Few ThinkPads have such a strange line-up as what made up the T430 family. It contained several machines that prior to it and after that were unique. Out of all of the modern T400 series, there are more unique models in this era than any other. It seems like a lot of experimentation was happening during this time and that seems to line up with all of the different features, and chassis variants that we see in the T430 lineup.
Let’s unpack what is on the table. The following models make up the line:
- T530 (Honourable mention as it is the same generation)
As you can see, some normal contenders like the T430 and T530 make up the 14″ and 15″ models respectively. The T430s was also a common sight since the T400 introduced the “s” suffix to the T series. However, the T431s and T430u are exceptionally unique, both in how common they are and what they brought in terms of design to ThinkPad.
Possibly one of the most loved ThinkPads of the 2010s, this ThinkPad was one of the last ones that allowed you to upgrade the CPU and other key components. It would inherit most of its design elements from the T420 with the exception of the newer style keyboard replacing the classic seven-row. The x30 series also came equipped with both the ThinkLight and the new backlit keyboard option, being the only generation to feature both on one machine. The T430 was the only of the family with the exception of the T530 to be socketed for the CPU allowing for easier upgrades. This caused quite a ruckus among some fans of the 7-row, but ultimately it prevailed. To learn more, check out this article and the video below:
The T430s is a lighter and slimmer version of the standard T430. It had less in common with its bigger, more modular brother. Battery life was a bit of a challenge since it maxed out at 44Wh. The machine thankfully can take an UltraBay Slim battery to help with the battery life. It also featured a carbon-fibre-hybrid lid with a magnesium base and roll cage to help with durability. As I mentioned above, the “s” suffix all started with the T400s which has a lot in common visually with the X300 and X301 right down to the battery construction and placement and port selection. While I have featured the X300 and X301 in Project Kodachi, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing a T400s.
Probably the most controversial model in the T430 family, this machine introduced several changes that would be loved by some and vilified by others. The complete redesign reportedly took about nine months to complete. It was released after the T430u and was the thinnest in the T series lineup to that point. It removed the ThinkLight, introduced a new keyboard layout, introduced the ClickPad with the integrated TrackPoint buttons, only one RAM slot and overall had the beginnings of the design that the T440 and onward would take. With one RAM slot, 12GB is the maximum RAM possible on these machines. Web cameras, fingerprint readers and backlit keyboards were also optional. It is worth noting that the T431s and T430u listed below are the only two machines that do not have support for the 1vyrain BIOS mod. Like the T430u, it also sports an internal battery pack and no Optical Drive Bay.
If the T431s was a leap into the unknown the T430u was the frontier before it. While it had many new features, it maintained just as many but with slight tweaks and variations. For example, it still has a ThinkLight, but one, unlike any other ThinkPad. It has no backlit keyboard option at all. Like the T431s it had no display hooks. It also had no docking port, optical drive or traditional roll cage found on the T430. One of my favourite features has to be the removable base plate. It is also the first T series that featured an aluminum display lid. It had a larger ClickPad than the other T series devices of the era.
Of course, the T530 is the 15-inch version of the same era, but it has more in common with the W530 than the T430 series. It even shares the same Hardware Maintenance Manual with the W530 and T530i.