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Disappointing and confusing addition to T-series
on September 20, 2013
I've owned 6 ThinkPad T-series over the last 10 years, and with each new model have been steadily impressed by Lenovo's ability to first take on the IBM legacy, and later innovate and build on the line without sacrificing quality or a consistent professional experience. These are machines designed for getting real work done on, not specifically for watching movies or playing games. Oh, but then I received my T431s.
On paper, it sounds pretty great. Slim profile, "refined" design. I was disappointed by the lack of the NVIDIA graphics chipset, but willing to accept the alternative. Also the lack of an optical drive is annoying (you only hate it when you don't have it), but livable. The battery life improvements can never be bad. The weight improvement over the T4xx series is irrelevant to me... what does half a pound matter? It's not like I'm taking it on a race.
But when I went to install my preferred SSD and additional memory, I find the process takes a lot more screws - the whole bottom of the case has to come off. I also find a cheap plastic housing where previously there was a sturdy metal roll cage that enabled an older T400 to survive me stepping on it accidentally. The lack of a latch for the screen adds to a sense of "flimsiness". The screen is not as bright. The keys on the keyboard don't press down far enough. There are none of the useful status lights under the screen to indicating charging, disk activity, sleep, etc... but in case you cared, there is a cute-yet-useless red light in the logo on the back of the screen. Hooray. I also don't care for the back-lit keyboard... the LED keyboard light on older models was nice for reading notes on that thing called "paper" when I'm traveling.
And then there's the whole trackpad/trackpoint fiasco. I won't linger on it since many others already have, but why mess with a good thing? As a user with big hands who uses ALL the keys on a keyboard for a living, these big touchpads are a real nuisance... I'm constantly moving the mouse as I type which causes unending chaos in whatever I'm working on. So I buy ThinkPads because they come with a track point, which lets me disable the touchpad. Well the buttons are gone, and now I have to click the enormous touchpad to make it work; and the middle scroll button seems to be gone altogether. I don't even understand why they included the trackpoint if they were going to castrate it so.
So *why* -- after countless inexplicably-numbered increments of the T-series models -- did we get this complete redesign between the 430 and 431... that's just 1 digit! It's nothing like the 4xx models. Why must companies fix things that don't need fixing? Is it because the R&D team at Lenovo broke free of the chains of restraint, and were given one model to mess with? To try and reinvent the wheel that is my beloved Think series? I hope that's it. I hope they stop, and I hope we get back on track with what the T-series is known for: high quality business laptops that are reliable, have competitive hardware and that don't look and feel like every other laptop out there.
Bottom line: this is a great alternative to your run-of-the-mill Dell or HP business notebook. It is NOT an alternative to the prior T-series models unless you really didn't like what they were before (and in that case, in all seriousness, you'd probably be better off with a mac).
I returned the T431s and exchanged it for a similarly-equipped T430s, which at least I know will be good.