Thanks to a 2.4-GHz Core i5-processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 320 GB, 7200-rpm hard drive, the ThinkPad L420 notched a good score of 7,354 in PCMark Vantage, which measures overall system performance.
The ThinkPad L420 also proved snappy on our File Transfer Test, which entails copying 4.97GB of mixed media.
With integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics under the hood, the L420 turned in a score of 3,779 in 3DMark06, a benchmark that measures graphics performance. That’s above the category average of 3,328.
Our configuration of the L420 ships with a 2.4-GHz Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 320 GB, 7200-rpm hard drive, Intel HD 3000 graphics, and a 14.1-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel display.
Like most ThinkPads, the L420 features a simple, all-black design. The only pops of color are the red TrackPoint, which sits between the G and H keys, and a red stripe on the touchpad’s left and right buttons. Along either side of the keyboard you’ll find buttons for volume and mic controls and green indicator lights. The lid lacks the soft-touch finish of pricier ThinkPads; instead, it’s a plain matte treatment. At least it doesn’t pick up fingerprints.
Weighing 5.2 pounds and measuring 13.5 x 9.2 x 1.3 inches, the ThinkPad L420 is just a bit lighter and thinner than the Fujitsu Lifebook S751 (5.4 pounds, 13.4 x 9.7 x 1.4 inches) and the Latitude E6420 (6.2 pounds, 13.9 x 10.3 x 1.3 inches), the latter of which has a nine-cell battery. However, the Toshiba Tecra R840 (4.6 pounds, 13.4 x 9.4 x 0.8-1.1 inches) boasts a slimmer profile and is easier to carry.
Lenovo says the L420, along with the L520, was constructed with durability in mind. Business-rugged features include new metal hinges and the Active Protection System, which parks the hard drive in the event of a drop. While not fully rugged, the L420 meets eight military specifications for withstanding high and low temperatures, dust, and other extreme conditions.
The L420 is also equipped with a spill-resistant keyboard, which Lenovo rates to withstand up to an ounce of water. These features are comparable to what’s offered by Dell and HP. Other business-friendly features include an integrated fingerprint reader, which lets you log into the notebook in an extra-secure way; TPM; BIOS port locking; and an optional smart card reader.
In addition to providing security tools to put users’ minds at ease, Lenovo adds a dash of environmental consciousness to the L420. Along with the L520, the notebook features the highest amount of post-consumer recycled materials of any products from the ThinkPad line. It’s also designed to consume less energy (thanks to a new thermal design) and even boasts an ENERGY STAR certification and an EPEAT Gold rating.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Lenovo is known for its springy, responsive keyboards, and the L420 is no exception. During our hands-on time with the notebook, we enjoyed strong tactile feedback and were able to type this review at a brisk pace with few mistakes. On the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we achieved our typical score of 65 words per minute with a 3-percent error rate.
The ThinkPad L420 features a TrackPoint pointing stick (located between the G and H keys) and a textured touchpad. The pointing stick provides an accurate way of navigating the desktop, and, of the four brands who offer one–Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba–Lenovo’s is the easiest to use. The L420’s 3 x 1.75-inch touchpad proved responsive and accurate when using a single finger, but multitouch was another matter. We had to try several times before we could get the touchpad to register pinch-to-zoom gestures.
Display and Audio
With a 14-inch 1366 x 768-pixel matte screen, the ThinkPad L420 offers fairly good image quality. When we streamed an episode of Parks and Recreation on Hulu, the display delivered accurate, if not overly rich, colors. Viewing angles were acceptable but not stellar; images faded when we moved less than 90 degrees to the left or right of center. The 220-nit display is also anti-glare; this came in handy when we tried streaming Hulu clips near a window on a sunny day, allowing us to see the screen without any bright reflections.
The L420’s speakers, located directly below the display, failed to impress. When we played “Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack, the audio sounded slightly muffled, and the bass-heavy “Sick” by SALEM lacked depth when we streamed it on Last.fm. At 100-percent volume, the L420’s speakers still didn’t pack much punch; even in a small room, we were left wanting more.
Ports and Webcam
Since Lenovo bills the L420 as a business-friendly notebook, it equips the notebook with a strong array of ports. Along the left side of the machine, you’ll find VGA Out, Ethernet, a combo USB 2.0/eSATA port, DisplayPort, and a headphone and mic jack. The right side features a multicard slot and two USB 2.0 ports. The back of the notebook houses a powered USB port, and a docking connector is located on the bottom of the machine. While Lenovo covers the basics, HDMI is missing, and there is no USB 3.0 on board.
The L420’s 720p webcam captured noise-free but washed-out images when we conducted a Skype call in a brightly lit office. Our friend said our image was clear and she didn’t detect any blurring when we moved around. We could hear each other clearly, and didn’t notice any interfering background noise.