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Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

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Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#1 Post by dr_st » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:22 pm

I've done a few picture tours of my Thinkpads in the past, but none during the last several years. The most modern machines in my collection (which are not so modern anymore) are the T410, X220 and T430s. The first of them I got basically new almost as soon as the model was out, and the last of them I acquired only a few of months ago. All are good machines in their own right, but viewed together they provide an especially nice look into the last generations of "classic" Thinkpads - before Lenovo took the brand in a different direction, which some of us like, and some of us don't.

This is going to be a lot like my previous tours - pictures intermixed with general information and personal experience. However, since it includes 3 quite different machines, and several years of accumulated experience, it will be substantially longer. So long that I'm splitting it into multiple posts - one post for each laptop, and additional posts for accessories and comparisons. The last post will be a table of accurate measured weights of various configurations of the laptops on the tour.


Short to tall: X220, T430s, T410

Major laptop exterior redesign cycles seem to occur once every couple of hardware generations, with minor modifications between them. Within the same design cycle, laptops typically display a consistent style, with some minor variations across generations or different models (e.g., different screen sizes).

Among Thinkpads, from the time of adoption of letters to distinguish the series (A/T/X/R etc.) there were several distinct design cycles:
  • T2x/A2x/X2x (characteristic elements: wide black plastic covers on hinges, fully black keyboard, middle trackpoint button below the other two)
  • T30/R3x-R40/A3x/X3x (characteristic elements: thin metal hinges with no covers, diagonal cut in back left corner, keyboard with touches of color, middle trackpoint button above the other two)
  • T4x/R5x/X4x/G4x (characteristic elements: wider metal hinges with no covers, single-latch lid lock mechanism, oval power-button). The battery compartment moved to back of laptop, which allowed extended batteries, but necessitated new docks, which are compatible with both new and old systems.
With the transition to Lenovo, things got a bit more complicated. The first generation (T60/R60/X6x) carries over many of the elements of the last IBM Thinkpads, with some distinct changes (Windows keys on keyboard, color stripes removed from trackpoint buttons, different look to power/audio buttons, more symmetric look with flatter bezels and fewer notches). The short-lived Z6x series shared some elements of the design, along with its own unique elements. In this generation the magnesium roll-cage around the system board was introduced in the larger (T/R/Z) models. The docking connector, the power plug, and the DC voltage got changed in this generation, which made many users unhappy, as none of the old docking/charging solutions was compatible. This generation spanned late 2005 - late 2007.

The next two generations (T/R61,T/R/Wx00) kept the basic boxiness of the T60/R60, and introduced a range of additional design elements - heavily asymmetric screen bezels and hinges, wireless antenna grilles that moved from the side bezel to the front and top-facing speakers (due to the extra space available in the now-standard widescreen models), unfortunately with fairly ugly speaker grilles. All in all, in terms of aesthetics, these are probably the rock bottom of modern Thinkpads, and regardless of how good/durable these machines these may be, I cannot imagine ever wanting to own one, as using it would be unpleasant to me. The T/R/W models in these series had the magnesium rollcage also around the LCD. These generations spanned mid 2007 - end 2010.

Around this time Lenovo also introduced new Thinkpad lines, geared towards lower-priced market segments (Thinkpad SL, L, Edge series). These largely followed their own designs and were quite different from "mainstream" Thinkpads. This was also the time for more unique, short-lived Thinkpad designs, such as the W70x and X30x (although some elements of the latter eventually came to the X20x series, and slim T-series).

This little historical survey brings us to the main stars of this tour. In mid-2009 Lenovo introduced the T400s, which came with a few rather significant design changes, as well as a new category of "slim T-series", sitting somewhat between traditional T and the X30x. These changes would later make to the mainstream T/W/X series (the R was EOLed), and included:
  • New keyboard, where the much-used Esc/Delete keys were vertically enlarged, at the expense of pushing the F keys to the right and Insert to the left. Being the first change to the classic layout of Thinkpad keyboard layout since almost forever (except the fairly minor addition of Windows keys), this stirred some murmur among Thinkpadders, but in the end turned to be a non-issue for the most part. The keyboard itself was quite good, and the red stripes on the trackpoint buttons were back on the T/W series to much rejoice (X30x already had them). The keyboard also featured re-designed power and volume buttons, and a rather welcome microphone mute button. For the first time, the same keyboard part could be shared between T/W and X series (starting from the first X model to use this design - the X220).
  • New style of touchpad with a rough texture to it, to improve traction. While this probably makes the touchpad more fun to use, the coating turned out to be severely flawed, and after some time of heavy use, the touchpad develops a large "bald spot". It appears not to interfere with functionality, but looks pretty bad.
  • Screen latch mechanism moved from the LCD lid to the base (this was also first introduced in the X300). This was surprisingly easier to get used to than one may have suspected.
  • Modified ejection mechanism for the Ultrabay (in models where it is available). Before one would move a latch on the side, near the bay, to pop out a handle, which was then pulled to slide the device out. Now a dual latch system on the bottom of the laptop is used - one latch to release the lock, a second one to push the device out. This was perhaps done to reduce the chance of accidental ejection, but the downside is that the devices are now much harder to swap on the fly, and nearly impossible when the laptop is docked. This can be a minor annoyance, or a major one, depending on the usage patterns.
  • Much cleaner look, with symmetric screen bezels, equal-sized wide metal hinges, smooth edges, and no visible antenna grilles anywhere. The screen bezels got thicker, which was also cause for some complaining, but allowed for easier accommodation of multiple wireless antennas, as well as an overall more modern look.
  • A combined mic-in/line-out 3.5mm jack instead of two separate ones, which is nice for saving space and reducing cable clutter. Folks with existing dual-jack headsets were a little disappointed by this decision, but adapters could be used. The order of the wires in the connector guaranteed some backwards compatibility, so that at least output-only devices (headphones / speakers) could be plugged in without requiring any adapters (and without silencing the built-in mic).
  • A new docking connector yet again, which again made previous docks incompatible (luckily at least the power adapters, for the most part, were). The new connector supported "slice" batteries (that sit under the laptop) for all systems, provided modern digital video outputs, and for the first time since X3x series allowed the same docks to be used with X and T series.
The docking solutions for Thinkpads with the new connector were marketed with a "Series 3" in their name, to distinguish from the previous generation of docks. For this reason, in the rest of this essay, I will frequently refer to the Thinkpads of this era as "Series 3" Thinkpads.

Image Image
Left: The new keyboard and touchpad design. Right: The two-stage release mechanism for the Ultrabay (big latch in 'released' position).

The overall chassis design persisted for roughly 5 years, from mid 2009 till mid 2014, following from the introduction of the T400s, until the withdrawal from marketing of the last **20-series machines. However, in mid-2012, the **30-series came out, with a new, completely redesigned keyboard - the biggest shock for Thinkpad fans that I can remember. In parallel, new style Thinkpads started popping out (T430u, X1 Carbon), which made the following things clear:
  • The Thinkpad brand is changing in a major way. The new machines are going to be very different from the old ones.
  • The classic keyboard look and layout, probably the second most distinguishing feature of a Thinkpad after the trackpoint, is gone - most likely for good.
This marked a clear transition line between "classic" and "modern" Thinkpads at the **30 series. Furthermore, as their chassis was nearly identical, the **30 machines could accommodate the classic keyboard, but required changes to the embedded controller (EC) firmware to properly recognize all the keys that were modified. It took almost 4-years from the introduction of the machines until clever Thinkpad enthusiasts solved this problem. Starting from mid-2016, patches to the EC are available that allow the classic keyboard to function in a **30 machine with only very minor shortages. This is documented extensively in the following long and ongoing thread:
Installing classic keyboard into X230 with EC firmware mod

With this engineering achievement, the T430/T430s/T530/W530/X230/X230 Tablet systems could finally be fully added to the pantheon of "Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads", which is the theme of this tour.

The specific three machines in my possession, which will be discussed here - T410, X220 and T430s - represent three different system classes (T, X, Slim T) as well as three different hardware generations (Westmere, Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge), and yet still clearly share the same style. This makes them virtually indistinguishable upon first glance (see below), but as one gets to know them more, some interesting differences are revealed.

Image Image Image
Big to small: T410, T430s, X220

Notes about the pictures
  1. Single pictures are 683x384. Double pictures are 512x288, which means their total width is 1024. If your window size or screen resolution is 1024 pixels or less, the double pictures will wrap, and what appears in the captions as "left" and "right" will be "top and "bottom" for you. This may also happen if you scale this forum up in your web browser, or have >100% global DPI settings.
  2. All pictures are links that can be clicked to take you to the larger (1024x576) versions.
  3. Update (Thinkpad's 25 Anniversary): After Photobucket disabled hotlinking for non-paying customers, all images were moved to a different hosting (Cubeupload) and posts edited to fix links. Everything should be working, but if you spot something that does not - let me know.
  4. I have larger versions still (up to 4096x2304) as well. I don't think there is much value to huge pictures in this discussion, and most of them are not even good, but if for some reason you want to see a particular image full-size, just ask.
Last edited by dr_st on Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), X1 Carbon (20HQ), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG, X61 7673-V2V
T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G, X32 (IPS Screen), A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad, A21m 2628-GXU

Posts: 7495
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 6:20 am

Part 1: T410

#2 Post by dr_st » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:23 pm

Thinkpad T410


Original specification
ThinkPad T410 2537-R46: i5-540M(2.53GHz), 4GB RAM, 160GB Solid State Drive, 14.1in 1440x900 LCD, Intel 5700MHD, Intel 802.11agn wireless, WWAN option, Bluetooth, Modem, 1Gb Ethernet, UltraNav, Secure Chip, Camera, 9c Li-Ion, Win7 Pro 64

Current specification: no changes, except I also have a 6-cell battery.

This is my corporate work laptop, issued to me back in 2010, replacing the previously issued T60 as the daily driver. It's more than 6 years old at this point, and should have been replaced once or twice since, but as I am really attached to the classic keyboard, no Lenovo offering in *30 series or later completely suits me, and other options by DELL/HP are typically even worse in that regard. The option to get a T420 at seemed too small an upgrade for the hassle. So I am keeping this one for as long as it will run. So far it's doing good, and I'm doing my best to treat it right. Fortunately, Windows 7 is supported by Microsoft for 3 more years, and managed to catch a lot of Microsoft's core technologies from 2012-2015, so newest editions of all key productivity and development tools still work on it, and it stays useful as a work machine, without requiring major overhauls.

Usage experience
Overall I've been very happy with the T410. I like the design of the machine - it is sleek, polished, symmetric and looks pretty from all angles. The design approach from the T61/T400 are evident in the little touches - the symmetric screen bezel, the fine mesh in the speaker grilles, soft curves at all the edges, the red stripes on the trackpoint buttons. It's a machine that looks and feels like a real Thinkpad, and is aesthetically pleasing.

Left: The large 9-cell battery sticks out reasonably and is not as ridiculous as on the T61/T400. Right: The lid latch was moved to the base of the laptop, which was surprisingly easy getting used to.

The alleged "cheapening" of materials that Lenovo has been accused of with every passing generation of Thinkpads is true in some senses. The LCD lid and palmrest feel like plain plastic, with none of the sophistication that is present in T4x/T6x generation. In practice, though, at least in my case, I can testify that it's just as resilient to abuse as previous generations, if not more - it has taken its share of minor scuffs and beatings, and the only damage it has to present over 6 years are two hairline cracks in the palmrest, none of which is normally visible, nor causes any structural deficiencies. I believe they were caused by me not being careful enough during the removal of the palmrest, in the process of replacing the thermal grease under the fan. In a comparable time frame my 14" T60 had the tiny right corner of the palmrest break off twice, and the keyboard bezel cracked once, with a small piece separating.

The issue of hinges loosening with time is also present on a T410, but less extreme than on the T61/T400 - maybe a tad more than 15" T4x/T60 units.

The most negative thing I could say about the chassis here is that it's thicker than previous 14" T machines, and you can feel it immediately when carrying it. However, in this case - thicker does not mean heavier. It weighs almost exactly the same as a 14" T60, when configured with the same battery, and less than a wide 14" T61. Still, it may feel more awkward to carry (even though the battery has nice grooves to hold it by). Evidently, Lenovo did get some negative feedback on it, so T420 and T430 are noticeably slimmer (about the same thickness as a T6x) - mostly due to a thinner LCD lid.

Performance with the mid-range i5 CPU has been adequate, and still is. It is a first-generation Core i5 (Arrandale), it does run somewhat hot under load (CPU temperature typically exceeds 70C when even a single thread on a single core is utilized 100%), which makes for a noisy fan, but at least the cooling system seems effective enough and the laptop does not get uncomfortably hot. It does get less effective over time - while the laptop has been in my service, I had to open it up once to clean the fan and refresh the thermal paste. You can read more about it here.

The battery life has been sufficient for my needs - a 6-cell will provide for approximately half a workday away from power. For more than that - the 9-cell is definitely recommended; the 9-cell battery on these models holds more capacity than previous generations - not 50%, but 67% more than the 6-cell.

Port selection is also very good. It has 4 USB ports (the most for any T-series up until that point), a DisplayPort++ (HDMI-capable, also a first), in addition to VGA, a dedicated eSATA, Firewire, LAN and modem, and of course an Ultrabay Slim to for an optical drive / second hard drive. The USB is only 2.0, but there is an ExpressCard/34 slot which can be used to add USB 3.0 capability. Performance will not be as good as with a native onboard USB 3.0 solution, and further limited by the Gen1 PCI-Express in the chipset, but still far better than USB 2.0.

Overall, you get a very large number of expansion options with this machine - a nice combination of modern and legacy. The main downsides is that the Ultrabay does not support a secondary battery (only the -s variants do), and that the ExpressCard slot is 34mm, disallowing the wider 54mm cards (it seems there was simply no space for it in the chassis).

