ThinkPad. The name ought to ring a bell. It's the quintessential business laptop that everyone has almost certainly seen, very likely used, and possibly owned during the past decade. Originally an IBM product, the ThinkPad line was sold off to Lenovo (along with the rest of the IBM PC division) about six years ago. Despite the change in ownership, the core product remained the same; love it or hate it, ThinkPad is the standard bearer for Lenovo laptops. Today we're looking at the latest representative of the ThinkPad Classic series, the T410.


The construction of the T410 has the famed magnesium alloy chassis with a black rubberized coating on the exterior. It's a solid construction that has proven itself time and again—a friend of mine has a similar ThinkPad design from before the Lenovo buyout, and that Pentium M product is now running Windows 7. ThinkPad's are extremely durable, even if they may not be quite as flashy as other laptops. Case in point, hinges are something that often wears out over the course of a laptop's lifetime, and the classic ThinkPad has shown itself to be very durable, even after more than five years. The T410 also continues the trend of having a latch for the cover, something that many laptops and notebooks now omit, and you can open the LCD past 180 degrees and have the display lie flat on the table if that's something you find useful.

Even with the solid construction, the ThinkPad T410 still checks in at a relatively light 5.0 lbs. with a 6-cell battery; Lenovo sent us a 9-cell battery to boost battery life, which adds a few ounces while improving battery life by ~50%. 5.0 lbs. certainly isn't going to win the prize for the lightest laptop, but put in perspective the T410 also packs in a speedy Core i5 CPU with a discrete NVIDIA Quadro NVS 3100M graphics card. The construction is also a bit thinner than previous ThinkPad designs, with a flat profile that packs away nicely into a laptop bag. The beveled edge on the palm rest makes the design work without creating a hard angle where your wrists would rest. The speakers are reasonable but not overly loud, but at least they don't distort at higher volumes. ASUS' N61J has some great built-in speakers, but the T410 will work for office presentations in a conference room. If you need more volume, external speakers are the way to go.

The fast CPU and discrete GPU improve performance but also require additional cooling, and the cooling is one area where the T410 excels. Even under maximum load, the fan remains exceptionally quiet compared to the competition. Where plenty of other notebooks will hit 40-42 dB under full load, the T410 in testing topped out at just 33 dB—very impressive considering we're looking at a unit with an i5-540M CPU running at 2.53GHz (with Turbo Mode hitting up to 3.066GHz). If you want a bit more performance, the i7-620M (2.66GHz with 3.33GHz Turbo) is an available upgrade for the T410, showing just how well the cooling works. At idle, the T410 hovers right around the 30dB noise floor of our testing environment. The chassis also remains generally cool, with the hottest spots staying under 38C (100F) during testing in a 20C (68F) environment. To put this in proper perspective, the T410 is actually quieter and cooler than most of the CULV laptops we've tested!

The standard pricing on the ThinkPad T410 is higher than competing laptops, but you definitely get better quality. The catch is that right now (through the end of the month), Lenovo has some pretty massive sale prices available—around 25% off! The laptop we received for testing (with extras like the 9-cell battery, fingerprint scanner, webcam, Intel 6200 WiFi, Gobi 2000 3G mobile broadband with GPS, and Bluetooth) normally sells for $1900, but with $446 in savings it's currently available for $1454. If you drop some of those extras like the Gobi 2000, you can easily get the sale price under $1300, or with the base options the T410 with i5-540M and Quadro NVS 3100M starts at $1535 (on sale for $1089). That's a great price for a laptop with some high-end features and a excellent design, but you'll definitely want a few upgrades like 4GB RAM. The base model T410 without discrete graphics starts at $1265 (on sale for $919), but again with extras like 4GB RAM, a 6-cell battery, WXGA+ LCD, fingerprint scanner, and 2MP camera it comes to $1430 ($1084 sale price). We'd like to see a standard warranty that's longer than one year, but Lenovo provides extended warranty options at a reasonable price. A 3-year warranty with ThinkPad Protection (2-way shipping provided) is normally $199, but is on sale for $149; adding onsite support will bump the price up another $100.

