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Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

T400/T410/T420 and T500/T510/T520 series specific matters only
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bakery2k
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Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#1 Post by bakery2k » Tue Apr 04, 2017 7:06 am

I am looking for a second-hand ThinkPad to run Linux. I would like a traditional keyboard and at least a Sandy Bridge CPU, and am therefore looking at the *20 series machines. Having ruled out an X220 because of its low screen resolution, I think the laptop that best suits my needs would be a T420s. This would give me a higher-resolution screen than an X220 at the expense of slightly increased bulk and decreased battery capacity.

So, I am trying to decide exactly which T420s to purchase. The main consideration is Nvidia vs Intel Graphics - are there any downsides to getting an Nvidia-based machine? There is no difference in price between the two configurations, but presumably the Nvidia chips use more power. Does this lead to increased heat and decreased battery life (as it did in my Nvidia-based T61), or can that be avoided by choosing "Integrated Graphics" or "Nvidia Optimus" in the BIOS? (How well does the Optimus switching technology work in Linux?)

Also, it seems likely that I will receive a T420s with the basic WiFi card, which according to ThinkWiki is a "ThinkPad BGN (RealTek) 1x1 BGN". I have heard that Linux will work better with Intel WiFi - if I upgrade the WiFi card, will I have to also add extra antennae? Do I have to get hold of a card and antennae which have come from another T420s, or can I use ones from a different ThinkPad model?

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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#2 Post by hhhd1 » Tue Apr 04, 2017 7:49 am

Linux support for nvidia is a bit funny but works for the most part, research it first ..

If you don't have a need for nvidia, just get with intel graphics only.
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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#3 Post by RealBlackStuff » Tue Apr 04, 2017 7:55 am

Unless you want to do heavy graphics stuff, I'd recommend the Intel GPU version.

If you want to swap the wifi card for a non-Lenovo-approved one, you'll need to find a modded BIOS with the Whitelist removed.
Good luck hunting for it.
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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#4 Post by TankPad » Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:23 am

While not exactly conducted scientifically, I found that the Nvidia 420 ran cooler during normal use than the Intel integrated version. I suspect it's due to the slightly different heatsink design and the added mass of heat pipe on the GPU (I could be wrong), but there was definitely a difference. I actually planned to drop the Nvidia heatsink into the intel version to see what would happen then, but I've not got around to it.
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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#5 Post by ji2o0k » Tue Apr 04, 2017 5:55 pm

Let me know if you need the whitelist removal bios for the T420s..

I happen to have a copy of the files...will try to trace where I got it from...

I have 2x T420s and flashed the bios to remove the whitelist...and now rocking the Intel 7260 wifi card......loving it..

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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#6 Post by kfzhu1229 » Tue Apr 04, 2017 6:41 pm

I would say if there is no price difference, go and get the NVidia one. Sure it draws more power but for the worst of the worst if you ended up hating NVidia graphics, you can always go to BIOS and choose to use Intel HD 3000 only and the laptop will be the same as if there are no NVidia graphics inside. But in any way, if you end up wanting to stick with it for a long time, it is always better for you to have a discrete graphics since graphics cannot be upgraded like CPU, RAM or storage.
Dell Lat CP MMX-233 64mb 40gb W2k
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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#7 Post by bakery2k » Wed Apr 05, 2017 11:12 am

kfzhu1229 wrote:[Nvidia] draws more power but [...] you can always go to BIOS and choose to use Intel HD 3000 only and the laptop will be the same as if there are no NVidia graphics inside.
TankPad wrote:I found that the Nvidia 420 ran cooler during normal use than the Intel integrated version. I suspect it's due to the slightly different heatsink design and the added mass of heat pipe on the GPU (I could be wrong), but there was definitely a difference.
If an Nvidia-based T420s is set to "Integrated Graphics" in the BIOS, does the Nvidia chip turn off completely? So there is no higher power consumption, no reduction in battery life, and the laptop runs no hotter (or even runs cooler) than a machine with Intel graphics?