Left side view: All three USB ports and the DisplayPort are nicely spaced out. Right side view: Always-on (yellow) USB port is vertical, as it's mostly supposed to hold charging cables and not wide devices; A 2-port USB 3.0 adapter is situated in the ExpressCard slot.

The worst part using this laptop is the screen. It's your basic laptop TN with poor color reproduction, and narrow vertical viewing angles. It is not so bad working with text, when you look at it straight on, but playing games / watching movies on it has never been pleasant. It's just a work machine, so I don't care as much. I did, however, boost up the color saturation in the Intel graphics control panel, because otherwise the colors look really bland and dull - the laptop was not fun to use. I don't do any color-critical work, so pleasantness is more important to me than accuracy.

The 1440x900 resolution is basically "just OK" for the work I do. I preferred the 1400x1050 on comparable 4:3 laptops, and at work I use it most of the time docked and connected to two IBM L200p 20" 1600x1200 IPS screens. Yes, we still have those beasts around! :)

The TN screen of the T410 is OK when viewed straight-on, but distorts at rather slight vertical angles.
Last edited by dr_st on Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:04 am, edited 2 times in total.
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), X1 Carbon (20HQ), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG, X61 7673-V2V
T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G, X32 (IPS Screen), A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad, A21m 2628-GXU

Posts: 7495
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 6:20 am

Part 2: X220

#3 Post by dr_st » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:24 pm

Thinkpad X220


Original specification
ThinkPad X220 4291-4BG: i7-2640M(2.80GHz),4GB RAM,160GB Solid State Drive,12.5in 1366x768 IPS LCD,Intel HD Graphics,Intel 802.11agn wireless,WWAN,Bluetooth,1Gb Ethernet,UltraNav,Secure Chip,Fingerprint reader,Camera,9c Li-Ion,Win7 Pro 64

Current specification: 160GB SSD replaced with 512GB SSD (Samsung 840 Evo), RAM extended to 8GB
Extras: Ultrabase with DVD Multi-burner, additional 6-cell battery
Operating system: dual-boot between Windows 7 and Windows 8.1; both 64-bit

When it was released, the X220 caused some excitement among Thinkpadders for being the first IPS-equipped non-Tablet Thinkpad since the T60/p. Unfortunately, other than this feature, the screen itself had pretty poor characteristics. Especially disappointing was the low 1366x768 resolution, which was the source of much disappointment, given that previous X20x generations were available in 1280x800 and 1400x900. The 16:9 aspect also caused objections, but that could not be helped. Reports of quality issues with the IPS screen started popping up fast as well - it appears many of the screens had noticeable issues with image persistence ("ghosting") and a tendency to develop pressure marks ("white spots") much faster than normal, without any abuse.

At that time I was ready for a new Thinkpad, but not in urgent need of one. So, I waited a bit. However, as the next generation of Thinkpads arrived with no improvements in the screen department, but a radical change in the keyboard layout, which I did not like, I decided that the X220 is probably going to be the best modern Thinkpad I'll be able to get, under the conditions of IPS screen and classic keyboard layout, both of which were crucial to me. Remember that this was back in 2013, a long time before the screen mods and classic keyboard mods for *20/*30 series became a reality.

So I started hunting for a used X220 (at that point it was too late to get them new). I set myself a few criteria: a local model sold in Israel with a Hebrew keyboard, IPS screen (naturally), Core i7 CPU (less for the CPU, more for the USB 3.0 capability, which in the X220 was offered only with the i7 models), and at least some warranty remaining. It took longer than I imagined to find a suitable unit, mostly because only a handful of such preconfigured models existed in Israel, but I finally obtained one at the end of 2013.

Side feature: "Ultimate" X220 obtained

Usage experience

The laptop was sold to me with a 320GB 7200RPM HD, instead of the 160GB SSD originally installed in it. Neither option would do, really - I wanted more storage, but also a faster drive. In the end, I opted not to go the dual storage configuration, which is popular on these machines. Instead got a 500GB SATA SSD, as they became affordable. I decided that 500GB would be enough storage for me in this laptop, and this gave me an overall lighter system compared to mSATA + HDD (though not as light as mSATA + empty bay). Another small bonus is that the primary bay is SATA3 (6Gb/s) versus SATA2 (3Gb/s) for the mSATA. I also got a 6-cell battery for every day use, keeping the 9-cell for long trips.

During the past 3 years, the X220 became my primary personal travel laptop, replacing the aging and heavy 15" T60. I really appreciated the size and weight difference - it's literally almost 50% lighter, and once you get used to the fast i7 2.8GHz CPU, the Core 2 at 2GHz really feels sluggish. I rarely play games on my laptops any more, so I did not attempt to make any assessments of the X220's integrated Intel HD GPU, or compare it to the Radeon X1400 in the T60.

One of my reasons for getting a large SSD was to have enough room to dual boot Windows 7 and 8.1. Back in the day, I was not sure about 8.1 and how I'd like it, but I did want the option to have it so that I could learn to use it, with the ability to go back to the "safe" option of Windows 7. The X220 runs both OSes without any issues. Some of the Lenovo software (like the Power Manager) is not available for Win8.1, at least not without much tweaking, which I opted not to do. The Lenovo Settings application allows me to have the battery gauge in the system tray, and that's enough for me.

In terms of durability, the X220 showed no issues, and no sign of succumbing to wear, except of a few minor scuffs at the corner of the lid. It appears that one potential issue with this model has to do with the thin strip at the top / front of the LCD lid becoming 'unglued' and separating from the rest of the construction. This has not happened to mine, but I have seen some colleagues' X220 machines with this issue, and it has also been reported multiple times on Lenovo's forums. It may be a defect more common on earlier units, but I am not certain.

One thing that I recently noticed on my X220 is that when the screen is open about 20 degrees or less, the lid drops shut. I only noticed it recently, and I am not sure whether it's always been this way. It could be that the hinges are not as tight now as they were at first, or it could be just the normal function of the magnet that keeps the lid shut (since X220 has no latch). In either case it's nitpicking, since no one uses their laptop this way. At any reasonable angle, the hinges hold well, and do not exhibit the play characteristic to some T-series models.


The quality of the IPS screen overall was more than satisfactory. It's nice and bright, colors look vibrant, and despite some loss of contrast at wide vertical angles, it still fares tons better than any laptop TN panel. In that sense it's been a pleasure to use.

The screen on my unit was affected by the common flaws of this IPS panel, but fortunately they became obvious while the laptop was still under warranty, and I got the screen replaced free of charge, with the newer, slightly improved LP125WH2-SLB3 panel from the X230. The replacement has not exhibited any noticeable problems.

Side feature: X220 IPS - Image retention, white spots, warranty exchanges

The low screen resolution, however, cannot be ignored. Coming from 1400x1050 or 1440x900 laptops, I totally expected to be limited by 1366x768, and indeed I was. I wouldn't say it's impossible for the work I do (programming / writing), but it does require a lot more scrolling, and productivity suffers due to the limit of how much data can fit on the screen at the same time. If I did any kind of graphical editing / CAD work - I probably would say that this resolution is totally inadequate, but as it is - I was just inconvenienced, but not in a debilitating way. At home, I did try to use the laptop docked and connected to an external 1920x1200 LCD most of the time, but at one point I was traveling and used just the laptop screen for about a month and a half, and I still managed to write a good deal of code without pulling many hairs.

When considering higher resolutions, one must not completely disregard the physical size of the machine. While the FHD (1920x1080) mod for these systems only recently became available, it has been discussed for a while, and I was asking myself every once in a while - would I convert this system to FHD, having the option? Honestly, I probably would not, unless it was literally the only computer I could use. On a 12.5" screen, the DPI would be too high for me to comfortably use at the native size, and once you start scaling, you are already not getting the full real estate. I think that 1600x900 (aka HD+) could be the sweet spot for me for this size, but such an option was never available. I would also seriously consider the X320/X330 mods by 51nb (modifying the LCD assembly to fit a 13.3" FHD panel) as it makes the DPI a little more bearable.

In any case, I "survived" with the original HD panel of the X220 up until now, and at this point I have no need for more than that, since other alternatives exist.

The IPS screen of the X220 is not perfect, but looks good from every angle.


The design of the X220 is an interesting mix. It incorporates the common features and visual cues of the "Series 3" models, but a lot of its characteristics are inherited from the X200/X201: the available battery options and battery design, certain elements of the construction, such as the aforementioned separate plastic strip at the top of the lid (allegedly designed to improve reception for the wireless antennae), and the overall placement of ports around the chassis. Some changes were made, due to addition of certain ports instead of others, but the similarities are easily recognizable. The most noticeable difference is the power plug which was moved from the left side to the rear of the laptop, most likely due to the different form factor of the X220 vs X20x (16:9 means that the front and back are longer, while the sides are shorter). This is one more way in which the X220 brings the X series closer to the T.

The X220 also marks the first time since the introduction of low-voltage processor lines that the X-series does not have a slimmed-down version using an LV/ULV chip, like X40/X41 to X31/X32, and the 's' variant of every model between X60 and X201. (The X220 could be configured with some ULV Core i5 / Pentium Dual Core / Celeron CPUs, but these custom configurations were not readily available outside of select markets, and affected only the internals, not the overall system design). So, while the X220 can compete with previous low-voltage solutions in battery life, thanks to more power-efficient modern CPUs, it loses to them in weight and slimness, which is something to keep in mind for someone moving over from, say, an X200s/X201s. It would take two generations for Lenovo to move in the opposite direction - starting from X240 (Haswell architecture), all X-series Thinkpads use only low-voltage CPUs.

Generally, looking at the history of Thinkpads of the late IBM and early Lenovo days, shows that the X-series design cycles are often separate from the T/R/W: the X31/X32 design continued well into the T4x era and ran in parallel with the X40/X41 for a while. The X61 stayed 4:3 and identical to the X60, while T/R61 greatly diverged from its predecessors. And the X20x/X30x were completely their own thing, very different visually from contemporary T-series. The X220 in a way brought the two design trends together, but the X series would continue to introduce new design concepts in the future as well, such as the X1 Carbon series.

Expansion options

The X220 offers very respectable expandability for an ultraportable, although not quite up to par with its larger T siblings. It has 3 USB ports (not 4), and no eSATA port. However, all the common ports you'd expect on a business laptop of that era (LAN, VGA, Card Reader) are present. Compared to an X20x, some of them got moved around the chassis - the RJ-45 LAN connector was moved to the right side, replacing the discontinued RJ-11 modem port, and in its place sits the DisplayPort. This makes the X220 the first X-series model with a digital video port on the chassis (X20x had it via the Ultrabase).

For a great visual comparison of the X201 and X220, look no further than this. A picture is worth 1000 words, especially if you cannot read them. :)

One advantage that the X220 retains from the X20x, is a full-width 54mm ExpressCard slot, versus the 34mm variant that the "Series 3" T/W models went to. This allows flush wide ExpressCards to be used, such as: 2 USB ports + power, 2 eSATA ports, eSATA + USB combo, or even 3 USB ports. Using such a card can bring the expandability up to par with the T/W series, although such solutions tend to be lower-performing and less reliable than integrated ones.

A particularly nice feature of the Core i7 variant of the X220 is the integrated USB 3.0 controller (NEC/Renesas uPD720200). There is no technical reason why Lenovo limited it to the i7 models; this was a pure marketing trick to tie two high-end features together. Since the CPU on the X220, as in all previous X-series, is soldered to the board, these two features always go together - all i7 boards will have USB 3.0, and only them.

The uPD720200 is one of the earlier USB 3.0 controllers, and not the highest performing one (read speeds are great, write speeds a bit less so), but it is very reliable. ExpressCard-based solutions can sometimes be finicky. For instance, any uPD720202-based card malfunctions terribly in the X220 (and many similar laptops) due to bugs in the PCI-Express power management flows (of the controller, or the chipset - I don't know). Other controllers tend to work OK, but they do heat up your palmrest and reduce battery life if you leave them permanently plugged in.

Side feature: X220 (and X201, X200) USB 3.0 Expresscard

Two nice bonuses with the integrated USB 3.0 on the X220 that pleasantly surprised me (I did not know of them when I bought the laptop) - it is bootable (unlike anything ExpressCard I tried), and it passes a port to the docking connector, which makes the i7 X220 the only pre-Ivy-Bridge laptop that can use the USB 3.0 port on the Series 3 Docks that have such a port, at USB 3.0 speeds.

Side feature: Thinkpad X220 and USB3 on Series 3 Docks

Speaking of the docking connector - the X220 is the first X-series machine since the X32 that can use all the same docks that its contemporary T/W series use, as well as is own Ultrabase. Typically X-series and T-series of the same generation use the same physical connectors, but they are electrically and mechanically incompatible, which limited the X4x/X6x/X20x series to their own docking solutions only. The X220 finally allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds - there is still an Ultrabase slice option with an Ultrabay, but you can also use the mainstream docks with their multiple video ports / eSATA / USB 3.0. This also makes it easier for corporations to manage laptop fleets, when they can all share the same docking stations.

Left: This X220 has the USB3/eSATA combo ExpressCard installed, for ultimate external storage connectivity. The rear blue port is the onboard USB 3.0. Right: Differences from X20x - no lid latch, card reader moved to right side, combo audio jack instead of two separate ones.


The battery design of the X220 carries over from the X20x series. There are 3 options:
  • 4-cell: slim (prismatic), sits flush with the laptop back and bottom
  • 6-cell: cylindrical, sits flush with the laptop back, sticks out of the bottom, raising the laptop a bit
  • 9-cell: cylindrical, protrudes from the laptop back, sticks out of the bottom, raising the laptop a bit
Left: X220 without a battery attached (to simulate the profile of a 4-cell). Right: X220 with the standard 6-cell battery.

