Lenovo ThinkPad L480 First Impressions

ThinkPad L480 First Impressions

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.

More soon.


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Conversation 9 comments

  • Simard57

    02 June, 2018 - 1:01 pm

    <p>thank you for reviews of less than top of the line laptops. Many of us benefit from that often ignored segment</p><p><br></p>

  • KingNerdTheThird

    02 June, 2018 - 1:14 pm

    <p>I wish more reviews and first impressions would take photos from the perspective that you did. Those are the things I want to see when buying a PC </p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    02 June, 2018 - 1:16 pm

    <p>I had the L470 in my last job, a great piece of kit. I switched to a new job yesterday and I now have the T480. Both are excellent devices and, while the T-series thinner and slightly higher quality is, the L-series is a great device for everyday work.</p><p>The only problem I had was with the Thunderbolt 3 dock. The USB-C charging port is not the Thunderbolt port! It took me a bit of experimenting to find that out! The documentation wasn't very clear that I needed to use the other port, which is directly next to it! </p>

  • Daishi

    Premium Member
    03 June, 2018 - 8:03 am

    <p>"<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">AMD Radeon 530 graphics"</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Why do they even bother? That thing offers no measurable benefit over the standard integrated graphics on the CPU. All they're doing with is making it hotter and draining the battery faster.</span></p>

    • aThingOrTwo

      03 June, 2018 - 8:20 am

      <blockquote><a href="#280648"><em>In reply to Daishi:</em></a></blockquote><p>Can offer some benefit in combination with the integrated graphics (as opposed to just the integrated graphics alone) though?</p>

  • potzy1

    03 June, 2018 - 3:23 pm

    <p>I have a T470 for work, and it really is a great pc. If I had know about the L series I may have chosen this over a refurbed Surface Book. I want to reiterate that it is great you also review these mid-tier computers.</p>

  • IanYates82

    Premium Member
    04 June, 2018 - 6:30 am

    <p>Sounds like a nice machine. I've got a T570 with an i7 and 24GB of RAM. I'm very happy with it, although I'd like to have got the newer quad-core processors (they weren't out at the time).</p><p><br></p><p>Am wondering if you've had any trouble with</p><p>a) Wireless card; or</p><p>b) Bluetooth; or</p><p>c) Fingerprint reader</p><p><br></p><p>after updates to Windows 10 and the latest Lenovo drivers. That's been my biggest gripe about the machine – certain bits don't work at certain times 🙁 Never sure if it's Microsoft's fault or Lenovo's.</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      04 June, 2018 - 7:47 am

      <blockquote><a href="#280834"><em>In reply to IanYates82:</em></a></blockquote><p>I didn't have any problems with wireless or fingerprint on my L470 (i7, 16GB) or my T480 (i5, 8GB). They worked 100% – after applying the BIOS updates. The fingerprint reader did stop working in April for a week after the Windows updates, but Lenovo brought out a new BIOS update a week later and everything worked again. Might be worth looking to see if the latest BIOS/UEFI updates are installed.</p><p>I did have a slight problem with Bluetooth on the T480, it works fine, until I install the Logitech driver for my MX Master 2S mouse. With the driver installed, it pauses every few seconds for a second or so. Removed the driver and it works fine again… Not sure where the problem lies, the version of the Logitech driver I have on my home PC (Ryzen 7 1700, 32GB + Bluetooth USB adapter) works 100% reliably, not sure if it is a problem with the newer Logitech driver or a combination of the Bluetooth drivers on the Lenovo, together with the mouse driver.</p>

  • brock1234

    05 July, 2018 - 7:22 am

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