Article coming soon: ThinkPad T400s compared to T400 and X301 ThinkPads
Lenovo ThinkPad T400s on sale for $1359 until 7/13 – deal @ LogicBuy
Today we will be dissecting Lenovo’s ThinkPad T400s a bit and looking at the upgradeability of this newest ThinkPad. When we last left off with Lenovo’s slick new ThinkPad T400s, I was overall pretty impressed with the machine. You can read my full review here in case you missed it. For now, let’s dive into how one would go about upgrading the T400s. I won’t be recreating step-by-step details on how to remove this & that, unless there is a particular detail that could use explaining, as Lenovo has done an excellent job with their Hardware Maintenance Manual.
Let’s get started with the sleek underside of the T400s.
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If you look closely, you will notice there are FAR fewer screw holes compared to previous ThinkPads, especially the T4x models; this will come into play a bit later. If you look around a little more closely on the underside, you’ll see a few other interesting tidbits.
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[singlepic id=70 w=185 float=right]What we have here is the redesigned release mechanism for the Ultrabay. Whereas before you pulled a spring-loaded switch that released a pull tab to remove the drive, you know have to hold the switch open and then push (not “slide” as the HMM states) the other button to pop the drive out. The only downside to this is that to remove the Ultrabay, you now have to flip the system over and use two hands to remove the drive; the previous method could allowed the drive to be removed from an upright position and with one hand.
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A quick look at the new docking connector: this is not the same connector as on previous T Series models and is a bit smaller than the others (as one would expect). In case you missed it, here is my post about the T400s docking options.
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Moving on to the meat of upgrading the T400s, as shown above you can easily access most of the commonly upgraded components with the removal of a single screw. Pop off the main upgrade panel and you now have access to both DDR3 RAM slots and the PCI Express Mini Cards (WiFi & WWAN).
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The SSD/HDD drive is also accessible with the removal of a single screw as well, but of course your upgrade options are limited due to the 1.8-inch form factor. Lenovo does have mechanical drive offerings for the T400s, in 120GB and 250GB capacities spinning at 5400rpm. While these should outperform the anemic 1.8-inch 4200rpm drives that were standard on the X40/X41, they still won’t hold up to 2.5-inch drives or the speedy SSD’s. A picture of our T400s’ Toshiba 80GB SSD is below.
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What if you needed to replace the keyboard, or get to the UWB or Turbo Memory cards? Removing the keyboard on previous ThinkPad models was relatively arduous with its large number of screws and sometimes finicky reinstallation. The T400s gets down to only two screws needed to remove the keyboard, which are both contained under the upgrade panel pictured previously. Once you slide the keyboard out of the way, you are greeted with this sight:
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You can see a fair bit of the magnesium roll cage that gives the T400s it’s stiffness, but the sensitive electronics are hidden under some type of plastic sheath. I had my scalpel handy, but decided Lenovo might appreciate if I didn’t return their machine after literally performing surgery.
I know some of you are interested to see what the T400s keyboard looks like, so here is a shot of the underside of our system’s keyboard. I did take a gander at the X301 and T400′s keyboards and they all look near identical; they all sport the “swiss cheese” effect that upset so many people when the T400 first came out. As noted in the review, the keyboard was near perfect to type on and as an aside, I love the revised key spacing that helps keep crumbs, etc out of the keyboard tray.
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The next step in reaching components would be to remove the palm rest. Previous ThinkPads (including the ‘regular’ T400) made this a bit of chore in the reinstallation process. You had to finagle little tabs around, hook one end in first, then the other end, and use Jedi mind tricks to get everything to snap back into place perfectly. The new design is much simpler and shouldn’t give even the most “all thumbs” user much trouble. However when following the HMM’s instructions, I found that either Lenovo left a step out or our T400s is different from the one they used to write the HMM.
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You’ll notice the red circle, indicating the final screw securing the palm rest. The HMM makes no mention of this and the palm rest can’t be removed with it in place, but it is fairly obvious that it needs to be removed. Once you’re past that snafu, you have exposed a bit more of the system and can even access the Bluetooth card. By the way, see that little (over-exposed) white rectangle at the front-right corner of the chassis? That’s the Bluetooth card; correction, that’s the damn small Bluetooth card.
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Where would you go from here? Unfortunately the main thing that isn’t accessible even from this point is the 5-in-1 media reader/ExpressCard 34 slot. Your T400s comes equipped with one of the two and if you wanted to switch to the other at any point, it is an arduous process. You have to remove the keyboard bezel and speaker assembly, which involves a number of screws and what looks like some careful wire detaching & de-routing; which is precisely why I don’t have any pictures with them removed. Out of all the components built into the T400s, they did pretty good if the expansion slot is the only thing not easily accessible.
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Speaking of the expansion slot, our model came with the ExpressCard 34 slot and I wanted to provide a couple comments on it. First of all, while most of us longer-time ThinkPad users are used to a quality, spring-loaded door that makes using and protecting the slot a cinch, that is no longer the trend it seems. The T400s has a cheap little plastic blank that slides into the slot to keep it occupied and dust/contaminant free. There might be engineering constraints around the T400s that prevented the use of a higher quality spring door, but either way it is a disappointment. Also, the spring assembly that holds the blank card is rather stout, so you have to get a good amount of force on it to trigger the pop-out. I still feel the ExpressCard 34 is the better choice, as there are a number of expansion options available for the ExpressCard format.
Thanks for taking a walk through upgrading Lenovo’s ThinkPad T400s. If you have any questions or anything else you’d like to see, leave a comment below!