When the 6 or 9-cell batteries are used, the back of the laptop is raised a bit, so that it does not stand on its back rubber feet, but rather on the rubber feet at the bottom of the battery. In some sense, this design is a continuation of the triple battery options for the X6x (4-cell prismatic, 4-cell cylindrical, and 8-cell), but the relative capacities of the batteries differ greatly:

Code: Select all

Battery Capacity           X60/X61   X200/X201   X220/X230
Low (4-cell slim)           29Wh       29Wh        29Wh
Medium (4-cell / 6-cell)    37Wh       56Wh        63Wh
High (8-cell / 9-cell)      75Wh       84Wh        94Wh
On the X6x, even the "extended capacity" 4-cell has rather poor capacity, essentially requiring the 8-cell option for good battery life. On the X2xx, the modified design (in which the widescreen form factor probably played a key role) allowed the 6-cell to sit flush with the back, offering significantly improved capacity with the mainstream battery (and a similar increase for the extended battery). For many use cases, the 6-cell would be enough. The prismatic 4-cell is another story - its capacity remains very poor - half or less of the 6-cell. It does allow some weight reduction (on an already light laptop), but it would be offset in many cases by the need to carry the power adapter. With the slightly slimmer profile of the machine as its only redeeming feature, it is not hard to see why Lenovo stopped offering the 4-cell as a standard option for the X220 (it was standard on certain X20x models).


Left: Rear view with the 6-cell. The laptop is standing on the battery's feet with its own rubber feet in the air. The battery is not centered, so the laptop can wobble if pressed hard on the back corners. This is not an issue during normal usage. Right: X220 with the 9-cell battery sticking out of the back (it sticks out the bottom exactly like a 6-cell).

For a good look at the different batteries and the relative run-times consult this thread at [H]ardForum. This is for the X230, but the same principles apply.


The concept of an Ultrabase was inherited by the X-series from the 570 series, and accompanies it from its earliest models. It's a unique dock for the X-series, which is designed to be portable. It covers the entire bottom of the laptop, so that the laptop and the base can be picked up and carried together as a single unit. It is also usually lighter than other docking solutions. A typical 12" X series + Ultrabase may weigh approximately as much as a 14-15" T-series.

IBM/Lenovo's view of the Ultrabase as a semi-integral part of the laptop is evident from the fact that some X-series models were already pre-configured with the Ultrabase + optical drive at the point of sale. This would usually be the cheaper way of getting the base; when sold separately, it would come without the optical drive, the combined price for base+optical would be ridiculous, and the warranty would typically be limited to 1 year, whereas for pre-configured units, the warranty would follow that of the machine, and could be 3 years or longer.

Traditional features of the Ultrabases that distinguished them from most other docks are the presence of stereo speakers and an Ultrabay (for optical drives, additional hard drives, batteries and other accessories), to address the common deficiencies of the X-series, which had no built-in bays, and typically a weak mono speaker. The original Ultrabase designs were more limited than the mainstream docks in the port variety (e.g., no USB hubs, no audio jacks), but the laptops could also connect to those other docks. Starting from the X4x series, all the way to X20x, the X-series were no longer compatible with the standard docks, so the capabilities of the base were extended to include more ports, and eventually even digital video/audio via the DisplayPort connector on the X200 Ultrabase.

The X220 Ultrabase (Ultrabase Series 3) looks very similar to the X200 Ultrabase, and has almost exactly the same capabilities, except the integrated stereo speakers. These were deemed unnecessary, since X220, for the first time for a 12" X-series has stereo speakers of its own. However, the Serial Ultrabay Slim slot is still there, and remains the only way to connect an Ultrabay to an X220/X230, since none of the other Series 3 docks have this capability.

Left: Top view of the Ultrabase. Notice the openings on the front for the speakers of the X220 and the keys in the back. When locked, neither the laptop, nor the Ultrabay device can be ejected from the base. Right: Back view of the Ultrabase with the X220 and a 9-cell battery attached. All the ports of the Ultrabase are on the back, including power, LAN, 4 USB 2.0, line-out, mic-in, VGA, and DisplayPort++.

One unusual thing about this Ultrabase is the way it handles the power port. Most Thinkpad docking solutions are designed to mechanically block the power port on the chassis, when the machine is docked, or at least disable it electrically. The Ultrabase does neither. The chassis port is perfectly accessible while the X220 is docked, and can be used. Moreover, even when connected through the chassis port, the Ultrabase peripheral ports remain powered and can be used. If plugged in through both ports, the Thinkpad seems to prefer the port on the Ultrabase, judging from the messages I received from the Power Manager when I did this little experiment. I don't understand the point of this. Can it theoretically be used to charge the battery faster by pulling power from both adapters at the same time? I don't know. I have not seen any indication that it is possible, but could run some more experiments at a later point.

Left: Right side of the Ultrabase with the keyhole and the optical drive. This Ultrabay uses the standard single-latch mechanism of past Thinkpads, not the annoying two-step mechanism of Series 3 machines. Right: Left side of the Ultrabase showing the ejection lever and the "eject" button. The button is designed to "safely remove" the Ultrabase before physically pulling the laptop off. It is almost never actually required to use this feature. Not pictured: Power button on the Ultrabase (it's at the front, right hand side).

Observe that the Ultrabase is designed to accommodate the largest 9-cell battery, so it's deeper than the laptop itself. It also has an appropriate recession at the back to accommodate the cylindrical batteries, so that the laptop always sits flat in the base and is not raised further up. That's a good thing, considering how raised and angled the Ultrabase itself is.

X220 4291-4BG, Ultrabase Series 3 with keys, X220 Battery 29++ (9-cell) and Serial Ultrabay Slim DVD Multi-Burner IV optical drive
Last edited by dr_st on Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:07 am, edited 2 times in total.
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), X1 Carbon (20HQ), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG, X61 7673-V2V
T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G, X32 (IPS Screen), A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad, A21m 2628-GXU

Posts: 7495
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 6:20 am

Part 3: T430s

#4 Post by dr_st » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:24 pm

Thinkpad T430s


Original specification
ThinkPad T430s 2356-EU8: i7-3520M(3.6GHz), 8GB RAM, 128GB Solid State Drive, 14in 1600x900 LCD, Intel HD Graphics, DVD Multi, 802.11bgn wireless, 1Gb Ethernet, UltraNav, Secure Chip, Fingerprint reader, Camera, 6c Li-Ion, Win7 Pro 64

Current specification
The previous two laptops were pretty much stock configurations, with some minor CRU (customer replaceable unit) upgrades. This one is far from it. It has been upgraded with the FHD IPS kit. The actual display used is the AHVA (derivative of IPS) AU Optronics B140HAN01.2 - a nice display and popular for this mod. It further has had its embedded controller firmware modified to accept a classic Thinkpad keyboard from the *20 and earlier series.

To read more about these modifications:
Interest in upgrade your T420/T420s/T430/T430s to FHD 1080p
Installing classic keyboard into X230 with EC firmware mod (applies to all *30 systems).
T420s/T430s FHD/WQHD upgrade kits pre-order thread

Both modifications were done by my friend, and a prominent hacker of this forum - plympton, and I had the honor of purchasing the pristine machine from him last December.


I belong to the group of Thinkpadders for whom the classic keyboard layout is one of the most highly-valued features (along with the trackpoint and the supreme serviceability). Of all these, the keyboard had remained unique to the brand once all other major players slowly moved to more simplified/limited/less standard layouts.

This means, for better or worse, that once Lenovo too had moved away from the classic layout (specifically, positioning the navigation keys Ins/Del/Home/End/Pgup/Pgdn and the special keys PrtSc/Scrlk/Pause in a way that they are positioned on most desktop keyboard), I've simply lost a great deal of interest in the new Thinkpads, as there is very little in my mind that distinguishes them from the rest of the pack any longer.

Fortunately, at this point, for my day-to-day mobile tasks, even a several year old laptop is more than sufficient, but there is always the desire to get the "latest and greatest" that meets your basic requirements. So, when the *30 series were out and it was immediately obvious that the classic keyboard is physically compatible, it was natural for folks to try to retrofit it. Turns out, that unlike with desktop keyboards, the interpretation of keystrokes is not done by the keyboard, but by the laptop. The keyboard only sends physical location. This meant that using a *20 keyboard in a *30 machine (or vice-versa) would get wrong interpretations of the locations that differ between the two, which is precisely why one would want to change the keyboard in the first place. A lot of it can be changed by software keyboard remapping utilities, but this gives you a solution that does not work in all environments, breaks if you attach a desktop keyboard, does not address proprietary Fn key combinations, and cannot account for keys that were physically removed (the new keyboard has fewer keys overall). In other words, it's a clunky and incomplete solution, and I would rather just continue using an older system in lieu of that.

However, once it was discovered where in the Embedded Controller firmware the key table is stored, and how to patch it to recognize all keys, and most special combinations, running a *20 keyboard in a *30 system suddenly became a viable option for every classic keyboard zealot. The newer Ivy Bridge systems give you a few incremental updates, each of them minor, but together noticeable - slightly better CPU performance, noticeably better GPU performance, better support for newer versions of Windows, USB 3.0 across the board thanks to Intel (finally) integrating it in the chipset, and a little better battery life given comparable configurations.

The other downside of *20 and *30 - disappointing screen options - was also starting to become addressed with the emergence of the FHD mod kits for X/T series (as of October 2017, QHD 14" kits have also become available), which allowed retrofitting a modern IPS/AHVA LCD. Combined together, these mods revived the interest in Sandy and Ivy Bridge Thinkpads, which at this point are 4-5 generations behind the curve.

I like my X220 a lot, but for serious work, I found that both the size and the resolution of the LCD are limiting. I wanted both a higher resolution, and a bigger screen, and I felt like a 14" FHD could be the sweet spot. I have seen screens with higher resolution and DPI, and they looked very nice, but for prolonged use, I would have had to set serious scaling to avoid eyestrain, and at that point a lot of the advantage is lost. Yes, it looks sharper than a lower-res screen at lower scaling, but I am comfortable with even rather low (by today standards) DPIs.

So the availability of the FHD IPS mod for T420s/T430s series, combined with the existence of the EC keyboard patch for *30 units, and the fact that plympton had one thus modified unit that he was willing to sell, and that I was in a position to comfortably and conveniently buy it, made this purchase possible for me. Sometimes several different factors come together at the right moment, and this was one such case.

Left: The slim-T Thinkpads have their battery in the front, and most of the ports at the back. In this case - power, VGA, USB3, USB2, LAN and Thunderbolt. Right: The right-hand side sports the traditional Serial Ultrabay Slim (here with optical drive) and wireless-radio global (airplane mode) switch.

Usage experience

At the time of writing this summary, the T430s has been in my possession for approximately two months, so my experience with it is not extensive as with the other machines. In particular, I cannot make any comments on its long-term durability. However, some things are immediately obvious.

Starting with the special things unique to the modded T430s: The IPS (AHVA) screen is as nice as it gets on a laptop. With FHD at 14" it's plenty sharp enough for me, and everyone who saw the laptop was impressed by it (as much by the sharpness as by the vibrancy and viewing angles). The classic keyboard does require some modifications to properly sit in the chassis, but once applied, it feels very natural, as if the laptop came with it originally.

The current state of the art EC patch allows all the key combinations to work, except Fn+F12 (Hibernate), Fn+F3 (Power Manager) and Fn+Space (magnifier, which may in fact work, but I haven't got the software installed to try it). These are not terrible things to live without. Those of us who still hibernate their laptops might miss Fn+F12, but on Windows 8 and 10 it is possible to set up a simple shortcut from the administrator menu (Win+X --> U --> H) to achieve the same. On other operating system it should be possible to confiugure a shortcut on the desktop and assign a key sequence to it.

Moving on to the things that are common to any T430s, and in some ways also to a T420s, T410s and T400s: I never owned a slim-T series before, and it feels very nice and portable compared to a regular T series. There is about half a kilogram difference when configured with a 6-cell battery. It's not quite as light as the X220, but it's closer to it than to the T410, which is amazing given that it's 14". The port selection is also quite nice, although closer to the X than to the T - you only get 3 USB ports, and no eSATA, but you get LAN, a digital video output (mini-DP) and analog VGA. The VGA port still has the screw holes, but they are covered in plastic to make the port look more modern, less ugly. That's a trend which started with the *30 series, and I like it better than eliminating the holes completely as was done on many other laptops.

The miniDP on the Core i7 Intel GPU variants such as this one is actually a full-fledged Thunderbolt port. I haven't tried using any Thunderbolt functionality, so I cannot comment on how well that works (I may do so in the future), but as far as passing plain video over the miniDP - it worked just fine without any configuration issues.

Two of the three USB ports are 3.0; the always-on charging port (yellow) is 2.0. This is the first generation of laptops where the USB 3.0 is from Intel, integrated in the chipset. The ports are still marked with blue plastic; future generations would start omitting the color-coding, as 3.0 became standard.

The laptop also has a serial Ultrabay Slim that can hold the same drives as a T410 and the X220 (in Ultrabase). Starting from *20 series, regular T/W systems moved to the 12.7mm thick serial Ultrabay Enhanced drives, but the slim-T still uses the, well, "slim" variant. There is little practical difference, since the same options of optical drives and hard drive adapters are available for both kinds. There is also an ExpressCard slot available - it's the 34mm variant, like on all Series 3 T/W machines, not the 54mm variant of the X-series. All in all, the expansion options are respectable.

The machine originally came with Windows 7 Professional, and was upgraded to Windows 10 Professional. After some thoughts, I decided to stay with Windows 10 on it. It's the only Win10 system I have, and a good opportunity for me to learn to use this OS, which, for good or bad, is here to stay. I went through the various guides on how to tweak Win10 to be less pushy, and more respectful of one's privacy, and decided that at this point it's good enough for me.

One thing that I immediately like about Windows 10 is its ability to apply different scaling to different monitors. I do find that with FHD on 14" I prefer to have things scaled to 125%, but when I have the laptop docked and connected to a 24" WUXGA LCD, I want things to be at 100%. With Win10 I don't need to change any settings as it remembers them, and in fact, if you have two screens in 'Extended Desktop' allows you to have different scaling factors for each screen. It is still not perfect, though - some (actually, many, if not most) applications, despite being scaling-aware, don't know how to adjust themselves on the fly, and if you change scaling factors (by docking or undocking), these applications will look blurry until you sign out and back in (which of course requires you to close and reopen them). And some applications that have not been updated do not know how to scale, so Windows scales them by itself, making them always look blurry on anything that's not 100%. Ironically, Microsoft's own management console is among them.

