Lenovo Launches ThinkPad T431s, Lightest T Series Ever

Lenovo ThinkPad T431s

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. 

ThinkPad T431s

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.

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial 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 Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. b Says:

    From what I can see, it looks like the t431s actually has 2 USB ports (both 3.0). Perhaps you guys mistook the power connector for a USB port?

  2. Roman Says:

    Dear clueless people of Lenovo, please, get rid of the half an inch of lover bezel and change the LCD on this laptop to 1080p IPS panel. If you have to, make this a paid option. I would gladly pay you few hundred dollars for it. How do you expect to sell any of those laptops with the current crappy screen?

  3. PinkPad Says:

    My apologies for the long comment… But I would really appreciate having this one posted.

    While I have some optimism, I hae a bad feeling about this, too. I really wish that Lenovo would begin to change the default scrolling implementation with the trackpoint. I have to use a third-party tool like “DragToScroll” to make the TrackPoint scrolling and zooming smoother across all applications, including IE10.

    Of note, I feel that most Windows apps scroll and zoom extremely well with inertia/momentum on Windows touchscreen devices. I also think that OS X handles scrolling extremely well across all applications. However, scrolling in Windows with default touchpad drivers is (in my opinion) terrible unless a user opts for mods like Machater’s TwoFingerScroll Mod. Even then, the zooming is subpar and often not detected, compared to that via a multi-touch display in windows (or the trackpad in OS X).

    I think a radical change in scrolling and zooming alone with the trackpoint and touchpad will make a significant difference to the user.

    Of note, if I use DragToScroll and TwoFingerScroll with the synaptics drivers at the same, I run into issues where sometimes my touchpad and trackpoint don’t work properly, as if one mod is interfering with the driver. As a result, I disabled the touchpad on the X220 — it’s trackpoint only for me.

    I also used an X60s for a bit. I also feel that the trackpoints on the older models were so much better (i.e.more precise at higher sensitivites) than the later ones with Synaptics touchpads. (Yikes! That was one long reply)

  4. josh Says:

    If they’d give it a nvidia gt640m or something similar, I’d probably buy one, assuming the screen quality is decent.

  5. Sam Wintergreen Says:

    The Trackpad on the t431s does not work well, compared to the older style Thinkpad with dedicated buttons for the mouse click. I’ve had the system for a week and will be returning it. The click is very noisy, takes more pressure than the button and it is impossible to be precise or quick with clicks. If you leave mouse-movement enabled, you will get movement as you try to click, and often land on the wrong link or pixel. I’ve also developed sore wrists from the sharp corner, where my wrists fall when using the trackball. Quite frequently, I have to click several times to make the click work. The system weight is great, but the design did not think enough about the trackball user. The other gestures, like zoom – have so much latency, they are worthless.

  6. George O Says:

    I concur with Sam Wintergreen’s comments fully.

    I have been using Thinkpads for 10+ years and despite some significant shortcomings (e.g. poor screens with some notable exceptions) the Trackpoint + Trackpoint button implementation has been world class and has provided me with an unparallelled user experience.

    Having deployed the Thinkpad Helix (which is a marvel of engineering) in our organization , I have to say that the the new buttonless trackpoint is working extremely poorly.

    In more than one in ten times, the hidden button press registers an unintended button (i.e. middle scroll button becomes right click button). This happens despite me setting the “large” click zone option for the buttons as well as disabling the Trackpad.

    For us dinosaurs, the T420s, T430s and X1 Carbon will represent that last “real” Thinkpads.

  7. KM in NYC Says:

    We were severely disappointed with the T431s. I completely echo what Sam Wintergreen above says about the trackpad, it is downright terrible. There was a 5 page article about the T431s from one of the Lenovo product managers who went into excruciating detail about the time and effort (over a year!) of R&D that went into the trackpad – This has to be a flat out lie. Nobody who uses it whether it be MacBook fans, Thinkpad fans, Dell fans, Synamptic fans of any variety: they all agree it stinks. The button travel is WAY to far (feels like the first generation BlackBerry Storm with that awful design) and even after tweaking many of the driver settings, error clicks, erroneous drags, etc. are the norm for most users.

    Furthermore, we are irate at all the advertising and article reviews (and congrats to LaptopMag for not falling victim!) to the T431s having 4G LTE WWAN. Hell, there is no WWAN available of any kind! We skipped the X1 Carbon as it was only available with 3G WWAN – we people who are on the road more often than not and don’t want to kill their battery on their smartphones or carry around a hockey puck WWAN device, they want it built-in. Search for 4G WWAN or LTE and T431s and 99% of the articles and reviews discuss it as an option. Originally, it *WAS* an option with delayed shipping but it has since been removed (though mentions of it abound on Lenovo marketing materials…) I even had a Lenovo sales person on the phone with a Lenovo tech support person who were in disagreement about this fact. The sales person said, “It’s the GOBI 4000 card…” but the tech responded, “That’s impossible – we don’t even have drivers for the GOBI 4000 and the T431s. We only list drivers for the Ericsson (3G) card like in the X1 Carbon, but that’s not available in the U.S.” Then the sales person said, “But that’s not what we show for a valid part number, we show the GOBI 4000″ – but the tech person responded, “But that’s impossible, the GOBI 4000 is too big for the T431s…”

    Awesome. In short, if you’ve got 4G WWAN working in a T431s, Lenovo would love to hear how you did it because to this morning (July 5) they still can’t provide a part number or an ETA on when a part number will be available.

    At this rate we’re going to hope and pray that they get their act together this fall with the new Haswell chipset or jump ship to another MFGR.

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