Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

T400/410/420 and T500/510/520 series specific matters only
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Oro
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Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#1 Post by Oro » Thu Aug 17, 2017 6:16 pm

My step-son needs a laptop as he starts 9th grade this fall. I was thinking of getting him a T420. I want to run my thinking by the forum to get advice. I will likely buy a 2nd one for myself so being similar would be a bonus. I am currently using a T400 I've upgraded RAM and use an SDD with, and I like it quite a bit. I have had it for several years and just never felt the need for more, but might as well now.

I was contemplating a T430, then learned they only came with the chiclet keyboard (correct)? If so I'd avoid that and get a T420 instead. From what I read, there isn't enough on the 430 that I would benefit from to offset the different keyboard.(?)

I have a preference for a T420S for myself for portability, though I read about some issues w/heat? Is that a serious issue, or...? I'm leery as I lost a wonderful T61P because of the GPU heat issue in the past (AND - it was a late-build one supposedly in the safe period. Still failed). If not a real issue, I'd be inclined to a 420S. I can open the machine and re-paste the processors if that helps deal with the issue (I don't know, just read a few comments).

I was going to get the 1600x900 screen; I have a 1440x900 in my T400 and it's tolerable but not fantastic. Not terribly worried about nVidia vs. integrated graphics card, or should I think about that? I game some myself, but it is low-use graphics (Panzer Corps), and I don't want him gaming on yet another device in addition to the PS4, iPad, and iPhone. ;)

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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#2 Post by TPFanatic » Thu Aug 17, 2017 6:38 pm

T420s runs hot in my experience, because it's so thin. Normal T420 has a superior heatsink and runs cooler, and you can even fit an i7 quad core in it for more power. T420 also has better battery life options, but it is a bit bulky / heavy. T420s is lighter in comparison but I would not describe it as light.

T420 and T420s screens are pretty terrible. The LG 1600x900 is decently vibrant, the AUO 1600x900 looks harsh but is ultimately tolerable, the Samsungs I haven't seen but are probably the worst color wise. All have bad vertical viewing angles.


T430's Ivy Bridge has stronger integrated graphics than Sandy Bridge and can take a 35W quad core, you could play Overwatch on the lowest settings on a T430. Your kid may also not mind the Precision keyboard, and it's a great keyboard. However there are few to no interchangable parts between T420/T430, only the screen and screen cable really.


I currently have a T420 in my house with the LG 1600x900 and i5 2520m, the base processor, and it's for sure speedy and it can handle anything web based. For games it's not a powerhouse but I intend to get an eGPU and quad core for it eventually. Should be good for school except for its bulk and weight, but with a new genuine 9 cell battery it should last 5 to 7 hours on a charge.
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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#3 Post by Kielbasa » Thu Aug 17, 2017 8:46 pm

I think a T420 would be a particularly good choice, especially if paired with a lightweight Linux distribution. I also have a T440p, which is better in very conceivable way (except the keyboard), but I always reach for the T420. It's a great machine and they are quite cheap.

Let's face it, it's going to get dropped. Probably the only thing tougher than an old school ThinkPad is a Panasonic ToughBook.

Also, Coreboot is becoming accessible. A great father/son project would be installing Coreboot, in order to disable the Management Engine, remove the WiFi whitelist and add support for Ivy Bridge CPUs.

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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#4 Post by SaskFellow » Sat Aug 19, 2017 1:33 pm

I have a T420s with the top of the line spec, i7-2640M. It can run warm, but it will run quite cool most of the time. Make sure you upgrade the thermal paste, and if you have a machine with the older PWM fan equipped cooler, get the upgraded cooler with the non-PWM fan. Bad fan = 4 wires, good fan = 3 wires running to the connector.

The T420 will also flicker if you get the FHD kit, my T420s has a display from a T450(IIRC) so FHD IPS and anti-glare.

