ThinkPad E431 Hardware Review

Written 2015-01-06

Tags:CDROM Lenovo Intel ThinkPad 

The Display

Unless the display gamut can't be calibrated out, I'm not particularly picky, but the display resolution(1366x768) is a little low for a 14 inch laptop. The 15.6 inch's DPI would be unacceptable.

The Upgradeability

The upgradeability is great! You can move from a socketed low-end Sandy Bridge i3 all the way to a high end quad-core Ivy Bridge i7. However, the separate video chipset isn't socketed, so you're stuck with either what came on your motherboard or the integrated Intel integrated HD3000 or HD4000. With an Ivy Bridge chip, you can move from 1333MHz DDR3 to 1600MHz DDR3L. With two slots, you can seat between 1GB and 32GB, although 32GB seems to require and Ivy Bridge. Also, there's a dedicated M.2(NGFF) SSD socket for providing cache, in addition to the 2.5mm SATA 3(6gbps) port.

The Pointing Interfaces

The E431 provides a trackpad and IBM red-dot mouse. The red-dot mouse works exactly as expected, except that the mouse buttons usually located between spacebar and the trackpad are missing. This means reaching to the bottom of the trackpad, or leaving tap-to-click enabled.

I'm unsure what to think of the trackpad. It has both tap-to-click and depress-to-click. It reminds me of the early core-i macbooks, except someone forgot to disable tap-to-click. Luckily, it is highly configurable.


The CDROM is so bad it gets its own section. It starts with what I believe is some sort of nonstandard integrated tray. Once ejected, the tray flops around like a pancake, with at least a half-inch of slop. It is so loose I don't feel like I can insert a cd safely into it without holding the far end up with another hand.

The axle usually only engages one or two teeth. The solution here is to spin the disk, and if it scratches itself on the tray, you need to take it out and try again.

When running, it shakes my coffee table so hard that the my X60's LCD shakes.

Overall, optical disks will be dead once everyone has fast enough internet; I only need this one to reinstall windows.

Hard Drive Tray

Another design anomaly is that the hard disk tray is mostly clear plastic. Also, the plastic comes glued to the disk.

Also, the scant bits of metal on the hard drive tray are barely grounded by two strips of EMI cloth that appear to be added as an afterthought. The metal of the tray directly drags on the EMI cloth, which will likely wear it or the underlying glue out after a handful of insertions. Lenovo even has a note about this.

Finally, the difference between the 7mm disk and 9.5mm disk slot is spent with three pieces of foam. This is a neat idea, and the only improvement I could think of would be EMI foam to better conduct and disk heat to the metal on the other side of the bay. The foam also may cut down on noise, although it will be hard to replace if ever removed, although some disk manufacturers ship a thin matching shim with their disks that serves the same purpose.


I'm not particularly enthused with the build quality - there's a distinct lack of IBM sheet-metal making up the case - more like a Toshiba than my previous IBM ThinkPad. Also, the bloatware is strong with this one, but the price was right, and I know I can drop in a newer quad-core if it ever bogs down. Mousability is my only remaining serious concern.