capsule review

Lenovo ThinkPad T400 Laptop

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Lenovo ThinkPad T400 Notebook

    PCWorld Rating

    The Thinkpad T400 couples long battery life with useful features for an efficient workhorse in a simple black shell.

ThinkPads are the three-piece power suits of the laptop world, delivering sturdy hardware and high-end components in an unassuming black chassis. The new T400 is no exception. Excellent battery life and useful productivity applications are wrapped in a sturdy shell, offering business travelers an efficient platform for getting things done.

The ThinkPad T400 unit we tested scored a 92 on our WorldBench 6 test suite, slightly outperforming the Acer TravelMate 6293 among top-of-the-line all-purpose laptops. Applications load swiftly on the 7200-rpm, 160GB hard drive, which uses an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.53GHz T9400 processor with 2GB of RAM and a 256MB ATI Radeon Mobility HD 3400 GPU. Regarding the GPU, however, it's best to keep your graphics expectations low: In our tests, game graphics fell flat, as indicated by the T400's frame rate of 16 frames per second on Enemy Territory: Quake Wars run at 1024 by 768 resolution. But that result isn't a huge shock; this notebook is strictly business.

Armed with a resolution of 1440 by 900 pixels, the 14.1-inch screen provides adequate real estate for multitasking. The LED-backlight display is easy on the eyes under standard flourescent lighting; and if you crank the brightness up, visibility is adequate in sunlight, in a pinch. The nine-cell battery protrudes uncomfortably from the rear of the case, but after you enjoy 8 hours of battery life on a single charge, you'll be inclined to forgive it.

The keyboard is typical Lenovo fare--excellent for hammering out lengthy prose, with ample room between the quiet keys. There are some notable shortcut keys, too. A magnifier mapped to the space bar lets you toggle the resolution to make small text readable; and a ThinkLight shortcut fires up an LED light on the top edge of the display's frame to help you spot keys in low-light conditions. The standard ThinkPad pointer nub is present, too, and the laptop's touchpad (for people who don't like the nub) rests right below it. Having both options is nice, but the dual sets of pointer-buttons can result in accidental button presses, if you're not familiar with the layout.

The T400 provides few extras (for instance, the only productivity software you get is a 60-day trial for Microsoft Office), but all of the essentials are in place, including a Webcam, a DVD/CD burner, VGA-out, and an Express Card slot. You'll also find the standard 802.11 Wireless LAN, and Bluetooth connectivity options. And the model we tested packed two much-anticipated new security features (Intel's Anti-Theft Protection and Absolute Software's Computrace technology), along with an optional fingerprint reader, for an extra digit of protection. The machine's three USB slots--two on the left, and one on the right--are perpendicular to the case, allowing USB cables and peripherals to park alongside one another with relative ease. A four-pin FireWire port resides on the front of the chassis, along with the microphone and headphone jacks. You'll likely want to keep a pair of headphones handy: The speakers are loud enough, but sound quality is middling.

The ThinkVantage application suite offers access to many useful resources at the touch of a button. Common tasks such as setting up wireless connections and managing power consumption settings are readily available, and power users will appreciate being able to back up data or configure security settings on the fly. The ThinkVantage suite largely serves as a front-end for faculties that Windows handles natively, but it does a lot to improve overall user efficiency.

Some common-sense features are useful, too. For example, if you ever do run low on battery power, you can prolong your laptop time with Battery Stretch. A single click dims the screen and switches from the ATI GPU to the integrated Intel graphics, so you can eke out a bit more battery life when you need it most, without interrupting your workflow.

Some advanced features, like the Active Protection System, may escape most users' attention altogether. The shock-mounted hard drive is designed to protect your data from damage if you're working in especially turbulent conditions. You'll find this most useful if you're prone to dropping expensive hardware; but whatever your level of eptitude, it's a well-conceived feature that prevents the hard drive from spinning when it detects an excessive amount of vibration. The system adapts to the user's usage patterns and ignores steady, persistent vibrations--while you're working in a car or on a bumpy express train, for example.

Though Lenovo's ThinkPad T400 costs more than Acer's TravelMate 6293, this all-purpose laptop is a pretty compelling package. At $1419 (as of March 9, 2009), the Thinkpad T400 gives you sturdy construction, great battery life, smart design, and some useful special features--all in all, a good deal.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The Thinkpad T400 couples long battery life with useful features for an efficient workhorse in a simple black shell.

    Pros

    • Outstanding battery life
    • The amazingly handy ThinkVantage suite

    Cons

    • Lackluster speakers could use some oompf
    • Graphics are suitable for work only
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