The T430 range also adopted security chips for the batteries, so it can be a bum if you like cheap knock off batteries, the T420 series doesn't care, but be careful to always pull the power cord out of the machine before pulling the battery or inserting the battery, as it runs a live line to the battery and cheap batteries will cause power spikes roasting the board, if you aren't careful. The T430 stuff also needs to get a chip flashed to remove the whitelist so you can use newer wireless adapters, the T420 series still has the whitelist in bios.

There are a few things that swap between the T430s and the T420s.

If I had to do it again... I'd just shut off HT on the i7-2640M, it really does make a difference, in how hot it runs. I'm in love with the non-chiclet keyboards, the chiclet keyboards are super meh IMHO. 8)
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T420s 14.0 HD+, i7-2460M, 16GB PC3L-12800, NVS4200M, Samsung 850Pro 512GB, Intel 7260AC, BT4.1, Chicony KB, 81+ battery

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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#5 Post by Sweater Fish Deluxe » Mon Aug 21, 2017 4:30 pm

My experience is similar to SaskFellow. I have a T420s with i7 and discrete graphics and while it does run hotter than my previous laptops, it doesn't seem to be hot to the point of causing real problems. I've stress tested the board by simultaneously running multicore LinX and GPU FurMark, which popped the CPU temp up to 95C and GPU temp to 85C, but they remained steady there for as long as I ran the tests. The CPU throttled back, but never shut down. In real world usage I've never gotten temps like that, though I do often see between 75 and 85C under load. Idle temp and general usage is between 50 and 60C.

The T420s does have one USB3.0 port, which the T420 doesn't have. You could probably add USB3 to the T420 with an ExpressCard adapter, though there always seems to be some issues with those. T420 also has an eSATA port that the T420s lacks. The T420 CPU can be upgraded while the T420s is soldered.

In general, though it's ultimately not much lighter, I feel like the slimmer design of the T420s more than makes up for the slightly higher running temps. I also like its port placement better and the fact that both RAM slots and PCIE slots are accessible without any disassembly. In general it just seems like a tighter design.

Unless you plan to run three external monitors (or two plus the internal LCD) simultaneously, I do think the NVidia GPU is totally unnecessary. On my system, it benches almost exactly the same as the integrated Intel HD 3000. Apparently it does support a few additional libraries, but these are mostly optimized for CAD rather than gaming it seems. The NVidia can also be marginally overclocked, unlike the Intel, but it really doesn't change much. That said, there's really no downside to having it (it can be disabled in the BIOS) and at this point there's not much difference in price between systems with and without.

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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#6 Post by Oro » Wed Aug 23, 2017 1:56 am

So very, VERY much good info here! I went on vacation 8/19 and wasn't around to follow in a timely way. We went to Oregon to see the eclipse totality and are now camped out (figuratively speaking) on the beach for the rest of the week.

I was intrigued with the comment about a qc i7, but from what I read, that is a 45w vs 35w design issue and problematic? I don't really see needing to upgrade to that any time soon.

I also appreciate the info about the fact later models had chipped batteries and apparently more difficult to whitelist stuff. I did not do any of that with my T400, but my prior T61p I installed the Middleton BIOS and a later wifi card and it was really a nice machine. If that's practical with the 420, that's a plus. Is it worth flashing the bios and upgrading the wifi card or other mods on a 420? I want to stay within windows and not go Linux or dual boot on his machine.

I bought a 420 for my step son 2 days ago. It is a 4180-AU5; I downloaded the archived machine list and checked them all out against the list before purchasing. It came with an i5 basic chip, 4gb RAM, 320GB HDD, integrated graphics, 1600x900, and bluetooth (that was something I was looking for, actually). It's an immaculate unit, the 9 cell still has 97% of capacity. I picked it up 2 days ago and have had little time to mess with it other than upgrade to Win 10 and surf the web a little; I find the screen very good. I have not had time to open it up to see if the RAM is 1 x 4 or 2 x2; I'd like to give him 6 or 8 so I don't have to think about it a while... ;). I found the weight/size nice and noticably better than the T400. It seems a great machine and was remarkably cheap.

