The Good The ThinkPad T420 has several things going for it: performance, plenty of ports, excellent battery life, and a very comfortable keyboard.
The Bad The volumetric, business-oriented design of the T420 is a positive stone age. It is also priced well above similar laptops for consumers. Neither HDMI nor USB 3.0.
The Bottom Line The Lenovo ThinkPad T420 is as simple and straightforward as a business notebook to be on the surface, improving performance, long battery life and flexible port selection under the hood.
Visit for details.
Compared to the CES 2012 notebooks – Ultrabooks and other neatly designed variants – the ThinkPad T420 is a dinosaur, at least outside. Thick and bulky, with a keyboard trimmed with enough auxiliary buttons to look like a space shuttle control panel, the T420 is as old as a laptop. It is also solid as a tank; not a sturdy laptop by itself, but equipped with a spill-resistant keyboard and a magnesium roll cage that most notebooks don’t have. And it’s more ports and features than most laptops that are struggling with the currently popular minimalist style.
The ThinkPad T420 is a laptop that broke out of your IT department and may even be sitting at your desk, as we say. Fans of old laptops will not be disappointed: the rubberized trackpoint is located in the middle of a set of thick, tapered keyboard keys, and large additional buttons that control the trackpoint sit above the touchpad. You can light the keyboard with the LED light on top of the webcam, thank you very much – there is no backlit keyboard here. Older ports also work here: everything from eSATA to ExpressCard and even FireWire is included. And obviously there is an optical drive (another feature that is often missing from laptops today).
It’s very unfair to attack the ThinkPad T420’s design too much, as it’s obviously not intended for the average consumer – this vPro-equipped laptop is all business-related. However, we may be a little curious about the T420: our configuration price went up above $ 1,000, although the ThinkPad T420 on the Lenovo Web site starts at $ 749 for the entry-level version with Core i3 processor and fewer bells.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$1,139 / $749|
|Processor||2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2520M|
|Memory||4GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB, 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia NVS 4200M / Intel HD 3000 (Optimus)|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.4×9 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.2 pounds / 6.1 pounds|
We last watched the ThinkPad T series ThinkPad T410 back in December 2010. As far as design is concerned, nothing has really changed. The ThinkPad T420 is heavy, 5.2 pounds for a 14-inch laptop, and its body is almost 1.2 inches. However, the T420 is not as difficult to extract as one might expect based on how it looks. What you get here is durability, choice of ports and a surprisingly good combination of speed and battery life. With its Core i5-2520M processor, the Core i5-2520M is slightly faster than average, the T420 competed in our benchmark tests with the Core i5, and the included Nvidia graphics are good enough to play in a game like Street Fighter IV at medium settings. In our CNET tests, the battery life exceeded 7 hours, which is best for the Apple MacBook Pro.
As you might expect, the ThinkPad T420 keyboard is very comfortable: it’s a Lincoln Town Car keyboard or comfortable orthopedic shoes. It may not be sexy, but damn if it isn’t a great writing keyboard. However, the many additional and surprisingly laid out functions and buttons for teleconferencing can overflow. The Esc and Delete keys are large, vertical, and raised above the rest of the keyboard. This is also strange, but not if you use ThinkPads. On the whole, it feels like a command center, and obviously it should have been considered so.
The touchpad is not very wide for the multi-touch, but its pinched surface has great traction and sensitivity. Too many buttons above and below the pad may be good for accuracy in close quarters, like on planes, but they interfere with the motion of the pad. The multi-touch gesture is difficult to remove. For curiosity, I tried this red rubber track again. I have to admit that in evaluating the simple effectiveness of a trackpoint, there is even something that can be evaluated, even in its accuracy, but it is not for everyone, and a rubber point can throw a hunting machine like me.
Again, this is clearly a laptop made for those who don’t want change, who wants a laptop that looks just like the product a few years ago. If you want change, get it ThinkPad Edge . At least the extra vertical thickness of the T420 was well-used for stacking ports – DisplayPort sits above the USB 2.0 port on one side, and USB ports and SD / ExpressCard slots on the other.
ThinkPads always boasted good displays, and the matte 14-inch display on this model was crisp and bright and easy to read. 1600×900 pixel resolution is a step up from the standard, offering more accurate text resolution and more screen stillness without too many icons or menus. It also costs $ 50 as an upgrade to the standard 1366×768 pixel display. The T420 hinges open the screen 180 degrees from the base for added flexibility.
Stereo speakers are great for video conferencing or office functions, but it’s not a great laptop for watching movies. Filming on Netflix looked a little blurry. Again, you don’t have to use such a working laptop for movies and games, do you? (In case you were wondering, Street Fighter IV really played surprisingly well using Nvidia Optimus NVS 4200M T420 graphics, clocking at 39.8fps at 1600×900 native.)
