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Lenovo ThinkPad T400s Notebook Review
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Date: Jun 23, 2009
Section:Mobile
Author: Jennifer Johnson
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Introduction and Specifications


Lenovo’s notebooks span the entire spectrum, offering low-cost models such as the G530, netbooks such as the IdeaPad Y530, and high-end models such as the ThinkPad W700. Today, we’re taking a closer look at Lenovo’s newest offering, the ThinkPad T400s, a thin and light model that’s designed to give users a blend of portability, performance, and energy-efficiency. This notebook is the company’s thinnest and lightest T Series model, weighing 3.91 pounds and measuring just 0.82 inches thick. The T400s incorporates many features from Lenovo’s best selling notebook, the T400, and combines it with the some of the traits of the ThinkPad X300, which is part of Lenovo’s lightest line.


In addition to being Lenovo’s lightest T Series model, the company boasts that the T400s is 22% lighter and 17% thinner than Dell’s E6400 and 22% lighter and 30% thinner than HP’s 6930P notebook. As you should expect though, the portability and performance of the ThinkPad T400s comes at a higher price than everyday notebooks that aren’t quite as portable. The ThinkPad T400s starts at $1,599 and offers many customization options and other features that business users are sure to love, including VoIP support and a powered USB port that will accommodate iPhone/iPod and Blackberry circuitry. In the coming pages, we’ll take a closer look at what this thin and light notebook from Lenovo has to offer, but first, let’s check out the full specifications of the T400s below.

Lenovo T400s Thin and Light Notebook
Specifications and Features

ThinkPad T Series leads the way: Our best processors, fastest graphics, and durable, reliable data storage. It is why T Series notebooks have earned a place on the desks – and in the briefcases – of business leaders worldwide. – Lenovo

Processors (Speed, L2 Cache, FSB)

  • Intel Core2 Duo SP9400 (2.4GHz, 6MB Cache, 25 watt)
  • Intel Core2 Duo SP9600 (2.53GHz, 6MB Cache, 25 watt)

Chipset/CPU

  • Intel 4500MHD/Core2, SV Small FF, 25W

Preloaded Operating Systems

  • Genuine Windows XP Professional 32 downgrade
  • Genuine Windows Vista Starter Edition for India
  • Genuine Windows Vista Home Basic 32
  • Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium 32
  • Genuine Windows Vista Business 32
  • Genuine Windows Vista Business 64
  • DOS License

Memory

  • 1GB/2GB/4GB DDR3 1067 MHz

Serial ATA Drives

  • 80GB, 128GB, 160GB SSD SATA
  • 128 GB, 256GB SSD FDE SATA
  • 120GB, 250GB 5400rpm SATA

Displays

  • 14.1" wide LED WXGA+ (1440x900)

Graphics

  • Integrated Intel GMA 4500 MHD

Optical Bay

  • 9.5mm Optical Drive with Blu-ray, Multi Burner DVD, Combo DVD

Wireless

  • Intel Wireless Wi-Fi Link 5300 (3x3)
  • Intel Wireless Wi-Fi Link 5100 (1x2)
  • Intel WiMAX Wi-Fi Link 5150 (1x2)
  • Realtek Wireless B, G, N Card
  • WWAN, WiMAX, WLAN Bluetooth, UWB

Ports and Slots

  • Standard USB 2.0, 1 Powered USB 2.0, 1 USB/eSATA
  • VGA, DisplayPort, Mic/Headphone, RJ45
  • Optional 34mm Express Card or 5-in-1 Multimedia Card Reader
  • Combo Microphone in /Audio out

Protection

  • Roll-cage protects against rough-handling or accidental drops

Warranty

  • 1 or 3 Year Depot TopSeller 
  • 1 or 3 Year Depot 
  • 3 Year On-Site including GMP
 

Additional Features

  • Integrated 2MP Camera
  • Multi-Touch TouchPad

Security

  • Integrated Fingerprint Reader with LED
  • Trusted Platform Module
  • ConstantSecure (WWAN models)

Form Factor/Dimensions

  • 14" Wide
  • 3.91 lbs/1.77kg with optical drive
  • 21.1mm x 337mm x 241.0mm (6-cell battery)

