Recently we reviewed Lenovo’s ThinkPad T410, the latest in their bread & butter lineup with a new chassis and some nice design tweaks. One of the things Lenovo has stressed in the past is their desire to improve serviceability on their laptops. This took a decided nose dive around the T60 models, with the memory placed under the touchpad and a dozen screws holding the touchpad and keyboard in. And when you went to put the palm rest back on? You needed to be a Xen master to contort the palm rest such that every latch clicked into place, and even then you probably still had a creaky panel now.
Lenovo has made some nice improvements in these areas, even over the T400 which had evolved from the hellish T60 and T61′s. Let’s dive in
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Bottom Access Panel
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We first turn to the underside of the T410, where we thankfully find an access panel not seen on the T Series since the T4x days (T400s excluded). While this panel houses only one of the two memory DIMM slots, it does provide single-screw access to a RAM module and the Mini-PCI Express slot for the WWAN module. Our T410 came with the new Gobi 2000 GPS/WWAN card, which you see populated here. If you order a module sans WWAN card, you will still get the antennae pre-installed and awaiting your card of choice.
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At this point, I figured it was time to find the other memory slot, indicated to be under the keyboard. Expecting to have to finagle with a dozen tiny screws, I scoured the underside for the familiar keyboard icon next to the appropriate screw holes. A bit dumbfounded, I only found one keyboard screw, and it was under the access panel I’d already removed. The screw holding on the access panel also sinks into the keyboard, making for a grand total of only two screws holding the keyboard in place.
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The new T410 keyboard mounting relies on the structural stiffness of the chassis, as well as a bit of a lever action at the top of the keyboard. The keyboard itself has a lip that slides under the top part of the bezel, which when counter-secured by the screws provides a significant amount of stiffness. Having learned their lessons with keyboard flex on the T400, it seems like they’ve got a solid solution here. But more on the keyboard later – we have a whole post dedicated to keyboards coming up soon.
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With the keyboard freed from its one remaining screw, we see some familiar sights. Heatsink, WiFi card….where’s the other DIMM? Peek-a-boo, there it is! It was hiding under a nifty dust shield.
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This would be the slot to populate with a large capacity module, particularly a 4GB module since the T410 now supports 8GB max. Enjoying the view of the exposed roll cage, we also notice the new Intel 6200 WiFi card. Whew, these things just keep getting smaller and smaller. Should you feel the need to drop in a new card, the WiFi Mini-PCI Express slot is in plain view as well.
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This is one of the few negative traits passed on from the T400s, as yanking the Ultrabay now requires two hands and access to the underside of the notebook. Prior models had a spring loaded latch that could be released with a single switch that was accessible with the notebook in a normal, upright position.
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This new design requires that you flip the notebook over, hold the small lock switch back and then push the mechanical slider to pop the drive out. Unfortunately even the new docking stations don’t offer a second Ultrabay, so you have no choice but to flip your notebook over for Ultrabay swaps. This and the loss of LED indicators are my biggest pet peeves with the new designs, hands down.
It is also worth noting that the latest info suggests there will be no supported Ultrabay batteries on the new T410/T510/W510 ThinkPads, although the T410s can still use one.
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One thing Lenovo has done right for the past several generations is the hard drive and the T410 doesn’t mess with that perfection. A single screw gets you access to the standard 2.5-inch drive, with its handy-dandy pull tab and shock absorbing rubber rails mounted on a metal roll cage. This is the sweet spot for that SSD you’ve been itching to purchase. Go ahead, do it, you know you want to.
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As a closing note, the very infrequently accessed SIM card is located under the battery. Once you’ve installed your WWAN card of choice, just pop in your SIM card and get surfing. Who needs WiFi?
I’m rather impressed with the two screw access to the entirety of the T410′s RAM and wireless cards, with only one more screw keeping the hard drive out of your mitts. Under the keyboard memory slots are no fun for anyone, but packaging demands are what they are and having one DIMM accessible via the underside is a plus. Lenovo thoughtfully offers most of their ThinkPads with an option to add your own WWAN card and they make it ridiculously easy to do so on the T410.
Unfortunately the only real big step backwards on the T410 is with the very device that is supposed to be easy to swap: the Ultrabay. People who rely on being able to easily swap drives without up-ending the PC on their desk are out of luck with the redesigned T410, T510 and W510 (the W701 and X201 are spared as they are not a chassis refresh). A docking station for the T410 that has a second Ultrabay would alleviate these issues for power users, but alas there is no such option at this time. At least you can still steam on with a second 2.5-inch drive (high capacity HDD with a primary SSD perhaps?) or optical drive.