If so, is there any downside to choosing the Nvidia-based machine and having the more powerful graphics chip available "just in case"?

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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#8 Post by TPFanatic » Wed Apr 05, 2017 12:44 pm

The only downside is the possible additional cost you would spend to get an Nvidia model. Whether it will be worth it in the end is up to you if you will do any 3D things that the NVS4200m is meant to do.


I know the NVS3100m in T410 offers a very marginal increase in 3D game performance and is not suited for games at all, and it is true that the Sandy Bridge IGPU is stronger for games than the NVS3100m. I don't know if the NVS4200m will offer more than a marginal improvement in a T420s's 3D game ability and gameplay may be very stuttery running on the Quadro drivers. The NVS graphics chips are meant for business applications.


Considering it was possible in the past to install, say, T42 Radeon 9600 drivers over a T42p FireGL T2, I wonder if one can install comparable Geforce drivers on the NVS chips.
lenovo T420 i5 2520m 16GB QHD w/ eGPU GTX 960
lenovos T520 i7 2720qm 8GB FHD, T420s i5 3320m 8GB QHD, T430 i5 3320m 8GB FHD, T430 i5 3320m 8GB FHD w/ Optimus, S1 Yoga i7 4600u 8GB FHD
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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#9 Post by cynicx » Sat Apr 22, 2017 7:32 am

bakery2k wrote:
kfzhu1229 wrote:[Nvidia] draws more power but [...] you can always go to BIOS and choose to use Intel HD 3000 only and the laptop will be the same as if there are no NVidia graphics inside.
TankPad wrote:I found that the Nvidia 420 ran cooler during normal use than the Intel integrated version. I suspect it's due to the slightly different heatsink design and the added mass of heat pipe on the GPU (I could be wrong), but there was definitely a difference.
If an Nvidia-based T420s is set to "Integrated Graphics" in the BIOS, does the Nvidia chip turn off completely? So there is no higher power consumption, no reduction in battery life, and the laptop runs no hotter (or even runs cooler) than a machine with Intel graphics?

If so, is there any downside to choosing the Nvidia-based machine and having the more powerful graphics chip available "just in case"?
I've found that without physical hardware removal there will always be a certain level of additional power drain. Results can vary from substantial to negligible. My experience in this is with built in cellular adapters, even when off there is measurable difference vs physically removed.

Personally, assuming the price is right I would go with the nVidia model. In most distros of Linux the Thinkpad is supported well enough that you shouldn't have too much trouble using nVidias GPU. Worst case, like mentioned you can just turn if off.
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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#10 Post by bit_twiddler » Sat Apr 22, 2017 10:45 am

Don't know yet about cooling and other issues, but I can definitely say that a Sandy Bridge
laptop without Nvidia graphics is easier to set up than one with them.

In particular, Nvidia broke resume from hibernation to disk at some point. I have a
T420 w/o Nvidia and it is a dream to run by comparison with my W520, which has
the external display ports hard-wired to the Nvidia chip.

I believe that the Nvidia chip in the T420s is not really that much more powerful
than the HD3000 IGP, so if you want to run games or something like that
you're most likely going to want to buy another machine.
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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#11 Post by kfzhu1229 » Sat Apr 22, 2017 10:49 pm

Well the Nvidia gpu inside my T530 really helped in terms of blu-ray and 4k playback by taking all or most of the workloads and keep the CPU cool or even cold
Dell Lat CP MMX-233 64mb 40gb W2k
600 PII-266 416mb 40gb WXP
T23 PIII 1.13ghz 1gb W7
Precision M4300 X9000 8gb 160gb WUXGA Ultrasharp fp W10
T530i 15.6" i7 16gb fp W10
UXGA:
A30p PIII 1.2 1gb W7 (IDTech)
T43p 2.26 2gb fp W10 (Sharp)
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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#12 Post by w0qj » Sun Apr 23, 2017 8:07 am

1. Just make sure you are not buying a "Microsoft Signature Edition" notebook computer, which supposedly locks you out from using Linux on that notebook.

