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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  • takumsawsherman - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    I don't know which Mac keyboards you've been typing on, but the current crop of keyboards are the easiest and most comfortable out there. I say this as the proud owner of many Model M keyboards, which are the standard in my shop, but are much too loud for modern offices.

    Also, the fact that you claim that a Core2Duo 2.5 is "1/3 slower" than an i5 2.5 shows that you have no actual business tasks in mind. What exact business functions are you performing that would allow the i5 that much of an advantage? Also, discrete graphics? for 1999, which is about what you stated for the Mac Pro (by upgrading to that 500GB HD that business users need, right?) you do get discrete graphics. The model you are really pointing to is the $1699 model, and what exactly does that business user need with discrete graphics? Oh yeah, 3D games.

    Then you complain about Apple overcharging for upgrades. Well, Lenovo charges 80 to upgrade to the 500gb model, according to you. But you can buy a 500GB on the street for $75. Why doesn't Lenovo just charge the difference? Maybe because they are trying to make money? Honestly, the Macbook Pros I have put in, with VMWare and Windows installed for those who need it, aren't using even 30% of their disk space. And based on their typical tasks of emailing, creating spreadsheets, browsing the web, managing modest picture libraries, word processing, and accessing shared resources, they won't use more than 70% before the computer is retired. Meanwhile, they have VMWare snapshots (so long virus removals) and very few support calls.

    So, I leave you to your very powerful laptop, which lacks the huge multitouch pad of the Macbook Pro, and of course is stuck running Windows 7, pig of an OS that it still is, and your games. Meanwhile, I can take care of more customers since I don't have to run around removing the latest Fakealert trojans (you know, like the ones that sneak through ad servers on the NY Times and Anandtech). Then, when I get home, I can play games on my desktop, which has discrete graphics and has a mouse and a Model M keyboard (no windows/option keys).
    Reply
  • erple2 - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    Is HP really a "cheap" laptop manufacturer, at least when you're comparing the business laptops? I can see that with several of their consumer level laptops (dvxx) which I don't like at all. I haven't used any of their "Envy" brand ones, however.

    My work leases the HP Elitebook 6930p's. I have to say that other than the low resolution screen (1280x800), I __really__ like it. It is exceptionally solid and stable, plus the keyboard is top-notch (quite a bit nicer to type on than my wife's 6 month old 15" "unibody" Macbook Pro).

    I would disagree that you can't build the elegance of a 15in macbook pro for less than the cost - the Elitebook I have now surpasses it in most categories (the screen being the only notable exception).
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    Lenovo informed me that the T410s will indeed have switchable graphics but that it's not shipping until April. I specifically asked about that since the one page on their website advertises "switchable graphics" but the detailed pages show only the Intel HD Graphics. We'll see if that's correct or not in a week or two. Reply
  • OzzieGT - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    I just bought one. I am a software engineer so I need the nice keyboard and high resolution screen. I am going to keep it for 3-4 years and I carry it around a lot, so I need the durability. 13" is too small and 15" is too big. For the $1000 I paid, I couldn't find anything else which met my needs. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    The standard business user can barely open and sync email, let alone buy an overly expensive laptop, which can run windows without Vmware.

    If you owned a business and every penny counts, your suggestion is pure lunacy. I'm not meaning to offend, just seeing it from the point of view of an admin and s standard business user.

    Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, March 27, 2010 - link

    Standard business user get their laptops preconfigured from the company, I'm sure they can start vmware from a link. Self employed people might not buy a business-laptop at all though. Most aren't though. Reply
  • Elkvis - Saturday, March 27, 2010 - link

    That is a ridiculous suggestion.
    Why would a sort of business buy Mac laptops just to run emulation to get business functionality.

    Sure they are sexy, but no self respecting network administration team would think that is an acceptable solution.
    Reply
  • Belard - Sunday, March 28, 2010 - link

    Yep, you got that right.

    Spend $1500 for a notebook that equal to a $600~1000 PC notebook, strike one. Paying an IT guy to prep-it. Then if out on the road something wrong happens and the person doesn't know what to do...

    Besides some of the performance loss. Most business people could care less about the shiny notebook with a glowing apple logo. Artist, student and more creative types - sure.

    But a business user typically runs MS-Office, a browser and maybe a custom / specialized program. That's it. Why would he want spend the time and effort for a Mac + spend $100 for an XP license? What if he wants to run Windows7?

    BTW, the ThinkPad T400s is very thin, under 1", 4lbs and with an optical drive. One of my clients bought it for his wife. She loves the look and size of the unit... and ThinkPads are one of the few notebooks that offer beefed up antennas that'll work in their mansion.
    Reply
  • takumsawsherman - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Actually, it makes a lot *more* sense. Easy deployment of images (VMWare images don't need to have the same hardware), snapshots to roll back to in case of infection or BSOD, and the fact that the Mac ends up with fewer support calls.

    The small amount of extra software required for those that *have to* run Windows is not that expensive. Most don't even require Windows, as the Mac version of Microsoft Office works fine for all those *intense* business tasks of editing and saving spreadsheets and reading/replying to email can, believe it or not, be accomplished on a Mac. The accounting departments usually use the PC version of Quickbooks, so that is one spot where Windows is needed, and then drafting professionals often use Autocad, but at around $k for the Autocad these cats aren't common. Most others get along just fine with the pre-loaded Mac software, and many don't even need to buy office with OpenOffice performing most tasks admirably.
    Reply
  • Belard - Friday, March 26, 2010 - link

    Lenovo customer support is very good. Their hardware is still very good. They cost less than an Apple and easily just as good if not better.

    Can run Hackintosh... :)
    Reply

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