The high-definition 1,280×720 webcam and included audio optimization capabilities make the ThinkPad T420 better than the average teleconference toolset, though most laptops today are more than capable of basic Skype, especially if you have a headset with a microphone. However, the 720p webcam is a $ 30 upgrade, which was standard in our configuration.
|Lenovo ThinkPad T420||Average for category [midsize]|
|Video||VGA, DisplayPort||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA, ExpressCard, mini FireWire, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband and WiMax||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The ThinkPad T420 is packed with ports that make any owner of legacy legacy equipment shine: three USB 2.0 ports (one powered), one USB 2.0 / eSATA combo, VGA, DisplayPort, mini FireWire, and even an ExpressCard slot. However, it lacks USB 3.0 and HDMI, both of which are more useful in today’s working environment.
The ThinkPad T420 offers a number of upgrade options, including some nickel and dimmer upgrades ($ 20 for Bluetooth, $ 20 for a fingerprint scanner, $ 30 for an HD webcam, $ 55 for WiMax, $ 50 for a 1600×900 pixel display, like unlike 1366×768 pixels) that can be added quickly. The base T420 comes with a second-generation Intel Core i3 processor, but it can be upgraded to our Core i5 version, and even higher, to the 2.8 GHz Core i7-2640M, which will cost an additional $ 190 for our mid-range model. RAM can be upgraded to 8GB, and you can choose a 500GB hard drive at 5,400rpm or 7200rpm or a 128GB solid state drive (SSD) for an additional $ 170 or $ 160GB for $ 200.
For the T420, it’s important to consider the interior, and its features and performance match what you’d expect in a basic laptop. Its performance is fully consistent with the Dell XPS 14z with the Core i7 processor, even though our T420 only has a 2.5 GHz Core i5-2520M processor. This is a second-generation Sandy Bridge processor, not one of the future Ivy Bridge processors. It would be more than enough for anyone who wants to do office multitasking.
The included Nvidia Optimus graphics do not destroy the earth, but provide a nice boost over Intel’s integrated graphics. They are sufficient for moderate graphics and even some games.
Multimedia Task Test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
553 Toshiba Satellite E305-S1990X
581 Gateway ID47H02u
591 HP Envy 14
608 Dell Inspiron N411z
Adobe Photoshop CS3 Image Processing Test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
84 Gateway ID47H02u
91 Toshiba Satellite E305-S1990X
91 Dell Inspiron N411z
92 HP Envy 14
Apple iTunes Coding Test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
111 Gateway ID47H02u
119 Toshiba Satellite E305-S1990X
120 Dell Inspiron N411z
120 HP Envy 14
Video Trial Video Play Video (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
442 Gateway ID47H02u
360 Toshiba Satellite E305-S1990X
336 Dell Inspiron N411z
335 HP Envy 14
|Lenovo ThinkPad T420||Average watts/hour|
|Raw kWh number||36.41|
|Annual cost of electricity consumption||$4.13|
Annual power consumption cost
$4.13 Dell Inspiron N411z
$4.17 Toshiba Satellite E305-S1990X
$4.27 HP Envy 14
With a nine-cell battery attached (for an additional $ 50), the Lenovo ThinkPad T420 passed an impressive 7 hours and 22 minutes in our video play test. Of course, this is an extended battery, but it is considered to be one of the best battery features of any recent laptop we’ve reviewed and was only beaten by the HP dv7-6b55dx. It’s the best 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro I’ve ever compared it to, but this laptop has an internal battery at no extra cost and bulge.
Lenovo offers a standard one-year warranty on the ThinkPad T420. You can update this in different ways on the Lenovo Web site. For example, add up to four years with $ 329 of accidental damage protection. A separate battery warranty extension can also be purchased for up to four years for $ 139. The Lenovo Web site and customer service offer a complete set of support options, and the included ThinkVantage blue button on the T420 is good for accessing a suite of built-in diagnostic tools and support documents.
The Lenovo ThinkPad T420 is exactly what you think it is: a great old-fashioned ThinkPad, but updated with modern processors and specifications. It can do with partial conversion and more modern ports such as HDMI – and overall it’s more expensive than we would like for the specs included – but those looking for a new experience in an old, enterprise-friendly pair will get their shoes for what they paid.
Lenovo ThinkPad T420
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5-2520M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 1GB Nvidia NVS 4200M / 64MB (dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 500 GB Toshiba 7200 rpm
HP Envy 14
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 1GB (dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 750GB Western Digital 7200rpm
Dell Inspiron N411z
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) with / from SP1; 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 64 MB (dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 750GB Western Digital 7200rpm
Toshiba Satellite E305-S1990X
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 64 MB (dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Seagate 7200rpm
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5-2410M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 64 MB (dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm
Learn more about how we test laptops.