Posts Tagged ‘laptop’

Lenovo ThinkPad T430 Laptop

November 10th, 2013 6 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.

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OGIO Rivet Messenger Shoulder Bag

June 2nd, 2012 5 comments

5 Stars
OGIO Rivet black

I have an affinity for bags of all shapes, sizes, and functions. For daily commute bags, I prefer a messenger-style bag that I can throw over my shoulder. My favorite bag at the moment happens to be an older OGIO bag called the Hip Hop. Looking through the 2012 lineup of OGIO bags, one of the bags that really stood out to me was the Rivet messenger bag.

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Lenovo ThinkPad T420/T520 Laptop

September 15th, 2011 1 comment

5 Stars- techdad
Lenovo ThinkPad T420

ThinkPad T Series laptops have long been known as the premium enterprise laptop, even back when it was the IBM ThinkPad. The T420 and T520 are Lenovo’s latest T Series ThinkPads that carry on the ThinkPad tradition of strong performance, excellent durability, and flexible management options.


  • Outstanding build quality
  • Legendary keyboard
  • Good performance
  • ThinkLight keyboard light
  • Dual pointing options
  • 1600×900 resolution
  • Good battery life


  • Buttons for touchpad are a tad too small
  • Memory slots are located in two locations
  • No USB 3.0 ports

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 front

The design of the ThinkPad T420/T520 is classic ThinkPad.  The black chassis, red TrackPoint cap, and no-nonsense layout are still distinctly ThinkPad.  Lenovo hasn’t stood still, resting on their laurels however.  Features like a roll-cage, metal hinges, hard drive impact protection, spill-resistant keyboard and my favorite, the ThinkLight keyboard light, are all a part of what makes a modern ThinkPad, a ThinkPad.

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 front angle

Build quality on the ThinkPad T Series is like no other and you feel it from the very moment you take it out of the box.  Fit and finish is superb.  The latch, volume and power buttons, UltraNav pointing system, and ports, all have a solid feel to them.  This is how a premium business laptop should look and feel.

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 topLenovo ThinkPad T420 open (back view)

Both the T420 and T520 offer the latest 2nd Gen Intel Core processors.  Currently, the T420 is available with an i5-2520M, i5-2540M, or an i7-2620M.  In addition to the CPUs offered with the T420, the T520 can also be configured with an i7-2630QM, i7-2720QM, or an i7-2820QM. Up to 8GB of 1333HMz DDR memory is supported for both the T420 and T520.  The T420 test unit I received, came with a Core i5-2520M (2.5GHz), 4GB of RAM, 500GB 7200RPM hard disk, NVidia NVS 4200M discrete video + Intel HD 3000, Centrino Advanced-N 6205 Wi-Fi card, and a 14-inch display running at 1600×900 resolution.  The T520 came with an identical configuration except for a slightly faster CPU (Core i5-2540M 2.6GHz).  Every task was zippy and at no point did the systems feel sluggish.  I was unable to publish PCMark Vantage benchmarks (hope to fix that soon) for both systems due to licensing, but believe me when I say that they scored very well.

Though the T Series ThinkPads are enterprise-class laptops, they achieved some decent FPS marks for gaming, due in part to the discrete Nvidia graphics card.  Paired with an Intel HD 3000 graphics chip, the Nvidia NVS 4200M card uses Optimus Technology to automatically switch between graphics chips in order to achieve the best performance and battery life.  As you can see from the DiRT2 benchmarks below, at medium to lower settings, the T420 and T520 had reasonably good FPS scores.

DiRT2 benchmarks ThinkPad T420

DiRT2 benchmarks ThinkPad T520


Both the T420 and T520 test units I tested, supported 1600×900 resolution.  Desktop space was plentiful and I didn’t feel crowded at all, like I typically do with 1366×768 displays.  I watched several DVD movies and streamed Netflix and HBO videos. Everything looked sharp with good colors.  The display has 15 brightness settings and at the highest setting, the screen was very bright and easy to see in sun light.  I’m also happy to report that the ThinkPad T Series laptops use matte screens, to further reduce issues with glare.  A glossy screen on a ThinkPad would have been a serious deal breaker.

The speakers on the ThinkPad T Series, located on each side of the keyboard, produced acceptable sound for a business laptop.  I streamed several tracks from Spotify, and enjoyed the music listening experience.  Movies on the other hand, lacked any kind of punch, though the dialogue was clear and easy to understand.  For movies with lots of explosions or similar special effects, I’d recommend plugging in a decent pair of headphones.  The high quality BlueAnt Embrace headphones I tested with, made a huge difference in audio quality, as was expected.

The webcam on the T420 and T520 did pretty well in my Skype test.  The video quality and photo stills weren’t anything to write home about, but they worked as expected and the software did a good job of suppressing keyboard clicks during video chats.

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 keyboard 

The ThinkPad keyboard is LEGENDARY.  While many laptop manufacturers have switched to the chicklet-style keys, Lenovo has kept the extremely successful keyboard on the ThinkPad T Series the same.  The ThinkPad “Classic Keyboard” keys are comfortable, responsive, and reasonably quiet.  My average typing speed on a desktop Logitech Illuminated Keyboard is 81WPM.  On the ThinkPad, I was able to achieve 77WPM.

