[singlepic id=260 h=450 float=center]
Good: Every port & connectivity option imaginable, high performance, runs cool, great touchpad, improved battery design
Bad: Picky keyboard, fan runs often, no switchable graphics
|Specs||Lenovo ThinkPad T410|
Intel Core i5-430M (2.26-2.53GHz)
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
NVIDIA NVS 3100M 256MB
320GB 7200rpm SATA
14.1-inch WXGA+ LED backlit, 220 nits
5-in-1 card reader
4 USB 2.0 (one powered)
DisplayPort & VGA output
IEEE Firewire 1394a (4-pin)
13.2 x 9.4 x 1.1-1.3 inches
6-cell: 5.0lb, 9-cell 5.35lb
$1494 as tested
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Lenovo may have shaken things up with all new designs and *gasp* color choices on the new ThinkPad X100e and Edge models, but the T410 stays true to its roots. You get the familiar black rectangle, but with a few subtle changes. The T410 essentially absorbs the T400s’ (not to be confused with plural T400′s) revised chassis, with the chamfered edges that give it a slimmer appearance.
[singlepic id=267 w=600 float=center]
Since the bottom half of the chassis now angles inward, the major port groupings on the sides jut out from the chassis a bit. I think this is a love or hate look, but I like the change. It gives the T410 a brawny look, like a muscle car with a supercharger sticking out of the hood. It lets you know the T410 is packed to the gills with features.
The other design changes also have to do with the T400s-style that was adopted, with the interior and exterior LED indicators being reduced for “simplicity.” As I voiced in my T400s review, I don’t like the reduced functionality and it is a definite step in the wrong direction.
The exterior now only has two LED’s: a battery icon that indicates system power, charging, and discharge, and a sleep icon. On the inside, there are only three LED’s below the display: WiFi, some type of “personal area” wireless (which seems to only indicate if Bluetooth is active), and hard drive activity.
[singlepic id=263 w=600 float=center]
With the refreshed ThinkPad T410, T510 and W510, Lenovo saw fit to bring the redesigned keyboard of the T400s over. Accordingly all T and W Series models now have the larger keycaps, larger Esc and Del keys and rounded, premium system buttons. The CapsLock key also gets its own LED and the Ultranav is revised per the T400s as well. The feel of the T410′s keyboard is on par with the T400s and representative of what many come to expect from a ThinkPad keyboard. There is no flex that I can detect and the key travel feels just right.
Unfortunately there is something just a little bit off with the ThinkPad T410′s keyboard. I type on a ThinkPad keyboard all day, every day; whether it be a ThinkPad USB keyboard, ThinkPad T400, T400s or X61. On those keyboards, I can type quickly with my usual high level of accuracy. If I switch to the T410 and fire up my fingers, my accuracy suffers. Keystrokes are missed amidst a flurry of typing, almost as though I was going too quick for my own good and missed a key entirely.
With a little experimentation, it appears that when I get typing quickly, I may tap each key with a bit less force. This is not a problem on any other ThinkPad, but with the T410 I have to consciously type a bit harder when I speed up to avoid these keystroke misses. I was relieved to see it wasn’t just me, as both LaptopMag and Notebook Review noted typing inaccuracies as well. Lenovo stated that they weren’t aware of any issues, but that they would inquire with their engineering teams.
[singlepic id=270 w=600 float=center]
Touchpad and UltraNav
As with the keyboard and exterior design, the ThinkPad T410′s touchpad is also a gift from its slimmer T400s cousin. It has the dimpled texture and flush mounting as the T400s’ touchpad and performs identically, which is a good thing. Scrolling is responsive and accurate, as are multitouch gestures for those who use them.
The TrackPoint, which when combined with a touchpad is officially called the UltraNav pointing device, also inherits the T400s redesign and is functionally perfect as well. The only thing noted here is that the UltraNav software doesn’t seem to allow for as much sensitivity with the TrackPoint, but it still responds to plenty light of a touch.
[singlepic id=264 w=600 float=center]
If you go to buy a ThinkPad T410 today, you’ll find only two display choices, compared to the three or four on prior models. All T410′s now use LED backlighting and you can choose from WXGA or WXGA+ resolution. Our model came equipped with the latter panel and it is quite nice. Brightness is on par with the ThinkPad T400s, providing more than enough brightness in even a very well lit room. Most of the time I found myself leaving it around 2/3 brightness in a moderately lit room.
