CES – New ThinkPad Roundup

I realize that many readers of this blog are first and foremost ThinkPad T Series fans, so how could I not talk about the new T Series first?  Since a lot of information has already leaked out, most of this will not be a surprise, but nonetheless, these new ThinkPads are solid offerings. We just announced the T410s, T410, T510, and W510 notebooks.  For you X series ultraportable fans, not to worry, we’ll have something for you before too long.  All of these new machines feature Intel’s next generation chipset and processors.  (Intel has asked me not to mention it by name until their launch later this week.) Besides the basic spec sheet items (faster memory, next generation processors, etc.), there are multiple things that you won’t necessarily pick up about these machines unless you scour every review. These are still black, rectangular ThinkPads that stand for traditional ThinkPad values like rock solid durability, long-term stability, and great keyboards.  I consider this a good thing.  As you’ll see from some of our other announcements, we’ll have offerings that are (ahem), not black with square sides if you would prefer something else. The T410, T410s, T510, and W510 pick up many of the design attributes that were started with the T400s.  These include things like:

  • Optimization for Voice over IP (VoIP) with dual noise cancelling microphones, low light sensitive cameras with auto white balancing, and, my favorite, a lighted mic mute switch right on the keyboard.
  • Next generation keyboard layout– keys spaced more tightly together, larger ESC and Delete keys and lighted CapsLk and Power switches.  I think many of the designs feature our new rectangular spill holes as well (I have only seen early models thus far)
  • Symmetrical displays– This is purely cosmetic, but we heard loud and clear that some customers want symmetrically aligned displays.  These new machines fix the off-centered display of the previous T Series systems. 
  • Larger Touch Pad– The touch pads are larger and flush mounted so your cookie crumbs won’t get caught.  The touch pads are multi-touch aware.  They are better sized for the widescreen aspect ratio of the displays. 
  • Series 3 Docking– The T410s, T510, T410, and W510 all use the new Series 3 docking solutions introduced with the T400s.

The T510 and W510 have switched to 16:9 aspect ratio displays.  Though 4:3 is not coming back, there are a lot of people (myself included) that did not want to switch aspect ratios yet again on the 14” form factor.  Enough other vendors in the industry voiced this same opinion that the industry was able to convince glass manufacturers to continue making 14.1” 16:10 glass – this year at least.  Thus, the T410 and T410s feature 16:10 displays just like their predecessor models.  All displays are LED backlit.  (Good riddance to florescent backlighting.) The W510 has a nice display option – a 95% color gamut display plus an optional color calibrator to keep it in tune.  Our photographer segment wanted a color calibrator in something smaller and more portable than the W700.  Sorry, no room for a Wacom digitizer though. The T410s now has the option of either integrated or switchable graphics.  Now you can get additional performance in a small form factor that won’t burn your lap.  Unlike XP, Windows 7 can switch graphics modes on the fly. All of these machines will allow you to swap the Fn and CTRL key mapping in BIOS.  Our usability team is considering making these keys the same size in future keyboard redesigns, though considering that a new keyboard layout costs a LOT of money (more than you think), these keys are still different sizes.  I think this is an acceptable compromise as the power users who value this switch are likely savvy enough to remember and know the difference. The T410 is a totally new 14” mechanical design.  It adds a 4th USB port, and if you have a standard 6 cell battery, it will not stick out the back like on the T400.  (The 9 cell will continue to stick out though).  Speaking of batteries, the T410, T510, and W510 (not the T410s) will feature an optional bottom “bump” battery allowing up to 22 hours of battery life when used with the 9 cell battery.  In trade, I’m told that your Ultrabay batteries will no longer work though on these machines.  (They WILL work on the T410s though).

T410 Side Views

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Extended Life Battery

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Underneath you’ll find that serviceability is better.  Most of these machines have 1 or 2 screw access to memory and wireless cards.  We know this was a big pain point for many people. These machines do not feature USB 3.0 yet.  Except for the W510, these machines do not feature USB 3.0 yet.  Intel declined to provide USB 3 support in this year’s chipsets so many vendors will be skipping adding USB 3.0 on all but their highest end machines where they will be adding extra USB 3 controller chips.  The W510 has that chip.  We have picked eSATA on many machines, so those of you needing higher speed external storage will have options. Speaking of USB, some of you will notice a new yellow-colored USB port on your machines.  This is our new always-on USB port which will remain active when the machine is in suspend/hibernate and will allow you to charge your iPhones/Blackberries, etc.  Our internal disclosures are careful to say that you need discrete graphics to get this feature on your system.  Frankly, I’ve not been able to find out why this limitation is in place and whether it is a “support” statement or a physical hardware limitation statement.  I suspect that the reason is that many of our integrated graphics systems ship with a 65 watt adapter (no changes to the AC adapters by the way) and most discrete systems ship with a 90 watt adapter.  Perhaps our engineering team is being conservative with the amount of power a 65 watt adapter will supply and not touting this feature so as to not overload the brick.

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Check back here tomorrow for a new post from CES.