Another thing I like about using Windows 10 is that the "Lenovo Settings" app (which replaces the Power Manager) seems to work a bit better on it than on Windows 8.1. In particular, I cannot get the app to open by clicking on the taskbar battery gauge on my X220 running Win8.1, but on the T430s with Win10 it works just fine, and the app interface is more complete, offering access to more features (although some of these might be laptop-specific, and not OS-specific).

Overall, I am very pleased with this T430s. The machine is fast, cool, quiet, and the screen and keyboard mods make it excellent. It fits right in my niche on the required level of portability, versus screen size/resolution, and I feel that if it stays fault-free, it can be a great companion to me for years to come.

IPS is IPS. Even if it's called AHVA. This FHD (1920x1080) LCD looks great from all angles.

The downsides

The main problem with the slim-T series (since T400s) has always been the battery life. Because of the design choices, the battery is really slim, and relatively low capacity. The 6-cell battery 81+ is about 44Wh. For comparison, the T410 6-cell is 56Wh, and the X220 6-cell is 63Wh (actually a little less). So, when all else is equal (and it is - as the systems use the same chipsets and full-voltage CPUs), you're going to have shorter runtime with the slim-T than with regular T / X.

Worse, again, because of design choices placing the battery at the front of the machine, there is no extended 9-cell battery option for the slim-T. While Lenovo rates the 6-cell for T430s as "up to 7 hours", realistic usage scenarios will give you 3 to 5 hours at medium load, and that's when the battery is new, which it won't stay forever. So far these are the numbers I've been getting. I can expect that the FHD IPS screen draws more than the stock screen, so my numbers may be a bit on the low side, but they are still far from impressive for a modern laptop, and simply not enough for a "full day away from the office" scenario.

Lenovo's solution for this problem is the Ultrabay battery, and it's not a coincidence that of all the Series 3 machines, the slim-T are the only ones that support the Ultrabay battery. The Ultrabay battery 43 is 32Wh, so it will add 75% to the battery life compared to just the main battery. It's roughly the difference between a 6-cell and a 9-cell, but for the slim-T with 6-cell being smaller than average, it's a big deal.

I haven't got myself a bay battery yet (hope to get one soon), but according to the specs, its weight is about 240 grams, so it should not add a lot of weight over using an optical or hard-drive caddy in the bay. But you cannot have both at the same time, that's just a compromise one has to live with using a slim-T. With that said, the availability of the mSATA slot on *20/*30 Thinkpads allows dual storage devices to be installed without using the Ultrabay at all, so the loss is not as big as it would have been on a T400s/T410s.

Left: Left-hand side hosts USB, audio and ExpressCard slot (here with card reader). Notice the angled down bezel affecting the card slot shape. Right: The flat-bezel flush-mount eSATA card sticks out a bit at the bottom.

Another compromise with the slim-T series is the absence of a fully-integrated card reader slot (which has been standard on all regular T/X for many generations). One is expected to use the ExpressCard slot for that, and Lenovo does offer its own adapter, which is designed to sit flush with the angled bezel of the machine. Furthermore, it is already included by default in many sub-models.

There appear to be three different FRUs: 45M2658 for T410s, 04W1701 for T420s and 04W3932 for T430s. They will all be compatible with all machines, but there may be some differences as to the actual card standards they support (I have not investigated it yet).

You can use any generic ExpressCard adapter, with two caveats: most flush-mount adapters will stick out a bit, because of the angled bezel, and many ExpressCard-to-SD adapters use the USB 2.0 interface of the slot, so they will be slower than the PCI-Express interface such as the one used by Lenovo's adapters. The compromise here is that you lose the ExpressCard slot if you want a built-in card reader, which you could otherwise use to add eSATA, Firewire or something else. If you need to use one of these at the same time as a card reader, you could use a USB-based reader.
Last edited by dr_st on Mon Oct 23, 2017 2:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), X1 Carbon (20HQ), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG, X61 7673-V2V
T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G, X32 (IPS Screen), A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad, A21m 2628-GXU

Posts: 7495
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 6:20 am

T410 vs X220

#5 Post by dr_st » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:25 pm

T410 and X220 can be compared in two key parameters:
  • 14" T-series vs 12" X-series; in this sense valid comparisons would be T410/T420/T430 vs X201/X220/X230
  • First-generation Core (Series 5 Chipset - Arrandale/Ibex Peak) vs Second-generation Core (Series 6 Chipset - Sandy Bridge / Cougar Point)
Comparing first and second Core generation, the newer one scores significant wins in a couple of key parameters - slightly better performance of the CPU and integrated GPU, lower heat, and better battery life are the ones easiest to notice. There is also mSATA SSD support in the mini-PCIe WWAN slot and the PCI-Express framework upgraded to Gen2, which doubles the theoretical throughput on PCIe devices. This can affect things like ExpressCard adapters for USB 3.0 / eSATA. The speed will not double in practice, but the difference can be noticeable (assuming the controller used in the adapter itself supports PCIe Gen2, which some do; for some examples, see the comparison here).

Comparing X versus T series of these generations you get down to the basic trade-offs: X series gives you smaller footprint and lower weight at the cost of reduced expansion options and smaller screen size. The weight difference when using similar batteries is ~700 grams if Ultrabay optical is equipped on the T, and ~600 grams if a travel bezel is used. This is for the T410 vs X220. For other generations, keep the following in mind: a T420/T430 is a bit thinner and lighter than a T410, and X201 has a slimmed down X201s option, which is about 250 grams lighter than a X201/X220/X230.

In terms of battery life, there is almost no difference between this era T-series and X-series (when comparing models in the same generation) - since the same 6-cell and 9-cell battery options are available, at roughly equal battery capacities, and since all systems (again with the exception of the X201s) use the same CPUs and chipsets. The X201s with the low-power CPU options will provide longer battery life compared to T410/X201, but as the 1st generation Core CPUs are inherently less efficient, it will most likely still lose to a T420/X220.

The T410 gives you more ports, but the X220 has a 54mm ExpressCard, and retains key video outputs like VGA and DisplayPort. It is much lighter, but is actually thicker at the back due to the battery shape.

I would argue that from X220 onwards, the difference in expansion options is actually not that meaningful, unless you have specific needs. You lose 1 USB (out of 4), Firewire and the eSATA port. If you need Firewire/eSATA on your X-series, you can add it via ExpressCard, but if you need it regularly and for large transfers, this solution may be inferior to the T-series integrated port. If you only need eSATA at your desk, a Series 3 Mini-Dock Plus offers this capability, and is compatible with the X220/X230. The older X201 loses a bit in this department, since it is not compatible with the Series 3 docks, and does not have a DisplayPort on the chassis (only in the Ultrabase).

The availability of the Ultrabay is another advantage of the T, if you need an optical drive, or a secondary hard-drive. If you only need these things occasionally, or only when at the desk, then an X series + Ultrabase may be a good enough solution. Interestingly, weight-wise, X+Ultrabase weighs almost exactly like a T, so you could use it even as a portable solution, though of course it is not so comfortable to carry in your hands, or work on, due to the extra thickness. The Ultrabase may be a good companion if you frequently need to carry your laptop between two different offices, and also want the ability to disconnect from it and carry a light laptop around the office, but that is hardly a typical scenario.

The Ultrabase adds an Ultrabay while keeping the weight reasonable, but makes the X220 twice as thick as the T410 (consider things like one-handed carrying and the height of the keyboard relative to the desk).

So, in the end the main trade-off is about screen size versus weight, and at this point it is possible to discuss the advantages and disadvantages forever, and never reach an agreement; it is just too subjective, so I will not even try. However, a few things to keep in mind are:
  • In the Series 5 laptops, both 14" T410 and 12" X201 use 8:5 (commonly known as 16:10) screen aspect, with either 1280x800 WXGA or 1400x900 WXGA+ resolution options (the latter only officially available on the slimmer X201s, but can be retrofitted to a non-slim). So the T gives you no extra real-estate, just extra size.
  • In the Series 6-7 laptops, both changed to 16:9 screens, but X220/230 only have 1366x768 HD options, whereas T420/430 have 1600x900 HD+ configurations as well. This is a very noticeable boost, and often a crucial factor for many kinds of serious work that needs to be done away from a desk with its external LCD.
  • The (very recent) emergence of the 1920x1080 FHD mod for X200/230 turns the tables around, since such a mod for the non-slim T420/430 is currently problematic.
  • If screen aspect ratio is crucial to your work more than size/resolution, then you may find value specifically in the older T410/X201 models with taller screens, even at the cost of giving up the performance advantages.
  • If you value screen quality more than any other aspect of it, then the X220/230 are the only one in the models discussed here that have IPS options (either stock HD or modded FHD).
Last edited by dr_st on Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), X1 Carbon (20HQ), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG, X61 7673-V2V
T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G, X32 (IPS Screen), A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad, A21m 2628-GXU

Posts: 7495
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 6:20 am

T430s vs T410

#6 Post by dr_st » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:26 pm

Hardware-wise, the T430s is two generations ahead of the T410, so the performance gap already starts being noticeable, and direct comparison has limited value. The cumulative expected difference can be deduced from the T410-X220 and X220-T430s head-to-heads.

A key comparison would be the classic keyboard vs the new keyboard, but since my T430s has been specifically modded with the classic one, I cannot comment on this. Besides, it's been done countless times already.

So I will focus on the following aspects:
  • Slim T series vs regular T series
  • Screen-related aspects, including the IPS mod
When Lenovo introduced the first slim-T model, the T400s, it was very different from the regular T400 of that time - a completely new design, much closer to X30x than to the T400, so much that I thought it should have been called "X400" instead. However, the X30x lineup was discontinued, the mainline T-series design was changed to follow suit with the T400s, and the slim-T has been made an integral part of mainstream Thinkpads, and is there to this day (with some additional differentiation as there are now regular, -s and -p suffix models).

Among the "Series 3" Thinkpads, the slim-T was the longest-lived model, spanning 4 generations, from T400s to T430s. (The T431s, despite the similar name, is a different model, with new design, although it interestingly maintains compatibility to the Series 3 docks. Essentially it's T430s hardware, but with a low-power CPU, and in a new shell. In some way it's to the T430 what the T400s has been to the T400.) It generally follows the regular 14" T models in hardware, basic port selection, and screen form factor, e.g. when the T420 went to 16:9, so did the T420s. However, being positioned as a 'premium' series, the LCD options were better. T400s/410s were exclusively offered with the higher resolution WXGA+ (1400x900) panels, and some models had multi-touch capabilities. The touchscreens were not offered for T420s/430s, but with the exception of a few T430s models with HD (1366x768), all of them sported HD+ (1600x900) screens. Regular T series could also be configured with the high resolution screens, but not with the multi-touch.

Left: T430s is wider and shorter, in part due to the difference between the regular and slim bases, but mostly due to the aspect ratio. The bottom bezel is thicker on the T430s, so the LCD panels bottom edge is roughly the same height, emphasizing the height differences of the 8:5 and 16:9 panels. Right: Thickness difference demonstrated side-by-side. Both the lid and the base are thinner on the slim-T (lid thickness on the regular-T was reduced starting from T420).

With 6-cell batteries on each, the slim-T weighs about 500 grams less than the regular T, and is 4-6 millimeters slimmer. It also typically cost more for the same basic configuration, when new. At first glance it might seem that the trade-off is simply cost versus weight/thickness. But it's not quite that. There is some reduction of ports on the slim-T, mainly the loss of an integrated card reader, requiring ExpressCard to be used for that, which means, of course that it cannot be used to add other ports.

T400s/410s used 1.8" drives for the main bay, which is somewhat limiting. 1.8" drives and SSDs are less popular, more expensive, and sometimes lower-performing. This was changed in the T420s/430s series, which now use a 2.5" drive bay, just like the regular T series.

There are also some differences in USB port options - generally there are fewer ports on the slim-T (3 versus 4), but they are not necessarily worse. Depending on whether you prefer USB 3.0 or eSATA, and whether you prefer the eSATA port to be separate or combined with USB (which allows to pass power from the same port), you might find some options better than others:

Code: Select all

Model        Total USB    USB 3.0    Powered   eSATA             Model        Total USB    USB 3.0    Powered   eSATA

T400             3           0          0      none              T400s            3           0          0      combined
T410             4           0          1      separate          T410s            3           0          1      combined
T420             4           0          1      combined          T420s            3           1          1      none
T430             4           2          1      none              T430s            3           2          1      none
The most important usage-affecting difference is probably the poor battery life of the slim-T, due to the low-capacity main battery. Lenovo engineers were obviously aware of it, and went through the trouble of keeping support for the Ultrabay battery in the slim-T models, even though it's not supported by any other "Series 3" model. With the bay battery attached, overall runtime of the slim-T is quite respectable, sitting roughly half-way between the 6-cell and 9-cell flavors of the regular-T. But of course it means you lose the ability to actually use the Ultrabay for disk devices.

So the trade-off in the 14" T "Series 3" domain can be summarized as follows: light weight, long battery life, ultrabay - choose any two out of three:
  • Light weight + long battery life --> T4x0s + Ultrabay Battery
  • Light weight + Ultrabay --> T4x0s w/o Ultrabay battery
  • Long battery life + Ultrabay --> T4x0 non-s
The last (but certainly, not least) aspect of comparison is the screen. Between same generation models there is not much to say - as the same panels are used in regular and slim 14" series. However between the *10 and *20 the 14" T transitioned to 16:9 (15" did it one generation earlier). Screen aspect ratio is one of the most heated debates (second, probably, only to the keyboard) with avid proponents and opponents of every option. In terms of raw resolution, the widening actually helped 14" screens, for which the highest resolution in 8:5 was 1400x900 - rather low. T420/s immediately gained 1600x900 options, which means that you gain horizontal pixels without losing vertical ones (compare to the loss of vertical space moving from 4:3 1400x1050 to 1440x900). At the same time, the DPI of 1600x900 at 14" is still reasonable for most people to use without eyestrain.