It seems to run snappishly enough I don't feel the need to go get an SSD and hassle with converting it. All in all, I'm impressed and I'm thankful for this thread and all respondents for steering me. I want to ask about this (from above regarding a 420s):
. I also like its port placement better and the fact that both RAM slots and
I read in a review the 420s only had one RAM slot. So I ruled it out on that since I couldn't buy two cheap(er) units to get to 8gb or 16gb. Is what I read not true? If not, I'd re-consider a 420s for myself vs. a 420. I appreciate the last post about it being light enough to offset the heat penalty; I can see that trade-off as being something I would value. I do not see wanting to try to stuff a qc i7 in it later.

OK, another thing i need to ask about is re-pasting. Is that just something that is good to do, or a common tweak? Does the paste where out/age out? I don't know. I have some Antec 7 paste left over from years ago when I changed the CPU in my T61P. Is that worth re-pasting the new (er) chips with, worthless, or what is the skinny on re-pasting? I keep seeing this mentioned but I don't understand the real issue.

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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#7 Post by RealBlackStuff » Wed Aug 23, 2017 7:21 am

Thermal paste ex-factory is usually of inferior quality, applied excessively and quite often dried out.
So whenever I get another Thinkpad in my hands, the first thing I do is clean the fan and CPU properly and apply fresh thermal paste.
My choice would be Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut (only small tubes) or Hydronaut (larger size tubes)
The how-to-repaste: http://www.arcticsilver.com/pdf/appmeth ... d_v1.1.pdf

FYI: the T430s has a soldered CPU, cannot be exchanged.
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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#8 Post by jaspen-meyer » Wed Aug 23, 2017 10:21 am

I have three T420 machines, each with an Ivy Bridge quad core in it:
35W (i7-3612qm)
45W (i7-3610qm)
45W (i7-3630qm)

Under 100% cpu load the 35W reaches 80C and the other two reach 84C.
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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#9 Post by Oro » Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:11 pm

RealBlackStuff wrote:
Wed Aug 23, 2017 7:21 am
Thermal paste ex-factory is usually of inferior quality, applied excessively and quite often dried out.
I don't quite understand; do you mean the factory paste is inferior and badly done, or jobs done post-factory are typically this way? This has the factory CPU, no mods. I had read about the soldered CPU on the 430 and that was another factor against it.

Jaspen-meyer, thanks for that info. 1) I had not read there was a 35w QC i7, so that is interesting, and 2) the data on the 45w ones is good and I'll go that route if/when I find the i5 machine not performing as I'd like it.

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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#10 Post by Sweater Fish Deluxe » Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:46 pm

The T420s has two RAM slots, both accessible via the panel on the bottom. The T420 also has two, though the second (or first, really) is under the keyboard. This is the same in the T430 and T430s, which are essentially externally the same as the T420/s aside from the keyboard.

One other thing to know: repasting the CPU on a T420s is a bit of a pain. Since the CPU is on the bottom of the mobo, it essentially requires a complete teardown.

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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#11 Post by RealBlackStuff » Wed Aug 23, 2017 1:00 pm

The factory paste is usually inferior and badly done, and many 'later' repastings can be even worse.
Regardless, repaste!

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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#12 Post by TPFanatic » Wed Aug 23, 2017 1:35 pm

Sweater Fish Deluxe wrote:
Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:46 pm
The T420s has two RAM slots, both accessible via the panel on the bottom. The T420 also has two, though the second (or first, really) is under the keyboard. This is the same in the T430 and T430s, which are essentially externally the same as the T420/s aside from the keyboard.

One other thing to know: repasting the CPU on a T420s is a bit of a pain. Since the CPU is on the bottom of the mobo, it essentially requires a complete teardown.

