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:
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.
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.
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.
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.