Lenovo ThinkPad T420s User Review  Webcam, Microphone, Screen and Speakers

May 26, 2011 by John Ratsey Reads (291,128)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Software & Support
    • 9
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 8
    • Usability
    • 9
    • Design
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Features
    • 8
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 8.43
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Webcam and Microphone
Lenovo?s T420s datasheet describes the webcam as 720p with low light sensitivity. By default, it is set to work at 640 x 480 resolution which is sufficient for webcam video, but the maximum resolution is 1280 x 720. The relatively thin display doesn?t provide much space, but it?s good enough for normal business usage. Pressing Fn+F6 opens the communications settings software which can adjust various features such as zoom and face tracking. The T420s has two microphones located on the top display bezel (and hence, remote from machine noise) and there is an option to suppress keyboard noise.

Screen and Speakers
Prior to me receiving my T420s there had been discussion, much of it negative, about the quality of the T420 / T420s display. I was therefore relieved that my display was adequately bright and had good contrast. It proved to be made by LG-Philips (HWiNFO32 reports it as LP140WD2-TLB1 and the Lenovo parts lookup says it is part 93P5689 LGD). The maximum brightness is noticeably darker than on the Dell E6410, but I normally used that screen at about ? brightness because at full brightness, it started to wash out with reduced contrast. The T420s? display is just about bright enough for working outside while the minimum brightness is very dark and unsuitable for normal use.

The difference in the screen shape and area compared to the 14.1-inch display in my Dell E6410 are very noticeable. The 16:9 aspect ratio is not business-friendly, but we seem to be lumbered by the display manufacturers? quest for economies. While I have a screen that still displays 900 vertical pixels, they are about 8% smaller in height on the new screen.

Comparison of display sizes: 16:10 14.1? on left and 16:9 14? on right

The other issue with the display is the noticeable graininess or ?griddiness? wherein gridlines can be seen. These are very noticeable close up and are also visible with grey text or grey backgrounds. I?ve spent significant time trying to tune the overall display both using the Windows 7 Calibrate and ClearType Tuner tools and making adjustments within the Intel graphics driver (reducing gamma to 0.9 mad a noticeable difference) and have achieved a satisfactory outcome.  However, Lenovo should be making such tweaks at the BIOS or graphics driver level instead of leaving customers to optimise their displays. A notebook in this price range should come with a good quality display.

Lenovo T420s

Dell E6410

Toshiba R700

The close-up photos below make a detailed comparison between my T420s? screen with (i) the Dell E6410 (1440 x 900 matte) and (ii) the Toshiba R700 (1366 x 768 matte). Click on the images to see the detail.


Viewing angles for the display are typical with reasonable horizontal angles but more limited vertical angles. Viewed from above, the image washes out and there is excessive contrast and colour inversion when viewed from below. This is the same as on my Dell E6410. I find that the optimum viewing angle for normal usage is when the display is pushed back a little from the straight on position.

The T420s? speakers are mounted each side of the keyboard. They are noticeably louder than the speakers in the Dell E6410 (perhaps a benefit of the wider chassis giving some more space) and have a relatively better bass response. There also seems to be a better stereo effect. Listening to music through these speakers is a more pleasant experience than on the Dell E6410.



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