Price: 1200 USD +
When is a ThinkPad no longer a ThinkPad? As a fan of the brand I had to ask this question to write this review of the T490s. It looks and feels like a part, but the mainstream compromises can put off brand enthusiasts.
Here is what we like
- Classic Keyboard and TrackPoint
- Great Software
- Manual Shutter
19659018] Short Battery Life
With its unmistakable keyboard and TrackPoint mouse – not to mention the button-down look – no one will consider the T490 anything else as a member of the long-standing laptop family. However, by reducing its size and weight, Lenovo has also removed some features of the previous year's model, notably the SD card reader and built-in Ethernet port.
The result is a laptop more in common with mainstream thin computing. and lightweight models as the legendary line of Lenovo. These changes could appeal to the more conventional consumer. However, business travelers and frequent travelers (formerly the main market for the T series) will miss the flexibility and usefulness of last year's design. You will certainly miss the longer battery life of the older models with two batteries.
What It Looks Like
With a completely black magnesium alloy and carbon fiber case, the T490 is remarkably restrained in high-tech. Open it and you'll be greeted with the updated version of the classic ThinkPad chicklet-style keyboard (backlight optional). And of course there's the legendary TrackPoint mouse with its 3-button control cluster over a medium-sized trackpad. A fingerprint reader (standard, not optional) is located on the side.
Note the thinner bezels when the laptop is open. The webcam in our review unit is equipped with an optional infrared sensor for Windows Hello and similar security tools. The default 720p webcam has a manual shutter that you can move for reassurance. The 14-inch screen has a standard resolution of 1080p with only 250 nits of brightness – disappointing, but pretty normal for the T-series. A brighter, sharper screen is available as an upgrade, or you can opt for the multi-touch. The base screen is nice and dull, which is better for traveling. The speakers are surprisingly loud, but less than clear, as is the case with bottom-firing types.
The bezel and case are not tiny at all – certainly not in comparison to slimmer, more stylish laptops. The 0.63-inch machine weighs just 2.8 pounds, making it one of the lightest in the Lenovo range. It's just thin and thin enough to fit in my Peak Design shoulder bag designed for the 13-inch MacBook Pro. This is a significant improvement over previous members of the T4XXs family.
The Secret of Vanishing Ports
On the right side there is a single rectangular USB A port, a Kensington lock slot and a slot for a smart card reader. Most people will not even recognize it (the Reader Hardware was not available in our test device). On the left side is the bulk of the "port action". Two USB C ports are located so Lenovo's First Party Dock can access them. A standard USB-A (3.1) and HDMI connection and a combined microphone / headphone jack complete the offer. The 60-watt adapter can be powered by one of the two USB-C connectors.
What is this strange trapezoidal port clumsily clinging to the second USB C hole? Here you can attach an Ethernet adapter, as the housing is no longer suitable for a standard Ethernet cable. Last year's T480 had a neat sliding connection that collapsed when not in use. But the T490s can not take care of that, and you'll have to pay extra for the proprietary dongle adapter if you do not have a USB to Ethernet tool yet. Presumably, the proprietary port serves better dock compatibility.
Another notable gap in last year's revision is the full-size SD card slot. For most, this may seem like a trivial exclusion in times of incredibly powerful phone cameras. For me, however, the T490 on a conference trip makes it more cumbersome because the SD card slot is the fastest way to retrieve photos from the show floor of my mirrorless camera.
The T490 has a consolation prize in the form of a MicroSD card slot (or rather compartment), which is the only feature on the back of the device near the hinge. However, you will need a SIM extractor pin for this because the SIM card is also there when you upgrade it with an LTE radio. For SD or MicroSD, it's easiest to take an extra adapter – another dongle.
Our review unit has a generation 8 Core i5 processor, generous 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage space. Without further upgrades, Lenovo's online store costs $ 1,380 at the time of writing ($ 1,200 for the same processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage). However, the prices on the Lenovo website are always a bit flowing, thanks to constant coupons that can save hundreds of dollars from the slightly unbelievable list prices.
