed. It is a complete disaster to work on! 14″ full HD display (16:9) , you don’t see a damn thing on it. I tried any possible font shape and size , but it makes it even worse , because I can not read even a short sentence on that screen without scrolling half of my lifetime through the document. The keyboard is just not right , loud to type and have a cheap , heavy feeling. The function key is placed just on the worth position, which is very bottom, left side corner, where usually the control button is placed 9 well, on any other office use laptops I had so far), not to mention the rest of the arithmetic operators, arrow and the navigation keys.The rubber touch pad got dirty on the first day , almost no way to clean it ( the wet wipes are not an option, as it leaves the rubber hairy).

  5. Beatle
    December 1st, 2013 at 09:41 | #5

    In the bottom of the laptop t430 what are the 3 rectangular holes with a plastic screen for??

  6. November 18th, 2013 at 08:05 | #6

    Ed, I have to agree with you on this review. I was issued this laptop by the company I work for, Verizon, and it has served me well and still does. I had purchased a Lenovo personal computer a year and a half ago when the HP unit went through three motherboards. I like the design and styling of Lenovo products over all others now. Thanks for your excellent review on this model.
    Paul in Tampa

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