Lenovo ThinkPad T431s review: A high-priced Ultrabook without the high-end specs

Lenovo ThinkPad T431s review: A high-priced Ultrabook without the high-end specs

Lenovo’s
long-standing tradition of producing black, boxy, boring laptops
continues with the ThinkPad T431s, and it’s a testament to their
underlying quality that businesses and business users continue to
embrace them. But the company might want to rethink the “Ultrabook”
suffix tacked onto this one’s name, which conjures images of sleek,
sexy, and speedy machines. The T431s is none of those things.
Rather, it has the heft and bulk of a more traditional laptop,
weighing 3.6 pounds and measuring 0.8 inch thick. One suspects Lenovo
could have squeezed in an optical drive, though at least the system
leverages its large chassis to pack in plenty of expansion options:
ethernet and VGA ports, a Mini DisplayPort, a 4-in-1 memory card reader,
and a Smart Card reader for organizations that still rely on them. It
also has a fingerprint reader, another nice security-minded perk. The
system has only two USB 3.0 ports (three would be better), but one of
them is powered so you can charge a mobile device even when the ThinkPad
is off.

The T431s ranks among the slower Core i5–equipped Ultrabooks we’ve tested.

Like
a growing number of laptops, the T431s lacks a drive-activity
indicator. And although Lenovo included an LED for the Fn-key lock, the
Caps Lock key didn’t get the same simple amenity. That’s inexcusable
from a company known for great keyboards.
Indeed, this ThinkPad’s comfortable, backlit, perfectly spaced keys
make typing a pleasure. It also has dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and
Page Down keys, though they’re not grouped together. That’s a mild
annoyance; a bigger one is the bottom-left corner placement of the Fn
key. Most touch-typists’ fingers are accustomed to finding a Ctrl key
there.
ROBERT CARDIN

Lenovo’s ThinkPad T431s is a relatively thick, heavy, and slow Ultrabook.

Lenovo has redesigned its touchpad. This one is appreciably spacious
and smooth to the touch, with buttons in all four corners. The top two
are intended for use with Lenovo’s trademark pointing stick, which seems
downright quaint today, but its presence will undoubtedly please
longtime ThinkPad users. The entire touchpad is also a button, and that
“give” can be awkward at times, especially if you land a little harder
than you anticipated with your finger. To avoid accidental cursor
clicks, you’ll need to develop a light touch.
ROBERT CARDIN

ThinkPads are known for their sturdy construction, and the T431s is no exception.

With its Worldbench score of 121, the ThinkPad ranks among the slower
Core i5-equipped Ultrabooks we’ve tested. The Sony VAIO Fit 15 posted a
higher score, and the 128GB SSD in the Dell Latitude 6430u helped it
earn a significantly higher result. The ThinkPad has a quick 7200-rpm,
500GB hard drive augmented by a 24GB SSD cache.

The
ThinkPad T431s was only slightly faster than the Asus VivoBook S550CA
we use as a notebook reference point. (Click to enlarge.)

Despite having only a three-cell battery, our review unit managed to
last 4 hours, 45 minutes in our rundown test, which is about average for
systems in this class. Like other Ultrabooks, the T431s has a
nonremovable battery—a potential problem for business travelers who must
swap in a spare power pack when the first one runs dry.
The ThinkPad’s 14-inch screen has native resolution of 1600 by 900
pixels. That’s sufficient for enjoying HD movies and other video, but
it’s shy of the 1920-by-1080 displays offered by other Ultrabooks (such
as the Samsung Series 9). What’s more, we expected a laptop in this
price class to include a touchscreen, but the T431s lacks one. On the
plus side, the screen exhibits very little glare, and Intel’s integrated
HD Graphics 4000 supplies enough horsepower for stutter-free
full-screen video (at least based on what we streamed from Hulu and
YouTube).
As Ultrabooks go, the ThinkPad T431s is far from the skinniest,
lightest, fastest, or longest-lasting model you can buy. And without
perks like a touchscreen and solid-state storage (the latter is
available on other configurations), it’s hard to justify Lenovo’s
higher-than-average price. Business users might continue to appreciate
the ThinkPad’s sturdy design, security features, and comfy keyboard, but
others will find more features and better performance for less money. 
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