Keyboard and Touchpad
ThinkPads have always been known for their legendary keyboards; the L420 proudly continues that tradition. Dare I say this keyboard is slightly gimped compared to higher-end ThinkPads (such as the T-series): it has six rows of keys instead of seven. Normally the home, end, page up, page down, insert, and delete keys are clustered together at the top right; with this layout, they are spread across the top in a single row and the page up/page down keys are placed next to the arrow keys. The layout is not as nice as the new T420s but is more than functional. Lenovo likely decided on the six row layout out of space concerns; adding an additional row of keys would likely cramp the touchpad.
Enough about the layout – let’s talk about the feel. It’s fantastic. Each key is reassuringly made of thick plastic and securely anchored to the surface. There is absolutely no flex, which is another testament to the L420’s build quality. The keyboard is reasonably quiet and should not disturb others nearby.
Lenovo’s “UltraNav” pointing device includes both a pointing stick in the center of the keyboard and a traditional touchpad in the palm rest. The pointing stick has a grippy rubber surface and three well-placed buttons below the keyboard. The touchpad has a nicely-textured matte surface that is easy to track on regardless of whether fingers are moist or dry. All of the touchpad buttons are quiet and provide good feedback.
Screen and Speakers
The L420 has a 14-inch display with an anti-glare coating and 720p (1366×768) resolution. The display quality is average at best; brightness is satisfactory though by no means “bright”. Contrast is average; the Command Prompt window is not quite deep black as it should be. Viewing angles are typical for a TN-type panel; colors quickly distort from above and below. It suffices for business use.
The 1366×768 resolution is subpar considering this notebook is intended for productivity. Unfortunately the L420 is not available with a higher-resolution screen as of publishing. A 1600×900 screen would increase the amount of information viewable on the screen at once; this would mean less scrolling and the ability to use two windows side-by-side.
The L420 has two stereo speakers located directly below the display facing the user. They have typical sound quality for notebook speakers and no perceptible bass.