Before the rise of preternaturally thin and light Ultrabooks, Lenovo’s T-series laptops represented the state of the art in mobile computing. But is it possible we’ve lost something important in the move to ultra mobility? To find out, I’m evaluating the new Lenovo ThinkPad T450s, a blast from the computing past that may still very much have an important role to play.
Oddly, Lenovo bills the ThinkPad T450s as an Ultrabook, which probably says more about the ever-loosening Ultrabook “standard” than anything else. But make no mistake: The T450s is a business class laptop, not an Ultrabook. And while you may be quick to judge it on those merits alone, I’m going to ask you to sweep aside your preconceptions and consider a few salient facts.
First, where “true” Ultrabooks typical seal a battery in a very tight space, the T450s includes both an internal, non-removable battery and an externally accessible battery, the latter of which can be replaced—or augmented—with a bigger battery that both increases the battery life of the device and improves the typing angle. Yes, there’s a bump. But it’s a very useful bump: the rated 17 hours of battery life is nothing to sneeze at, people.
Surprisingly, the device’s weight—3.5 pounds, but surely closer to 4 pounds with the extra, larger battery—isn’t terrible either. I’ll travel with it to make sure, but I don’t think the T450s will pose much of an issue in a carry-on bag compared to, say, the HP Spectre x360 I’ve been using recently.
And where today’s Ultrabooks offer an ever-dwindling supply of ports (cough, new MacBook), the T450s provides a full array of expandability, none of which require special dongles or other doo-dads. This full-sized laptop provides three full-sized USB 3.0 ports, a micro-SIM drawer for broadband cellular capabilities, a full-sized SD card slot, full-sized gigabit Ethernet, a miniDisplayPort port, and even an old-school VGA port. With screw holes.
The body is classic ThinkPad, which means very high quality, but no one is claiming to have milled the case from a single piece of some exotic metal. Indeed, you can see the seams. But the spill-resistant keyboard is first-class—again, classic ThinkPad—and a step above the pedestrian island-style keyboards that are common today. Lenovo provides both the superior ThinkPad eraser-head nubbin—which I prefer—and a great trackpad with three real physical buttons. There’s also a fingerprint reader—which is optional—and a dedicated power button.
The screen is a 14-inch 1080p (1920 x 1080) multi-touch LED backlit unit with a matte finish that makes my heart almost flutter in this age of pointlessly glossy screens. As good, that 1080p resolution is perfect for the 14-inch panel, and you can even downsize it—again, be still my heart—to 1600 x 900 without touch, which many productivity workers will appreciate given Windows’s still-terrible support for super high resolutions. Whatever, I just love this screen. Matte should always be an option.
Also, the screen even lays flat, which can be useful if you just want to watch a movie on a crowded flight.
The specs are all middle of the road productivity standard, but bumped up a bit in the review unit. This device features a 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5-5300U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD, but you can save your money by customizing each. And on the low end, you can start off with a slightly less capable i5 (or go i7-5600U), 4 GB of RAM (up to 12 GB), and a 500 GB 7200 rpm HDD with a 16 GB micro SSD (up to a 512 GB SSD).
Pricing, alas, is not from the bargain bin, and looking over the various options I’m reminded that the ThinkPad T-series remains a premium product line. A basic T450s will set you back about $900, but configured like the review unit you’re looking at—gulp—a heady $1575. That’s too much, I think, but as I’d configure it—Intel Core i5-5200U, 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB SSD and a 1600 x 900 non-touch screen, you’re looking at a far more reasonable $1000. At that price, the T450s starts to look really interesting.
Indeed, the Lenovo ThinkPad T450s looks pretty interesting overall, and it makes me wonder anew about the maniac push towards ever more thin and light devices. All electronics are by nature a compromise of sorts, but it’s possible that PC makers have been compromising in the wrong places. Hm.
Tagged with Windows 8.1