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Julien Goodwin
Laptop upgrade time - Lenovo T430 (and Pixel impressions) 
23rd-Apr-2013 12:07 am
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Over the last few months my (now retired) Lenovo T410 had been starting to show its age. I received it in July 2010 making it roughly 21 months old at the time of its retirement, by this point I'd replaced the speakers, and had a spare screen waiting for it for when the original one finally went (I didn't end up swapping it simply because by the time it was getting bad enough I already had the T430 ordered). Other things getting dodgy were the two left mouse buttons wearing out, and the screen lid sensor getting dodgy. I was also starting to be pressured by the 8GB RAM limitation, and had also purchased 16GB of RAM in the hope that the T410 could actually use it, but no such luck.

I'd thought I might manage to give two generations a miss instead of my normal one, but having seen a preview of the T431 on Engadget I decided to order a T430 anyway as Lenovo are removing the physical mouse buttons on the next gen. I wasn't a fan of them switching to a chiclet keyboard, but the mouse buttons would have been a line too far.

I chose the T430 over the X1 Carbon simply as I wanted support for 16GB of RAM, and over the T430s because I didn't think the weight savings would be worth the extra few hundred dollars (I also thought the T430s had a 7.5mm drive slot, but the T430 had a 9.5mm, I was wrong here)

Ordered top of the line except for Intel graphics and base RAM & HDD, shipped to the Googleplex it cost me less then AU$1000, including paying CA sales tax. One of my coworkers was able to bring it back with him on a visit to our Sydney office saving having to drop-ship it as I did back in 2007 with my T61. The only reason I went this method was that buying it from Lenovo direct in Australia would have been over 50% more expensive. (My T410 was actually purchased in Australia, at a price that was competitive with the US, demonstrating that they can actually do that)

Major differences with the T410:
  • No firewire - I never actually used the firewire on the T410, and my few bits of media kit with firewire get much more use on my MacBook anyway
  • No modem - Finally! It's been years since I used the a dial-up modem on a laptop.
  • USB3 - Might be useful
  • Smartcard reader - Ordered this option under the theory I might migrate my GPG key over to it
  • Chiclet keyboard - Surprisingly decent, not quite as good as the old design, but I think I'll be happy enough with it
  • 1600x900 screen - This I think is a serious downgrade, I wish they still had a 16:10 option, the extra width ranges from mostly useless to making some apps harder to use maximised.

Sadly I couldn't order the backlit keyboard (oddly this one option was available in the Australian store), but I may well order the part and do the retrofit.

The weight is slightly better, as is is the size, but neither are noticeable unless you have a T410 at hand to compare it with.

As with my previous upgrade from T61 to T410 I'd simply planned to pop out the drive carrier from old into new and migrate with no effort, sadly while getting the drive out of the T410 was easy I'd missed noticing that the T430 takes a 7.5mm drive, not the old standard of 9.5mm. Sadly the SSD I'd only recently upgraded to was 9.5mm, but as it had a plastic (top) case I was fairly sure that some quick destruction would solve that. Sure enough after getting the top case off I was able to hot-glue the PCB onto the metal bottom case and screw it into the new carrier, and booted straight into Debian with no issues.

The only teething issue I had was the left mouse button on the trackpad would release if I tried to perform a drag, I found some threads claiming this was a design choice and the setting to change in the Windows driver to disable this, but could find no equivalent in the Xorg synaptics driver. Oddly however, this simply started working the next morning. I've no idea what the deal is here.

On the topic of shiny new laptops I got to try the new Chromebook Pixel on Friday evening, and first impressions are that it's by far the nicest laptop I've seen. Although most of the attention has been placed on the screen, which I agree is nice, I found both the keyboard and speakers more impressive, with the speakers being the best I've heard on a laptop since 2002 (That was a Toshiba Tecra, one I later used in 2004-2005). Sadly I can't swap my work T410 as I require a (standard) Linux laptop for a few reasons (that one will be upgraded to an X1 Carbon soon) but I may well buy one anyway.
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