Lenovo T430s Review

Disclaimer: This is not a particularly serious or comprehensive review. Rather, it is a collection of my usage notes than anything else. Also, I'm not being paid by Lenovo to say any of this.

A little background and perspective on where I'm coming from.
My last laptop was a Lenovo T60 bought circa 2007, and manufactured around 2006 (I purchased it refurbished). It came with Windows XP, and I drove it into the ground. About a year ago, XP finally gave up the ghost, and instead of doing a clean XP re-install I loaded it with Ubuntu. It functioned fine for a few months and then the power inverter to the display gave out. This seems to be a common problem. While I'll probably get around to fixing this (and yes, a post will be in order on that), the T60 is now serving as an office desktop, and I decided that it would be a good idea to upgrade to a new laptop.

After looking at the current models of Lenovo laptops, I settled on the T430s - good specs and lightweight. I ended up getting another refurbished model from their outlet. Here are the specs;

Windows 7 Home Premium
CPU: Intel Core i5-3210M @ 2.50GHz x64
RAM: 4.00 GB
HDD: 320 GB
Graphics (integrated): Intel HD 4000
Graphics (descrete): NVIDIA NVS 5200M
Display: 1366x768

I'm dual-booting Win7 and Ubuntu using the instructions at LinuxBSDos. Linux installed seamlessly, but be sure to make a windows recovery disk before you do this! I left my recovery partition well enough alone as well. Finally, I had some issues getting the Windows updates to apply (unrelated I think), and fixed it with these instructions.

Usage notes:
  • I was pretty skeptical about the keyboard - I've tried a couple of chicklet style keyboards and haven't been impressed (Apple and Asus - full disclosure, I'm not much of an Apple fan-boy, but neither do I have a bone to pick with them). The reviews were pretty positive about this one (although less so on the e-series, so be warned), so I thought I would give it a chance. The keys have enough travel, are well separated, and the mechanism behind each key is solid. I thought the curved shape to the top was mainly bogus, but my hand does feel much more centered on the home row than with the flat Apple keys. I ocassonally use the home/end/pgup/pgdown group, but am not bothered by their separation on the keyboard. After getting used to ViM, I really want to use this keyboard for complete computer navigation. It lives up to the hype.

  • I'm less positive about the widescreen (although it's rare to get a laptop without this anymore). Personally, I feel as though it makes me hunch over more, since the center of mass of the screen is lower. It's not noticable when it's on your lap, but rather when you're using it on a desk.
  • Also, I'm not much of a fan of the trackpad. The T60's trackpad was perfect - I could use it for days without  having my hand hurt. The 430s... well, after using it for most of today, I feel like I'm developing claw-hand. It has some nice two finger scrolling and three finger tap / swipe actions that work well. I'm not entirely sure what the problem I have with them is. I've noticed this with my wife's Lenovo V600 too. At first I thought it had to do with how recessed the trackpad was, however, now I'm thinking that it has to do with how large it is. I usually have my thumb resting on the left mouse button, and in order to keep the other fingers from registering, I have to arc my index finger far away from them, or constantly hold up my middle finger. The trackpoint (red pointer in the keyboard) feels much better, but I can't keep myself away from the trackpad long enough to give it enough time to form an opinion. I'm thinking I'll have to get an external mouse with this one.
    Added: So I've this for about a week now, but wanted to leave my initial impressions up. It still hurts my hand to use the mouse for extended periods of time, but not quite as much. I've gotten much better at the multiple finger gestures and really enjoy using them. I would still recommend an external mouse for the long haul. Also, I've encountered the first, and hopefully only, problem I've had with this refurbished machine - the right trackpad mouse button has died. This isn't that much of a big deal, I can just jump up and use the trackpoint's rmb, but it's not an ideal situation either.
I think the size of the trackpad may be responsible for my 'claw' feelings.
At last, that combined with my propensity to use the left side of the trackpad
(you can make out where my fingers have been on the T60).

  • The battery life seems good. I got about 4.75-5 hrs of word processing with the internet up, and 1.5 hrs of graphics-heavy Mass Effect 3. This brings up a good point - you do have to make sure the power plug is fully seated into the machine - that's how I have the numbers for ME3 - I didn't fully seat the power cable :p.
  • Sounds are great, the speakers are now next to the keyboards and pointing up. They sound rich enough for me, but that's not saying much, I'm not exactly an audiophile.
  • Graphics-wise it does what I've asked of it so far, which is to say the occasional Starcraft II and Mass Effect 3 :p. And runs pretty cool while doing that.
  • Other notes: I would not pick it up from the right (CD tray side) while burning a CD. The tray is a bit thin and it killed a burn I had going from the little bit of case-flex it does have. These are magnesium cases and are supposed to be quite strong, though. Judging from the number of times I've dropped the T60 that sounds about right.
Here are some more comparison photos:

Top view, and front view, the T430s is slimmer in the front
but builds towards the back to about the same thickness.

Thankfully, it has the same matte screen that prevents reflections.

All in all, it seems to be a solid laptop, and I'm really quite looking forward to using it.

Does anyone else have problems with the new Lenovo trackpads? I'd like to know what your solutions are, two handed? Middle finger navigation? Finger exercises? A hack that lets you use the webcam as a mouse?

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