Introduction and Design
Alongside our T440s review unit was something slightly smaller and dear to our hearts: the latest entry in the ThinkPad X series of notebooks. Seeing as this very review is being typed on a Lenovo X220, our interest was piqued by the latest refinements to the formula. When the X220 was released, the thin-and-light trend was only just beginning to pick up steam leading into what eventually became today’s Ultrabook movement. Its 2012 successor, the ThinkPad X230, went on to receive our coveted (and rarely bestowed) Editor’s Choice Award, even in spite of a highly controversial keyboard change that sent the fanbase into a panic.
But all of that has since (mostly) blown over, primarily thanks to the fact that—in spite of the minor ergonomic adjustments required to accustom oneself with what was once a jarringly different keyboard design—the basic philosophy remained the same: pack as many powerful parts as possible into a 12.5-inch case while still maintaining good durability and battery life. These machines were every bit as capable as most other 13- and 14-inch notebooks of their time, and they were considerably smaller, too. About the only thing they lacked was higher-resolution screens, discrete graphics, and quad-core CPUs.
But with the X240 (and the T440s), portability has truly taken center stage, suggesting a complete paradigm shift—however subtly—away from “powerful (and light)” and toward “light (and powerful)”. Coupled with Intel’s Haswell CPUs and Lenovo’s new Power Bridge dual-battery design, this will certainly yield great benefits in the realm of battery life. But that isn’t all that’s different: we also find a (once again) revamped keyboard, as well as a completely new touchpad design which finally dispenses with the physical buttons entirely. Like in the X230’s case, these changes have roiled the ThinkPad purists—but is it all just a matter of close-minded traditionalism? That’s precisely what we’ll discover today.
Introduction and Design
Arguably some of the most thoughtful machines on the market are Lenovo’s venerable ThinkPads, which—while sporadically brave in their assertions—are still among the most conservative (yet simultaneously practical) notebooks available. What makes these notebooks so popular in the business crowds is their longstanding refusal to compromise functionality in the interest of form, as well as their self-proclaimed legendary reliability. And you could argue that such practical conservatism is what defines a good business notebook: a device which embraces the latest technological trends, but only with requisite caution and consideration.
Maybe it’s the shaky PC market, or maybe it’s the sheer onset of sexy technologies such as touch and clickpads, but recent ThinkPads have begun to show some uncommon progressivism, and unapologetically so, too. First, it was the complete replacement of the traditional critically-acclaimed ThinkPad keyboard with the Chiclet AccuType variety, a decision which irked purists but eventually was accepted by most. Along with that were the integrated touchpad buttons, which are still lamented by many users. Those alterations to the winning design were ultimately relatively minor, however, and for the most part, they’ve now been digested by the community. Now, though, with the T440s (as well as the rest of Lenovo’s revamped ThinkPad lineup), we’re seeing what will perhaps constitute the most controversial change of all: the substitution of the older touchpads with a “5-button trackpad”, as well as optional touchscreen interface.
Can these changes help to keep the T440s on the cusp of technological progress, or has the design finally crossed the threshold into the realm of counterproductivity?
Compared with nearly any other modern notebook, these specs might not hold many surprises. But judged side-by-side with its T430s predecessor, there are some pretty striking differences. For starters, the T440s is the first in its line to offer only low-voltage CPU options. While our test unit shipped with the (certainly capable enough) Core i5-4200U—a dual-core processor with up to 2.6 GHz Turbo Boost clock rate—options range up to a Core i7-4600U (up to 3.30 GHz). Still, these options are admittedly a far cry from the i7-3520M with which top-end T430s machines were equipped. Of course, it’s also less than half of the TDP, which is likely why the decision was made. Other notables are the lack of discrete graphics options (previously users has the choice of either integrated graphics or an NVIDIA NVS 5200M) and the maximum supported memory of 12 GB. And, of course, there’s the touchscreen—which is not required, but rather, is merely an option. On the other hand, while we’re on the subject of the screen, this is also the first model in the series to offer a 1080p resolution, whether traditional or touch-enabled—which is very much appreciated indeed.
That’s a pretty significant departure from the design of the T430s, which—as it currently appears—could represent the last T4xxs model that will provide such powerhouse options at the obvious expense of battery life. Although some markets already have the option of the ThinkPad S440 to fill the Ultrabook void within the ThinkPad 14-inch range, that notebook can even be outfitted with discrete graphics. The T440s top-end configuration, meanwhile, consists of a 15W TDP dual-core i7 with integrated graphics and 12 GB DDR3 RAM. In other words, it’s powerful, but it’s just not in the same class as the T430’s components. What’s more important to you?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 19, 2013 - 11:36 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: typeguard, synaptics, clickpad 2.0, clickpad
Human interface solutions developer Synaptics, makers of touchpads, touchscreens and touch interpretation software, are showcasing a pair of new technologies today that will be included in upcoming notebooks and Ultrabooks this holiday. ClickPad 2.0 improves the company's design and mechanical implementation on the first iterations of ClickPad while TypeGuard aims to improve recognition of false input from users to improve performance and experience. Even better, this combination has been recognized as a CES Innovation 2104 Design and Engineering Award honoree.
In 2010 Synaptics released the ClickPad, a solution for hardware vendors that included the design and manufacture of the entire touchpad solution. This was a shift for the company that had previously done product licensing and custom solutions for specific vendors. There were some issues with the technology in its 1.0 and 1.5 iterations that prevented users from clicking near the top of the touchpad, for example, as well as the new wrinkle of Windows 8 gestures that weren't implemented perfectly.
With ClickPad 2.0, Synaptics claims to have addressed all of these issues including top and corner clicking capability as well making the feel of the click consistent no matter where the user might push down on the pad. Window 8 gestures can now be support by a separate, but integrated, side-pad integration option. The sides of the touch pad would be textured differently and only function as gesture controls, leaving the entirety of the touchpad face for primary input functionality.
TypeGuard is a set of software algorithms that improves false inputs that might occur during use of a laptop. Palm rejection while typing is one of the biggest annoyances for users that are frequently writing on their notebooks and with TypeGuard Synaptics claims to nearly completely remove false cursor movements, taps and scrolls.
As touchpads become larger, palm contact is going to be much more likely on notebooks and preventing these kinds of accidental inputs is going to be crucial to providing a good experience for the consumer. Apple has long been considered the leader in this area (and with touchpads in general) but Synaptics believes it has matched them with this combination of ClickPad 2.0 and TypeGuard. Doing its own in-house studies has revealed a 73% decrease in false movements but we will obviously need our own hands on time with an integrated product to see how it acts over extended use.
The good news is that might be pretty soon. The HP Spectre 13 Ultrabook actually implements both of these technologies and is available for preorder in various locations.
HP will be offering this machine for $999 with a 128GB SSD, 4GB of memory, Intel Haswell processors and Windows 8.1. I am hoping to get one of these units in for a review and to use it to evaluate the strong claims that Synaptics is making about its new touch technologies.
As a frequent user of Apple portable devices, the touch experience on them has always exceeded that of the Windows environment and I'm hopeful that we can finally level the playing field.
See the full CES Innovation award press release after the break!