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 keyboard close

The layout of the keys are fairly standard for laptops, with the exception being the Fn key (function), which is located on the lower left-hand corner.  This made using the function shortcuts easier, but unfortunately, it hindered my productivity in office applications and email because it’s located right where the CTRL key normally is.  I often use editing keyboard shortcuts like, CTRL+C (copy), CTRL+X (cut), and CTRL+V (paste) while writing and it wasn’t easy to adjust to the new location without having to look down to find it.

On the bright side, I was able to use the Fn key to easily enable the ThinkLight keyboard light so I could see where the CTRL key was while using the ThinkPad at night.  I wasn’t sure that I would like the ThinkLight as much as backlit keys but I’ve come to appreciate the ThinkLight much more than a backlit keyboard because the ThinkLight acts as a mini desk lamp.  Using the ThinkLight, I could not only see the keyboard, but I got enough light to see where some of the USB ports were on the sides and to also read papers I had on my desk.  Being a touch typist, a backlit keyboard is only marginally useful to me, but the ThinkLight is perfect for working in dark environments.

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 touch pad

The UltraNav multi-pointing system is a combination of the standard touch pad and mouse buttons and the TrackPoint pointing device.  Several years ago, a lot of PC manufacturers experimented with the “eraser head” pointing device but dropped them in favor of the normal touch pad.  Lenovo stuck with the TrackPoint and instead, integrated it with a standard touch pad to give the user a couple of choices.  I found the TrackPoint to be very good at precise mouse movements, but a bit tricky for scrolling.

Though the textured touch pad on the ThinkPad supports multi-touch, like most multi-touch implementations on PCs, it didn’t quite measure up to a Macbook’s touch pad.  I also thought that the miniaturized mouse buttons were slightly too small.

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 left

Both the T420 and T520 are available with a display port w/ audio and VGA, 1 always-on USB 2.0 (marked in yellow), Firewire port or modem, 34mm Express Card slot and optional 4-in-1 SD Card reader and a Smart Card Reader on some models.  The T420 has 2 USB 2.0 ports and 1 USB 2.0/eSATA combo port, while the T520 includes an additional USB 2.0 port and has the combo USB 2.0/eSATA port on models with discrete graphics cards.

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 right

What was surprising to me in regards to connectivity options was the lack of USB 3.0 ports. The T420s has one USB 3.0 port, so I’m not sure why it didn’t make its way to the T420 and T520.

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 bottom 

Upgrading the memory in the T420/T520 isn’t too difficult, but the two memory slots are located in two different locations.  One slot is underneath the laptop, like most laptops, but the other is located underneath the keyboard.  To get to the slot under the keyboard, you have to remove the bottom memory slot cover, remove another screw, slide the keyboard down, and carefully lift it up.

Upgrading the hard disk is easier, but if you want to upgrade from a hard disk drive to a solid state drive, you’ll need to purchase special SSD rubber rails from Lenovo.

The battery life on both the T420 and T520 are very good.   The T420 test unit came with a 9-cell battery that Lenovo rated at 15 hours.  To test battery life, I took a 1 hour, h.264 movie file and played it on a continuous loop with brightness set to 40% (setting 6 of 15) and Wi-Fi turned off.  The battery lasted 6 hours and 12 minutes.  I estimate that the battery life should increase by about 30% when limited to just web surfing, which equates to about 8 hours.

I ran the same test on the T520, which also came with a 9-cell battery, and it lasted 4 hours and 42 minutes.  Again, I’d suspect about a 30% increase for strictly web browsing, giving you about 6 hours or so on the T520.

The Lenovo battery management software that’s included with the ThinkPads is excellent.  It goes beyond what Windows offers, like disabling the optical drive until it detects that you’ve ejected it.   Of course, if you need even more battery life, you can purchase a 9-cell “slice” battery that acts as second battery for your ThinkPads.  It adds some bulk, but in theory, this should double the time you can go between charges.  I wasn’t provided a slice battery to test, but if you truly need all-day computing, the slice battery is a must.  It’s also on sale at the moment, for just $99.99 (normally $179).

SPECS (as tested)



Processor Intel Core i5-2520M (2.5GHz) Intel Core i5-2540M (2.6GHz)
OS Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
RAM 4GB  (up to 8GB) 4GB  (up to 8GB)
Hard disk 500GB 7200RPM 500GB 7200RPM
Graphics Nvidia NVS 4200M + Intel HD3000 integrated Nvidia NVS 4200M + Intel HD3000 integrated
Display 14-inch (1600×900) 250 nits 15.6-inch (1600×900) 220 nits
Optical drive DVD multiburner DVD multiburner
Wi-Fi Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205
USB ports 4 4
Card slots 4-in-1 SD card reader, Express Card slot 4-in-1 SD card reader, Express Card slot
Warranty 1 year 1 year
Dimensions 13.4″ x 9.05″ x 1.18-1.20″ 14.68″ x 9.65″ x1.25-1.40″
Weight Starts at 4.9lbs Starts at 5.74lbs
Price as tested $1254 $1269


The ThinkPad T420 and T520 are stellar business laptops, well-suited for both travel and the office.  If you want a good balance of performance, durability, and management options from a business laptop, the ThinkPad T Series laptops deserve your serious consideration.

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* Review loaners provided by Lenovo.

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Battery-saving tips for Windows laptops

August 30th, 2011 No comments

Lenovo Thinkpad T Series
Here are some battery-saving tips for you Windows laptop users out there.

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