Mircosoft Signature Edition started coming out in limited models starting Windows 8, and even more for Windows 10.
Lenovo is one of the notebook makers cranking more and more Mircosoft Signature Edition notebook computers,
and looks like other brands are following suit now.

2. As an aside, if you upgrade to Windows 10 now a T420 with Nvidia GPU should be OK now.
For example, when Win10 upgrade first came out, the model T410 with Nvidia GPU had lots of upgrade problems due to this GPU.
We waited until Win10 updated itself to support T410 GPU before upgrading in June 2016.

Therefore I would suspect your T420 GPU would be compatible with Win10 should you upgrade.

3. Graphics with GPU.
Seriously, if you feel the need to buy an old model with GPU, then you really should consider to buy a more recent model with faster CPU and Intel Integrated Graphics which may well be more powerful than an older CPU+GPU.
Moreover, this avoids potential GPU OS upgrade headaches down the line.
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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#13 Post by kfzhu1229 » Sun Apr 23, 2017 12:13 pm

Well it all depends. I am the kind of person who upgrades their CPU on their laptop over time, thus I can't use anything newer than Haswell (My newest laptop is T530 with Ivy Bridge i7-3720QM) because Intel stopped using PGA sockets for Broadwell. Moreover, for something like GTA5, it runs fine on my T530 with i5 and NVS 5400m in medium settings (VRAM limitation), while it struggles to run on a broadwell i7 machine with Intel HD graphics. For my T530 it is fully compatible with Windows 10 with absolutely no problems. Well also it depends on what you call compatible. If you say it runs, even X300/V3200 from a R52/T43/p runs fine on Windows 10 with their Windows Vista driver.
Dell Lat CP MMX-233 64mb 40gb W2k
600 PII-266 416mb 40gb WXP
T23 PIII 1.13ghz 1gb W7
Precision M4300 X9000 8gb 160gb WUXGA Ultrasharp fp W10
T530i 15.6" i7 16gb fp W10
UXGA:
A30p PIII 1.2 1gb W7 (IDTech)
T43p 2.26 2gb fp W10 (Sharp)
Lat C840 P4-2.5 2gb 60gb W7 (Ultrasharp)

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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#14 Post by Dragunov » Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:28 pm

bakery2k wrote:
Tue Apr 04, 2017 7:06 am
I am looking for a second-hand ThinkPad to run Linux. I would like a traditional keyboard and at least a Sandy Bridge CPU, and am therefore looking at the *20 series machines. Having ruled out an X220 because of its low screen resolution, I think the laptop that best suits my needs would be a T420s. This would give me a higher-resolution screen than an X220 at the expense of slightly increased bulk and decreased battery capacity.

So, I am trying to decide exactly which T420s to purchase. The main consideration is Nvidia vs Intel Graphics - are there any downsides to getting an Nvidia-based machine? There is no difference in price between the two configurations, but presumably the Nvidia chips use more power. Does this lead to increased heat and decreased battery life (as it did in my Nvidia-based T61), or can that be avoided by choosing "Integrated Graphics" or "Nvidia Optimus" in the BIOS? (How well does the Optimus switching technology work in Linux?)

Also, it seems likely that I will receive a T420s with the basic WiFi card, which according to ThinkWiki is a "ThinkPad BGN (RealTek) 1x1 BGN". I have heard that Linux will work better with Intel WiFi - if I upgrade the WiFi card, will I have to also add extra antennae? Do I have to get hold of a card and antennae which have come from another T420s, or can I use ones from a different ThinkPad model?
I will not purchase any thinkpad (or any other laptop for that matter) without nVidia graphics, unless it has HD4600 or better. The ones I do have with HD graphics, were given to me. The T420/420s uses HD3000 graphics, and that chipset performs very poorly for any graphic intense programming, or gaming. The T420/420s, has optional, on some machines, nVidia NVS Quadro 4200M, which is MUCH better than the HD3000. No, you don't get excess heat with the nVidia chipset, even with 16gb/ram in it. The 420s may get a little warm, but that's because it's smaller than the T420, which doesn't have heating issues, as long as you don't block its airflow, and keep its internals clean.