Battery

  • 6 cell Li Ion Prismatic Battery: up to 5.5 hrs
  • 3 cell Ultra Bay battery: up to 8.5 hrs with 6 cell battery

Energy Efficient

  • Energy Star 5.0 qualified
  • Mercury and arsenic free low-power displays
  • Improved packaging
  • Low power Solid State Drives

 
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Design and Build Quality


When it comes to thin and light notebooks, Apple’s MacBook Air has certainly received a lot of attention. The T400s is only a sliver of an inch thicker than the MacBook Air—0.82 inches versus the Air’s 0.76-inch thickness. However, the T400s is nearly a pound heavier than the Air (3.91 pounds compared to 3 pounds). What’s really important is the value Lenovo provides for the money. While the Lenovo T400s may start with a price tag that is $100 higher than the low-end Air, you’re getting much more of a machine with a faster processor, larger display, and many customization options.

The T400s is a solid notebook that is designed to handle the normal abuses of traveling. To help protect critical system components from accidents or jolts, for example, the T400s uses the ThinkPad Roll Cage. This magnesium alloy frame surrounds internal parts and helps to absorb shocks, reduce failures, and improve durability and reliability. As is the case with most think and light notebooks, we wished the top LCD lid was a bit sturdier in order to prevent flex, but we can’t say that the T400s was any worse than other models we’ve seen.


ThinkPad T400s Roll Cage - adds rigidity and shock absorption

Like most of Lenovo’s notebooks, the T400s has a matte black finish all around with smooth lines. There’s not a lot of external flare on this notebook, but we have no complaints. The classic design has been a hit with business users for years, so why fix something that isn’t broke?


Upon opening the T400s’ lid, you’ll notice that Lenovo has continued this clean, black look. There are not a lot of stickers or extras on the T400s’ palm rest. You’ll also notice the fingerprint reader and the ThinkPad logo in the lower right corner.


The keyboard on the T400s looks similar to those found on many ThinkPads. Upon further inspection however, you’ll notice Lenovo has made a few improvements to the typical keyboard. For example, the Escape and Delete keys are larger on the T400s than on other models. There’s also separate buttons to mute the microphone and the speakers. Both of these buttons have their own LED indicators. Lenovo has also modified the LED indicators for the Caps Lock key and Power-On button and added LEDs to the fingerprint reader.  Finally, Lenovo added a VoIP Fn+F6 Hotkey combination.


Below the keyboard, you’ll find a decent sized TouchPad with left and right click buttons as well as left, right, and middle click buttons that work with the T400s’ trackpoint mouse located between the G, H, and B keys. The touchpad has a dotted textured surface that helps you distinguish it from the flush case that surrounds it. One of the really cool things about the TouchPad is that it supports Multi-Touch functionality, allowing you to use two fingers to zoom, rotate, and scroll.


On either side of the keyboard, you’ll notice the T400s’ speakers. These speakers are twice as loud as those found on the T400. As the VoIP Fn+F6 Hotkey combination alludes, this notebook is well-prepared for VoIP use, thanks to its 2MP webcam, dual digital microphones, and high quality speakers.

The display on the T400s is a 14.1-inch widescreen WXGA+ with a resolution of 1440x900. This screen was very easy to view outside and had very few issues with glare. In addition, viewing angles on this screen were excellent.


On the right side of the notebook, you’ll find a wireless on/off switch as well as the optical drive you’ve chosen for the T400s. Near the back of the right side, there’s a security lock.


On the left side, there’s a USB 2.0 port, combination microphone/audio jack, an optional express card or 5 in 1 card reader, and a ventilation port.



The back of the notebook has most of the ports. Here, you’ll find the AC adapter input, an RJ45 jack, powered USB 2.0 port, eSATA/USO 2.0 combo port, Display port, and the rear thermal fan.


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Software and Accessories


Our T400s came in relatively simple packaging with an AC adapter cable, a power brick, some documentation, and a 6-cell battery. The power brick is small, just as we like to see with a thin and light notebook. Lenovo includes quite a bit of software with the T400s, though not all of it is very beneficial in our eyes.


