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lenovo_t440.md 9.0KB

Title: Personal review of the Lenovo Thinkpad T440 Date: 2015-01-08 17:40 Category: Hardware Alias: /2015/personal-review-of-the-lenovo-thinkpad-t440

I recently changed my laptop and bought a Lenovo T440. I used to have a Clevo W150ERQ (actually a LDLC Saturne, but LDLC is just rebranding Clevo’s laptops). It was a really good laptop, but I bought it at a time when I when I was looking for a powerful computer more than a light notebook, and it was way too heavy. Plus as a side effect, it had a poor battery (3 hours autonomy maximum) which I magically managed to maintain, thanks to much tweaks, and despite the battery having lost almost 50% of its original capacity. Finally, it was built around NVIDIA optimus technology, that was lacking serious Linux support.

Criteria

So, my goals when looking for a new laptop were that it was small, lightweight (the previous Clevo was 3kgs), powerful enough for my needs (no need for a high end GPU as I’m not doing gaming on my laptop, but still some decent CPU, with built-in AES encryption capabilities), a large autonomy, to be able to travel without worrying about finding a power plug and a large matte screen (no less than 14”, and HD resolution). One that was fitting almost all my needs was the Lenovo T440, with some options (intel i5 instead of the i3 in the base model, and HD screen). I had time to play a bit with it, so I write some feedback, in case it can be useful to anyone. This feedback might be updated as time passes. Note that I won’t comment anything related to Windows, as there are plenty of infos about this notebook running Windows on the web, and I never used it with Windows.

Windows refund

Unfortunately, no Windows refund is available with Lenovo (it came with Windows 8.something preinstalled). They would only refund the entire laptop =(

Price

I did not want to spend too much on my laptop. Especially, I did not want to pay it more than 1k€, which is often the price for such laptops. I got mine with HD screen, the biggest external battery and Intel i5 for 800€ (with 200€ discount from Lenovo).

External aspect

The laptop is quite thin, and matte, which makes it look very elegant :) The charger is very slim, and the total weight is very reasonable, below 2kgs with extra battery and charger. The screen looks nice and comfortable, although it does not have very wide viewing angles (not to say they are rather narrow…). It’s very bright and can be set at any level between 0 and 100%, with standard Linux tools such as xbacklight (good point compared to the previous Clevo which only had a few possible levels). It has an internal battery (25Wh) and an extra external battery can be used for more power.

It has standard ports, 2 USBs, a mini display port, a VGA port, an SD card reader and a true ethernet port. It only has one single port for the micro and the headphones.

Opening it

I took one of the cheaper model, and wanted to put an SSD I had from before inside, to avoid having mechanical drive in such a laptop. So, I had to open it, before anything else. Contrary to the other Lenovo laptops, this one is very slim and very compact. Then, there is no easy access to the components (direct access to memory chips or hard drives for instance). You have to take out the whole base cover to change any component inside. That may sound impressive, but is not very difficult to do (but will mean higher costs if you don’t want to do it yourself).

First, disable the internal battery in the BIOS. Then, the best way I found to do it is to remove the 8 screws (standard screw driver) below the laptop and unclipse the base cover, starting from the rear (below the external battery). Do not use any tool, but your nail, to prevent any damage to the base cover, and to easily remove it. Note that the screws cannot be fully removed from the base cover, and that you should not have to force at any time. If so, check that the screws are well unscrewed, and if it still need some force applied, try opening the other side, to loop back to this position.

I had never opened such a computer before, and it took me around 30 minutes to swap the hard drives.

For info, if you have a version without 3G modem, you have an M2 slot (42mm if I remember correctly) available to put an extra SSD. This slot may be already taken by the SSD cache in case you chose an HDD + SSD cache.

Support status under Linux

I run ArchLinux, so my remarks may not be applicable to other distributions. The laptop has a wiki page in the doc. It is for the variant with a touchscreen but most remarks are applicable. Once the necessary packages available, everything works just fine.

I chose not to fight with UEFI, and use the regular BIOS (BIOS emulation) instead. I just had to disable SecureBoot and choose it in the BIOS. The BIOS is really nice designed, with many options (Fn is the leftmost key on the keyboard for instance, but you can swap Fn and Ctrl in the BIOS, which is very practical as I prefer this layout). I installed the Intel drivers for Xorg, the synaptics driver for the ClickPad and the iwlwifi drivers for the wifi card, and everything worked nice out of the box.

I use i3wm, so I did not have any mappings predefined for the function keys. All of them are recognized as Xf86 function tools, and I just needed a config line in my i3 config file to assign them to xbacklight calls to increase and decrease brightness. Same thing for basically all the other function keys, nothing difficult to notice there.

The backlight for the keyboard works also out of the box. It is either fully hardware or well supported under Linux, but I did not have to install anything to use it. There are two levels of illumination available.

Autonomy

I did not do any power saving as of now, and the laptop is really impressive on this point! I was fearing that the preinstalled Windows may be overoptimized for the laptop, and that I would have a poor autonomy on Linux, but that’s not the case at all.

I have an internal 25Wh battery, and an external 75Wh battery. The laptop was marketed around 15 hours of autonomy, and I must say that it’s actually running 15 hours. It is consuming no more than 5W with Wifi connectivity (and browsing the web), my SSD, and backlight set to 10%. That’s really impressive and Intel has made a very good job with their latest generation of core i5. I compiled some stuff (Python matplotlib), still with 10% backlight, and jumped up to 15W, no more. For similar performances (at least, similar felt performances), my previous Clevo was consuming around 40W.

Then, out of the box, with the external battery, one can easily work in continuous for between 10 and 15 hours. Tests say that it can run up to 28 hours in idle mode. Totally satisfied on this point !

Webcam

Not much to say, it works. It is an integrated webcam so nothing particularly good or bad.

Bluetooth

Not tested yet.

SD card reader

Not tested yet.

Audio quality

Not much to say. Not very bad, not exceptionally good. :)

Fan and temperature

The CPU in normal use is at around 40°C. The laptop does not get very hot and is very silent (I’ve never heard the fan as of today).

Tp_smapi

Tp_smapi is a tool to handle some ACPI calls for Thinkpad. It can (apparently) handle the HDAPS feature, to detect shocks and avoid damages to the hard drive. As I have a SSD, I do not use this feature.

A more interesting tool is tpacpi-bat available from the AUR, which allows you to set thresholds for charging and discharging the battery. This way, you can set thresholds at 40% and 80% to keep the battery in its best area, according to Lenovo advices.

This works really nice and is well documented in the Archwiki.

Touchpad

There is a trackpad in the keyboard (but I’m not a huge fan of trackpads). The touchpad is a bit tricky to handle correctly. Indeed, it is composed of a single sensitive area (without any physical buttons) and is a single button (the whole touchpad can be clicked, but as far as I know, it is a single button). Then, you have to map it correctly in Xorg, so that you define “Virtual buttons” and couple the position of your finger on the touchpad to the click event. This can be done quite easily and people have posted many configurations such as this one.

I did not have yet a fully working configuration for my use, and this needs some tweaks, but nothing really problematic, in my opinion. I also use syndaemon as it is very easy to hit the touchpad accidentally while typing.

Conclusion

This is a great laptop, in my opinion, with minor points that could be improved. But, it has a really good price / performance ratio. The autonomy is really impressive, in particular and it works very well out of the box under Linux.

For a full test (more hardware and pure perfs than Linux compatibility and so on), here is one.