The color saturation and accuracy seemed okay, but as with most regular laptop LCDs it doesn’t impress. At the same time, I wasn’t constantly distracted by poor colors when viewing or editing photos and movies. Viewing angles were about average, with enough vertical viewing that you aren’t constantly adjusting the display angle to get that “sweet spot.” The horizontal angles left much to be desired if two people are trying to watch the screen together. While the T410′s display is certainly a decent one, it doesn’t improve much on previous generations and continues the “good enough” standard in most laptops these days.
[singlepic id=266 w=600 float=center]
ThinkPads aren’t designed for multimedia use, they have been steadily getting better over the years. Speakers were traditionally very weak on every ThinkPad, but the T410 surprised me with its volume. Trying out Pandora, Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, all of them got sufficiently loud in a room with a fair amount of background noise. As with most laptops, I doubt you’ll be able to hear it will in a car at highway speeds, but it was still surprising. Audio quality was nothing special, but that is the case with most laptops.
DisplayPort output is now built into the laptop itself, whereas last generation models needed a docking station. It was also recently confirmed that audio output via the DisplayPort is now enabled, which was not the case with the last generation. This means with an HDMI adapter, you can now project from your laptop directly to your HDTV with a single cable. And the peasants rejoice!
All ThinkPad T410′s (along with the T510 and W510) get both ExpressCard/34 slots and 5-in-1 card readers. Previously you had to choose between the two, but now the ExpressCard/34 is on the right side and the card reader on the front, towards the right. Lenovo also added an extra USB port to the T410, bringing the total to four. One of these USB ports is an “always on” power source for USB devices (denoted by the yellow tab inside) and there is even a separate eSATA port, making the T410 very friendly to a host of different external devices.
[singlepic id=257 w=600 float=center]
Features & Technology
Put succinctly, the T410 has an impeccable combination of features, technology and design that produces a very well rounded machine.
We’ve talked a good bit about the major technology in the T410 already, with the refined “multimedia” features and of course Intel’s new processors. The displays are even further refined, consolidating down to two choices, both LED backlit and both centered in the bezel (T400′s had an off-center LCD). This new generation also brings with it NVIDIA graphics instead of ATI, along with the usual Intel graphics. As part of the new Intel platform, the integrated graphics chip has moved onto the CPU itself and offers both power savings and performance enhancements.
With a huge bevy of ports, including quadruple USB and the more obscure Firewire 1394a, top notch performance and a portable form factor, Lenovo’s ThinkPad T410 embodies the Swiss Army Knife of laptops. The battery design is improved, making the standard 6-cell option flush with the rear, and there is even an extended “all day” battery option that attaches underneath the main battery.
Connectivity & Ports
[singlepic id=272 w=750 float=center]
Left side (front to rear): SmartCard reader, three USB 2.0 ports, DisplayPort output, Ethernet, VGA output
[singlepic id=269 w=750 float=center]
Right side (front to rear): Wireless switch, ExpressCard/34, eSATA port, combo mic/audio jack, optical drive, powered USB 2.0 port, Firewire 1394a port, Kensington lock slot
The ThinkPad T410′s preload is relatively free of junk and trialware, with the main eyesores being the Office 2007 trial and Norton Internet Security 90-day trial. There is the usual conglomerate of Lenovo utilities, which are hit or miss for real usability. The Power Manager and Access Connections programs are always handy, although Windows 7′s network management is plenty sufficient for most people. The Power Manager in particular makes controlling your system’s performance vs battery life trade-off quite easy.
Lenovo is thoughtful enough to include some DVD software from Corel, for both burning discs and doing at least basic video production to burn to a DVD disc. DVD playback is handled by the usual Intervideo software, which gets the job done, although is not my favorite.
Our test system had the 2.53GHz Core i5 CPU, NVIDIA NVS 3100M discrete graphics and 9-cell battery. Whenever I would sit down to use the machine on battery after a fresh charge, the battery gauge would read about five hours. When I finally sat down to do my informal test, noting the start and end times and using the machine normally throughout, the time was a bit less than that.