T430 is very different design than T420, only similarity is dimensions and screen size, cable. Palmrest, lid, bezels, drive cover, port layout are all different.
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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#13 Post by jaspen-meyer » Wed Aug 23, 2017 2:58 pm

Oro wrote:
Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:11 pm
RealBlackStuff wrote:
Wed Aug 23, 2017 7:21 am
Thermal paste ex-factory is usually of inferior quality, applied excessively and quite often dried out.
I don't quite understand; do you mean the factory paste is inferior and badly done, or jobs done post-factory are typically this way? This has the factory CPU, no mods.
He means the paste they use is not very good at transfering heat when compared with designer ($15/gram) cpu paste. Secondly, it is applied carelessly (for example, not covering the full surface of the CPU with paste), further lessing the ability to transfer heat away from the cpu. Thirdly, the paste, now 6 years old, is either dry, or near dry; dry paste doesn't transfer heat as well as wet paste.
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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#14 Post by bit_twiddler » Wed Aug 23, 2017 10:34 pm

The T420s is interesting because it has usb 3.0 and can be upgraded to an IPS FHD display.

The T420 is a great machine, but I must have one of the very few which upgraded to FHD
without the flickering problem.

The T430s is also supposedly upgradeable to FHD (or so I have heard.) You'd have to like
the new keyboard, though.

Don't know much about the T430 other than it and the T430s won't recharge non-Lenovo batteries.
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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#15 Post by RealBlackStuff » Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:48 am

There's an EC-mod available, after which you can charge/use any battery that fits.
And you can swap out the chicklet .30 keyboard against the classic .20 one.

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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#16 Post by Hans Gruber » Mon Aug 28, 2017 3:31 am

I have a couple of T430s models. One with an i7 and the other with an i5 CPU. I also have a T430 with an i7 CPU. I prefer the 7 row keyboard but I don't mind the chicklet design other than the 6 rows instead of 7 rows of keys. I would go for a T430 or T430s with either a i5 or i7 depending on your budget.
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Re: Tips on buying a T420/T420s/or T430?

#17 Post by SaskFellow » Wed Aug 30, 2017 11:25 am

Something else I forgot to mention is...

The BT module used is interchangeable. My T61 has a 4.1 module, in place of it's 2.1 module. Bluetooth 4.0 and 4.1 are a driver upgrade, 4.2 requires slightly different hardware in chip.

The Intel 7260 AC WiFi module that Lenovo used has the built in BT disabled(need to flash a whitelist removed bios). So if you do go with a Lenovo tagged 7260AC card, keep the BT module in the system. Though the older modules may not play nice with the 7260, though most people with those problems have ones that were either generic or meant for other OEM's which used the Intel Bluetooth built in. A nice side perk of the Bluetooth modules from Lenovo is that they play perfectly fine with the Broadcom generic drivers, which actually get updates. :thumbs-UP:

If you know someone with the equipment to desolder the CPU, you can upgrade the CPU on the T420s and T430s but you do risk destroying things. The i7 version of the T420s seems to have only come with the really crummy PWM cooler very early, and were replaced either under warranty due to overheating or were swapped on the factory floor. The fan does make a significant difference, as it flows more air, pushes it with more pressure, and does it quieter. I should look and see if there is an updated fan option for the T420.

I also don't believe the T420 or T430 series uses M2 slots, they m-pcie slots. So you can use an mSATA SSD, but no m2 type drives or wireless adapters. There's a really nice Atheros AC chipset but it has zero driver support for Windows, so in the end the best you can get is an Intel 7260-AC wifi card, unless you want to fight with adapter boards and running new wireless antennas, because they also changed the cable sockets on the newer style wireless cards.
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T420s 14.0 HD+, i7-2460M, 16GB PC3L-12800, NVS4200M, Samsung 850Pro 512GB, Intel 7260AC, BT4.1, Chicony KB, 81+ battery

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