Did you know that you can pick up a Lenovo T420 for next to nothing used? Now you may be wondering why you would want to pick up this old and clunky laptop! Here are my reasons for getting one.
I have always been an IBM fan; hence, I am still holding on to my IBM R40 laptop and use it for lab purposes. IBM made robust computers and laptops in the early 2000s. Although IBM sold off their business to Lenovo in 2005, their reputation and reliability are still well known among older computer geeks.
Being an older computer geek myself, and when I saw the listing for this Lenovo T420, I just had to have it. The price was too reasonable to pass up. Price wasn’t the only factor that made me get it. I also knew its potential. I knew I could throw out that spinning hard drive for an SSD (Solid State Drive). I knew it was just an all-around functional machine for work or school purposes.
Ahh and the Keyboard! There is nothing out there, quite like it! I would say the Lenovo T420 Keyboard even beats out the Apple keyboards. Lenovo T420 laptops were the last line up to inherit the IBM version of the Keyboard. So if you want a taste of the IBM quality, this would be the laptop to purchase! The newer line-up of Lenovo laptops completely revamped the Keyboard for the worst!
Lenovo T420 Specifications & Variants
You can pick up the T420 in two different hardware configurations. The ones I have seen come in the following configurations.
Processor: 2.50 GHZ Intel Core i5-2520M
Memory: DDR3 PC3-12800/10700 (Maximum Supported DDR3 Memory is 16 GB)
Display: 14″ (1600X900 Maximum Resolution)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000
The second popular one includes the i7-2640M processor running at a slightly faster clock speed of 2.80 GHz. The T420 with the i7 processor is also the variant I own. Here is a quick screenshot I’ve taken from CPU-Z.
Some of them also come with the optional Nvidia NVS 4200M discrete graphics along with the Intel 3000 Graphics card. The “Optimus Mode” in the (BIOS) allows graphics switching when the extra power is needed. The performance difference between the two graphics cards is 20 percent.
Other Capabilities/Specs Include:
- 1 Express Card 34mm, 5 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 DisplayPort, Thinkpad Modem Adapter Modem, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, 1 Docking Station Port
- Audio Connections – 1 audio – headphone/microphone – mini-phone 3.5mm
- Card Reader – 4in1: SD, MM, SDHC, SDXC, 1 Fingerprint Reader
- Gigabit Ethernet
- Wireless NIC Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205
- Weight: 3.75 LBs
T420 Laptop Upgrades
The reason why you would want to get this beautiful laptop is to bring it to today’s speed and standards quite affordably. Now don’t get me wrong, this laptop is quite speedy and functional even if you don’t upgrade a thing on it. But upgrades can really bring this laptop to face even the 21st Century.
Solid State Drive (SSD) Upgrade
So the first thing you would want to do is invest in an SSD (Solid State Drive). Solid State hard drives have no moving parts and they substantially increase your laptops performance. They can literally breathe new life into an old machine. SSD hard drives have dropped in price quite a bit, and you can pick one up for cheap on Amazon.
The above (SSD) is what I have purchased for my T420, and the installation was a breeze. I did not have to get any special adapters/caddy to mount it. I swapped the old hard drive for this new Solid State Drive & used the same mounting brackets.
Second Hard Drive Addition
Now that you have a Solid State Hard Drive (SSD), you may be wondering what to do with the old hard drive that came with the machine. Don’t throw it away or sell it! you can actually pick up an UltraBay hard drive caddy as shown below and mount your old hard drive in it! If you don’t want to do that, you can also add a second (SSD) to the laptop. (This is kind of a best-kept secret still, many don’t know that it even exists!)
It does not fit your 9.5mm high T420s, T430s laptop models.
Upgrade to an (IPS) Display Panel
As one of my readers pointed out in the comments below, you can also upgrade the T420 (TN) panel to an (IPS) panel which will give you awesome image quality from all viewing angles. Here is the display kit that you would need to purchase to make this happen.
FHD Upgrade Kit for Thinkpad T420/T430
Lenovo T420 Quad-Core Processor Upgrade
Unlike today’s slimline of (anorexic looking) laptops, the T420 (CPU) is very upgradable. You could even today upgrade this T420 to a Quad-Core processor if you want.
Please remember, if you are upgrading Your T420 to a Quad-Core, you will also need to purchase a 90 Watt power adapter.
Some of the possible Quad-Core processor upgrades for your T420 are as follows: 2860qm, 2820qm, 2760qm, 2720qm and the 2630qm.
I will personally stick with the 2630qm version if you are concerned about thermals, with a suitable thermal compound it should keep you close to the stock processor temps.
Below is an excellent video showing the T420 Quad Core upgrade step by step, if you are interested.
