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Hands On: Lenovo ThinkPad T431 review

A new ThinkPad from Lenovo with boldly stripped down look

Our Early Verdict

Product features

  • Screen Resolution : 1600 x 900
  • Processor Core : Dual-core (2 Core)

View full specification

For

  • Another great ThinkPad keyboard
  • Sleek new face
  • Simple touchpad design
  • Durable
  • Good old TrackPoint mouse

Against

  • Not so light for an ultrabook
  • No touch screen option
  • ThinkPad die hards may balk at new mouse design

When it comes to Windows machines for the enterprise market, Lenovo's line of ThinkPad laptops and ultrabooks are proven contenders. They have a fine reputation that's made them a top choice for IT professionals looking for minimal headaches.

They also have a distinct look, one that's changing with the new ThinkPad T431. This new ultrabook has a sleek, minimalist face that has as much in common with a MacBook Pro 13-inch as it does with the previous ThinkPad T430. The speaker grills, volume rocker and even those red ThinkPad mouse buttons have been done away with. The result is a ThinkPad that has look like a granite slate, but it's the insides, and the price, that will determine if it deserves to be called a ThinkPad.

ThinkPad design is more than skin deep

Old school fans might fret the new look, but this is a ThinkPad through and through. There's a choice of Windows 8 or 7, up to a terabyte of storage, plus enterprise-oriented niceties like a fingerprint reader. Plus, retains the most iconic visuals of a ThinkPad, thanks to that red dot in the middle of the keyboard, the TrackPoint mouse, and a signature matte black finish.

Lenovo ThinkPad T431 review
The newly reigned in face of the ThinkPad T series

Before we sat down in front of a new ThinkPad T431, the word cluttered was never something we associated with the brand. But after seeing the T431 next to its predecessor, the T430, it was easy to notice how much visual noise had been stripped out.

Lenovo ThinkPad T431 review
The T430 looks busy by comparison

Lenovo's new design direction with the ThinkPad is based on extensive user research. The company has gone to great lengths to see how costumers use its products, often in less than ideal situations.

Lenovo ThinkPad T431 review
The T431 lays flat

For example, the T series has been able to sit at a 90-degree angle since Lenovo observed a tester sitting on the floor of a crowded Chinese café with his ultrabook flat against his knees. Now, a newly recessed hinge design makes it even easier to work at such awkward angles.

Lenovo ThinkPad T431 review
So did the T431, but note the hinge placement and sweater catchers

Even if you're able to get a seat everywhere you work, you'll appreciate the beefy hinges Lenovo has applied to the T431. Also, the so-called "sweater-catchers," hooks that keep the machine closed and have a tendency to grab cloth, have been removed.

A new take on the touchpad

For those who know their ThinkPads, the most striking tweak will be touchpad. Gone are the dual sets of click buttons; you can now press directly on the touchpad to click, and we're pleased to report it springs back with the same elasticity as the space bar.

Lenovo ThinkPad T431 review

The change may worry ThinkPad fans, but make no mistake, this layout made it just as viable to use the trackpoint and click with the touchpad as it has been on previous ThinkPad models. We know this has been a choice fans of the brand appreciate, and it remains in tact here. It's also the same design that's been applied to the upcoming convertible, the ThinkPad Helix, so fans ought to warm up to it.

We love the ThinkPad line for their keyboards, and were glad to have our expectations met here. While we didn't get to see it in action, we we've been told that the keys on the T431 are backlit in that signature ThinkPad red.

So the aesthetics are there, and so are the internals. As we mention, T431 users can choose up to 1TB of storage, and pick an Intel i5 or i7 at 3.30GHz. For memory there's room for as much as 12GB.

Lenovo ThinkPad T431 review

If you're looking at a ThinkPad, chances are you're a frequent work traveler and telecommuter. At 3.6 lbs (1.63 kg), the T431 tips the scales a bit for an ultrabook, but that size accommodates a lot of nice features. In addition to a choice of high-end specs, a 720P webcam will make you the highest resolution talking head in your next teleconference.

As far as overall build goes, the T series has lost a few millimeters. It's slimmed down from the T430, measuring 13.03" x 8.89" x 0.80" (331 mm x 226 mm x 20.6 mm). Basically, it's looking good.

Early Verdict

While the ThinkPad has long been a go to brand for the IT professionals who choose the machines their co-workers will be carrying, this design refresh seems oriented toward getting the average user to turn his head.

It's also interesting to note the lack of touchscreen, and the choice to stick with Windows 7 rather than 8. Like a lot of the PC world, Lenovo doesn't seem quite ready to fully embrace Microsoft's new OS, and they've likely earned a lower price point for their machine by doing so.

We didn't get a firm word on pricing, but if anything like past models, builds could start in the $700 range.

As far as we're concerned, anything Lenovo does to make the ThinkPad look sleeker is just gravy. It's a balance of performance and portability at a reasonable price point that make a ThinkPad, but the visual refresh is appreciated. So far the T431 fits the bill, and we look forward to getting this ultrabook in for a full review.

Tech Specs

Product TypeUltrabook
Green CompliantYes
Hard Drive Capacity500 GB
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ModelHD 4000
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeNo
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Finger Print ReaderYes
Solid State Drive Capacity24 GB
WebcamYes
Backlight TechnologyLED
DisplayPortYes
WimaxNo
Product FamilyThinkPad T431s
Operating System Architecture64-bit
Keyboard BacklightYes
Processor Modeli5-3437U
ColourGraphite Black
Operating SystemWindows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Professional Upgradable to Windows 8 Pro
Brand NameLenovo
Processor Speed1.90 GHz
Processor TypeCore i5
Screen Size35.6 cm (14")
Number of Cells3-cell
Screen Resolution1600 x 900
Standard Memory4 GB
Weight (Approximate)1.63 kg
Cache3 MB
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityENERGY STAR 5.0, GREENGUARD, RoHS, EPEAT Silver
64-bit ProcessingYes
Chipset ManufacturerIntel
Chipset ModelQM77 Express
Number of Total Memory Slots1
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
WWAN SupportedNo
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
vPro TechnologyYes
Ethernet TechnologyGigabit Ethernet
Total Number of USB Ports2
Memory StandardDDR3-1600/PC3-12800
Height20.6 mm
Width331 mm
Depth226.1 mm
Screen ModeHD+
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
Product SeriesT431s
ManufacturerLenovo Group Limited
Product Model20AA001AUK
Product NameThinkPad T431s 20AA001AUK Ultrabook
Pointing Device TypeTouchPad, Trackpoint
Product LineThinkPad
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part Number20AA001AUK
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.lenovo.com/uk/en/
Marketing InformationYOU TAKE AIM AT THE BOUNDARIES, WE'LL HELP YOU BREAK THROUGH.

Whether you're an overachiever or an up-and-comer, ThinkPad laptops are the tools you need. From the thin-and-light wonder to the heavy-duty mobile workstation, they're built, tested and enhanced for reliability, durability and speed.

TORTURE-TESTED

Baked, Battered, Blistered.

ThinkPad notebooks endure a lot before they ever reach you. We meticulously design many of them to pass rugged military specifications tests. We outfit them with spill-resistant keyboards, roll-cage technology and shock-mounted hard drives. And we test them in ways you can't imagine - baking, battering, blistering and blowing them with sand.

Maximum Memory12 GB
Battery ChemistryLithium Polymer (Li-Polymer)
Package Contents
  • ThinkPad T431s 20AA001AUK Ultrabook
  • AC Adapter
  • Windows 8 Pro 64-bit License Media
Limited Warranty3 Year