There’s a variety of operating system choices available for the T400s. Our test model came with Windows Vista Business preinstalled. You’ll also find a long list of preloaded software on the machine, including

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • McAfee Security
  • ThinkVantage Productivity Center
  • Lenovo Camera Center
  • InterVideo WinDVD
  • Lenovo Online Data Backup
  • ThinkVantage Product Recovery
  • ThinkVantage Mobile Broadband
  • ThinkVantage Power Manager
  • ThinkVantage Presentation Director
  • Lenovo System Toolbox
  • Microsoft Office 2007 60-day trial
  • Roxio Creator Business Edition
  • ThinkVantage Access Connections
  • ThinkVantage Active Protection System
  • ThinkVantage Client Security Solution
  • ThinkVantage Productivity Center
  • ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery
  • ThinkVantage Fingerprint Software
  • ThinkVantage GPS

If you’re not familiar with Lenovo’s ThinkVantage Access Connections, it’s a connection manger that helps you set up and manage wireless Internet connections including Wi-Fi and mobile broadband. Lenovo’s Camera Center provides a quick link to download Skype to use with the notebook’s webcam. It also has a link to Roxio Media Import.

ThinkVantage GPS works with the notebook’s GPS receiver and GPS applications such as Google Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth. This software will be particularly helpful to users who regularly carry their laptops in their cars or use the notebook outside. GPS receivers generally have a hard time getting a strong enough signal indoors, so we were pleasantly surprised when the ThinkVantage GPS software found our location, even though it took quite a bit of time to get an accurate fix. Once the software had locked in on a handful of satellites, the program worked well with Google Maps (the default application). 

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User Experience


The T400s is a very likeable machine. It uses Lenovo’s basic, yet classy styling and offers a good amount of power in a thin package that many are sure to like. Because the T400s uses an integrated Intel GMA 4500 MHD instead of a discreet GPU the machine isn’t well suited for gaming, however. You can see proof of this with the low score on the Vista Experience rating below. If you’re not very concerned about extreme graphical performance though, this will be of little concern.


The Intel P9600 CPU and 2GB of RAM in our test machine handled many of the applications we threw at it with ease. Word processing, surfing the web, and other basic tasks were all handled without any difficulty, as one should expect. The machine was on the low side in terms of memory, but it seemed to handle basic multitasking without any issues.

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The T400s handled high definition video clips (both 720p and 1080p) just fine and didn’t appear to drop any frames. Even when under high load, this notebook was relatively quiet and cool. The underside of the notebook was warm to the touch, but not hot by any means.

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During our time with the T400s, we found the keyboard, TouchPad, and trackpoint mouse very easy and comfortable to use. Multitouch on the TouchPad worked well, and we liked being able to rotate and zoom with a simple twist or pinch of our fingers.

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PCMark Vantage and 3DMark Benchmarks

The PCMark Suite is a collection of single- and multi-threaded CPU, Graphics, and HDD test sets. This Suite focuses on Windows Vista application tests and is designed to represent a subset of Windows Vista consumer scenarios. The overall PCMark score is reflective of your computer’s performance across a variety of common tasks such as viewing and editing photos, video, music and other media, gaming, communications, productivity, and security.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Simulated Application Performance


The T400s scored very well in the PCMark Vantage tests and holds its own, even against more expensive machines. The notebook scored especially well in the Music, Communications, and Productivity categories of the test.


Thanks to our test model’s 128GB SSD, the T400s scored exceptionally well in the PCMark Vantage hard drive test, blowing all of the competition out of the water.
 

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3DMark Benchmarks

The Futuremark 3DMark06 benchmark is useful for comparing performance between similarly equipped systems. This multi-threaded, "gaming related" DirectX metric consists of different 3D scenes that are generated with software and hardware GPU renderers, which is also dependant on the host CPU's performance. In these tests, calculations that are normally reserved for a 3D accelerator are sent to the central processor.
  

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06



The T400s’ integrated graphics is definitely the weakest link in the machine. This led to low overall scores in the 3DMark06 benchmark. Compared to the Lenovo G530 which also has Intel integrated graphics, the T400s fared slightly better.  3DMark06's GPU rendering tests utilize a mix of SM2.0, SM3.0, and HDR techniques and effects. Here again, the T400s’ integrated graphics holds the machine back.