So overall, I think that 14" T series benefited from the transition to 16:9, but not everyone will agree. For some people and specific workflows the aspect ratio is more important than the resolution, and taller screens may be preferred. There were also complaints about the even wider top/bottom bezels of the 16:9 laptops, which meant that the shortening of the screen did not sufficiently reduce the laptop's footprint, and lots of space was seemingly wasted. This is true to an extent, although it was probably caused by system board engineering restrictions, and so can be partially justified.

But all that changes when you consider the availability of mods for the 16:9 screens. The 8:5 was a rather bad period for LCD quality - aggressive cost-cutting in laptop components has already begun, while the public's awareness of different types of LCD panels was still quite low, so there was low demand for premium (non-TN) panels, and very few were made; none of them in 14". To the best of my knowledge, there is not in existence a single mass-produced 14" 8:5 non-TN LCD, and since this form factor is all but dead, it is unlikely one will ever be made. So the T410/s and earlier models are stuck forever with whatever poor screen options were there to begin with.

Left: Stacked on top of each other, the difference in footprint is actually quite minor. Right: T430s AHVA display (left) shows warmer and more pleasant colors compared to the TN on T410, even when viewed head on.

Not so for the 16:9. Eventually awareness and demand of quality screens caught up, and good 14" IPS panels exist now, that can fit in the T420/430/s bezels, and made to work via a special modding kit. Both FHD (1920x1080) and QHD (2560x1440) panels are available. Both FHD and QHD kits exist, but their availability in the market varies (usually kits are produced in batches and after all are sold, it may take a while for the next batch to be released).

The current screen situation is as follows:

Code: Select all

Model                      Best LCD Option

T400/T400s/T410/T410s      WXGA+ (1400x900), TN
T420/T420s/T430/T430s      HD+   (1600x900), TN
T420s/T430s + mod          FHD   (1920x1080), IPS/AHVA
T420s/T430s + mod (Oct'17) QHD   (2560x1440), IPS/AHVA
T420/T430 + mod (Jun'18) FHD   (1920x1080), IPS/AHVA

As usual, once vertical viewing angles are introduced, the TN display is completely blown out of the water. The stock TN displays on T420/T430 (and -s) series are not any better.
Last edited by dr_st on Mon Oct 23, 2017 2:54 pm, edited 5 times in total.
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), X1 Carbon (20HQ), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG, X61 7673-V2V
T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G, X32 (IPS Screen), A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad, A21m 2628-GXU

Posts: 7495
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 6:20 am

X220 vs T430s

#7 Post by dr_st » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:26 pm

This comparison may be the most interesting of the three, due to the following aspects:
  • Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge architectures are pretty close, but have some key differences in certain features. How crucial are those?
  • X-series and slim-T series represent two different approaches of reducing laptop weight (versus standard 14-15"). Which one is better?
  • Both series now have high quality screen modification kits available. How do they compare?
Overall, whatever benefits *30 series brings, for classic keyboard diehards, they would in most cases be completely overshadowed by the radical redesign of the keyboard, so until recently, the *20 series was preferred by many; now with the availability of the EC mod for classic keyboard support, the *30 series should be more attractive even to these hardcore Thinkpadders. But what if you already own a *20 system? Should you upgrade?

The Ivy Bridge / Panther Point combo gives you a few advantages over Sandy Bridge / Cougar Point. CPU performance is typically close, but integrated GPU performance is increased significantly. Furthermore, for the first time the Intel HD 4000 supports triple display configurations (3 independent displays at the same time), which was previously only possible with nVidia Optimus.

In practice, the supported 3-monitor configurations for the HD 4000 are rather limited. At least two of the displays should be connected via DisplayPort. This is apparently because the chipset has only two PLLs for driving the video outputs, and only with DisplayPort multiple monitors can share the same PLL. Passive dongles work in some limited set of scenarios - such as when two of the non-DP monitors use the same protocol and the same resolution (then they can also share a clock).

There is a lot of confusing information out there - for instance, Lenovo's knowledge article on the subject claims passive dongles are not supported. However, I could confirm that it is possible to support dual DVI monitors via the Mini-Dock (4337) + internal (LVDS) display, in Debian Linux with XFCE, as shown in this video. This was using two L200p UXGA (1600x1200) displays - one connected to the Mini-Dock's DP via a passive DP++ to DVI dongle, and the other one to the Mini-Dock's DVI (which is actually a passive dongle on the second DP out). All 3 monitors worked in Extended Desktop. However, in Windows 10, I could not activate this mode - in this configuration the Intel Graphics software did not present me with a triple display Extended desktop, only a choice between possible "2 out of 3" combinations. Trying to set it manually via the Windows display settings also failed. In another mode, however, connecting to the DP on the dock, and the mini-DP on the chassis, I could get all 3 displays (including the built-in) to work at the same time, in Windows 10. This suggests that software/drivers can limit the configurations even in some cases where the hardware supports it. So, if you have an Intel GPU Ivy Bridge laptop, and want 3 displays, it may be worth while to invest in the Mini-Dock Plus (4338), as it offers two independent DP connectors. Or just get an nVidia-based laptop, which will not have this limitation.

The other novelty in the Panther Point chipset is an integrated USB 3.0 controller in the chipset, for the first time. All *30 series Lenovo laptops have 2 USB 3.0 ports on the chassis, and support one more via the new revised Series 3 docks with USB 3.0. On *20 series only select models (T420s, W520 and X220 with i7) offer USB 3.0, using a NEC controller. Its maximum performance is not as good as that of Intel's (see, for instance, this very detailed study), but in most practical cases (copying files to/from external storage), the difference will be small. So, if you have one of the USB 3.0-capable *20 systems, and especially if it's the X220 i7 that also supports USB 3.0 on the new Series 3 docks, the incentive to upgrade is not so big.

Code: Select all

System       USB 3.0 Ports   Supports USB 3.0 on Dock?
L420, L520        0                   No
T420, T520        0                   No
T420s             1                   No
W520              2                   No
X220 (i3/i5)      0                   No
X220 (i7)         1                   Yes
X220 Tablet       0                   No *
All **30 systems  2                   Yes * **
Summary of USB 3.0 capabilities in Cougar Point and Panther Point Thinkpads
(*) Minor hack is required to fit Tablet on standard dock
(**) Including T431s, but excluding T430u, which has no docking connector

X2x0 series can be seen, in some ways, as a slimmed down, smaller version of a T4x0, and in other ways, as a smaller version of T4*0s. It shares some common traits with both of them, but if I'd have to pass judgment - I would say that it's more like a slim-T than a regular T. It is roughly the same thicknes as a slim-T, has similar expansion options (a bit fewer ports than the regular T), and has soldered CPUs (which effectively means you cannot upgrade them). The only thing that it takes from the full-size T series is the battery design and high capacity 6-/9-cell options, but that's a pretty important thing in itself.

Looking at the standard configurations will tell you that the X is about 300 grams lighter than slim-T when configured with the 6-cell battery, and about 450 grams lighter with a 4-cell. Since the capacity of the T4*0s battery sits between the 4-cell and the 6-cell it's hard to say which comparison is more fair. Using the Ultrabay in the slim-T for the Ultrabay battery increases the weight by 100-200 grams, and brings battery capacity somewhere between the 6-cell and the 9-cell options. The X with the 4-cell is a really nice, slim and compact system, at only about 1.35kg, and might be appealing if you prioritize weight and footprint over long battery life and screen size / resolution. On the other end of the spectrum, if you want maximum battery life, even with the 9-cell battery, the X weighs ~100 grams less than the slim-T, although it is no longer as slim and elegant.

Image Image
Left: Front edge of X220 and T430s is the same thickness. Right: With the 4-cell battery (or without one at all), so is the back edge. Both laptops sport pretty thin LCD lids as well.

In the end I cannot say that one is truly better than the other, but having played with them both, I much prefer the larger screen of the slim-T for every day use, and to me that's a key parameter. Given the now available quality screen options, I would say that the X-series is preferred if you want the longest battery life possible, or the lightest machine possible, but in general I feel that the slim-T strikes a better balance.

Image Image
Thickness profile with 6-cell and 4-cell batteries on the X220; X220 on the left, T430s on the right.

Screen Modifications

The comparison of the two systems becomes especially interesting in the light of the emergence of recent modification kits that allow high-resolution displays to be installed. The original design limited X220/X230 to HD 1366x768 screens (some IPS), and the T420/T430/T420s/T430s to HD+ 1600x900 (TN only). In subsequent years, high-quality, high-resolution panels in both 12.5" and 14.0" sizes have become more common, typically in FHD (1920x1080) and QHD (2560x1440). However, they all use the eDP interface, while *20/*30 series Thinkpads use the older LVDS interface. Their installation in these systems requires the use of special, custom-made converter boards, and typically additional hardware/cabling. Various modification kits have been made, some are currently in production, and more are planned. The current situation (as of August 2018), which I deduced from reading the various forum threads on this topic, appears to be as follows (if some inaccuracies are present, please correct me, as I mean no offense to anyone):
  • T420s/T430s FHD: Kits (by Javi from 51nb.com) are available but are currently not actively sold. See T420s/T430s FHD/WQHD upgrade kits pre-order. Alternate kits by a different manufacturer are offered on eBay by e-qstore. See New IPS FHD Upgrade Kit for thinkpad T420 T430 ,And T430S T420S.
  • T420s/T430s QHD: Kits (also by Javi) are being produced, and first batches are in a pre-order stage as of October 2017. See T420s/T430s WQHD kits pre-order. There appears to be an alternate kit by a different 51nb.com member, but it does not seem to be offered for sale.
  • T420/T430 (non-s) FHD: New kits are offered on eBay by e-qstore; these appear to have no flickering issues according to user experiences. See New IPS FHD Upgrade Kit for thinkpad T420 T430 ,And T430S T420S.
  • T420/T430 (non-s) QHD: No specific plans have been announced.
  • X220/X230 FHD: Kits (by nitrocaster from thinkpads.com) have recently become available, and all early batches were sold fast; A new batch is currently available and actively sold. See Upgrading X220/X230 to FHD 1080p.
  • X220/X230 QHD: Unavailable yet, but nitrocaster believes that it can be done, and he may offer them in the future, if there is interest (uncertain at this point).
  • X220/X230 Tablet FHD/QHD: Same as above.
So, if you are the owner of a Sandy Bridge / Ivy Bridge X-series or slim-T Thinkpad, the option to upgrade the screen to an FHD IPS seems very likely, and QHD IPS seems a future possibility. If you don't have such a system yet, but are contemplating buying one, it may be worth to consider the different merits of each possible upgrade:

1. Resolution versus screen size

Some claim that they would always prefer the highest resolution, regardless of screen size, and just scale things accordingly, if needed. However, one must keep in mind, that scaling does not always work perfectly, and can have some unpleasant side-effects, which can become more pronounced with higher scaling. Ultimately, individual preference for sharpness and individual tolerance for smoothness varies greatly, but on average, I believe almost everyone will be happy with a FHD 14" (157PPI) with no or minimal scaling, whereas FHD on 12.5" (176PPI) may require more getting used to. QHD 14" (210PPI) and on 12.5" (235PPI) may be unusable for the majority without substantial scaling.

2. Installation

The advantage of the 14.0" FHD kit is that it is the simplest to install, as does not require anything to be soldered/unsoldered, just some tricky disassembly and reassembly of the machine. This is because it converts straight from the dual-channel LVDS (capable of supporting FHD resolution natively) to eDP. Update October 2017: 14.0" QHD kits are available and are just as simple as the FHD kits - the dual-channel LVDS is capable of supporting QHD. See T420s/T430s WQHD kits pre-order.

Unfortunately, X220/X230 only have a single channel LVDS, which means such an adapter would not be able to support FHD. Therefore, the 12.5" FHD kit has to tap into one of the existing DP outputs on the motherboard, but also partially into the LVDS, to provide brightness control. The current kit does it in a very elegant way, but it still requires quite a bit of soldering to install, which makes the process trickier. The 12.5" QHD kit would use the same approach, and may be a bit trickier, as more signal wires would be required.

3. Side effects

The 14.0" mod kits run entirely off the LVDS, so there are no side-effects, other than the increased power consumption due to the adapter board and the IPS FHD screen itself. The 12.5" kits require to sacrifice one of the DisplayPort outputs of the machine. That is simply due to the limitations of the original designs, and no sophistication by the modders can compensate for that.

There are three DisplayPort outputs in every 'Series 3' Thinkpad - one goes to the chassis (either in DP or mini-DP form), two go through the docking connector. The current 12.5" FHD kit uses the Dock DP#2 output, and it is likely that other kits would do the same, because it is easier to tap into given the system board layout, and it is the port least likely to be used. By using it for the display mod you lose the ability of running dual external displays off the dock (you can still run one + laptop display). Also, if you want to use any dock (other than the Ultrabase Series 3, which does not use Dock DP#2 at all), you will need to tape some of the pins on the docking connector to prevent the dock from taking over the residual DP pins unused by the mod and getting the system confused so that neither external nor internal display can be used.

In theory, if external dual displays are of utmost importance to you, you may prefer a different mod, that uses the chassis DP output, but according to my understanding, it's more complicated to implement, and there does not seem enough demand to justify anyone trying to make such a kit.