With the majority of my time spent browsing the web, loading various Flash intensive websites, watching YouTube videos, listening to music, doing some writing and finally watching about 30 minutes of Netflix Watch Instantly, the 9-cell battery ended up lasting about 3.5 hours.
While this time doesn’t sound very impressive, the system was strained decently. You may not realize this if you don’t have your eye on a CPU meter, but browsing modern websites is actually fairly strenuous. I also exclusively use Google Chrome as my browser, which tests show uses more CPU than other browsers by a good margin, with the benefit being better performance. I feel you could extract the rated five hours out of the battery with no wireless and conservative usage, such as when just typing in a word processor on an airplane.
Lenovo’s documentation on the T410 is still a mess, but a rough estimate would be that you can extend this runtime by at least a third with an integrated graphics model. Maybe even more, considering the power consumption improvements with Intel’s graphics that are now integrated into the CPU.
[singlepic id=262 w=600 float=center]
Real World Usage
Like the T400 before it, when you pick up the T410 you don’t get the impression that this is a thin or light notebook. It feels hefty and sturdy, with a solidness leaving no doubt in your mind that this is a ThinkPad. Despite the strong-arm impression, the T410 isn’t too bulky at 5.35lb (9-cell, as our model is equipped) and 1.1-1.3 inches thickness. The redesigned chamfered edges also give it a more sleek feel than its purely boxy predecessor.
Booting up the T410 is a no nonsense affair, thanks to single swipe power-on via the fingerprint reader and fast startup ala Lenovo’s Win7 Enhanced Experience. Once you get into Win7, applications and windows load nearly effortlessly. The combination of Intel’s new CPU’s, a 7200rpm HDD and Lenovo’s OS tweaks make for a really smooth experience. As noted above, the bloatware is minimal and the couple annoying ThinkVantage apps are easily removed.
[singlepic id=255 w=450 float=center]
The T410 has a different chassis design from the T400, partially necessitated by the several added ports, and likely also had its cooling system tweaked to handle the more powerful Intel chips. While the HP Envy 15 I got my hands on would roast my thighs with its aluminum chassis and Core i7 chip, the T410 stayed perfectly cool. The palm rest got a little warm with extended usage, but only noticeably so and not uncomfortably.
The trade off to this is that the fan was audibly spinning most of the time that the system is on. I am not a person who is bothered by or even usually notices fans, but in a room with the usual background noise (HVAC, aquarium trickling, etc) I did hear it. With the TV on at normal volume or when engaged in conversation, I didn’t notice the fan. It’s not an annoying sound, more just one that reminds you it is working to keep your lap cool.
[singlepic id=259 w=650 float=center]
Lenovo’s ThinkPad T410 ought to be nicknamed the “Swiss Army Laptop.” It is a very well rounded notebook that has nearly any port, feature or capability that one might want out of a notebook, or any PC for that matter. While not the thinnest or lightest, its ridiculously complete array of ports, optical drive, powerful CPUs and discrete graphics make 5.0lb a small price to pay. Add to this that it is moderately priced, and will be even more so down the road with coupons through Lenovo.com, and you’ve got a winner.
Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the T410 is the keyboard. While the feel of it is perfect, the accuracy issues for fast typers are an issue. Lenovo’s been messing with keyboards a lot lately and while the T400s redesign was a step in the right direction, they messed up the implementation on the T410. And while that is disappointing, I don’t think it is a deal breaker.
[singlepic id=265 w=450 float=center]
The only other caveat is that while the WXGA and WXGA+ LED backlit screens are sufficient and even decent, they aren’t outstanding. Few business notebook displays, in the smaller form factors at least, have good color reproduction and viewing angles. While the T410′s display is an improvement on previous models, it has a bit further to go to be top notch.
The evolution of ThinkPads has seen the T Series go from a top of the line flagship to an impressive mainstream, bread & butter machine. For a while the slim, feature loaded ThinkPad X301 could be claimed as the ThinkPad flagship, but I would argue that title now belongs to the T400s/T410s (not plural T410′s). The T410 isn’t quite extraordinary enough to be the pack leader, but it will sell in the most volume and has an unmatched feature set.