The T400s achieves a mid-range score on the 3DMark06 CPU component.
 

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SiSoftware Sandra Benchmarks

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software.
 

SiSoft SANDRA
Synthetic Benchmarks

 

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The T400s’ Intel Core 2 Duo SP9600 (2.53GHz) performed well in Sandra's CPU-specific test. The notebook had plenty of power for basic multitasking and multimedia playback, so results here were what we expected.



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In the CPU multimedia test, the T400s fared well, but it definitely didn’t blow away competing offerings. In real world tests, the notebook handled multimedia content well and didn’t drop any frames during playback of a 1080p movie clip.


 

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Memory bandwidth was decent on the Lenovo T400s, but not quite up to par with similarly equipped Intel GM45-based reference systems. 



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The SSD in the T400s blew the competition out of the water in the Physical Disks test. We were certainly impressed with the drive’s performance in our real-world tests as well.
 

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Power Consumption and Battery Life

Lenovo rates the 6-cell battery that accompanied our T400s test rig for up to 5.5 hours of life. You can imagine Lenovo is going to go with the best case scenario for this battery rating, however. In our real world tests, we found the battery life to be around two hours and nine minutes using BatteryEater Pro’s Classic test.
 

Battery Eater Pro
Battery Info & Performance

 

Although we have to think that 5.5 hours is a bit of a stretch, it’s feasible that you would be able to get additional life out of the battery, provided you’re not working the machine 100% of the time with a heavy workload like we were during the battery test.



As you can see, there are other notebooks out there that beat the T400s in terms of battery life, but most of them are in different classes and are not as small or as lightweight. For users who require additional power between charges, Lenovo also offers a 3 cell Ultra Bay battery that provides up to an additional 3 hours of battery life when combined with the 6 cell battery, according to Lenovo.
 

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Summary and Conclusion


Performance Summary: In terms of performance, the T400s scored very well in Futuremark's PCMark Vantage test suite. The notebook didn’t fare quite as well in the 3DMark benchmark due to its Intel integrated graphics. And in the SiSoftware Sandra suite of tests, the machine held its own versus similarly equipped reference systems.

 

There are always tradeoffs to be made when choosing a notebook. You can choose a beefy machine with plenty of power, but it’s probably not going to be lightweight or offer long battery life. Alternatively, you could opt for a machine that’s inexpensive and has an average size but may not offer quite as much power as a desktop replacement. Of course, there are many other options and possibilities in between as well.

If a thin and light model with classy styling is most important to you, then Lenovo’s new T400s is an excellent option to consider. This notebook is only slightly thicker than the much-hyped MacBook Air, but with a faster processor and plenty of customization options.

When it comes to design, Lenovo definitely paid attention to the details on the T400s. This notebook has an improved keyboard over previous models with larger Delete and the Escape keys. Lenovo also tightened up the spaces between the keys on the keyboard to help prevent crumbs that would otherwise fall below the keyboard. The TouchPad has also been improved with a textured feel, mult-itouch, and flush design.

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The T400s also features a few redesigned buttons with LEDs. By moving some of the LEDS such as Caps Lock to the dedicated keys, Lenovo was able to eliminate a few unneeded LEDs. As a result, the T400s actually has fewer LEDs than the previous T400 model (7 compared to 15 on the older model).

Realizing business users will also value wireless connectivity and VoIP communications, Lenovo well equipped this notebook with a two megapixel camera for better quality images, better, louder speakers than were found on the T400, and a range of wireless connectivity options. To help reduce ambient noise, Lenovo also added dual digital microphones as well as separate speaker and microphone mute buttons with LED lights to indicate which button is on.

Overall, Lenovo’s new T400s offers many advantages over previous models. If a thin and light notebook is on your wish list, and extreme graphics performance isn’t a must-have feature, then the T400s is absolutely a worthy contender.

     
  • Comfortable Keyboard
  • Attractive, Thin, & Light case
  • Quiet
  • SSD Drive
  • Intel Integrated Graphics
  • Battery Life
  • Lots of Preinstalled Bloatware



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