Lenovo Thinkpad T420 and T520
Best retro purpose
Early Windows 7 era gaming (DirectX 11 for Nvidia chipsets, DirectX 10 for Intel chipset) or as a very good office computer. High resolution display models are a good choice particularly for more modern games or operating systems such as Windows 7 and Vista that make good use of it. Even if the Intel videocard is not powerful enough for 3D accelerated games in native resolution, performance is decent. All screens are of the TFT type so contrast and response time is very good even if colour reproduction is not that great.
As always, Intel graphics models are cooler running than NVIDIA ones but noticeably slower in 3D games. However, as in other cases, you should not have high hopes of performance even in this case as the more capable video chipsets do not massive cooling to reach hardcore gaming capability as on gaming laptops. Due to lacking performance of Intel graphics chipsets, the 15 inch models that have higher that 1680x1050 resolution screens are not recommended and, even so, their performance would have been better on lower resolutions.
The capability of running with 8GB RAM and SSD drives make these laptops very fast for office work and web browsing, although the graphics chipset may not be great for serious gaming or other demanding applications. Windows Vista or 7 runs fast enough, even with the Intel graphics chipset. Although it is possible to run Windows 8 and Windows 10, the last one is particularly demanding on the CPU and graphics even if the laptop may have a SSD and 8GB of RAM. Updates are going to run rather slow.
Durability and Repair-ability
The 410 and 510 series have a remodeled design, although not with massive changes. The internal construction's rigidity has not been visibly improved. The trackpad is a disappointment since the rubberized coating can wear in time, leaving an unsighty surface. Fortunately, the surface is still usable and sensitivity is not affected so scrubbing the worn surface with isopropyl alcohol is a very good choice. The surface remains pleasantly durable and comfortable to use after this treatment.
Since all LCD screens have LED backlight these models may have a very long life but repairing worn out backlight is very difficult. As in the first generation of LED-backlight screens, the colour reproduction leaves something to be desired.
Removable and the fixed drive bay are easy to access and the case itself is easy to disassemble due to obvious markings on the laptop's underside as well as masking black tape placed on screws. Compared with the previous T400 and T500 series, the T410 series uses less screws to secure parts, so disassembly is easier. Some components are interchangeable with the 15-inch screen T510 models.
Fans and the fan blades can be easily cleaned and bearings can be easily greased, providing long service life since fan casing stud mountings can be pried open and placed back again.
Greatest features & flaws
|Larger, more sensitive trackpad||Mediocre LCD screen colour gamut|
|Good speaker placement||Poor trackpad rubberized surface wears in time|
|Durable, comfortable trackpad buttons, decent keyboard||No DVI/HDMI output except on docking station|
|Somewhat adequate cooling system||Annoying Lenovo BIOS limitation of approved Wifi cards|
A mainstream, quite slim, moderately powerful, business laptop, released in 2010. It had an average mix of performance parts, with a better than average CPU. The Core i-5 and i-7 range brought a significant performance increase at the cost of higher consumption, heat release and cooling noise. The graphics module does not feature serious increases but some incremental updates. This model also marks the switchover from ATI to NVIDIA graphics, but dedicated graphics chipset laptops are getting even rarer. Cost savings further affect the laptop's durability with particular concerns on the trackpad's rubberized coating. The keyboard, although good for typing, does have an unpleasant flex to it and this is more noticeable than on the previous T400/T500 series.
The platform is centered on Windows 7 compatibility, having DDR3 RAM and SATA support with an improved SSDs lineup. However, the laptop still lacks some standard features that have become mass available by that time, such as no DVI/HDMI port on the chassis. This is even less understandable on the 15 inch models. The trackpad is slightly larger than on the previous laptop series. Cooling is clearly improved compared with the previous laptop series but it is much noisier due to the CPU's poor energy efficiency.
The LCD screen continues to be the biggest letdown. As years pass, Lenovo is clearly not bothered to consider screens even a passing importance on this laptop's lineup. The only saving grace is that the screens have the same brightness levels you would expect from other manufacturers and that Lenovo ensured a good enough brightness level range that can be triggered through keyboard shortcuts. Also, not redesigning the case after the change from the 16:10 format to 16:9 and specifying the same screen size affects productivity.
It has a high performance CPU, especially compared with the previous if Intel Core 2 Duo offering. The virtual core count is increased from zero to two, helping smoother multitasking. The i7 offering is particularly powerful but the CPUs themselves require lots of cooling making them noisier than the previous T400/T500 range. Higher performing models with NVIDIA graphics are only slightly noisier and warmer than base Intel graphics laptops.
The wireless networking performance remains largely in line with the previous Thinkpad generation since Wifi 6300 models do not have major improvements compared with the 5300 models. The removable drive bay can house an optical drive or a hard drive/ssd drive, if you can find a compatible caddy. The rechargeable battery can be easily removed or replaced. The BIOS and timekeeping battery is a standard CR2032 3V button cell.
The chassis remains a mixed bag. In fact, Lenovo clearly focused on cost saving approaches and serviceability goals but this slightly reduced the case's rigidity, particularly on the lower and top side of the case. While the palmrest has less of aa tendency to crack, not much changes. On some laptops there is still a visible curving of the under chassis, on quite pristine models, due to poor manufacturing. The display hinges are still durable but the latching mechanism seems less sturdy than on previous models. The integrated speakers are quite good, although their technology is not the best.
The standard HDDs supplied by Western Digital are reasonably fast and quite silent. The SATA drives offer a similar performance to the previous T400/T500 lineup, although SSDs start to become more competitive in storage capacities. However very fast, modern, spacious SSDs could be retrofitted for massive storage capabilities. No restriction is placed on storage types. The only compatibility drawback is that only Lenovo branded or accepted wireless cards can be used.
Software support is good on Windows 7.