The T400 is a business-oriented notebook that traces its lineage back to the IBM Thinkpads of the past. Lenovo claims it is “engineered to reach new heights in connectivity, productivity, power management, environmental responsibility and comfort.” With such high claims, a notebook that is simply average won’t cut it. This notebook will need to be great in order to live up to its hype.
As with my previous review of the Lenovo S10 netbook, I'd like to mention the amount of documentation that Lenovo provides with their computers. Included with the T400 is a troubleshooting guide for common problems as well as step-by-step instructions for upgrading the memory and hard drive.
Specs for my review unit:
- Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 (2.4 Ghz, 3MB L2 Cache, 1066 Mhz FSB, 25W TDP)
- Windows Vista Business (32-bit)
- 14.1” 1280x800 LED Display
- 160GB 5400RPM Hard Drive
- 3GB DDR3 RAM
- DVD Burner
- Intel GMA 4500MHD Graphics
- Intel Wifi Link 5100
- 6 cell battery
Design & Build Quality
The T400 is not designed to look sleek. It has the traditional Thinkpad cornered edges and a matte black paint job. Unlike the trend in mainstream notebooks to smooth and taper corners and to make surfaces reflective and smooth, the T400 maintains a rather old-fashioned look.
However, even though the T400 is not designed for looks, it is designed to last. The hinges hold the lid firmly in any position, and there is minimal flex anywhere in the notebook. The notebook also feels more solid than any other notebook I’ve used. The weakest point in the notebook design seems to be the battery connection. The 6-cell battery has much more weight on its area protruding from the edge of the notebook than it does for its area within the notebook frame, and it is held in place by a single latch.
The LED-backlit matte screen may be the weakest part of the T400. Its horizontal viewing angles are somewhat restricted and its vertical viewing angles are poor, which means the notebook is best used by one person directly in front of the screen. Brightness is adequate from brightness levels 4/10 and higher. Lower brightness levels make the screen too dim to comfortably use for long.
Keyboard, Touchpad, and Trackpoint
The keyboard is quite comfortable to type on. There is no flex at any point, and key travel is adequate. Typing on each key makes a soft but audible click, which is noticeable but not loud enough to be annoying. The palmrest feels slightly raised in comparison to the keyboard, which allows for a comfortable typing angle.
The touchpad buttons are nearly absolutely silent, and they work well.
An impressive feature in the T400 is that it has slots for both PCMCIA and ExpressCard interfaces. While both types of expansion cards cannot be inserted at the same time due to space restrictions, it allows users the flexibility to use the older PCMCIA cards already in their possession as well as the newer ExpressCards they may buy in the future. This small piece of backward compatibility could be very useful.
The T400 rounds out its connections with 3 USB ports (2 on the left side, one on the right), IEEE 1394a (Firewire), VGA for display output, and audio in and out ports. In other words, it has the standard ports one would expect. Also, a connection point for a port replicator is on the bottom, as befits a business-class notebook.
Wireless connectivity was excellent, and connecting was made easier by a proprietary Lenovo graphical depiction of available network connections according to signal strength. The notebook also came with a wide-area network card for Verizon Wireless. However, since I do not have an account with Verizon, I was not able to test that.
Optical Drive and Modular Bay
The super slim optical drive detected and booted discs quickly and surprisingly quietly. It could also be removed by a simple button press, allowing an additional battery to be inserted in the bay for longer battery life when the optical drive is unneeded.
The speakers sound somewhat tinny, especially on higher volume settings. They are also not especially loud. However, sound coming through the audio-out post is clear and free of distortion.
Heat and Noise
Heat is not a problem for the T400. Processor temperatures stay in the 30s and 40s Celsius, and the palmrest and keyboard hardly warm up at all during use. It is an exceptionally cool notebook. It is also very quiet. Neither the fans, hard drive, nor optical drive were distracting at any level of performance, which is a serious advantage of the notebook when used in meetings or classes.
However, it should be mentioned that the T400 beeps every time it changes power settings. This happens when the power cord is plugged in or unplugged or when the computer goes into sleep mode and can be slightly startling for users who are not expecting it.
Due to its integrated video card, the T400 is not a gaming powerhouse, as its 3DMark scores reflect. However, it was able to do quite well in other system benchmarks. For instance, in Futuremark’s Peacekeeper benchmark for web browsers, the T400 scored over 3000 with both Google Chrome and Apple Safari.
Putting the processor through its paces with SuperPi took 50 seconds for the 2M calculation. (see right)
Hard drive performance is average. The T400 took 1 minute 28 seconds to start up from power button to fully loaded Windows environment and 34 seconds to shut down.
Passmark could not complete all its tests, but gave a partial system rating of 799.
While the 6 cell battery doesn’t quite measure up to the incredible 6.5 hours of life Lenovo claims, it still provides a more than satisfactory amount of computing time away from an outlet.
Watching DVDs at full volume and 8/10 screen brightness lasted for 2 hours and 46 minutes before the DVD program (InterVideo’s WinDVD) shut itself off due to low battery power. This is good, but not outstanding.
The T400’s battery life really shines when the notebook is being used for word processing and web browsing. At the same 8/10 screen brightness, the battery lasted a full 5 hours and 10 minutes!
Looking back, there is really very little I found against the T400 and a great deal for it. For its target audience of business professionals, I cannot think of a better notebook that combines comfort, silent operation, and business performance with superior battery life. Looking back on Lenovo’s claims, they may have been somewhat exaggerated, but for the most part the T400 lived up to them.
On a personal note, the T400 was the fourth review unit I’ve had the pleasure to test, and so far, it’s also the only one that I wanted to buy after reviewing it. Great work, Lenovo!
Buy this notebook if
- you want a notebook with superior mobility without sacrificing performance
- you spend a lot of time in quiet places like meetings, classes, and libraries
- you want a notebook that will last
Don’t buy this notebook if
- you’re a serious gamer
- a superior screen is a necessity
- you want a stylish notebook