We’ve long been fans of Lenovo’s ThinkPad T Series of business notebooks because of their strong performance, best-in-class keyboards and epic battery life. Now the company is adding its lightest T Series yet, the 3.6-pound, 0.8-inch ThinkPad T431s, which features an all-new industrial design that includes a new 5-button touchpad and eschews an optical drive.
Unveiled today and set to ship in April for a starting price of $949, the 3.6-pound, 13 x 8.9 x 8-inch ThinkPad T431s is 10 percent lighter and a bit more compact than its predecessor, the 4-pound, 13.5 x 9.05 x 0.83 – 1.02-inch ThinkPad T430s. The T431s features a much slimmer bezel, strong hinges that can bend back 180 degrees and a matte screen that comes standard with the 1600 x 900-pixel resolution that was only an option on the T430s. With its carbon-fiber lid and magnesium chassis, the notebook promises to continue the T Series’s long tradition of durability.
To save weight and space, the T431s does not have Lenovo’s popular Ultrabay port, which comes with an optical drive that can be swapped out for a second battery or hard drive. In 2013 it makes little sense to have a built-in optical drive on a lightweight laptop, but users may miss the optional second battery, which added 3.5 hours to the T430s’s endurance in our tests. Unlike the T431s, which had a removable battery that lasted 5 hours and 9 minutes on our tests, the ThinkPad T431s comes with a built-in, 47-watt hour battery that Lenovo claims will last up to 9 hours.
Like its predecessor, the ThinkPad T431s has an island-style keyboard with an optional backlight. However, the touchpad and pointing stick combo have a radical and potentially controversial new design. Instead of providing dedicated left, right and scroll buttons for the pointing stick, those features are built into the top of the clickpad, which has its own set of right and left click areas on its bottom side. While Lenovo’s clickpads are more accurate than most, we’re eager to see how the built-in trackpoint buttons compare to their tried-and-true predecessors. Lenovo says that building the buttons into the clickpad allows more room for multitouch gestures, particularly Windows 8 gestures.
Despite its svelte frame, the ThinkPad T431s has room for all of the major ports a business user could want, including Ethernet, VGA, MiniDisplayPort, two USB 3.0 connections and an optional Smart Card reader. The notebook also includes an optional fingerprint reader that can boot the computer and log in to Windows in one swipe and a 720p webcam.
The ThinkPad T431s is powered by your choice of Intel third-generation low-voltage Core i5 or Core i7 processors, up to 12GB of RAM and Intel HD 4000 graphics; there’s no discrete graphics option like there was on the T430s. In terms of storage, the notebook will be available with hard drives ranging in size from 320GB to 1TB or SSDs up to 256GB capacity. An optional 24GB mSATA flash cache will speed up the drive and, if you don’t get it, you may be able to use the empty mSATA slot to add a full-capacity SSD on your own. Consumers and IT managers who don’t want Windows 8 will be happy to know that the T431s will also be available with Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate.