ThinkPad T430 Vs. X230 Comparison, Choose Portability or Bigger Screen?


A common dilemma people arrive at when zeroing in on buying a ThinkPad for their mobile computing needs is whether to go with the highly portable X-series or slightly larger and heavier T-Series.  Right now that means you’re looking at either the ThinkPad X230 or T430 as options.  The 14-inch ThinkPad T430 is promoted as being mobile, which is certainly true, but when you put it next to the smaller 12.5” screen X230 it actually looks pretty large.  Besides the size, there are also some other feature differences that might make you lean towards one or the other, in this article we’ll attempt to cover all of the major differences between these two ThinkPads to help guide you in your buying decision.

Before we go much further, here are links to the two models being compared on Lenovo.com:

Screen Differences

 

T430 Vs. X230

In case it wasn’t already obvious, the major difference between the X230 and T430 is the screen size.  The X230 has a 12.5” screen while the T430 has 14” screen.  Both have a standard resolution of 1366 x 768 and matte finish if you choose the base model.  However, the T430 offers a higher resolution HD+ 1600 x 900 as a $50 upgrade option, I highly recommend choosing that resolution, the more you can fit on the screen the more productive you are.  The X230 does not offer a resolution upgrade, but instead offers a “Premium HD” screen for a $50 upgrade.  Lenovo doesn’t do enough to really explain on their site what this is, the Premium HD on the X230 screen is what’s called an IPS screen that has very wide viewing angles and accurate colors no matter what angle you view it from.  Again, if you choose the X230 you should definitely spend the extra $50 and go with this option, it’s a fantastic screen and a treat to view.

The question boils down to, what’s more important to you, the higher screen resolution of the T430 or the IPS screen of the X230?  At the end of the day I think the higher resolution will offer more productivity for business workers because you can view more of a document on the screen, such as a spreadsheet or web page, making for less scrolling and more productivity.  Same goes if you’re a programmer as well, the more code you can see on the screen the more productive you can be.  If you’re a “screen junky” and picky about colors and viewing angles, the X230 screen might hold more appeal for you even with the lower resolution.  People were hoping to see a higher resolution HD+ 1600 x 900  screen offered on the ThinkPad X-series but I have checked with Lenovo if this is coming and it is not.

Performance Differences

Many people assume that since the X230 is an ultraportable it uses an undervolted or a lower power processor.  This is not the case, in fact the processor choices are exactly the same between the X230 and T430, both can be configured with up to a Core i7-3520M 3.60GHz processor from the latest Intel Ivy Bridge lineup.  In fact, the only big difference between these two laptops is that you can get Nvidia Quadro 5400M dedicated graphics in the T430 but only Intel integrated graphics are offered in the X230.  The dedicated Nvidia Quadro 5400M card will only be of use to those using CAD type software that needs extra performance for 3D processing of polygons, it’s not powerful enough for serious gaming.  Most business users won’t need the dedicated graphics, but if you do it’s a consideration and one reason you might lean towards the T430.

I/O Port Selection Differences

The T430 and X230 are pretty similar in port selection, the only difference being you get one extra USB 2.0 port with the T430.  The sum total of ports for the T430 and X230 are as follows:

  • Mini DisplayPort with audio
  • VGA monitor out
  • Ethernet RJ-45
  • (2) USB 3.0
  • (1) Always on USB 2.0, (1) regular USB 2.0 (X230 does not have this)
  • (1) 3.5mm Combo Jack Headphone/MIC
  • (1) 4-in-1 SD Card Reader (SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC slot)
  • (1) Express Card 34mm
  • (1) Smart Card Reader (Optional)

If you want to expand the ports selection you can also get a docking station that fits both the X230 or T430 such as the Ultrabase Series 3.  Bottom line, unless you really care greatly about one extra USB 2.0 port, which some may, then again there’s not much difference.

Weight Difference

Here’s where things start to get pretty different between the X230 and T430, the ThinkPad T430 starting weight with a 6-cell battery is 4.78lbs while the X230 starting weight with a 6-cell battery is 3.3lbs.  You can actually get smaller 4-cell battery options to keep the weight down on both, but realistically most people will get the standard 6-cell as you actually have to go out of your way to get the smaller battery.  It’s hard to convey weight differences in writing using just numbers, but the near 1.5lbs of lighter weight that the X230 offers is definitely noticeable and meaningful.  If you’re carrying a laptop with one hand the X230 will be easy while the T430 will give you wrist ache after about 30 seconds – if you can even hold it with one hand in the first place.  If you’re travelling a lot and carrying a laptop in a bag, then the X230 will definitely hold more appeal.  If you’re mostly at a desk and rarely travel, the weight difference won’t be a big deal.

Size and Thickness Differences (Dimensions)

The X230 is obviously smaller than the T430, meaning it has a smaller footprint.  Here are the exact dimensions for both models:

  • X230 – 12.0” x 8.13” x 0.75” – 1.36” (width x depth x height)
  • T430 – 13.4” x 9.17” x 1.18 – 1.20” (width x depth x height)

The X230 is thinner at the front but actually about the same thickness at the back, so you’re not getting a huge win there.  However, the X230 is about 1.5” less wide and 1” less deep so the footprint is much smaller making it easier to use in small places such as an airplane tray.  Again, this is a meaningful difference if you’ll be travelling a lot or working in tight places.