Given all the above information, and the current "state of the art" in regards to display mod kits for these Thinkpads, I personally prefer the simple, no-frills, 14" FHD mod; it's the easiest to perform, and does not involve loss of other functionality. I also don't feel comfortable with extremely high DPI, so it works well for me. Due to these factors, I would take (and in fact, I have taken) a T420s/430s over an X220/230 for screen modding. Needless to say, your preferences may differ. :)
Last edited by dr_st on Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), X1 Carbon (20HQ), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG, X61 7673-V2V
T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G, X32 (IPS Screen), A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad, A21m 2628-GXU

Posts: 7495
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 6:20 am

Part 7: Series 3 Docking Stations

#8 Post by dr_st » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:27 pm


With the T400s came a new docking connector and a new line of docking stations, which was used for all T/W/L/X systems up to and including the *30 series. The docks continue the trends established by the previous two lines of docks - The II line (IBM's latest models) and the "Advanced" line (Lenovo's earliest models). Possibly for this reason the new docks were collectively called "Series 3" docking solutions. As before, there is the basic port replicator, offering very little besides simple cable management, the simple (standard) dock offering a few extra ports not available on the laptop itself, and the enhanced dock, offering more expansion capabilities. However, for the first time, the enhanced dock is still not a "full dock" - it does not offer any additional expansion bays/slots - only a few extra ports, and hence it is called merely a "Mini-Dock Plus", not a "Dock".

Although I cannot know for sure the business considerations that led Lenovo to drop the full dock model, I can theorize that it was simply not selling well enough. Having worked with Thinkpads for over a decade, both in the personal and corporate sector, I have seen hundreds of docking stations, and they were all either Mini-Docks or the simpler Port Replicators. I think I have never seen a full dock in person - they really are that rare (in comparison). It's not difficult to see why - looking great on paper with a plethora of capabilities, such a dock has its inherent downsides - it's huge (to accommodate the slots and the extra hardware); it requires active cooling; the extra hardware requires more complicated resource management by the OS going between docked and undocked profiles (which is always buggy and prone to problems), and hot docking/undocking is frequently problematic (especially if you want to use the PCI/PCIe slot for an external video card, which is the most common reason people want a full dock). In some sense, it is almost a complete system by itself, without the "brain" (CPU/GPU), and it even has its own internal power supply (which makes it heavier still). Finally, more components = more potential failure points. And of course, it's much more expensive.

So you have an expensive, complex accessory, with a small niche market. Hard to get back the R&D cost on that, eh? I would estimate that at least 98% of the use cases would be better addressed with the smaller, simpler Mini-Dock, and I bet sales numbers would reflect that. So what does a company do to get people to purchase a more expensive premium product? The answer is: take the regular Mini-Dock, add a couple of ports that people want (like more video ports, or something nice-to-have like eSATA), leave the same for factor and the same level of flexibility (so that there are only upsides with no downsides), and make it just a little more expensive, and voila! That is what the Mini-Dock Plus is all about.

Table of docking solutions

Code: Select all

Series 3 Model                      Previous generation equivalent       IBM last generation equivalent
==============                      ==============================       ==============================
Port Replicator Series 3 (4336)     Essential Port Replicator (2505)     Port Replicator II (74P6733) 
Mini Dock Series 3       (4337)     Advanced Mini-Dock        (2504)     Mini-Dock          (2878)
Mini Dock Plus Series 3  (4338)     --                                   --     
--                                  Advanced Dock             (2503)     Dock II            (2877)
The number in parentheses is the 4-digit model number, which is typically followed by a 3-character suffix; Port Replicator II does not have a 4-digit model number.

Comparison of Series 3 docking solutions

Based on the relative frequency of discussions about the Mini-Dock Plus Series 3, I'd say that it's definitely more popular than the full docks used to be, and hence that the marketing move worked well for Lenovo. Still, fans of full dock solutions, few as they are, were undoubtedly disappointed with no longer being able to turn their Thinkpad into an almost full-fledged desktop, as they could do in past generations.

However, it is worth mentioning that the emergence of ExpressCard adapters for external GPU (eGPU) keeps at least some options for external graphics available (all 'Series 3' Thinkpads have ExpressCard slots). Later models (*20/*30) also implement mSATA, so between the mSATA slot, the main bay, and the Ultrabay, three different storage devices can be installed, partially compensating for the loss of the extra Ultrabay the old full docks offered. Thus, some expandability can now be achieved via alternate means, although it may not be as convenient as a single-connection-point full dock solution.

What about the Port Replicators? Are they worth buying? In my opinion - not in this day and age. In the IBM era, the Port Replicator II actually had almost all the features of the Mini-Dock, minus the USB hub and the integrated lock. It also used the same power plug as the Thinkpad (probably so that IBM can sell it cheaper and not include the power adapter, but in practice it eliminated the need for a proprietary heavy 120W adapter that the bigger docks used). However, in the Lenovo era, the Port Replicators do not include any digital video outputs - only the analog VGA. So you cannot run dual external displays, and the display you can run off it will be limited to analog quality. Bad idea in the age of high-resolution LCDs and multi-monitor setups. They also drop the audio pass-through ports, so you still have to use the ones on the laptop itself; essentially it makes them glorified powered USB hubs with very little on top of that.

The Port Replicator Series 3, like previous generations, does not include a lock and keys, but has an integrated cable lock slot - when the dock is locked to the desk, the laptop is locked to the dock. Not nearly as convenient as having a dedicated lock, but at least it is securable, and if you use a Kensington-style lock anyways - it's one less key to lose. :)

In my view, these downsides are enough to make the port replicators totally worthless, even considering the cheaper price when they are new (was it really cheaper if you factor in the cost of the power brick? Hmm...) Nowadays, with the market saturated with used mini-docks in great working condition, I see absolutely no reason to consider the basic replicators, unless they are given to you for free, and even then - maybe.

While the port selection differences are meaningful, mechanically and visually all 3 docks are the same. They look very much like the previous generation stations - Advanced Mini-Dock and Essential Port Replicator, and share the same design: power and eject buttons on the back left, laptop alignment by back left corner, open at the back to allow extended batteries. Where they differ is in the alignment guide piece being a slider, not fixed. This is because Series 3 docks support some models where the battery is in the front and the docking connector is in the back (T4x0s), and the alignment guide can move between two extreme positions - for slim-T laptops (2) and for other systems (1). A similar feature was present on IBM's last dock generation.

Image Image
Left: T410 (docking connector at the middle), rear alignment. Right: T430s (docking connector at the back), front alignment

With the Port Replicator Series 3 and the Mini Dock Series 3 things started very simple - there was only one model of each - 4336-10W (Port Replicator) and 4337-10U (Mini-Dock). The Port Replicator came with no power supply, the Mini-Dock with the 90W, but both would take any power supply. With the Mini-Dock Plus Series 3 things got more complicated, because Lenovo released three different variants, differing only in the included power brick: 90W (4338-10U), 135W (4338-20U) and 170W (4338-30U). The dock features are the same in all cases, and the 90W/135W bricks are interchangeable. However with the 170W, Lenovo played its nasty trick, which is infamous by now, by changing the power plug and socket tips - the 170W PSU will not fit in any other dock except the -30U (just like it does not fit in any Thinkpads besides W520/530). This feels idiotic, since if anything, it should be vice-versa: the powerful brick can support all laptops, but you may want to prevent someone accidentally using an under-powered supply with a system that needs more. You cannot blame people for thinking it was just an ugly marketing scam to sell new docks. Fortunately, there is a simple solution that was quickly discovered - it requires shaving off the little bulges inside the tip of the 170W power adapter, which makes it universally compatible with any Series 3 laptop and dock. A similar easy mod - removing the alignment guide and battery support piece from the docking station - makes it compatible with the X220/230 Tablets (which officially only support the Ultrabase). So Lenovo may not have wanted the Series 3 docks to be universal, but accidentally designed them as such.

Side feature: X220 Tablet + Minidock Series 3 Plus
Kaze22's Series 3 Mod

Image Image
Left: Left-side view of the T410 on the dock. Right: Close-up on the X220 docked. Note the support piece which should be removed to allow the Tablet models to dock properly.

Mini Dock vs Mini Dock Plus, Multi-display configurations

Now that we've determined that all docks are essentially universal, and also that the Port Replicator is pretty pathetic - the question remains: the regular or the Plus model? The features that the Plus has over the regular is an eSATA port, and 4 digital video outputs (2xDP, 2xDVI) instead of 2 (DP, DVI). Not all ports can be used at the same time, though. The Series 3 Thinkpads (all of them) output two digital video DisplayPort++ channels to the dock, in addition to one analog VGA channel. On the Mini-Dock, DP#1 goes to the DP port, and DP#2 goes to the DVI port via a passive dongle built into the dock. You can use both at the same time. On the Mini-Dock Plus, each DP channel is split into a DP and DVI. You can use both DP ports, or both DVI ports, or one of each, as long as they are not on the same channel, but you can never use more than two digital outputs simultaneously. Furthermore - the DVI adapters (on both dock variants) are single-channel, so they can only support up to 1920x1200 resolution; for higher resolution displays you must use DisplayPort. The VGA port can be used independently of any digital outputs.

Note that the DP/mini-DP port on the Thinkpad chassis is indepedent of the docking ports, and they can be used simultaneously; however, the VGA output is shared - the port on the Thinkpad is disabled when the system is docked. Capabilities of individual laptops further limit available display configurations. Non-Optimus pre-**30 series only support two displays at a time - you can have any two external ports active, or any single port + laptop LCD. **30 series with integrated Intel GPU support up to 3 displays, but normally two of these must be connected via DisplayPort (any combination of dock and chassis ports), or if two are connected via DVI, then they have to run exactly the same resolution (and that may be very tricky to get to work, as was described in the T430s section). The third display can then be any of the available options. Hence, for triple display configurations, the Mini-Dock Plus has a distinct advantage in flexibility over the non-Plus model, unless you are willing to use the chassis DisplayPort output as well.

nVidia Optimus models support triple and even quad-display options, but not in all combinations. Essentially, for Optimus models, each GPU (Intel / nVidia) controls two outputs, but the documentation on what is supported it often confusing and in some cases incorrect. It appears, that the VGA port must be used for quad-display configurations, and it is not clear whether the internal LCD must be used for triple/quad display configurations. Not having owned an Optimus model, I could not get to the bottom of all possible supported configurations.
NVIDIA Optimus - ThinkPad Multiple Monitor Configurations
Technical Brief - Thinkpad Multiple Monitor Configurations using nVidia Optimus Technology
T420s Optimus quad digital monitor output problem

One minor disadvantage I see to the Mini-Dock plus is that, with all the extra ports, the audio jacks had to be moved to the side, and using them is a bit less tidy and potentially less convenient (depending on where you sit relative to the dock). But overall, if price is not an issue, it is the preferred solution, since it will do everything the lesser models do, and a bit more.

Series 3 Docks with USB 3.0

In mid-2012, Lenovo made things even more complicated for the users by releasing revised docks, with USB 3.0 support. Officially called Thinkpad Series 3 Docking Stations with USB 3.0. The same 3 basic variants were available, with the Mini-Dock Plus coming in 2 variants - 90W and 170W; the 135W version was not refreshed, since it's 100% identical to the 90W version except the power supply, and the 170W supersedes it. The USB 3.0 docks can be identified by the second-to-last character in the North American model number changing from '0' to '5'. So 4337-10U became 4337-15U and so on.

The new docks are identical to the old ones, except for one (only one) of the USB ports now being a USB 3.0 port. The 3.0 port is easily identifiable, being blue (just like on contemporary Thinkpads). However, it is merely a pass-through port; there is no USB 3.0 controller in the dock. Thus, it will only function as USB 3.0 if your system has USB 3.0 capabilities and has a USB 3.0 port sent through the docking connector. Most compatible systems do not have this support - the only ones that do are the Ivy Bridge / Panther Point (**30) series, and miraculously, the Core i7 variant of the X220. In all other systems, the port will function as simple USB 2.0, so there is no advantage to the new docks. Unfortunately, Lenovo did not make this obvious at all in the product description, which caused much confusion and many unhappy customers.

Worse, users of the Mini-Dock Plus (4338) would be disappointed to find that they now lost the eSATA port. Yes, in a bizarre decision, that cannot be explained by anything other than penny-pinching and narrow vision, Lenovo decided, instead of adding USB 3.0 to one of the 6 existing ports on the dock (like they did with the 4337), to remove the eSATA port and put the USB 3.0 port in its place (the dock now has a 7-port USB 2.0 hub). I find it difficult to believe that there are more people out there who need 7 USB ports, than people who need eSATA, and in any case, USB ports are always expandable with chained hubs, whereas the loss of eSATA cannot be compensated. Yet another customer-aggravating choice. It did not help that shortly after announcing the USB 3.0 docks, Lenovo withdrew the old ones from production (or active marketing, at least). With that said, you can still find plenty of the old ones on the used market, if you need eSATA. However, the fact that you have to choose between eSATA and USB 3.0 and cannot have them both in a docking station of that era is sorely disappointing; the capability is there, there is just no dock that implements it.

Image Image
Left: X220 on the dock, with the 9-cell battery sticking out the back. Right: Rear view of Mini-Dock 4337. Ports from left to right: power, DisplayPort++, DVI-D (single channel only), mic, line-out, LAN, 6 USB ports (this is the USB 3.0 model; it's hard to see, but top right port is blue), VGA. Each dock comes with 2 identical keys.

Audio output noise issue

One annoying problem exhibited by early Series 3 docks is that the line-out on the dock is prone to interference and has static noise during mouse movements or disk activity. I personally experienced it with a Mini-Dock Series 3, but it affects the Plus model as well (obviously not the Port Replicator, since it has no line-out). This was, apparently, acknowledged as a design issue by Lenovo, and fixed in later production units, after July 2011. The manufacturing month appears at the bottom of the dock in YY/MM format. I have had several units from 2010 and early 2011 with the issue, and units from 2012 that do not have the issue. Around 11/07 and 11/08 you may find some good ones and some bad ones, so if possible, go for a later date. Specifically, all the USB 3.0 models should be safe, since they were only announced in 2012.

Side feature: Audio Issue on Advanced Mini-Dock Plus

Summary - which dock is right for me?