I'd go T420/430 with nVidia. I have a T420 running Linux Mint 17, with no issues with the nVidia chipset.

If you have your mind made up to use HD graphics, at least get a T430 (Ivy bridge), that has the much better HD4000 on board graphics.

Just my opinion.

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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#15 Post by kfzhu1229 » Thu Nov 30, 2017 3:25 pm

I personally have a T530 with both NVidia NVS 5400m and HD graphics. While that Intel HD graphics will do multimedia stuff as well as office tasks well, it won't do crap in anything else. The iGPU found in skylake and Kaby lake mobile processors are so much better that I have to overclock NVS 5400m all the way to the maximum allowed in MSI afterburner (with slider to the right most possible) to match it. That said, if you have a powerful processor (i7-3720QM or better) inside those ivy bridge laptops, get one with NVidia graphics, otherwise the Intel HD graphics will completely trash the CPU performance from being anything practically useful (heck even the NVS 5400m severely bottlenecks my i7-3720QM)!
Temps do get pretty high on my T530 if you do stress test, but that's only due to the high TDP of my CPU, not the NVidia chip, even after my 20% OC! Running games the temps are perfectly okay, because the CPU never gets fully utilised!
Dell Lat CP MMX-233 64mb 40gb W2k
600 PII-266 416mb 40gb WXP
T23 PIII 1.13ghz 1gb W7
Precision M4300 X9000 8gb 160gb WUXGA Ultrasharp fp W10
T530i 15.6" i7 16gb fp W10
UXGA:
A30p PIII 1.2 1gb W7 (IDTech)
T43p 2.26 2gb fp W10 (Sharp)
Lat C840 P4-2.5 2gb 60gb W7 (Ultrasharp)

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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#16 Post by Dragunov » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:42 pm

bit_twiddler wrote:
Sat Apr 22, 2017 10:45 am
Don't know yet about cooling and other issues, but I can definitely say that a Sandy Bridge
laptop without Nvidia graphics is easier to set up than one with them.

In particular, Nvidia broke resume from hibernation to disk at some point. I have a
T420 w/o Nvidia and it is a dream to run by comparison with my W520, which has
the external display ports hard-wired to the Nvidia chip.

I believe that the Nvidia chip in the T420s is not really that much more powerful
than the HD3000 IGP, so if you want to run games or something like that
you're most likely going to want to buy another machine.
I dunno'. I play a lot of games on my T420/T420s laptops. The Sims 2, plays VERY well on the NVS4200m graphics, but the HD3000 on-board graphics, struggles with it to the point, it won't play it.

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Re: Buying a T420s: Nvidia vs Intel Graphics, WiFi

#17 Post by TPFanatic » Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:33 pm

My T430s has the NVS 5200m, luck of the draw 28nm version, Furmark IDs it as GT 710m. That machine can play Bioshock Infinite on Medium settings fine, as well as NFS Hot Pursuit and NFS Most Wanted, and the older ones. Nothing newer. NVS 5400m (T430, T530) is more capable, NVS 4200m (T420, T520) weaker.
lenovo T420 i5 2520m 16GB QHD w/ eGPU GTX 960
lenovos T520 i7 2720qm 8GB FHD, T420s i5 3320m 8GB QHD, T430 i5 3320m 8GB FHD, T430 i5 3320m 8GB FHD w/ Optimus, S1 Yoga i7 4600u 8GB FHD
IBM X601 Tablet L7500 8GB SXGA+
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