Ultimately, the ThinkPad T410 isn't what we would call an excellent bargain, unless you can jump on the current sale; either way, you definitely get a high quality product. If you're tired of cheap, plastic cases and hinges that wear out after a couple years, we're confident the ThinkPad T410 will last a long time. As mentioned earlier, the ThinkPad aesthetic is something that you likely either love or hate, and I fall into the former category. If I had to buy a laptop for my own use and I wanted something powerful and durable, the T410 would be near the top of my list. I'd prefer a bit more GPU horsepower to go with the i5 processor, and NVIDIA's Optimus Technology would cement the deal. The reason is simple: Quadro NVS 3100M just doesn't pack quite enough oomph for my purposes, but when running on battery power Intel's IGP is sufficient for my needs, so some form of switchable graphics would be perfect. (The T410s adds switchable graphics but not Optimus and it still uses the relatively underpowered NVS 3100M, and it costs several hundred dollars more than the T410.) Finally, while the LCD resolution and matte coating are great, the contrast ration is disappointing. Those complaints aside, there's still plenty to like, so if you've been looking for a reason to buy a ThinkPad, the current sale makes now an excellent time to take the plunge. With ~25% savings on a high quality product, what's not to like?

Lenovo ThinkPad T410 Specifications and Features
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  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    IdeaPad is definitely more for consumers IMO. As for HP business laptops, I've got an HP ProBook that I'm working on reviewing as well, so stay tuned to see how that compares. Unfortunately, determining reliability is a bit beyond the scope of a 30-day product evaluation, as they all tend to work well within that time period. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    By PSU do you mean the power brick? Because I know they changed the plug between the T43 and the T60.

    A note on the warranties: I don't know if they still have the site set up (my T43 went out of warranty a few yrs ago) but it is worth checking if they still track warranty periods by serial number. They at least used to have a site set up where you could check whether a certain system was still in warranty. Important if you are thinking of buying used or selling, no need to deal with receipts or anything, they track what coverage it has.

    Part of the reason I have not upgraded is the loss of the Flexview screen. I love my 1400x1050 IPS screen, most don't match the resolution and I'm not sure any match the viewing angles.
    Reply
  • DukeN - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    Amen brother - can definitely say agree with everyone in there.

    I can not even fathom using another laptop after having a W500 and T61/T60 the last few years.

    Great matte screens, standard power bricks and amazing build quality - no creaking, loose hinges or plasticky feels after years.

    I wonder if the screen quality is noticeably improved in the W series, or the T410s.

    Some great promos came out here in Canada in March, lots of folks bought really nicely outfitted T410s' for $1300ish after taxes.
    Reply
  • ekul - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    I had a thinkpad (T42) through my last employer and I miss it everyday. The keyboards are amazing, the hinges take any abuse you can offer, the thinkvantage driver program makes sure you always have the newest drivers and did long before windows 7, they are quiet and they are unobtrusive. Everyone I know who has used a thinkpad on a regular basis comes around to the conclusion they are the best.

    I spent nearly 4 years lugging that thinkpad around both my and client locations. It still looked like it had just come out of the box. It never put a foot wrong. Meanwhile, I had clients on their 3rd or 4th dell latitudes that had suffered various calamities from broken screens, dead motherboards to overheated cpus.

    I almost forgot the absolute best feature. Standardized powerbricks means you can forget yours at home and IT has some spares sitting in their desk and it just works, regardless of what model you have. One of those features where once you need it you realize the brilliance of the engineer who fought for it.
    Reply
  • jonup - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    The function key is at the wrong place!
    We both a few R61 about two years ago and they had a superior hw than anything else in the office and they ran slow as hell. They were ugly, heavy and did I mentioned the function key? Thank god they got passed down to the staff so I do not have to hear the managers complaining about them all the time!
    Reply
  • Xenoterranos - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    There's actually an option in the BIOS to switch the functionality of the ctrl and fn keys. They'll still say fn and ctrl, but they'll operate they way their locations are supposed to!

    I bought this laptop after being disgusted with a compaq that literally disintegrated after only 2 years. Screws where falling out of the thing!
    I replaced that with a cheap (500$) acer that barely lasted a year before the power plug broke off the motherboard.

