Lenovo ThinkPad T400 First Look

by Reads (453,154)

by Kevin O’Brien

The new 14-inch T400 ThinkPad is the latest Lenovo notebook based off of the Intel Montivena platform. This computer offers all new features such as hybrid graphics, LED backlit displays, and power saving refinements that let the notebook get extraordinary battery life. With all these changes taking place, Lenovo has also managed to keep the notebook looking as boring as ever, just how ThinkPad owners like it. In this first look we will cover all of the basics, and give you a few hints of what to expect from the full review that will be coming in no time.

Our ThinkPad T400 specifications:

  • Screen: 14-inch 1440 x 900 WXGA+ LED Backlit (Matte finish)
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 (2.80GHz, 1066MHz FSB, 6MB Cache)
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • Storage: 160GB HDD (7200rpm)
  • Optical Drive: DVD+/-RW
  • Wireless: 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.0
  • Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon 3470 w/ 256MB (hybrid switching)
  • Built-in web camera
  • Battery: 84Wh 9-cell and 56Wh 6-cell
  • Dimensions: 13.2″ x 9.4″ x 1.47/1.12″
  • Weight: 5.lbs 4.8oz (w/ 9 cell battery)
  • Retail Price: $2,189


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Build and Design

The design of the T400 has changed a bit. The changes are subtle to the untrained eye, but they are there. The right side is now gently sloped similar to what can be found on the older T4x series, where the sides angle inward instead of dropping off flat. The first clue about this is the optical drive bezel which sports a nice beveled edge. The rubber feet have also been slightly tweaked, now feeling softer, and you get an additional springy nub. Moving past the minor case design changes, the ThinkPad is every bit as boring as all of those preceding it.


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We have the same paint, same rubbery texture, and we still have our ThinkPad logo.
Build quality is very similar to the previous generation T61, with all of its strengths and weaknesses. Fit and finish are great with most parts, but you still have a good amount of battery wiggle in the back, as well as the cheaper feeling plastic LCD lid. The molded plastic panels throughout the notebook feel sturdy, with only mild flex near the card slots. On our particular configuration with the SD-Card reader taking the place of the PC-Card slot and we get a cheap plastic blank instead of a spring loaded flap. Without the plastic blank in place the palmrest does want to bend down at that location under stress. Another odd trait I noticed was additional flex on the right side of the keyboard, where my T60 is solid as a rock, but the T400 wants to give in just a bit. It is still very strong compared to other notebooks, but not as rock solid as the older model.


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What still works and what doesn’t

Those who have older ThinkPad accessories from the T6x/R6x generation will be happy to know all of the older docking stations are still fully compatible with the new notebooks. I can’t say for certain that the older equipment won’t be replaced with newer revisions that offer different connections, but at least you won’t need to upgrade.

The optical bay connections have changed from the previous generation, moving more towards a SATA style connector, rendering older drive incompatible. The power connection for use with the UltraBay battery remained the same though.


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Display

The display on our review model is a 6-bit LG LED backlit panel. Lenovo’s official spec sheet lists this screen as 300:1 contrast, but the LG specification is 500:1. Overall the panel is easy on the eyes with even light distribution and a wide adjustment range for the LED backlighting. The highest backlight setting is very bright, easy outshining my IPS FlexView panel by a wide margin. Colors are vibrant, although the whites do lean heavily on the cooler/blue side. Vertical angles are better than average, with a modest sweet spot before colors start to invert and wash out. Horizontal viewing range is better, with colors washing out slightly, but still staying accurate.

Comparing this screen to the older WXGA+ screen is no contest, with the newer LED backlit model being better in many ways. Whites look cleaner, colors look better, backlight is more even, and best of all is bright enough to view in sunshine. It is well worth the extra money, and you would be foolish not to get it if you are configuring the notebook yourself.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard layout has stayed the same, with only very minor changes in the feel of the keypresses. Some of this may be attributed to the differences in keyboard suppliers (NMB, ALPS, and Chicony) though, as my T60 came with the “clickier” Chicony keyboard, whereas the T400 is much quieter. The keyboard strength seems to have changed slightly, with more flex present on the right side of the keyboard, but I do not know if it is a keyboard difference or a change in support. As with older models, the liquid drains are still in place, ready to get your notebook out of harms way if a stray coffee or soda spills all over it.


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The touchpad has grown compared to the T61, expanding to the width of the lower touchpad buttons. With the ThinkPad touchpads always being the runts compared to other notebook designs, this change was very welcomed (even if they did paint scroll arrows on it). The texture is identical to the older touchpad, and sensitivity is just as good.

Performance

Needless to say, with the Intel T9600 Core 2 Duo processor in our T400 configuration, this system performed very well no matter what we threw at it. Combined with the speedy 7200rpm system drive, applications loaded abnormally fast. Synthetic benchmarks also backed this up, peaking well over 6,000 in PCMark05, and getting scoring around 27 seconds in wPrime. Mild gaming was even possible with this configuration, with Half-Life 2 getting framerates well above 100 frames per second during low detail scenes and high 30’s during action.

Battery Life

I must say that the battery life of this notebook was the biggest surprise. Even with the top tier Intel T9600 and ATI 3470 dedicated graphics the idle power draw of this notebook is lower than ever. With wireless enabled, screen backlight set to 60 percent, and the power profile set to balanced the system sips a paltry 10.2w of power. Under the additional load of rendering webpages or keeping the internet connection active it jumps up to the 12w range, leaving you with between 7-8 hours of battery life using the 9-cell battery.


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More to Come

Expect to see more information covered in our full review that will be up in the next few days, as well as our upcoming Lenovo ThinkPad T500 first look.


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