Lenovo T420 Real World Usability
A laptop is only as good as the jobs it can handle. That being said, the T420 holds up pretty well in routine tasks, including any type of web browsing, financial management, school work, blogging, standard graphics work, etc. The T420 may not be for you if you are heavily into video editing, gaming and other graphic design work that takes a toll on the CPU. Even if the CPU can keep up, you may be limited by thermal throttling.
Lenovo T420 Windows 10 Drivers
If you already have the T420 and you have just upgraded to Windows 10, you may be missing a few drivers under device manager in Windows. I don’t know about you, but I hate seeing those missing device driver icons even if it is something I don’t even use. Here are the Lenovo T420 Windows 10 drivers you are most likely missing.
Latest T420 BIOS (if you need it)
The only upgrades I’ve made to my Lenovo T420 is the (SSD) upgrade as well the 2nd hard drive addition or a total of $70 in upgrades. I am quite happy with this machine so far hence I am typing up this article on it! If you own older ThinkPad/IBM models I would love to hear about it. Comment below with the model of the IBM/Lenovo laptop you own, details of your usage and what you like/dislike about them.
Thank you for putting this together – the ThinkPad T420 really is a very capable computer.
I hesitate to be “that guy” but there are a few typos and inaccuracies you might want to address:
1. The maximum supported memory of the T420 is actually 16GB (2x8GB). The official maximum published by Lenovo was 8GB (2x4GB) before 8GB modules were available for testing.
2. The display resolution for HD+ models is 1600 x 900, not 1600 x 700.
3. “… upgrades can really bring this laptop to face even the 22nd Century” – I think you mean 21st century. The 22nd century doesn’t begin until the year 2101 when the T420 will likely be quite obsolete.
4. The NVIDIA models of the T420 can be set to “NVIDIA Optimus” mode in the BIOS, not “Optimum”
5. The plural form of SSD or CPU doesn’t use an apostrophe.
Just some gentle suggestions from a crotchety retired English teacher.
thank you very much for your input! I love the fact that you took the time to find these corrections. I will make these changes to the article immediately.
I was also wondering why the resolution on mine shows 1600×700 in windows 10 as the max setting? Also is it possible to upgrade the display panel to let’s say an IPS?
You’re very welcome!
I’m not sure why Windows 10 would be showing 1600×700 as the max setting.
There may be some odd configuration issue as the native resolution for the HD+ panel is definitely 1600×900.
There are IPS FHD (1920×1080) upgrade kits for the T420 discussed here
wow awesome, thank you! I may just pick up one of those!
The Thinkpad T420 can be setup to use only the Intel GPU only in the bios. I would install an SSD though maybe not be the fastest but faster than a HDD.
I just discovered your article about T420.
I onw one, and the only thing that does not work under Windows 10 is the Camera.
I searched for a driver for long but did not find one.
Do you know of any driver that would fix the problem?
Hi Michel, I am curious to know how you found this article?
For the T420 I didn’t have to install a driver for the camera, it was automatically picked up by Windows 10 update. I think your issue may be one of these three things.
1. camera is not enabled in the bios (use f1 key during the Lenovo logo on startup to access bios and enable it there)
2. not the right driver or no driver at all
A. (try this step first, go to device manager>Imaging Device>Integrated Camera>Update driver>Browse my computer for driver software>Let me pick from a list of device driver > select USB video device then continue to update the driver)
B. Download and try this driver Lenovo T420 Camera Driver
open the setup file and extract it > default location is C:\DRIVERS\Camera
Go to windows device manager > right click on the device > update driver > Browse my computer for driver software > Let me pick from a list of available drivers > Have Disk
Copy driver files from C:\DRIVERS\CAMERA\N29CA04W (default location)
Realtek -> Integrated Camera (may have to do some trial and error)
Update driver warning [Yes]
Ty the camera using windows built-in camera app & a third-party app.
3. camera is physically broken (maybe the case after 1 and 2 checks out, if so you can find the part on eBay)
Hi, I also own T420 with same specs as your. I planned to upgrade it to Windows 10 recently and it pick all driver once windows update is completed, except for Bluetooth driver.
Speakers sounds bit low and I am not able to connect Bluetooth speaker because of missing Bluetooth driver.
Appreciate if anyone can help about it. Thanks
for me I’ve had all of the drivers set up for any device on the laptop, however, I no longer have this laptop and I am unable to verify. You can try reinstalling the Bluetooth drivers provided here. Another option is to download the automatic driver detection tool provided by Lenovo on the same page. Also, try going to the device manager then right-clicking on the device with the missing drivers and search windows update for drivers.
If all fails, you can pick up a cheap Bluetooth Dongle, which works great.
Thanks and good luck!
Thank you for this, it does indeed hold its own against much newer laptops.
Just one question – Will the Fingerprint reader to work on Windows 10? Will it simply work or is there a long process to go through?
you are welcome! you may have to download the Lenovo fingerprint software and configure it first in Windows 10, the fingerprint scanner itself is not perfect as hardware technology has come a long way since then.