Lenovo ThinkPad T420s

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Our verdict

The ThinkPad T420s packs fast performance, a great keyboard, and a high-resolution screen into the lightest 14-inch laptop money can buy.

To the

Lightweight and durable design

High definition screen

Great job

Great keyboard


Modest battery life

Mediocre sound

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Lenovo's ThinkPad T420s is the ultimate Goldilocks notebook for business users. At 14.1 inches and 4 pounds, the laptop is extremely light and portable, yet large enough to accommodate a generous high-resolution screen, a powerful processor, and a full-size keyboard and touchpad However, at $1,349 (as configured), the ThinkPad T420s costs more than heavier 14-inch systems like the ThinkPad T420 and the

HP EliteBook 8460p

.Spoiler alert: This lightweight notebook is worth the investment.


From the raven black soft-touch lid to the strong chrome hinges to the elegantly simple black interior, the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s offers traditional


down to the bright red trackpoint in the center of the keyboard. Although the system offers some new riffs on this tried and tested theme, users will appreciate the T420's clean underside and smooth sides, as well as the large, textured touchpad and dedicated volume and mic buttons above the appreciate the keyboard.

At 13.5 x 9.1 x 0.8-1 inches and 4 pounds, the ThinkPad T420s is significantly thinner and lighter than competitors like the HP EliteBook 8460p (1.3 inches thick and 5.4 pounds) and

Dell Latitude E6420

(1.3-inch profile, 6.2 pounds with a 9-cell battery).The

Toshiba Tecra R840

is just as thin but weighs a heavier 4.6 pounds. The ThinkPad T420s is just a tad wider and taller than the previous generation ThinkPad T410s, as Lenovo has opted to downgrade from the older 16 x 10 standard to a wider 16 x 9 -Switch screen.

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Klutzes will appreciate the T420's tough ABS plastic top and carbon fiber reinforced base. An internal roll cage protects internal components in the event of a fall. The keyboard features a drainage system that drains spills through two drainage holes in the base.

keyboard and touchpad

The Lenovo ThinkPad T420s uses the same classic keyboard that we know and love from many other ThinkPads. With a full set of legacy keys - including the old pause and scroll lock keys - and enlarged Esc and Del keys, the T420s- Keyboard a superior typing experience with strong tactile feedback and smiling keys that make it easy to avoid typos.

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The T420s' long palm rest also offers more than enough room to support adult-sized wrists. These factors combined led us to a score of 86 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, slightly above our average of 80 wpm.

We've long been fans of Lenovo's TrackPoint pointing stick, and the ThinkPad T420s' red knob continues that proud tradition by offering ultra-accurate navigation. The 3.2 x 2-inch textured touchpad was also very accurate, multi-touch However, gestures like pinch-to-zoom weren't smooth. The two discrete mouse buttons provide just the right amount of feedback.


The ThinkPad T420s stayed cool during our use thanks in part to its dual exhaust vents. After steaming a video in full-screen mode for 15 minutes, we measured the touchpad at a cool 84 degrees, the keyboard at just 90 degrees, and the bottom at just 91 degrees .We find temperatures below 95 degrees to be pleasant.

display and audio

The T420s' 1600 x 900, 14.1-inch matte display offers sharp images and significantly more desktop real estate than the 1366 x 768 panels we see on most other notebooks of this size. The difference between 768 and 900 Pixels in vertical space is a key advantage, as it can show you multiple extra lines of text on your favorite web pages, emails, and documents without requiring you to scroll.

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With 250 nits and a contrast ratio of 300:1, the ThinkPad T420s' screen isn't particularly bright or colorful, but its anti-glare surface allows for reasonable viewing angles. Tilting up to 90 degrees left or right, we could get a decent, if slightly white achieve a whitewashed view of the desktop, but videos became completely washed out at angles over 45 degrees.

While the ThinkPad T420s' speakers are accurate enough for conferencing and movie viewing, they sounded a bit tinny when playing music. The included Dobly Home Theater v4 software didn't help much. Disabling this enhancement technology resulted in higher volumes, but even raspier Audio.

Connections and webcam

The ThinkPad T420s has a Kensington lock slot and a WiFi on/off button on the right side. On the back there is an Ethernet port, VGA, DisplayPort out and two USB ports. The first is a yellow USB port for charging gadgets while the notebook is idle and a light blue one for connecting superspeed USB 3.0 devices. On the left side there is a memory card reader, a headset port and a third USB port.

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The 720p webcam captured sharp and accurate images, even in low light. When we chatted via Skype in a room with a fluorescent skylight, our interlocutor reported that fine details of our face were visible, albeit a bit too bright. When photographing in our shaded office cubicle, our face was a bit darker but still sharp, although on a sunny day we got the best color quality when sitting in front of a window.

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Lenovo's dual-array microphone provides excellent conference audio capture on the T420s. We particularly like the keyboard noise-cancellation filter. When the filter was on, our interviewee said she could barely hear the sound of our keystrokes while typing.


The combination of a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5 CPU of 2. In PCMark Vantage, which measures overall performance, the T420s scored a strong 7,169 points, which is well above the average of 5,584 thin and light notebooks. This score beats also the HP EliteBook 8460p with Core i5 (6449), but it lags behind the Dell Latitude E6420 (Core i5-2540M; 8242).

