If a standard 14-inch business laptop is too thick and heavy for your everyday work needs then the Lenovo ThinkPad T430s with its thinner dimensions and lighter weight might be exactly what you need. Keep reading to find out what one T430s owner has to say.
The T430s is the newest slim and light model in Lenovo's venerable workhorse business line, the ThinkPad T series. Released in June of 2012, the biggest changes between the T430s and its predecessor, the T420s, are that the T430s now comes with Intel's third-generation Ivy Bridge processors and Lenovo's new backlit chiclet or island style "Precision" keyboard. An updated discrete graphics option is available for i5 models as well - the NVIDIA NVS 5200M with Optimus Technology.
The "s" at the end of the model name differentiates it from the similar but heftier T430. The starting price varies based on Lenovo's promotions, but hovers around $1,000, though it can be found for less. This is around a $250 premium over the T430.
Build and Design
The T430s is nearly identical to the T420s, maintaining the spartan, business look familiar in ThinkPad machines. At 13.50" x 9.05" x 0.83" - 1.02" (front to back), it feels thin, somewhat wide, and surprisingly light. According to Lenovo, the roll cage surrounding the key components is made of magnesium, and the chassis and lid are composed of "carbon fiber reinforced materials" to keep the weight in check, bringing the laptop to around 4 lbs. Like most ThinkPads, durability and fit and finish are impressive.
No parts creak, and all joints align perfectly. The top of the lid is a soft-touch material with the Lenovo logo and ThinkPad logo on the left and right. The hinges attaching the lid to the body are metal and appropriately stiff, making a solid impression.
Ports and Features
Front: Screen latch
Back: Power jack, an Ethernet RJ45 jack, USB 3.0, MiniDisplayPort with audio, USB 2.0 (always on), VGA out, and a vent
Left: USB 3.0, a 3.5mm Combo Jack Headphone/MIC, a 4-in-1 SD Card Reader (SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC slot) which, when removed, reveals a Express Card 34mm slot and the primary hard drive
Right: Wi-Fi on/off switch, UltraBay and a Kensington lock slot. The DVD drive in the reviewed unit's UltraBay can be swapped with a caddy for a second hard drive (or SSD) or an additional 3-cell battery
The bottom of the laptop has a slot to connect a docking station, the battery, and panels to access components.
Overall, the ports offered and their layout are satisfactory, although an eSATA port and/ or another USB port would be nice. The Mini DisplayPort (with sound) is especially useful as a wide variety of adapter are available to convert the output to nearly any other standard, including full DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI or VGA.
In stark contrast to the industry trend of removing access to parts and reducing upgradability, ThinkPads continue to provide extremely accessible components, which can be accessed by removing two Phillips-head screws to reveal the two DIMMs for RAM, the wireless card, and a mini-SATA connector for either a WWAN card or mSATA solid-state drive. Configurations are available with either (but obviously not both).
Overall, the T430s is a rock solid business machine capable of handling some more demanding programs, despite its low weight and thinness. The easy upgradability is nice, especially as other manufacturers reduce the number of user-replaceable parts. While the battery life is not stellar, the low weight of the system makes it easy to travel with, even with the AC adapter. The screen continues to be a weak spot, but is sufficient for business uses. We would have perhaps preferred the classic ThinkPad keyboard over the new "Precision" keyboard with chiclet keys, but the keyboard remains an overall strong point. The laptop reviewed here is destined to be further upgraded with an mSATA SSD as the main drive, boosting the overall performance of the machine and freeing the included hard drive for use as file storage. In sum, the T430s is easy to recommend as portable but powerful business machine with a build quality which should allow it to last.