Lenovo ThinkPad T420

This machine “died” in March 2018 after complications from a surgery.

The IBM and Lenovo ThinkPad models are known for being one of the most durable commercial laptops available. My “daily driver”, a Lenovo ThinkPad T420, has been an excellent workhorse ever since I purchased it.

The History

T420I purchased the ThinkPad T420 refurbished back in June 2016. It was being sold dirt-cheap, as it was probably a leased computer in its previous life. (Some larger companies “lease” computers to their employees for a couple years, until they upgrade them to newer models. The computers which are no longer being leased, known as “off-lease” computers, are typically sold as surplus to the public.) I purchased the T420 as I wanted a durable Windows machine which would last me with little issues and maintenance, and could be easily upgraded. I also wanted a machine to run Adobe Dreamweaver and Photoshop on, as well as Microsoft Office with little interference.

Getting Used to Windows 10

I’ve used every version of Windows from Windows 3.1 (1993) all the way up to Windows 8. I was not a fan of Windows 8, as Microsoft tried to experiment with the “Metro” user interface, which eliminated the precious start button. Windows 8 was an extremely annoying, intrusive, and hard-to-use operating system. It made me mad enough to switch to the Mac OS environment.

The T420 was my first taste of Windows 10. Microsoft actually listened to the critics and brought the start button back, and made the user interface easier to use. Windows 10 also addressed the stability issues that Windows 8 users experienced. Overall, I had excellent “first impressions” of Windows 10. Microsoft finally won back a serious Windows user that switched in the midst of “eightgate.”

The T420 first shipped with a 32-bit version of Windows 10, which just wasn’t going to cut it since the processor could support the extended 64-bit version, and the 32-bit version will not address anything over 4 GB of memory. It was time to upgrade the T420 into a machine that better fit my needs and wants, both in hardware and software.

Upgrading the T420

The T420 originally shipped with a measly 4 GB of memory. While you can get a lot done with only 4GB of memory, I wanted to be able to run Photoshop and more processor and memory-intensive tasks using the T420. Also, Windows kept giving me the annoying “Low Memory” notification.

Upgrading the memory in the T420 isn’t as easy as planned. Upgrading the actual hardware memory was the easier half of the battle, since the only tool I needed was a screwdriver to remove the one screw holding the cover in place. However, the more exhausting part was having to backup all of my files and install Windows 10 64-bit, so that I could actually address all 8GB of memory and could use 64-bit applications.

Once the memory and 32-bit issue was solved, the machine ran fine. There are some other upgrades which I’m going to perform in the near future, but the T420 runs happily right now.

My Thoughts

This machine has been a steady and reliable workhorse since I bought and upgraded the memory in it. Since the T420 has Nvidia graphics, Adobe Photoshop CC runs ike a dream – even in 3D mode. In other applications, like Microsoft Office and Adobe Dreamweaver, the T420 and its Core i5 doesn’t even break a sweat.

Unlike other modern notebooks I’ve used, the T420 stays fairly cool on the bottom and top while running processor-intensive tasks like Photoshop. However, the fans on the side and back put out very hot air during these tasks. This means that the T420 has a really good heatsink and cooling system. The heat sink is made of copper, which is typically better at heat transfer than aluminum (which is used in many lower-end computers.) The only time the T420 has “frozen up” on me is while running Benchmarks, which can be expected as benchmark testing is very intense on your hardware.

Now for the cons. The T420 will not win any contests for “lightest” or “thinnest” laptop. (However, this is made up by the fact that the T420 is a business-oriented laptop, where these factors are less important. The thickness also improves the durability and performance.) Also, when the T420 was first released in 2011, it was cited with having one of the best battery lifespans on the market, with up to 18 hours on a single charge. Sadly, my results are the opposite. The battery in my T420 is very poor; on a single charge, it will only last about 2 hours before completely dying (that includes having “power saver” options like a dimmed display and not running any processor or memory-intenstive tasks.

Lenovo ThinkPad T420 SPECIFICATIONS (code T420)
Processor Intel Core i5 @ 2.5 GHz
Hard Drive (Storage) 500 GB HGST (Hitachi; replaced 140GB Hitachi)
Memory (RAM) 8GB (originally 4GB) DDR3
Displays Built-in LCD; VGA and HDMI port
Optical Drive 1 (DVD-RW Combo)
USB Ports 4 USB 2.0 ports
Other Ports Docking Port (IBM/Lenovo); AC power; ethernet; onboard modem; audio out (headphones)
Internet Connectivity WiFi (wireless), Cat5e ethernet, onboard modem
Other Special Features Bluetooth, ThinkVantage, Webcam, TrackPoint
Operating System Windows 10 Home
Usage Dead. Parts machine.

Was a daily driver between June 2016 and March 2018.