Lenovo T400s Is Thin and Light but Rugged and Serviceable

In the newest laptop in its ThinkPad line, the T400s, Lenovo has made some nice enhancements that improve usability. There aren't many firsts in the dual-core system, but it should go to the top of any organization's evaluation shortlist.

Lenovo's thin and light ThinkPad T400s is an evolution in a line of workhorse laptops that is worth putting at the top of any organization's shortlist for regular road warriors.

The latest addition to the Lenovo T-series laptop family weighs 3.91 pounds with the optical drive and is 13.3 by 9.5 by 0.89 inches when used with the 6-cell, 5.5-hour battery. The T400s uses either an Intel Core 2 Duo SP9400 (2.4GHz) or SP9600 (2.53GHz) processor. Other battery options are rated at up to 8.5 hours of operation.

The T400s starts at $1,599. The unit I tested priced out at $1,868, including the optional 128GB solid-state drive and Bluetooth support. My test system was also equipped with the Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 5100 for B, G and draft-N wireless network connectivity. Lenovo also offers optional WiMax and wireless broadband network hardware.

There aren't many "firsts" in the T400s, but its many enhancements will please mobile pros.

For example, the Esc and Delete keys are larger, as is the multitouch touchpad. In addition, during my tests with the T400s, it was much easier to use the touchpad than it was with previous Lenovo models, including the x300. The touchpad is now flush-mounted with a textured surface, and Lenovo has improved the palm rejection technology, so that unintended contact between the palm and touchpad during normal typing does not generate stray mouse movement.

For images of the T400s, please click here.

Recognizing the increased use of VOIP (voice over IP) applications, the T400s includes a microphone mute button and larger speakers. The laptop uses dual microphones at the top of the display and a characteristically quiet keyboard to minimize key-click noise while taking notes during conversations. The microphone mute button has an orange LED indicator that made it clear when I was in "listen-only" mode during a call. During tests, the mute button worked when using the built-in microphones and speakers, and when using an external USB headset.

Lenovo has made minor changes to the way the ThinkVantage "blue button" works. Pressing the button brings up the TVPC (ThinkVantage Productivity Center), with links to useful onboard and over-the-Net services. It's simple to find a wireless network or backup using the TVPC. One change that long-time ThinkPad users may not like is that driver updates are now subscribed to using an RSS feed. In the past, the blue button also facilitated the driver update process.

As with other ThinkPad systems, the T400s uses an internal magnesium-alloy roll cage to protect the 14.1-inch display. I expect that the durability I've seen in other ThinkPad models will be preserved using this engineering design, even given the thinness of the T400s form factor.

This is one of the coolest ThinkPads I've used-no small feat given the dual-core processors-thanks to the SSD and the 25-watt processors. There were no "hot palm" problems that I've experienced with almost every other laptop I've tested. I was able to use the system for up to 30 minutes before it became uncomfortably warm.

The T400s includes an integrated fingerprint reader and a built-in TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip. These security tools are well-established in the ThinkPad line and worked as expected in my tests.

The system I tested had one side-mounted USB 2.0 port and a slot for either an Express Card or a five-in-one media reader card. Along the rear of the system you'll find a second USB 2.0 port, a Display Port, an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, a powered USB 2.0 port, an RJ45 network jack and a VGA port. The powered USB port provides additional power to run peripheral devices such as a mobile printer, scanner or barcode reader, making this ThinkPad a serviceable companion for mobile users. IT managers will like the fact that it is possible to use BIOS settings to disable any port that can move data off the T400s.

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at [email protected]