Lenovo T480: another solid ThinkPad laptop for professionals
Case and Internals
If you’ve ever used any other ThinkPad, then the T480 will feel right at home. The outside of the lid and back covers has a nice soft touch coating that is also in-line with the ThinkPad lineage. However, the finish picks up fingerprints pretty bad. The rest of the chassis is mostly plastic but doesn’t come off as cheap. The plastic casing has a strong construction and feels like it could take a beating around the office.
Internally, our review unit features some pretty high-end specs. There’s quite a powerhouse of silicon running the machine. The processor is the latest Intel Core i7-86500U paired with 16GB of RAM with Lenovo offering lesser i5 and less RAM to those who are more cost aware. Rounding off is options for SSD storage ranging from 128GB to 512GB.
This is where the ThinkPad T480 really shines. There’s a nice mix of legacy and current inputs on the laptop. To the left of the device, you’ll find a USB-C port that can be used for power, a Thunderbolt 3 docking port, and a Smart Card slot. Around the opposite side of the laptop are a headphone jack, 2 USB-A ports, full HDMI out, an ethernet port, SD card reader, and Kensington lock. It’s a nice mix of traditional ports and a little flare of new with the USB-C onboard on this model.
The display on the ThinkPad T480 is simply OK. It’s a 14″ Full HD screen with a 1920x1080 IPS panel. The matte screen has sufficient brightness but isn’t going to win out any of the new 4K capable models out there these days. Viewing angles are also pretty limited. You’ll want this bad boy directly in front of you when viewing media or typing up that long email.
Our review unit is chocked full of top-end hardware internals. Due to this, the laptop flies in general use. I see next to zero lag or hiccups while opening apps and performing normal tasks. The CPU kept up with web browsing and viewing online media exceptionally well. Which, honestly, isn’t surprising with the amount of horsepower inside the unit. I also did some video encoding of an old AVI movie file I had laying around and the T480 zipped through that as well. It was as good, if not better than my XPS 13 with similar specs but older CPU.
The rest of the performance will be attributed to the OS. I’m not going to do a full Windows 10 review here, but the Windows crowd that would most likely be shopping this laptop already know the basics from Microsoft. However, it’s would be worth noting if you’re a system admin that is still running Windows 7 environments expect a learning curve. While us nerds by not see the big deal, but if using the T480 as a corporate upgrade would be a noticeable difference to the average user.
I found the overall battery life of the T480 to be pretty great. I consistently got 8-9 hours out of my usage patterns. This puts it up there with most modern laptops and is awesome for the business professional that may not see a charger for their entire shift. Battery life is completely subjective to the practice of the user, but I don’t think many will come away disappointed in the endurance of the T480.
If the standard 3-cell 24 watt-hour doesn’t suit your needs, for another $30 you can more than double the capacity with a 6-cell 72 watt-hour extended battery. One thing that did bug me is that Lenovo has duplicated the battery monitor found in Windows with one of their own. I simply don’t understand the need for both to be present when I couldn’t find any compelling options that the Lenovo version offered over the Windows.
Keyboard and TrackPad
Let’s get to the main event around any Lenovo laptop. The keyboard that they have mastered over the years is here in all its glory! The travel and chiclet keys are a real joy to use, and if you’ve never used a traditional Lenovo keyboard, then you should. Dell has improved to a close second recently, but Lenovo still holds the crown of best laptop keys.
Other mainstays that are present are the TrackPoint eraser nub and the physical, top-button trackpad. Both are trademark Lenovo input devices. Personally, I don’t care much for the TrackPoint button, but many people find it more precise in making mouse movements. What I do like are the top-mounted buttons on the trackpad. This makes the travel time from the keyboard easier when making a selection in comparison to them being below the rest of the trackpad. I wish more manufacturers would make this modification.
I also found the travel of the trackpad lacking. I think it’s due to the plastic materials, but I found it to be “sticky” for lack of better description. My finger would not glide effortlessly across it as well as other top-tier laptops. I’m sure this is done to add to the military grade durability of the T480, but it took some getting used to over our review period.
Security and Windows Hello
Fingerprint scanners have been commonplace on phones for years now, but they still seem to be making there way to laptops. However, Lenovo has added one to the side of the keyboard on the T480. The biometric scanner works well and integrates with Windows Hello to unlock the laptop without the need for a password each time. One thing that doesn’t seem compatible with Hello is the webcam facial recognition. I’m not sure of the limitations here, but our review unit did not offer this feature.
Pros and Cons
The Lenovo ThinkPad T480 is another solid offering by Lenovo to fill a need in corporate America. With military grade build and a myriad of upgrade options, most businesses can find a unit that suits their needs. You can add RAM, drive space, and horsepower to hit the configuration you want. Pair the internals with one of the best keyboards available, and the most expansion ports you’ll see these days, you have quite the 14-inch laptop for the boardroom junkies. Pricing starts at $859 and a spec’d out model similar to our review unit hits the $2100 mark full retail.
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