Most helpful positive review
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Sturdy and cool with i5 and integrated graphics
on July 20, 2011
I am an IBM employee and as such I enjoy a discount on Lenovo purchases. With my corporate discount, the price comes down to what you would find on newegg, tigerdirect, or amazon, but with the ability to customize the system. When I was building mine, even with the discount, the upgrades that I wanted were too expensive, so I ordered a basic configuration plus some upgrades from the sites mentioned above. My system arrived with i5 2520 CPU (the lowest possible frequency), 320 GB hdd, 2 GB RAM, and an integrated video card. Separately, I ordered 8 GB RAM, Intel 320 series SSD (160 GB capacity), and a cheaper 32 GB mSATA SSD drive (a mini-PCI card, the T420s has a slot for it), which I use for swapping and temporary files.
I purposely ordered the CPU with the lowest possible frequency, and no dedicated video card. In my career, I have built and used probably two dozen different systems, and in each and every case, the CPU has never been a bottleneck, nor has been the video card. Most video cards today have GPUs which consume an enormous amount of power, need extra cooling, and drain your battery while heating your lap. I have to mention that I use computers for software development and other casual uses, but not for gaming. I could not care less how many frames per second a given game would render (TO ME it is all crap, and so far from being realistic that it is not worth the hassle -- TO ME a 1980's console Packman is more real than most of the games I see nowadays; call me old fashioned, I don't care). I want a system that would run one or more virtual machines, a development environment, and a database of a size which only the most rich and prestigious universities could afford only a few years ago. The T420s does that.
It runs very cool, is fast, and is sturdy. On occasion, the fan engages, but so far it has been running only at a low speed which is not disturbing (I compare it to my T60p system with dedicated graphics which was very noisy).
The keyboard is outstanding. Better than any Thinkpad (I have owned five) so far. I only wish it was back-lit. The little light on the top of the lid does a good job at illuminating the keyboard, but again I would have still preferred a back-lit one.
The preloaded software is not too intrusive. If I had an option, I would never buy a system with preloaded software, but unfortunately even with this high end business system a clean build was not an option. I have made the habit of wiping off every new system I receive and install only what I need; with this one, I have not done it yet. Probably I will, once I have the time to gather all drivers. But so far it is good, I don't feel slowness, maybe also because the system is so fast.
The screen is nice. It is matted, so it is easy on the eyes. If I had an option, though, I would go with 4:3 screen, which is much more convenient for writing code, but nobody makes these nowadays. I wonder, why all manufacturers think that laptops are only for watching movies?
Speed. With the two SSD drives configured as a master and swap, the boot is blazing fast. I installed the second, smaller and cheaper SSD as a swap and temp drive in order to preserve the more expensive Intel drive. Windows 7 boots in 20 seconds, and an XP virtual machine boots in 8 seconds.
Build quality. The MacBooks have been a standard by which I have measured the build quality and ergonomics of every other laptop, and I have to say, the T420s is better in most departments. It does not flex, it stays cool (the MacBook I compare it is a Core 2 Duo which runs hotter), and is lighter. The MacBook has a back-lit keyboard and a truly amazing display (Lenovo's display is matted which is good, but does not provide the same level of contrast).
There are several things that Lenovo could have done better:
1. 4:3, higher contrast screen
2. back-lit keyboard
3. a minimal install with no preloaded software (although this system is not as crapified as some Sony's or Dell's I have seen lately)
Overall, I am very pleased with my purchase. I highly recommend it. My current configuration is very expensive and is comparable to a 15" MacBooPro's price, but I still prefer it. I have to mention that this is the first laptop I buying with my own money, if that makes my review more trustworthy. If Windows is not essential, get a Mac. For Windows, I doubt that there is a better highly portable system on the market as of today.
I give it 4 stars, as there is still room for improvement. For a comparison, I would also rate a MacBook Pro at 4, and any other laptop I have found at Staples, BestBuy, Costco, etc. scores no higher than 3.