Conclusion

Outside of the differences highlighted, the features and qualities of both these laptops are the same.  They use the same keyboard, build and design.  There are some internal skeleton differences between the T430 and X230, but for the average user that’s not going to matter, just rest assured both are very durable and are rigorously tested by Lenovo to ensure they’ll have a long life.

The decision between choosing which is right for you comes down to how mobile you are and how you work.  The X230 is obviously the winner if you value light weight, portable form factor and the color accuracy an IPS screen provides.  The T430 meanwhile offers the benefit of a higher resolution 1600 x 900 screen and dedicated graphics, both of which can be important considerations for certain users.  Neither model is “better” than the other, it just depends on your preferences and usage patterns.

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11 Responses to ThinkPad T430 Vs. X230 Comparison, Choose Portability or Bigger Screen?

  1. V. June 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    A very good comparison. IMHO, as a business user, the portability decides. I think it is also worth to add, that X230 has a much longer battery life.

    V.

    • Andrew Baxter June 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback! I tested the X230 and battery life was around six hours with the 6-cell, meanwhile I couldn’t dig up Lenovo’s quoted number for the T430 so can’t do a comparison there yet. I’m going to have the T430 by next week and can test battery life and add that info in at that time though!

  2. Gary June 15, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    Thanks for the comparison!

    here’s my couple of bits about displays, though… in some cases I think the screen’s physical dimensions is just as important as the resolution. Imagine 1080p on a 12.5″ display! If you were displaying everything at the same pixel to pixel scale as you would on a 23″ monitor, you would have a very hard time reading text!

    Also, I was considering the x230 or the t430 for my next machine but ended up ordering the t530 because I felt I would be more at home on the 15.6″ display coming from a 15.4″ laptop. I guess the machine you are coming from helps determine what’s comfy. If I was coming from a 13.3″ laptop, my choice may have been the x230.

    Also note the reductions in screen height with the change to 16:9 screens. I find that screen height is actually a major factor in how comfy a display is for individual tasks, with width facilitating multitasking. I used displaywars.com a lot to compare screens sizes, if you need a visual comparison tool.

    • Andrew Baxter June 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

      Good points Gary, vertical scroll is a pain for reading web pages or if you have a long spreadsheet / code window but the horizontal does help for document comparison and multi-tasking. Frankly I’m waiting for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, I think that’s going to be a nice “compromise” machine between these two.

  3. Lambros Petrou June 16, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Excellent comparison and the one I was looking for since I am between these two also. I guess since I value the resolution more than the color accuracy it’s T430 for me.

    I’m waiting for that battery life on the T430. Thanks

  4. Timothy June 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    Waiting for Dell Latitudes and if they don’t impress, I’m looking forward to purchasing my first Thinkpad notebooks. Hope you’ll cover the Latitudes.

    • Andrew Baxter June 17, 2012 at 1:34 am #

      I certainly plan to get my hands on at least one of the new Latitudes to compare to the current ThinkPads.

  5. Jonathan June 16, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    Thanks for another great comparison, Andrew!

    I’ll just add two things:

    Have you ever noticed on the home shopping shows how they sometimes hold up a 15-inch laptop with one hand, as if you could ever use it that way? It may be marketing hyperbole, but I find that with the X220, I can carry it in the crook of one arm and manipulate the Trackpoint with my other hand–kind of a poor-man’s iPad while walking from the kitchen to the living room. Can’t do that with a 14-incher! It’s also the reason I love the Trackpoint.

    But I must oppose consensus on screen resolution. I’m very nearsighted, and I just don’t like reading tiny text, even if it’s a 1080p 15-inch screen and the text is still perfectly clear. (The iPhone’s retina display does very little for me.) I did try it once on the X220, zooming out with two web pages side-by-side, and yes I can see the pixelation caused by the low resolution. But with my eyes, reading anything that small is torturous.

  6. fff June 17, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    “Imagine 1080p on a 12.5″ display!”

    No.
    I imagine having a 2400*1352 resolution on it.
    That would be the 220ppi they have on the new MBP now – and you know what?
    It’s completely usable and readable in native resolution.

    For us who work with lots of text or images/videos, there is no such thing as too much resolution. All those who claim that fonts would be unreadable, I call that bull****.
    You just use bigger sized fonts where necessary or scale the whole she-bang.
    And no, I don’t currently use macs at all. Neither windows, except in a virtual machine.

    • Andrew Baxter June 17, 2012 at 1:37 am #

      I don’t think Jonathan is 18 years old with 20/20 vision is what he’s saying. I don’t know his age, but I do know my 60 year old father can’t read my 1600 x 900 ThinkPad screen without my reading it to him, so for some the resolution is too much.

  7. John Councill June 21, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    I have an older model x201 and went through the same analysis when deciding on a system. I ended up with the x201 because I was going to use a 24″ external display while at home regardless of ThinkPad I was going to get but I wanted the portability while on the road. Hope this helps.

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