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Choosing a ThinkPad - Something for Everyone

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Manufacturer: Lenovo

A Diverse Lineup

ThinkPads have always been one of our favorite notebook brands here at PC Perspective. While there certainly has been some competition from well-designed portables such as the Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Pro 3, the ThinkPad line remains a solid choice for power users.

We had the chance to look at a lot of Lenovo's ThinkPad lineup for Broadwell, and as this generation comes to a close we decided to give a brief overview of the diversity available. Skylake-powered notebooks may be just on the horizon, but the comparisons of form factor and usability should remain mostly applicable into the next generation.

Within the same $1200-$1300 price range, Lenovo offers a myriad of portable machines with roughly the same hardware in vastly different form factors. 

First, let's take a look at the more standard ThinkPads.

Lenovo ThinkPad T450s

The ThinkPad T450s is my default recommendation for anyone looking for a notebook in the $1000+ range. Featuring a 14" 1080p display and an Intel Core i5-5300U processor, it will perform great for the majority of users. While you won't be using this machine for 3D Modeling or CAD/CAM applications, general productivity tasks will feel right at home here.

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Technically classified as an Ultrabook, the T450s won't exactly be turning any heads with it's thinness. Lenovo strikes a balance here, making the notebook as thin as possible at 0.83" while retaining features such as a gigabit Ethernet port, 3 USB 3.0 Ports, an SD card reader, and plenty of display connectivity with Mini DisplayPort and VGA.

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Continue reading our overview of the Lenovo ThinkPad lineup!!

The T450s also doesn't sacrifice industrial design for usability of the keyboard and trackpad, a common theme among the machines we are taking a look at today. You'll find the fantastic ThinkPad keyboard, which has an impressive amount of throw for a notebook and is surprisingly tactile. The stalwart TrackPoint nub is present, along with a solid feeling trackpad.

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Even though I love the input devices on the T450s, my favorite feature lays with the battery. Utilizing an integrated 3-cell (23 Whr) battery as well as an additional removable 3-cell battery standard with the option of a 6-cell (72 Whr) battery, this notebook will actually last all day. While some manufacturers claim all-day battery life to no avail, the insane amount of battery available in the T450s means it's actually achievable. The 6-cell battery also props the laptop up to provide a nice angle for working.

Specifications as Reviewed

  • Intel Core i5-5300U
  • 8GB DDR3L-1600
  • 128GB SATA SSD
  • 3-cell internal + 6-cell additional battery

Coming in at around $1350 at the specifications we looked at, this machine is a great value and should last the average user well into the future.

Lenovo ThinkPad X250

The ThinkPad X250 is akin to the smaller sibling of the T450s. Packing in most of the same features as the T450s, the X250 manages to do such in a significantly smaller form factor.

Built around a 12" 1080p display, the X250 is an impressive package for users looking for a more portable option. Personally I use a 12" laptop and I have fallen in love with the form factor and the possibilities it affords.

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You still get the same ThinkPad-style keyboard, although just a bit smaller at about 95% of the standard size. This is unnoticeable however when actually using the device. Maintaining the TrackPoint nub and the same trackpad as the T450s, this device is unmistakably identifiable as a ThinkPad.

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Despite the smaller size, the only feature you lose when compared to the T450s is a single USB 3.0 port. Gigabit Ethernet, as well as an SD Card reader, as well as Mini DisplayPort and VGA can all be found on the X250. You even retain the internal 3-cell battery and external 3-cell as well as the optional 6-cell battery.

Specifications as Reviewed

  • Intel Core i5-5300U
  • 8GB DDR3L-1600
  • 128GB SATA SSD
  • 3-cell internal + 6-cell additional battery

Currently selling at $1235 with the same configuration as our T450s, I highly recommend taking a look at the X250 if you are interested by an ultra portable notebook without sacrificing usability. 

Now that we've taken a look at the more standard ThinkPad options, let's look at some more niche form factors.

Video News


September 21, 2015 | 02:28 PM - Posted by KyonCoraeL

I used my Thinkpad T430s to work on intensive CAD/CAM work. Played most of Bioshock Infinite on it (albeit at low settings on 1600x900). I also had a 1 TB HDD and a 256 GB SSD in it as well. It is a beast. The only problem is that it has a 1600x900 TN panel and battery life is garbage. The newer laptops all have IPS displays. I am really jealous and I wish I had one of these new ones.

September 21, 2015 | 03:24 PM - Posted by nevzim (not verified)

Lenovo, if you listen, please stop using PWM to control screen brightness. I hate flicker. Other then this great laptops.

September 21, 2015 | 03:38 PM - Posted by Ken Addison

PWM flicker has never particularly bothered me when using a laptop, but it certainly is a pain when we are doing video of them. I'd love to see Lenovo move to DC-controlled backlights

September 21, 2015 | 07:50 PM - Posted by ashleyackley

For a moment I thought this was a throwback article. I guess they found a case and layout that worked!

September 21, 2015 | 09:51 PM - Posted by Drylock (not verified)

We use all of these models at my office. I agree that the T450s is the way to go for most people. It used to be the weight difference between the X and T series was closer to a pound. Now that it is more like half a pound the bigger screen is worth it in my opinion. If you want a tablet get the Yoga instead of the Helix. We actually discontinued them because they were such a nightmare. You should see what it takes to replace the battery in the keyboard dock!

September 22, 2015 | 01:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Do you know when laptops with iris pro 6200 will come out?

September 22, 2015 | 01:53 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

They're great, but buying from a Chinese company there's always that niggling suspicion you're getting Chinese government backdoors.
Of course you're already probably getting American ones from the CPU manufacturer, so I guess 'in for a penny, in for a yuan'.

September 22, 2015 | 04:52 PM - Posted by Anonymous75543 (not verified)

Avoid their TN panels, it's the only part of my Lenovo purchase I regret.

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