This is all a standard for the T-Series, and fans are ready to pay a premium for the rugged chassis and compatibility with the T490 Lenovo launches. However, it should be noted that Dell's highly regarded XPS 13 (certainly one of the models that Lenovo had in mind when it downsized this year's review) is priced at over $ 150. This with almost identical start data, a much brighter screen and a slightly slimmer, lighter construction. And if you do not mind making something bigger with a plastic or aluminum case, you'll find similar specifications in laptops that are hundreds of dollars cheaper.
However, the T490 did my usual job with composure. Intel's latest laptop processors can easily browse dozens of Chrome tabs and Photoshop projects. The internal fan will be activated only when more CPU-intensive things like YouTube videos are active. The fan runs at medium volume, but with so many fanless designs, you may notice more.
Upgrading to 16GB of RAM for a reasonable fee of $ 136 gave all these programs room to breathe. This is good since it is soldered into the motherboard and can not be upgraded unless you opt for an i7 processor. Entrepreneurs can access the M.2 SSD because the bottom of the case opens surprisingly easily with just five Phillips screws.
This laptop is not intended for intensive media creation, but can handle massive Photoshop documents with a little wait. It's also not intended for games, but I've installed Overwatch on a lark – a fairly tame title for modern graphic standards. At low picture settings and a resolution of 720p, the integrated UHD 620 GPU managed 30-50 frames per second. This means that only low-intensity 3D games can be used, even though every 2D game works fine.
No Long Hauls
The battery test was the part of this test that I was most interested in, as this is the first ThinkPad I ever since Lenovo got rid of the popular dual-battery system. This option had an internal 3-cell battery with another removable 3-cell battery or an extended 6-cell battery for a truly epic battery life. That's why my trusty old T450 is occasionally still on the road.
Like most ultra portables, the T490 only has an internal 3-cell battery (57 Wh). Like most ultra portables, it is not suitable for marathon work sessions. At 50 percent screen brightness, I have between six and a half to eight hours of battery life. However, my workflow is heavily dependent on the battery and RAM-eating Chrome browser. Still, I find Lenovo's claim "up to 20 hours of battery life" ridiculous.
To make up for this, the included 60-watt charger charges 80 percent of the battery in one hour. That's nice, but if you have the option, I'd rather deal with a bit more thickness and weight if this machine is more reliable when I'm not plugged in.
The soul is still burning
This review might sound like a series of nitpicks about a ThinkPad shoot for more sales with a more general design. (I admit, that disappoints me). However, the use for the work had some clear highlights.
The keyboard is solid as ever (important, considering how bad and unreliable Apple's MacBook keyboards have been lately). Being a certified keyboard snob traveling on a special mechanical board, this is no small praise.
I'm not a TrackPoint fan, but those who rely on this input system will find it familiar.
The software impressed me even more. Lenovo has removed most of the junk files that Microsoft has inexplicably stored in Windows 10. The only obvious "bloatware" I found was a 16 kilobyte link to Microsoft Solitaire. Allows you to quickly adjust the keyboard and replace the top row of function and hardware controls or the Fn and Ctrl buttons in the lower left corner. Previously, these options required immersion in the UEFI / BIOS control panel. You can also define the F12 key as a quick start, website, or key sequence macro. Impressive!
This comfortable, laser-focused work experience is undoubtedly attractive – just what ThinkPad buyers crave.
However, it is difficult to ignore the loss of port offerings and battery life compared to older models. Combined with the cost of the T490 compared to similarly equipped IdeaPad and other vendors, this is just a quiet recommendation for die-hard ThinkPad enthusiasts who need more portability than flexibility.
Price: $ 1200 +
What We Like
- Classic Keyboard and TrackPoint
- Great Software
- Manual Shutter  And what we do not
- ] Short battery life
- High price
- No SD card slot or Ethernet