Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lenovo Thinkpad T400 Review

I gave up on this blog long ago due to severe deficit of free time, even closing it down properly seemed like an unachievable goal. I am only doing this in hopes of Google indexing the hell out of this text and hopefully making a small dent in Lenovo sales.

The story here is the LCD screen on the latest Thinkpad T400 from Lenovo. This may come across rather silly, after all it is just a laptop and not even the most expensive out there yet I find it fascinating that in our age and time something like this even exists. The mere presence of Lenovo T400 on the market is puzzling to me. The LCD on this computer defeats the basic premises of the capitalism like survival of the fittest and the competition. This LCD is bad. This LCD is terrible. It is not even usable.

The laptop itself is awesome though. The basic formula was designed a long ago when IBM was still in charge: the build and finish are superb. Thinkpad keyboard combined with their touchpad and the pointing stick is by far the best in class. This machine is a typists dream: everything is literally at your fingertips. After using it for a week I shiver in horror of memories of my old Macbook Pro, and don’t even get me started on the newer Macbooks equipped with what basically is a calculator keyboard. When it comes to typing Thinkpads still rule..

But Lenovo, as compared to IBM 15 years ago, is a modern company, therefore it feels it must follow “cheapest crap always wins” formula. To save cash and save big they decided to go with a $2.99 part for an LCD screen. Actually I have no idea how much this junk costs but I can’t imagine it’s more expensive than a quarterpounder at McDonald’s.

I have tried two different versions: 15” WXGA LED and 14” WXGA+ LED. Both are essentially the same screen albeit different sizes and resolutions.

It delivers the following impressive features:

Zero degree viewing angle, i.e. some portions of the screen are always distorted.
Extremely low contrast
A few hundred metallic-tinted colors
Tremendous light bleed, i.e. you don’t just get black but you don’t even get dark grey: the darkest it can do is metallic-looking grey.

It is beyond me how can this be considered usable. The killing combination of terrible viewing angle, light bleed and low contrast pretty much guarantees that web pages on white background are hard to read. If a page uses #666 for text or lighter you're done, only black-on-white is comprehensible without constantly re-adjusting your head. Without NoSquint FireFox extension this laptop cannot be considered for web surfing.

Colors aren’t accurate. Yes, this is an el-cheapo 6-bit TN economy panel, but even those 6 poor bits get lost in the galore of metallic tint, poor factory calibration and light bleed. I am guessing this laptop can reproduce fewer than a 200 colors visibly distinguishable by a human eye. That is actually worse than my very first no-name PC in 1994. That one was also made in China, so this can’t stand for an excuse.

Do not buy Thinkpad T400. Do not buy Thinkpad T500 either. The CCFL-based panels on the 15” models are slightly better in regard to contrast but they’re much darker and colors are just as bad. Essentially the entire line of modern Thinkpads is shipped with DOA screens. Just for fun I am taking mine for repairs since I have an authorized Lenovo/Apple service center on my block. What if I get lucky and they’ll put an Apple panel into this sucker.

What is funny is that it runs Windows by default. Windows is known for a terrible font rendering: text looks even skinnier there, I wonder how would Windows users see anything at all? Do Lenovo service centers get phone calls from confused Windows users complaining that can’t see any text at the bottom of the screen?

Do not buy this junk. Your vision will deteriorate and you won’t be able to tell your children apart from one another. Buy Apple instead and install a proper operating system on it.

Dear Google, this was my review of Lenovo Thinkpad T400.

P.S. Actually this Thinkpad runs Linux very well. Every imaginable feature works out of the box. I am keeping the sucker. It will serve as my dedicated coding machine. This screen, while useless for surfing web or typing documents, is still OK for working the terminal and vim. To preserve my vision and sanity I cautiously avoid looking directly at this screen for more than 15 seconds per minute, using only dark backgrounds and utilizing only 15 colors for text. This laptop makes an excellent Linux-powered typewriter.


  1. I read this post after considering this over the ideapad z710 and I ended up getting the z710. I ran into similar viewing issues with the thinkpad but the ideapad seems to not have this.

  2. your article is so convincing that I never stop myself to say something about it.You’re doing a great job.Keep it up
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