Code: Select all

Series 3 Docking Station            Model Number   PSU  Total USB  USB 3.0  eSATA      Video Ports         Other Ports             Lock
========================            ============   ===  =========  =======  =====      ===========         ===========             ====
Port Replicator                      4336-10W       -       4         -      -         VGA                 LAN                     Cable
Mini Dock                            4337-10U      90W      6         -      -         VGA,   DP,   DVI    LAN, Line-Out, Mic-In   Key+Cable
Mini Dock Plus - 90W                 4338-10U      90W      6         -      yes       VGA, 2xDP, 2xDVI    LAN, Line-Out, Mic-In   Key+Cable
Mini Dock Plus - 135W                4338-20U     135W      6         -      yes       VGA, 2xDP, 2xDVI    LAN, Line-Out, Mic-In   Key+Cable
Mini Dock Plus - 170W                4338-30U     170W      6         -      yes       VGA, 2xDP, 2xDVI    LAN, Line-Out, Mic-In   Key+Cable
Port Replicator with USB 3.0         4336-15W       -       4         1      -         VGA                 LAN                     Cable
Mini Dock with USB 3.0               4337-15U      90W      6         1      -         VGA,   DP,   DVI    LAN, Line-Out, Mic-In   Key+Cable
Mini Dock Plus with USB 3.0 - 90W    4338-15U      90W      7         1      -         VGA, 2xDP, 2xDVI    LAN, Line-Out, Mic-In   Key+Cable
Mini Dock Plus with USB 3.0 - 170W   4338-35U     170W      7         1      -         VGA, 2xDP, 2xDVI    LAN, Line-Out, Mic-In   Key+Cable
(*) Model numbers ending with U are for US/Canada. Other countries may have different numbers (typically distinguishing the power brick). Port replicator numbers ending with W are global (since there is no power brick).

New docks (with USB 3.0) or old docks? If your system supports USB 3.0 on the dock, and you want this feature - go for the new ones. If your system does not support it, or you want eSATA more than USB 3.0 - go for the old ones. Otherwise - it does not matter. I would go for the new docks if you don't care about eSATA, if only to ensure you are getting a new unit, without the audio issue.

Basic port replicator OK? If you only plan a very low-end office setup (crappy VGA monitor, LAN, no audio) and you can get one for free or close to free - maybe. Otherwise - stay away.

Mini-Dock Plus required? Yes - if you plan to use two high-res monitors (more than FHD/WUXGA), or two monitors with DP inputs only; Yes - if you have a system supporting 3+ individual displays, and you want flexibility in the configuration; Yes - if you want eSATA (must get the old dock version then); Yes - if you have a W520/W530 and absolutely do not want to modify the 170W PSU tip to fit the regular dock (must get the 170W model then). In other cases - not mandatory (the regular Mini-Dock is sufficient).

Personally, I've been using the "middle of the road" Mini-Dock 4337 with my T410, X220 and T430s and it's been sufficient for my needs. I believe it still covers >80% of the typical usage scenarios, but due to the increased availability and popularity of high-resolution displays and triple-monitor setups, it's no longer the 98% that the previous-gen "middle of the road" Advanced Mini-Dock did. I'd say again that the Mini-Dock Plus has been a very smart decision by Lenovo and a good product for many customers; it's a pity that some of its appeal has been taken away by stupid/greedy decisions such as the non-compatible 170W PSU tip and the drop of eSATA on the USB 3.0 model.
Last edited by dr_st on Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:15 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Finale: Accessories, Group Photos, Conclusion

#9 Post by dr_st » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:27 pm

Batteries, Docks, Accessories

I don't buy many original Lenovo accessories for my laptops, but I do like to have a compatible dock for each, so I can have a desktop setup, and typically a spare genuine battery. Usually if there are multiple capacities available, I use a standard capacity battery daily, and store an extended capacity battery partially charged (for slower deterioration), to charge and use whenever I'm going on an extended trip away from AC. That's how I ended up with the batteries you see below. I still do not have a Bay Battery 43 (for the T430s), but I plan on getting one soon. Down the road I might get a 4-cell Battery 29/44 for the X220, if I can get one cheap enough (since it's pretty darn useless except in making the laptop slim and light).

Image Image
Left: from top to bottom - T410/X220 9-cell, T410/X220 6-cell, T430s 6-cell. The T410 cylindrical battery matches the shape of the laptop's base. For the X220 it's not true, so the battery has feet to support the laptop. The T430s is prismatic and has one rubber foot attached to it, so the laptop relies on it for support. Running a slim-T without a battery will make it wobble! Right: Inner side of the batteries: 55++, 29++, 55+, 44+ and 81+. Lenovo uses ++ to designate extended (8/9-cell) batteries, + to designate standard (6-cell) and no sign to designated small (3/4-cell) batteries.

Another type of accessories I've been acquiring over the years is flush ExpressCard adapters that expand the laptop capabilities. Mostly these are USB3.0, eSATA and card readers. I did it mostly out of curiosity, so I could test and benchmark them (there is a multi-chapter study on them elsewhere on these forums), and I use them in a handful of laptops, but I found that generally, if you don't actively use one, it's better not not have it installed at all times, since it does heat up and use power, shortening the battery life in the process.

Side feature: Laptop Expansion Card Reviews

Image Image
Left: Batteries, Mini Dock Series 3 and Ultrabase Series 3. The Ultrabase has a larger footprint, but it is actually 150 grams lighter, DVD included, than the Mini Dock. Right: Top - Serial Ultrabay Slim Multi DVD Burners, Bottom left - ExpressCard blank bezels for T410 (flat) and T430s (angled), Middle - T430s card reader, 2-port USB 3.0 adapter, USB 3.0 + eSATA adapter, Bottom right - Ultrabay blank bezel

Bottom View, Access Panels

T410: Bottom panel gives access to the WWAN slot and one of the two DIMMs (the second is under the keyboard). This is similar to T4x generation and somewhat more convenient than T6x that had both slots under the palmrest. Removal of the keyboard is also simplified - only one screw holds it, but it is under the DIMM cover, so overall two screws should be removed. The battery is at the back and is secured by a single latch.
X220: Bottom panel gives access to both DIMM slots, which is consistent with most X series designs. The keyboard also requires two screws to remove, but they go through the DIMM cover, so the cover itself can stay in place. The battery is also at the back, and is secured by two latches - one a simple lock, one spring-loaded. When the outside latch is in the 'lock' position, the battery cannot be removed, and also wobbles less.
T430s: Bottom panel hides both DIMMs, the WLAN module and the WWAN/mSATA module, providing convenient access to the most common CRUs. This can be seen as a step in the direction of full-access bottom cover (where the entire bottom is removed to give access to every component). Keyboard removal requires two screws to remove the access panel, and two more screws for the keyboard itself. The battery sits at the front (which pushes the docking connector to the back), and uses a single latch, but since it cannot slide out, it needs to be pried out after unlatching.

Laptop Stacks

For the traditional group photos I removed all ExpressCard adapters and UltraBay devices, and used blank bezels everywhere. The X220 is on top, the T430s in the middle and the T410 at the bottom.

Image Image
Left: T410/X220 have most of their ports here, including both video ports and most USB. X220 also has the ExpressCard slot and wireless kill-switch, and T410 has the LAN. The T430s only has one USB, audio, and ExpressCard here. All laptops have one of the two fan exhaust vents at the back left. Both T series have the hard drive on the front left side. Right: T430s has almost nothing here - just Ultrabay and wireless kill-switch. Both T410 and X220 have their powered "always on" USB and audio combo-port on this side. T410 has eSATA and Firewire, X220 has LAN and card reader. All 3 laptops have the cable lock slot on the back right side.

Image Image
Left: Front view. X220 has no latch for the lid - it uses magnets to keep it shut. T430s is as slim as an X220 but has a traditional latch. The T410 base is thicker and has room for the card reader slot here. Right: Rear view. X220 and T410 have the power plug and the battery at the back, so almost no other ports fit (except the near-obsolete modem port on T410). The T430s with its front-mounted battery has most of its useful ports here: 2 USB, LAN, VGA and miniDP/Thunderbolt. It also has the power plug on the right, not the left. All laptops have the second exhaust fan vent at the back. The hinges look quite beefy, even for the small X220.


I don't think there is much I can add to what I already said in this very long exposition. It turned out much longer than I planned; it seemed like every time I wrote something, I found something else that I though was worth adding. I can only hope that the end result managed to convey my generally positive feelings towards this line of laptops, which in my opinion, are worthy to be considered 'classic Thinkpads'. I also hope that some of the information presented here will be useful to Thinkpadders considering adding one of these machines to their collection; I think nothing I said here is really new, but sometimes things tend to be overlooked.

Final picture of stacked Thinkpads. Note that the T410 has no Lenovo logo on the lid; the Lenovo logo was actually introduced in the last Core 2 Duo generation (200/400/500), removed in the first generation Core series (201/410/510), then brought back.
Last edited by dr_st on Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Appendix - Weight Charts

#10 Post by dr_st » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:28 pm

Weight Measurements

T410 (Core i5, Intel GPU, WXGA+ LCD, SSD)

Code: Select all

Configuration                    Weight (g)
No battery, travel bezel           1785
No battery, DVD Multi              1900
6-cell, travel bezel               2115
6-cell battery, DVD Multi          2230
9-cell battery, travel bezel       2250
9-cell battery, DVD Multi          2365
X220 (Core i7, HD IPS LCD, SSD)

Code: Select all

Configuration                             Weight (g)
No battery                                  1170
4-cell battery                              1360
6-cell battery                              1490
9-cell battery                              1645
No battery, Ultrabase, travel bezel         1800
4-cell battery, Ultrabase, travel bezel     1990
6-cell battery, Ultrabase, travel bezel     2120
9-cell battery, Ultrabase, travel bezel     2275
No battery, Ultrabase, DVD Multi            1920
4-cell battery, Ultrabase, DVD Multi        2110
6-cell battery, Ultrabase, DVD Multi        2240
9-cell battery, Ultrabase, DVD Multi        2395
T430s (Core i7, Intel GPU, FHD AHVA LCD, SSD)

Code: Select all

Configuration                    Weight (g)
No battery, travel bezel           1335
No battery, DVD Multi              1445
No main battery, bay battery       1570
6-cell, travel bezel               1625
6-cell battery, DVD Multi          1735
6-cell battery + bay battery       1860

Code: Select all

Item                                      Weight (g)
Ultrabase Series 3                           630
Ultrabase Series 3 + DVD                     750
Minidock Series 3 with USB 3.0               900
65W Power Adapter, 3-prong, no AC cable      240
90W Power Adapter, 3-prong, no AC cable      360
T410/420 Battery 55+  (6-cell)               330
T410/420 Battery 55++ (9-cell)               465
X220/230 Battery 44   (4-cell)               190
X220/230 Battery 44+  (6-cell)               320
X220     Battery 29++ (9-cell)               475
T430s Battery 81+ (6-cell)                   290
Ultrabay Battery 43 (Li-Polymer 3-cell)      240
DVD Multi IV LG GU40N                        130
DVD Multi IV LG GU70N                        120
Thinkpad Yoga 14

Code: Select all

Item                                                   Weight (g)
Yoga 14, Core i5, nVidia 940M, SSD, FHD IPS Touch LCD    1910
Yoga 65W Power Adapter, 2-prong, No AC cable              240
Thinkpad Anniversary Edition 25

Code: Select all

Item                                                           Weight (g)
Thinkpad 25, NVMe SSD, 3cell internal battery only               1545
Thinkpad 25, NVMe SSD, 3cell internal + 3cell external battery   1680
Thinkpad 25, NVMe SSD, 3cell internal + 6cell external battery   1880
Last edited by dr_st on Tue Jun 05, 2018 2:06 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#11 Post by olex126 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:41 pm


Many thanks for the extensive treatise of these three models. :bow: :bow: :bow:

I read the whole article. Great history lesson, and a great review of the accessories and modding tips.

Kudos to you!


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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#12 Post by Ibthink » Tue Mar 07, 2017 8:03 am

Very nicely done!

A few notes:

- You chose the name "Series 3" to describe this ThinkPad-generation. There is a Lenovo name for this: CS09. CS stands for Clean Sheet, so a complete redesign, and 09 for the year it was introduced. So for this generation, it was the T400s in 2009, so this is the "CS09 generation". In 2012, the keyboard got a redesign (CS12 redesign of the keyboard only) and 2013 there was the introduction of the next ThinkPad generation with the mentioned T431s (CS13). This generation was very different, not only due to Lenovos efforts to further develop their own design language (more removed from the IBM design), but also due to Intels push of the Ultrabook idea, which means these systems were in fact radically different in many ways.

- The X220 was in fact available with ULV CPUs, though not as a separate X220s model. The i5-2537M was available, but only in selected markets (like Poland, for example). The X220 with ULV CPUs has a different cooling system (I think it was an Aluminum heatpipe instead of copper). As a side note: Interestingly, Lenovo brought back the X2xxs line briefly with the X230s and X240s. But these were Asia only models, the X230s was shown briefly when the T431s was announced and it shared the same overall design with the X240, minus the docking-port and the removable battery, due to the thinner chassis (which was made out of more expensive and lighter Carbon fiber instead of Glass fiber).

- The B140HAN01.2 screen was used in T440s, T450s and T440p, though there also were multiple revisions to this screen - a newer version was used in last years X1 Carbon Gen 4 (B140HAN01.7). I remember that my T440s had the B140HAN01.0, so the first version of this screen. It also had some issues with white pressure points, so it was replaced (with a inferior LG LP140WF1-SPK1, unfortunately).

