Lenovo ThinkPad T420s Annoyances

I've been using my Core i7 T420s for over six months now. This is supposedly a premium machine, with premium construction, premium design and premium components. That's not really the case though. Here is a list of annoyances that I have with this machine.

  1. The only battery indicator LED light is on the back of the screen, so you only see it when the lid is closed. When you're using the laptop, the only way to know the battery state is from your operating system indicators. Which is fine, except for when you're in full-screen applications (movies, games, virtual machines), in which case you have no idea. You can configure warning bells and stuff, but if your speakers are mute (as in an office), you're basically on your own. I've lost count of the number of times my battery drained and computer forced itself into hibernation with zero warning. This is a note to all laptop manufacturers, PUT A FREAKING BATTERY INDICATOR ON THE FRONT OF THE SCREEN!!! I'm sure the cost of an extra LED is not going to drive you to bankruptcy. 
  2. The 6-cell battery is pathetic. I get maybe 2 hours at best, using low-performance settings, and doing only web-browsing and other light office-type duties. Combine this with the lack of a battery indicator as above, and it's enough to drive one mental.
  3. The screen resolution is great (it's the main reason I bought this machine, I'm sick of 720p 13"+ displays, productive work requires higher resolution!). However, the screen itself is rubbish. First time I used it I could see the dividing lines between each row of pixels, almost like a grid pattern. Over time my eyes learned to ignore it, but if I focus, it's still there. Also the viewing angles are horrid. There is NO WAY to get a uniform contrast across the whole screen, regardless of where you look from. This is fine for office work, but if you want to look at any pictures and are interested in colours, or want to edit any pictures, forget it. 
  4. Noise is not too bad, at least when in low-power mode or typing a blog-post. Watch a video or anything more intensive that kicks the GPU/CPU into action, and noise levels increase significantly. Perhaps there's not much that can be done about this - but it's worth noting.
  5. Weight and thickness - for a 14", this thing is quite thick (and I'm talking without the add-on battery tray), and it's also not particularly light. This is not a premium low-weight or small-form-factor design by any means. Which makes the fan noise even more baffling. 
It's not all bad though. The screen hinges are typical ThinkPad greatness, as is the keyboard and track-pad (although forget about track-pad scrolling or other gestures, they work very inconsistently). Also it performs quite well when plugged in and set on full-power. I guess the Core i7, SSD and 8GB of RAM help here.

Comparing this to my old X300 though, this is definitely not in the same class. The X300 was a perfect balance between size, resolution and performance. It felt great holding it, it performed great, and it always managed to get compliments. This thing is just a bland, boring, black ThinkPad from the last decade. It's quick enough to do what you want, but has a terrible screen, a terrible 6-cell battery, and some bad design decisions (size, noise, battery indicator).

This machine may be fine if used only in desktop mode (i.e. always plugged in, and connected to external monitors with decent contrast/viewing angles). But for mobility, there are much better alternatives out there.


  1. Regarding the battery indicator, the funny thing is that on previous models it used to be on the right side i.e. facing the user. Then apparently some asshat at Lenovo thought it would be a good idea to have the indicator on the back of the screen, probably thinking that the user is seeing the battery indicator provided by Windows anyway. Well, we don't, so fix it.


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