    For me, the deciding factor was the 3 year accidental damage protection for 160. (with student discounts). I got mine 20 days after they where announced :)

    And for anyone wondering about thinkpad vs macbook build quality, you could probably bash a mac into pieces with a thinkpad, and still use the thinkpad afterward :)
    Reply
  • jonup - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    "both" should read "bought" Reply
  • takumsawsherman - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    As a former fan of Thinkpads, I have to say that this unit seems like a big disappointment, though the review "sounds" positive, there are a lot of problems pointed out that make the laptop actually sort of "meh".

    In any case, in IBM's defense, not knowing about the new ones, if I need a part for the IBM thinkpad line, IBM is usually not only the quickest and best source, but also the least expensive. Case in point, a customer damaged their hearsink/fan assembly. Cheapest price for a replacement was IBM parts, who had it in stock (5 year old laptop) shipped it 2-day for about $68, and it came with screw hole covers (stickers) to replace any that lost their stick after replacement.

    Now, Lenovo might have similar service, but the failure rate of the laptops that I see is way up (anecdotal, to be sure) and the quality is down. Of course, the same has happened with Toshiba, as they all race to the bottom. But IBM I always felt was more like Apple in putting quality over "low, low prices".

    In any case, I think it would be crazy to buy this laptop. "The blah blah blah is wonderful for the business user". Business users should continue to switch to the much more pleasant MacBook Pro and throw VMWare on it if they need Windows. Then they can use the kick-butt snapshots, which you should be talking about, and talking to niche vendors about getting their dragging rears in gear to natively support the platform. This will help the business long term, and probably the Lenovos of the world as well. They shouldn't be able to count on the trapped consumer any more. They might even have to spend some time trying to improve the product.
    Reply
  • Drag0nFire - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    I actually think the T410 is fine for a 14 in chassis. The T510 (15 inch) is much less palatable competitor to the MacBook Pro. It actually comes in at 1.5in thick (and let's not even talk about weight)!

    Also of note, although the T410s was advertised with switchable graphics, Lenovo later dropped this feature.

    I'm a long time fan of thinkpads, but I think the Lenovo is shifting in a very negative manner to respond to threats from "cheap" laptop manufacturers (Acer, Asus, HP). The T series used to be in the same category as the Macbook pro, a premium machine. The premium category is gone from the Lenovo line-up. You simply can't build the elegance of a 15in macbook pro for a base price of $800.
    Reply
  • Belard - Sunday, March 28, 2010 - link

    The R, T and above series have their roll-cages, its very much there. The weight and feature set is a bit better. And Mac keyboards are now standardized pretty-looking but awful looking keys (HP & SONY uses it). You can only get so thin... besides, the T510 is 1.4" thick including its rubber feet which are a bit thicker than apples.

    Lets compare pricing a features, basic:
    Thinkpad T510: $1505 = Core i5 2.53Ghz / 4GB / 500GB HD / Win7 Pro / 15.6" LCD @ 1600x900 / Cam / blue-tooth / Wifi-N upgrade / WAN added with GPS function. 512mb Quadro discrete graphics (performs between 9400m & 9600m GT)


    MacBook Pro 15" : $1950 = Core2 2.53Ghz / 4GB / 500GB HD / OS X / 15.4" LCD @ 1440x900 / Cam / Wifi N / blue-tooth / (no WAN) / 9400M - shares 256mb. (Less than half the Quadro NVS 3100m above).

    $450 more... A CPU that is 1/3 slower, no WAN built-in, no discrete graphics. The ThinkPad T-510 can be had for under $1000 if I made it like the $1700 version of the iMac, but still with an i5 CPU. What I quoted for $1500 was a semi-top end model. I didn't make it 8GB or faster i5 CPU.

    So this is Apples bottom end 15" notebook, but I changed the HD to 500GB and added the anti-glare screen ($50) as ThinkPads don't have stupid glossy screens. Funny thou, Apple charges $150 to upgrade the 320GB to a 500GB. Lenovo charges $80.... hmmmm.

    If we upgrade the MAC 15" to the best...
    MacPro 15" = $3300! Core2Duo 3Ghz / 8GB RAM / 500GB HD / Antiglare.
    it would still be slower (CPU wise) than the $1000 T510.

    T510 max: $2195 Core i7 620 2.66ghz / 8GB RAM / 500GB HD / WAN, etc.

    I think I'd rather let apple keep that 0.45 " thinner body for that $1100 price difference.

    Apple makes generally good products... I'd prefer to get something better for less.
    Reply

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