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Windows 7 Pro Review for Lenovo T400 (w/ Switchable Graphics)

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Introduction:

I have owned a Lenovo T400 for over a year and, while I am very happy with the laptop, the fact that it uses Windows Vista Business (x64) has been somewhat of a sticking point. See, Vista has always seemed a bit sluggish to me on the device and I never felt like my 4gb of ram was letting the T400 shine. There are certainly a number of improvements Vista makes over XP that made the switch worthwhile, but the performance cost always irritated me.

After the release of Windows 7 Beta, I was pumped to get the chance to try out Microsoft's new offering. But because Lenovo T400s use switchable graphics, there was no compatible drivers that would let me take advantage of the power savings of the feature. But now I am happily going full blast with Lenovo's BETA drivers for all the system components (e.g. Video drivers, fingerprint reader, etc.): http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/WIN7-BETA.html

Specific Drivers and Applications Installed:

Thinkpad Switchable Graphics: Assuming you have a T400 that is set up with discrete graphics (typically an ATI 3470), be sure to download the Switchable Graphics driver for x32-x64 (both use the same binary). This is probably the single best way to increase your battery life. If you don't install the driver, Windows is likely to default to the discrete (see: power hungry) card. By installing the switchable graphics driver, you system will have the opportunity to use the Intel chipset when not doing intensive tasks. Do note, though, that you must manually switch between the two card types in Lenovo's Power Manager. I had no problems getting this installed right out of the gate.

Thinkpad Power Management Driver + Power Manager: These downloads are another must-have. Basically it's Lenovo's proprietary tools to let you define power profiles during different tasks. Plugged into an AC outlet? Your system can go full bore with discrete graphics and full-throttle CPU. Packing up for a road-warrior weekend? Your system will use Intel's onboard chipset and slow down the CPU to minimize power consumption. This is also the tool that installs the battery icon onto your start menu. NOTE: Unfortunately I did have to install this item twice. For one reason or another, the install failed the first time but completed installation. Then, upon starting the application, I got all sorts of errors. Repairing the installation, though, worked fine and it has been great ever since.

Lenovo Fingerprint Software Authentec: Finally, I installed the fingerprint reader on my system. This is another amazing tool that I use every day to log in. What I like in particular about this driver is just that, it's only a driver. In my Vista installation, I also had a tool that asked me constantly whether I wanted to save passwords to my fingerprint profile. It was more annoying than useful because almost any time I went to a web page that required a password, it would ask me if I wanted to save it to my master profile. Now I use the fingerprint reader just to sign onto my windows account. Some may see this as reduced functionality, but I think its made my life a little easier during everyday computing.


These are the only three drivers I needed to install to get Windows 7 to recognize all the devices on the system. Depending on what wireless network card you have installed, you may also need to update your system with a few more packages. The drivers above are what I would consider the minimum downloads for a successful migration to Windows 7. While I don't use my laptop for business very often, I would say that the stability of the drivers, BETA as they may be, are second to none. In fact, I would consider them more production-ready than what was released for Vista.

General Windows 7 Opinions and Conclusion

Now I have been happily running Windows 7 Professional for almost a month with a much snappier and responsive UI, and more intuitive interface elements. I especially like the jump lists in Zune/Office/IE and the download status bar for file and web transfers (Credit to TTC Shelbyville blog for the picture)

 file-transfer.png

I am not going to give any more explanation of why Windows 7 is a winner. There are already hundreds of similar articles out there explaining that opinion. However, I will say that Windows 7 is a welcome addition to Lenovo's line of Thinkpads that were lacking proper drivers to take advantage of the new operating system.

Excellent job by microsoft and excellent job by Lenovo getting drivers out there. Please feel free to leave any comments on your experience with Lenovo's Windows 7 drivers!

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