The 320GB, 7200rpm hard drive booted Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) in a reasonable 60 seconds, just 5 seconds faster than the category average. The drive took 3 minutes and 9 seconds to complete the LAPTOP file transfer test , which copied 4.97 GB of mixed media files. That's a rate of 26.9 Mbps, just above the category average of 25.7 Mbps.

When it came to video editing, the ThinkPad T420s was no slouch. It took just 42 seconds to convert 114MB MP4 to AVI format with Oxelon Media Encoder. That's 16 seconds faster than the class average, but roughly on par with the EliteBook 8460p (0:42), the Dell Latitude E6420 ( 0:40) and the Toshiba Tecra R840 (0:41).


The integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics chip of the ThinkPad T420s is more than powerful enough to play high-resolution videos. Both a Full HD Flash trailer from

cowboys and aliens

and a 1080p QuickTime trailer by

Captain America

were smooth and sharp. In 3DMark06, which measures overall graphics performance, the T420s scored a respectable 3714, about on par with the category average but well behind the discrete GPUs in the Dell Latitude E6420 (5060) and Toshiba Tecra R840 (4369).

You can order the T420s with Nvidia NVS 4200M discrete graphics if you opt for the model, which starts at $1,274; If the notebook is configured similar to our system, the premium for the GPU is $107.

While playing

World of Warcraft

, the integrated graphics of the ThinkPad T420s reached a barely playable frame rate of 24 fps. However, when we cranked up the special effects, this rate dropped to an unplayable 11 fps.

battery life and WiFi

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The ThinkPad T420s lasted exactly 5 hours in the LAPTOP battery test, which is about continuous surfing the Internet via WLAN. This is exactly the average for the thin and light notebook category and is far ahead of last year's ThinkPad T410s, which only lasted 3 Hours and 47 minutes on one charge. However, the Dell Latitude E6420 with nine-cell battery lasts 4 hours longer (8:59), as does the HP Elitebook 8460p (6:01) and Toshiba Tecra R840 (6:34 ).Fortunately, Lenovo sells a 3-cell bay battery ($119) that can be swapped out for the optical drive for extra juice.

The ThinkPage 802.11 b/g/n wireless card delivered reasonable transfer rates of 35.7 and 20.9 Mbps at distances of 4.5 to 15 feet from our router. These numbers are roughly in line with the category averages of 35 .4 and 21.7 Mbps.

setting options

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Our review configuration of the ThinkPad T420s has an MSRP of $1,399. For that price, you get a 2.5GHz Core i5-2520M CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, and Windows 7 Professional.For a starting price of $1,249 gets you the same processor and hard drive but only 2GB of RAM and Windows 7 Home Premium instead of Professional and no webcam.

You can get the T420s with up to a 2.7GHz Core i7-2620M CPU, with Nvidia NVS 4200M discrete graphics, up to 8GB of RAM, and with a 128GB or 160GB SSD instead of the Configure 7200 RPM hard drive. We recommend investing in the Ultrabay battery ($119) which should provide an additional 2 or 3 hours of endurance. Security-conscious users will pay an extra $20 for the fingerprint reader want.

software and warranty

Lenovo bundles the ThinkPad T420s with its standard offering of ThinkVantage utilities. Our favorite is the ThinkVantage Power Manager, which gives you fine control over power consumption. The Power Manager even has a unique feature called Instant Resume, which uses your Wi-Fi card for the first 10 minutes after the notebook goes to sleep. If you wake the laptop again during this window, you don't have to wait for the system to reconnect.

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Other utilities include a password manager, Access Connections for controlling your wireless connections, and Rescue and Recovery for backups. The system also features Corel Burn Now for creating discs and Corel WinDVD SD for playing movies.

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Lenovo backs the ThinkPad T420s with a standard one-year parts and labor warranty. See how Lenovo fared in our latest release

Best & Worst Brands

Feature and our annual

Technical support showdown



As the lightest 14-inch notebook on the market, the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s remains a really compelling choice for business users looking for the optimal combination of performance and mobility. The HP EliteBook 8460p has a more attractive design and the Dell Latitude E6420 offers longer battery life. However, if you want the best keyboard, high-resolution screen, and solid performance, this is the business laptop to beat.

Prices - Lenovo ThinkPad T420s:

Lenovo ThinkPad T420s specifications




2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2520M

card slots

SD memory reader

corporate website


screen size


graphic card

Intel HD Graphics 3000

disk size


hard drive speed

7,200 rpm

disk type

SATA hard drive

native resolution


operating system

Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)

optical drive


Optical drive speed


Connections (except USB)

VGA, USB 3.0, Ethernet, DisplayPort



RAM upgradeable to



13.5 x 9.1 x 0.8-1 inch

touchpad size

3.25x2 inches

USB ports


video memory



One year standard parts and labor


4 pounds

Wireless Internet access


WiFi model

Thinkpad b/g/n wireless


Avram Piltch

As the official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is called, Avram Piltch has led the editing and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Check. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.