Lenovo’s new generation ThinkPad L-series provides an inexpensive way to experience the lineup’s legendary quality and design. I’m reviewing the L480, which is the 14-inch entry.
The ThinkPad L480 starts at just $780, but you can get the 13-inch version, the L380 for as little as $610. A 15-inch L580 starts at an also-reasonable $770.
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These prices are about half the cost of a typical ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which is perennially one of my highest-rated portable PCs and a personal favorite. So clearly, something has to give.
And sure enough, some corners are cut here. The device is thick at .78 inches, like a laptop, and the cover is plastic, not carbon fiber as on the X1 series. It’s a bit heavy if you’re used to svelte Ultrabooks, at about 3.5 pounds.
But that expected ThinkPad quality is clearly evident nonetheless. That special something. And that raises another question: What makes a ThinkPad a ThinkPad?
There’s the design, of course: The ThinkPad L480 is indelibly and obviously a ThinkPad from the first glance, with its classic matte black style. It provides the well-regarded and now-classic scalloped keyboard. The dual-pointing system, with both touchpad and Trackpoint options.
And let’s not forget the excellent fingerprint reader.
Too, the internal components are modern and capable of attacking any productivity task. The review unit is packing a quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of PCIe-based SSD storage. But you can configure an L480 with a Core i7 processor, up to 32 GB of RAM, and up to 1 TB of storage. You can even opt-in to discrete AMD Radeon 530 graphics.
The expansion options are likewise exactly what you’d expect from a full-sized business-class laptop here in 2018: Two USB-C ports, two full-sized USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized HDMI-out, and a micro-SD card reader. (The 15-inch version adds a VGA-out port, too. Yes, really.)
Connectivity is excellent, as well: You get a full-sized Ethernet port, a rarity in this age of ultra-thin Ultrabooks, plus Intel dual-band Wireless-AC, Bluetooth 4.2, and optional LTE-Advanced.
The display is adequate: It’s a bezel-tastic 1080p display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. It does lay flat, which I like, and optionally provide multi-touch capabilities if you want that.
But this is, of course, what the typical productivity user expects, especially at this price range.
And on that note, this PC is much like the Lenovo Flex 6 (14″) that I’m also evaluating. It hits at what I see as the sweet spot of the market, where value and functionality hit a crucial crossroads. And it’s the type of PC I would likely spend my own money on.