With its latest T-series Ultrabook, Lenovo is blurring the line with its upscale X1-series more than ever before. This is no frumpy corporate laptop. Instead, the ThinkPad T460s is a thin, light and durable beauty.
But the big question here, oddly, is what you lose as the T-series gets ever more svelte. Consider my Lenovo ThinkPad T450s First Impressions from a year ago today, for example. In that article, I lauded the device’s dual batteries, one of which was removable. And it’s legacy VGA port, key for many corporate environments.
Neither feature is available in the T460s. Instead, we get a non-removable battery, as is common with most of today’s Ultrabooks (including the X1-series), though in this device it’s split into two internal batteries. And that VGA port has gone the way of the dodo, replaced with a more modern full-sized HDMI (plus a miniDisplayPort port, which was available last year as well).
But what we gain is perhaps more important. Because this year’s T-series picks up the design language Lenovo uses on the gorgeous X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga. And the result is a more attractive and premium design which Lenovo says retains the legendary toughness of its T-series predecessors thanks to its carbon fiber reinforced body with a magnesium alloy bottom.
In real world terms, the T460s is thinner and lighter than its predecessor and edging neatly into X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga territory. It weighs just 3.1 pounds, down from 3.5 for the T450s, and 2.8 pounds for the recently-released X1 Yoga.
It is also sleeker looking, with an X1-like wedge-shaped front-end, instead of the thicker, bulbous design of previous Ts. It is, in other words, much more like an Ultrabook than was the T450s.
The ThinkPad T460s is also powered by some more modern technologies, including of course a 6th generation Intel Core processor (codenamed Skylake) and a new “in-cell touch” LCD layer that helps reduce the thickness and weight of the display panel. Maximum RAM is doubled, to 24 GB. The fingerprint reader has been replaced with a more modern “finger press” unit (as opposed to a swipe). Plus that HDMI port.
Much about the T460s will seem familiar to T450s owners: The screen is still 14 inches, and can still be had in a productivity-focused anti-glare/matte design running at 1080p (1920 x 1080) or 1440p (2560 x 1440). It features 3 USB 3.0 ports, gigabit Ethernet, full-sized SD card, and SIM slots, in addition to the mDP and HDMI video-out solutions. And in a nod to its corporate customer base, the T460s features an old-school ThinkPad Dock connector on its bottom. (X1 series devices utilize a more modern OneLink+ docking port.)
As a ThinkPad, the T460s is of course provided with the vaunted ThinkPad keyboard, TrackPoint and touchpad. Indeed, they appear to be identical to the versions found on the X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga. Though, unlike the keyboard in the X1 Yoga, the T460s’ keyboard does not retract into its base because this device can lay flat, but not be folded backwards into a tent.
Put simply, Lenovo is making it harder than ever to choose between the T-series and the X-series. If you’re a ThinkPad fan, you may know that the “s”-class T-series devices are thinner and generally lighter than other T-series devices (where “s” stands for “slim”) and that you pay a premium for that for that differentiation. So the question here is how or whether the T460s sits comfortably betwen the “non-s” T460 and the X1 Carbon.
The T460s starts at $1089, which is $200 more than the starting price of the T460. The X1 Carbon, meanwhile, starts at $1269, while the X1 Yoga starts at $1549. So there’s your logical progression in pricing. (And note, too, that Lenovo always has some sale going on; you should never pay those actual prices.)
The review unit T460s works out to about $1450 (or $1300 at today’s sale prices). That’s for a 2.4 GHz Core i5-6300U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of SSD storage. Not cheap, but in the right range for a device of this quality. A similarly-equipped X1 Carbon would cost $1459/$1289ish, or about the same.
I’d get the X1 Carbon, frankly. But with the T460s, you get a few extras. That Ethernet port, for starters. The dual video out solutions. More RAM (the X1 Carbon hits 16 GB, max). And the optional SIM tray.
Battery life is also a big question, as always. Lenovo rates the T460s for “up to 10 hours of battery life,” or what it calls “all-day” battery life. But you can no longer bring along extra batteries, which was a key selling point of previous versions. Given the thinness of this design, real-world battery life is an open question.
So there’s always more to explore. I’ve got a few big trips coming up,and hope to put the ThinkPad T460s—and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga—through the wringer We’ll see how it performs in real life.