- "The alleged "cheapening" of materials that Lenovo has been accused of with every passing generation of Thinkpads is true in some senses." <- This is correct, and I believe this is the only time this really was true. To provide some background on this: Lenovo went through crisis in 2009, due to the economic crisis at this point. Lenovos heavy reliance on corporate sales was one of the reasons, which is why Lenovo pushed much harder for the consumer market after this point. Another result was a restructuring in the ThinkPad business. Lenovo consolidated the business in several points. One result was the cancellation of the X300 series, which was expensive and did not sell well. Instead, the T400s was released, which was sort of a cheaper, more mainstream X301. Another result was the cancellation of the R-Series. R-Series is still fondly remembered by many as a cheaper alternative to the T-Series, but this was exactly the problem: The R-Series just became to similar to the T-Series, ever since Lenovo took over. The R50 series was still very much separated from the T-Series in design. Starting with the R60, Lenovo moved the R-Series closer to the T-Series with every generation, especially in the 14" area. Eventually, the R400 was almost the same as the T400, just slightly thicker and with slightly less expensive materials. This meant that businesses would rather buy the cheaper, less profitable R-Series, because, why wouldn´t they, it was almost the same machine, but cheaper. Meanwhile the T-Series didn´t sell as well. So, starting with the T410-gen, Lenovo changed the lineup: R-Series was completely cancelled. It was replaced by the L-Series, which at first was based on the ThinkPad-SL design (which it moved away from with the Lx30 generation). L-Series was much cheaper and very much removed from the T-Series, as was the R-Series back under IBM. For T-Series, Lenovo also changed things: Lenovo introduced the T400s/T410s as the sort of "premium T-Series" with more expensive materials and construction. The normal models were moved slightly downwards, using cheaper materials and also introducing slightly cheaper T410i models. So the mainstream T-Series was really much more like a mixture of the old R-Series and T-Series, while the T400s line would become the premium line with more expensive materials. This same division stands to this date. T470s represents the premium model, while the T470 is made to be slightly cheaper.

Overall, great work with this tour! :bow: Its wonderful to see people with so much passion for ThinkPads, I really hope Lenovo does release the Retro model for people like you. :thumbs-UP:
Last edited by Ibthink on Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:05 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#13 Post by RealBlackStuff » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:30 am

Took a while to read and digest all this, but WOW, WELL DONE! :bow:

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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#14 Post by dr_st » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:45 am

Ibthink wrote:- You chose the name "Series 3" to describe this ThinkPad-generation. There is a Lenovo name for this: CS09. CS stands for Clean Sheet, so a complete redesign, and 09 for the year it was introduced. So for this generation, it was the T400s in 2009, so this is the "CS09 generation". In 2012, the keyboard got a redesign (CS12 redesign of the keyboard only) and 2013 there was the introduction of the next ThinkPad generation with the mentioned T431s (CS13).
Thank you for this piece of info! Now a few things click into place. I've seen these names (CS09, CS13) appear in various Lenovo documents, even schematics, mostly in reference to the docking connector (which has always been one of the main things changing with every 'clean slate' redesign). At first I thought it's a codename of the specific connector, but could find no other references to it. Now I understand what it means and it makes a lot of sense. I'm not going to go back and change it in the current article, but in the future, it's cool to have a catchy name to refer to different generations. :)
Ibthink wrote:This generation was very different, not only due to Lenovos efforts to further develop their own design language (more removed from the IBM design), but also due to Intels push of the Ultrabook idea, which means these systems were in fact radically different in many ways.
Indeed! For die-hard Thinkpadders the keyboard change eclipsed all the other changes, which is a bit unfortunate. :lol:
Ibthink wrote:The X220 was in fact available with ULV CPUs, though not as a separate X220s model. The i5-2537M was available, but only in selected markets (like Poland, for example). The X220 with ULV CPUs has a different cooling system (I think it was an Aluminum heatpipe instead of copper).
Yep, a quick look at the HMM shows that there were other ULV options (i5-2557, Pentium Dual Core 957/967, even Celeron 847/857. Most of them only came in CTO variants. I will probably edit the post and make a passing remark to this fact. 8)
Ibthink wrote:As a side note: Interestingly, Lenovo brought back the X2xxs line briefly with the X230s and X240s. But these were Asia only models, the X230s was shown briefly when the T431s was announced and it shared the same overall design with the X240, minus the docking-port and the removable battery, due to the thinner chassis (which was made out of more expensive and lighter Carbon fiber instead of Glass fiber).
Yep, the Asian market always had its unique models. S30 series and G50 come to mind. Now that you mention it, I remember discussions about X230s/231s back then. I guess there really is no point to it, since X240 already gives you ULV, but without sacrificing the docking.
Ibthink wrote:R-Series is still fondly remembered by many as a cheaper alternative to the T-Series, but this was exactly the problem: The R-Series just became to similar to the T-Series, ever since Lenovo took over. The R50 series was still very much separated from the T-Series in design. Starting with the R60, Lenovo moved the R-Series closer to the T-Series with ever generation, especially in the 14" area. Eventually, the R400 was almost the same as the T400, just slightly thicker and with slightly less expensive materials. This meant that businesses would rather buy the cheaper, less profitable R-Series, because, why wouldn´t they, it was almost the same machine, but cheaper. Meanwhile the T-Series didn´t sell as well.
The gradual removal of differentiation between T and R in early Lenovo years has not gone unnoticed. :wink: What comes as a surprise to me is that it in fact hurt the sales of the T against the R. Based on what I see everywhere - there are far more T machines around in 61/400 generation than R machines; the R seems very obscure, that it's easy to forget it even existed. Do you have any rough estimates about the numbers sold? Could it be that some markets were more leaning towards R series than others?
Overall, great work with this tour! :bow: Its wonderful to see people with so much passion for ThinkPads, I really hope Lenovo does release the Retro model for people like you. :thumbs-UP:
I hope so too! And thank you for all your wonderful insights. It is evident that your have just as much passion of Thinkpads as any one of us, even if we do not share the same opinion on all the features. :D
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#15 Post by Tasurinchi » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:23 am

Very nice wrap up with lots of details! :thumbs-UP: :thumbs-UP:
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#16 Post by axur-delmeria » Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:16 am

Wow. :bow:

One question about the X220 Ultrabase: does it cause the CPU to run hotter, which the X6x Ultrabase suffered from?
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#17 Post by Ibthink » Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:50 pm

No estimates unfortunately, only anecdotal evidence from someone who works at Lenovo in the Think-department (whom I met at IFA 2015) - I think Lenovo in general does not like to give out these numbers, since they potentially could help competitors. One number I do have is the sales number of the W70x-series. It only sold 70,000 units in total (so both W700 and W701), which allegedly resulted in profits that barely covered the development cost...

It is possible that this was only true for certain markets. I also think that individuals potentially bought way more T-Series machines, and I may have been a bit vague, I didn´t want to imply that R-Series sold more than T-Series, but that they did eat some sales of the T-Series. :wink:
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#18 Post by dr_st » Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:00 pm

axur-delmeria wrote:One question about the X220 Ultrabase: does it cause the CPU to run hotter, which the X6x Ultrabase suffered from?
I haven't actually performed this test (will let you know if I get around to it). However, every Thinkpad in every dock I tried (including T60 in Advanced Mini-Dock and T410 in Mini-Dock Series 3) runs a few degrees hotter in the dock than outside of it. Given that you also mention this affects the X6 Ultrabase, I'll be very surprised if the Ultrabase Series 3 is not affected.
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#19 Post by ajkula66 » Tue Mar 07, 2017 7:13 pm

My hat's off to you, old friend. Seriously.

:bow: :bow: :bow:

Now I have some reading material for this upcoming weekend.
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#20 Post by shawross » Tue Mar 07, 2017 7:20 pm

A solid and very interesting read. Lenovo after their 2009 crisis obviously have had to make business decisions.

The "Retro" was always going to be a challenge for Lenovo.
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#21 Post by teamde78 » Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:19 pm

Very nice write-up. Thanks for sharing!

Definitely interesting to see the similarities and differences between the last few "classic" Thinkpads.
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#22 Post by BillMorrow » Thu Mar 23, 2017 1:54 am

excellent writeup..! :) :Nice:
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Appendix 2 - Ultrabay Battery

#23 Post by dr_st » Wed Mar 29, 2017 2:17 pm

Note: Thanks to Ibthink's explanation, the term "CS09" will be used instead of "Series 3" in this post.

As planned, I got the Ultrabay Battery 43 to boost the autonomous run-time of the T430s. This is an updated version of the old Ultrabay Battery 42, which is compatible with the fast-charging feature of **30 series, and thus requires no modifications to the Embedded Controller.

I had no desire to spend money on a new battery, so I got one used cheaply off eBay. It appears that there is only one FRU for these batteries - 45N1041, and the manufacturer is Sony. Technology is called 'Li-Polymer', but electrically it uses the same Li-Ion cells, only in a flexible polymer casing (to enable manufacturing of thinner batteries). The battery I got was very worn (560 cycles), but still holds about 76% of the design capacity (24Wh out of 31.32Wh).

Image Image
Left: Ultrabay Battery 43 --> Ultrabay Serial DVD Multi-Burner (T430s) --> Ultrabay DVD Multi-Burner (T6x) ; The battery connector protrudes, so on systems that lack the connector on the motherboard, it will not physically fit in the bay. Right: View of the internal side with the connectors. The battery connector is identical to the main batteries, so they all can be charged by the same external chargers.

Despite being only 3-cell, versus the 6-cell main battery, the design capacity of 31.32Wh is about 72% of that of the main battery (43.29Wh), not one half as you might expect (the main T430s battery is really on the low-end for a 6-cell, capacity-wise). 72% extra battery life makes the run-time of the T430s quite respectable. Instead of 3-5 hours, it should give 5-7 hours at reasonable load.

The battery weighs 240 grams, which is only 80-120 grams more than the typical Ultrabay optical drive, so you will not be feeling the weight difference much. Even compared to an empty bay it's not so bad, and in most cases the extra battery life is well worth the extra weight. With the bay battery, the T430s weighs approximately 1.86kg, which is still lighter than the much slimmer Thinkpad Yoga 14" (1.91kg).

The nice thing about this battery is that it's supported by all pre-CS09 Lenovo Thinkpads that have an Ultrabay - T/R/Z6x series, T/R/W*00, and even the X6 Ultrabases. It is not supported by older IBM models - a different bay battery has to be used for those. For CS09 systems Lenovo decided to remove support from all models, but the slim-T series, probably because what little production cost could be saved by skimping on the second battery connector was deemed more important that satisfying the small portion of users would choose to use such a battery: the battery life of the new Thinkpads with the main 6/9-cell batteries is more than adequate. However, the slim-T's low battery life is its main weakness, and we are fortunate that some engineers in Lenovo realized that, and left the connector in place.

Image Image
Left: Ultrabay Battery 43 inside a 15" T60. Right: Ultrabay Battery 43 inside a T430s.

One thing that was much complained about in regards to the bay battery is the algorithm that the Thinkpad EC uses when running with 2 batteries installed - the Ultrabay battery is always drained first until it reaches 5%, then the Thinkpad switches to the main battery. This means that in normal usage, the bay battery will be putting on many more cycles than the main one. This in theory leads to shorter life-span, although there is no unanimous agreement on this. In any case, my sample shows 76% capacity after 560 cycles, so it cannot be that bad.

I believe Lenovo chose this algorithm under the assumption that one may have multiple bay batteries, and will be able to swap the empty one for the full one, while the computer continues running off the main one. But if you have multiple main batteries, and a single bay battery, this doesn't work. It would be better if the Power Management software offered some simple way to control the charge/discharge order (some manufacturers have such a feature), but it seems that despite users asking for this for years, Lenovo did not implement such a mechanism. In Linux, at least, the tp_smapi utility can give the user control over the charging order, but I am not sure there is anything for Windows.

Ultrabay Battery is used first and drains to ZERO
Ultrabay Battery -- Change discharge behavior?

There is a hardware "trick" that can force the Thinkpad to switch to the main battery - you just need to prepare the bay battery for ejection via the small spring lever on the Ultrabay, without actually pulling it out. The battery remains visible to the system, but stops discharging. This trick, however, is only viable on pre-CS09 machines, where the eject lever stays in place. On CS09 Thinkpads the lever gets back to the original position as soon as you let go of it, and obviously you cannot work with the laptop this way.

Reference: How to use Ultrabay batteries (Thinkwiki.org)

Image Image
Left: View from the side. The battery bezel is flat to sit flush with most pre-CS09 Thinkpads, so it sticks out the angled bezel of the T430s just a bit. Right: Ultrabay Battery 43 compared to the main battery 81+. It's almost the same size, but different shape, and slightly thinner.
Last edited by dr_st on Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#24 Post by thinkpadgeek91 » Sun Apr 02, 2017 11:01 am

Great Review! Now you got me looking at the T430s with a classic keyboard.
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#25 Post by malmso » Sun May 28, 2017 11:49 am

Cool oldschool! Can anyone recommend me the shop where I could buy it?
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#26 Post by al1k » Sun Aug 13, 2017 2:42 am

All pics are dead now. Blame on photobucket new policy. :(
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#27 Post by dr_st » Sun Aug 13, 2017 3:10 am

I know and I do. :) I plan to move them to a different hosting soon. I am just trying to find one that will not garble the file names, so that I have less manual editing of links to do. Turns out there are not many such free hosting services around! :(

In the meanwhile, you can still view the pictures manually by right clicking, copying the address and pasting in a new window. If it still shows you the "image is blocked" picture, do a hard cache erase on the browser (Ctrl+F5).
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#28 Post by Shredder11 » Mon Aug 14, 2017 8:08 am

Last year while I was looking at things to do with ecommerce, I came across a guy that recommended using the link below, because he needed it to leave URLs intact. I find it to be more simple and not slow and clunky like Photobucket.

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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#29 Post by dr_st » Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:01 am

I'm familiar with PostImages and registered there. I do like its simplicity, but it does not appear to keep the URL intact. I've uploaded a bunch of images, and it gave them random URLs. Am I missing something?
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Re: Lenovo's last classic Thinkpads tour: T410, X220, T430s *MANY PICTURES*

#30 Post by Shredder11 » Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:26 am

I just tried uploading an image as a test, and the direct link for the image retained the original filename. Infact the filename is also present within the other types of URL. What kind of URL are you using? There are seven link options when you hit the share button.
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