It seems like Lenovo will update the ThinkPad line, adding new members this Spring.
User manuals for the new ThinkPad T431s and ThinkPad X230s are accessible on the Lenovo Chinese language website. They help reveal quite a bit about the expected Spring/Summer 2013 ThinkPad releases.
The current T430s will get updated by The ThinkPad T431s, a slimmed-down variant of the flagship T430. There aren’t specific internal specs revealed in the T431s user manual. Still, we can see form factor changes.
Based on the user manual design, the most notable feature appears to be the elimination of the dedicated mouse buttons associated with the TrackPoint. Instead, the buttons have gotten integrated into the touchpad. Even though this allows a generously-sized touchpad, what might annoy long-time users is the combined TrackPoint button approach, another change to the traditional ThinkPad layout.
The anticipated ThinkPad Helix also has the integrated button feature, but there’s no feedback on the comparison to the traditional buttons since it hasn’t hit the stores yet.
Another adjustment to the keyboard is the Function buttons. They will now primarily be media keys, just like on the MacBook. Now you’ll have to press the Fn+Esc key to turn on Function Lock or hold down Fn+ the function key you want if you need to use them as usual F1 – F12 keys for Windows and shortcuts. This new feature may be more useful for casual users; however, those who have used the Thinkpad for work purposes for decades might get unsettled by it.
As a result of the Fn keys’ media button purpose, the volume and mute buttons are gone. Just a few years back, Lenovo didn’t provide a touchpad on some ThinkPad models, whereas now it’s somehow ironic that the touchpad is becoming more crowded and taking up space.
Another new change worth noting is the hinge design. Same as the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, it uses the dropdown hinge. Ergo, this allows the screen to ride lower, useful for creating a lower clearance and a more comfortable fit on airplanes or when you’re lying down. However, since the hinges seem to be thinner, assumably, the screen won’t be able to open 180 degrees, as it could originally.
Also, it looks like there will be only one empty RAM slot for upgrades instead of the traditional two. That means the RAM will require separating the entire bottom of the laptop instead of just a door.
Another upcoming ThinkPad is The ThinkPad X230s, whose design is inspired by the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook.
It has a 12.5” screen, just like the typical X230. There seem to be the same changes as on the T431s—the integrated Trackpoint buttons, the dropdown small hinge design, and function buttons that act as media keys. And just like the edge series, the “i” letter in the lid Thinkpad lights up.
What we don’t know is whether the changes made for the X230s and T431s will also carry through to the other mainstream models expected later in the year. Maybe these designs are meant for the sleep Ultrabook-like models. I guess we’ll have to wait until the release of the mainstream enterprise models, or earlier, in case of other user manual leaks.