Matte black surfaces, huge hinges, completely overhauled innards – the new Lenovo ThinkPad T530 means business. And it’s moving with the times – the ThinkPad has finally ditched adjacent-style keys in favor of a chiclet keyboard. Yet most of the changes to the latest iteration of the ThinkPad are under the hood. The base unit sells for under €1000, though that particular rig labors with a Sandy Bridge i3 CPU and Intel’s HD3000 integrated graphics card, as well as a scroll-hungry 1366 x 768 pixel display. At the other end of the scale the top dog ThinkPad packs a third-gen Ivy Bridge i7-3720QM chip with an NVidia NVS 5400M dedicated GPU and full HD 1080p screen, bumping up the ransom to €2500.
The test device was configured with a dual-core Intel i7-3520M CPU, that 1GB NVidia NVS 5400M GPU, and a 1600 x 900 HD+ display. It’s price is €1500. The port selection is slightly modified – ExpressCard34 slot and 4-in-1 card reader on the front, audio jacks, couple of USB-3 ports, an always-on USB-2 port out back, a single USB-2 port in place of the old eSATA combo. The DisplayPort socket has shrunken to a miniDisplayPort interface. Then there’s an old-fashioned VGA socket and a four-pin FireWire 400 interface. An optional HSPA+ module can be had for an extra 80 euros. Otherwise it’s LAN port, Bluetooth 4 or a choice of WiFi cards – generic module as standard, double-antennas with Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 with an extra €15 on the bill, or shell out €40 for a triple-antenna Ultimate-N 6300 module.
As a business notebook the T530 includes Trusted Platform Module and fingerprint scanner.
The near-identical cases of the last-gen T520 and the new T530 series mean most accessories are cross-compat, and the latest ThinkPad can be hooked up to either the inexpensive Series 3 port replicator for 100-odd euros, which brings a trio of USB-2 ports and one USB-3 to the party, plus VGA and LAN ports, or the Mini Dock Plus station, with a pair each of DVI sockets and DisplayPort interfaces as well as the same set of USBs for €230. A three-year warranty is standard, which should please many an IT department.
And so the chiclet keyboard reaches trhe corporate ThinkPad user at last. Concave surfaces, except for the barn-door easy-strike convex space bar, and each of the alphanumeric keys features a distended bottom edge for maximum hit-rate. Excellent typing experience; and the keyboard is splash-proof against any cack-handed coffee breaks. More serious is the lack of a dedicated number pad.
The touchpad is unchanged from the last generation – i.e. a bit small, especially compared to the HP EliteBook 8570p’s pad.
There are three matte panels to choose from – 1366 x 768, 1600 x 900 or 1920 x 1080 pixel resolutions, and the full HD version delivers far superior luminance and better color fidelity, covering much more of the sRGB spectrum. The test unit had a 1600 x 900 pixel display, with 220 nits of brilliance and an inky 0.33 candelas of blackness, one of the darkest black values seen on a consumer notebook, making for a contrast ratio of 673:1 – saturated, vivid, vibrant, breath-taking.
A bewildering range of CPU options is offered; we’d strongly advise at least one of the Ivy Bridge i5 chips (i5-3210M, i5-3320M, i5-3360M) for optimal workplace performance, but if you’re planning to run some hefty programs i7 CPUs will be more your style – i7 3520M, i7-3610M, or i7-3720QM are configurable. The optional NVS 5400M GPU comes with 1GB of video memory, capable of serving a multi-screen set-up with all the pixel-power needed to keep abreast of dozens of stock charts, all updating by the second. RAM configs are 4GB, 6GB or 8GB from the factory, but users can upgrade to 16GB off thier own bat. An equally wide range of hard drives is offered – 5400rpm, 7200rpm, SSDs up to 256GB. The 2.9GHz i7-3520M puts the ThinkPad T530 in the upper midrange of business laptops, using the test unit’s 7200rpm drive, but an SSD would greatly help there. Data transfer nevertheless came in at 120MB/s, all of which means CAD/CAM software should run snappily, assisted by specially tweaked drivers. Gaming benchmarks are not the T530′s forte – low or medium settings are the best you can hope for with current titles. The 94W 9-cell battery gave a regal 8 hours of WiFi-surfing; the T530 will be a useful asset on long-haul flights.
All things considered, the Lenovo ThinkPad T530 is pretty much unbeatable as business notebooks go. Check out notebookcheck for benchmark results
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