The Lenovo ThinkPad T450s Review: Bridging The Ultrabookby Brett Howse on September 15, 2015 8:00 AM EST
It is hard to mistake a ThinkPad. They have had a consistent look, and it has served the brand well. At CES in January, Lenovo showed off the 100 millionth ThinkPad, and the brand has always carried a consistent understated look. The T450s does not differ in this regard, and carries the familiar matte black exterior and ThinkPad logo on the lid. The T450s is a 14-inch model just like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon but unlike the X1 it has a thicker body with squared off sides. It is a couple of millimeters thicker than the X1 Carbon and tips the scales at about 3.5 lbs.
The slightly thicker dimensions make a big difference in a couple of features with the T450s. Unlike the X1 Carbon, there is just barely enough room for a RJ-45 port for wired networking, which is very important in a lot of business scenarios. The X1 Carbon has built in wired networking as well but requires a dongle to access it. There is a full assortment of connectivity options, and the T450s includes a docking port for use with the optional ThinkPad Ultra Dock, which offers a large selection of connectivity options, display outputs, and USB.
ThinkPad Docking Port (Bottom)
The biggest benefit to the thicker chassis though is extra travel possible in the keyboard. The ThinkPad brand is well known for their keyboards, and the one fitted to the T450s is really a great one. Key presses are firm and the extra travel makes for a pretty fantastic typing experience. It is likely the best laptop keyboard that I have had the pleasure to use, and with the move to thinner and thinner devices it is great to see one that leverages a thicker design to give a better experience.
As a ThinkPad, it also includes the TrackPoint in the keyboard. This is certainly a love it or hate it concept, but I personally find the TrackPoint to be a much more accurate way to navigate, and you do not have to remove your fingers from the keys to do the navigation. The 2015 ThinkPad models have also returned to actual buttons for the TrackPoint which is going to please a lot of fans. For those that prefer a track pad, the T450s has a very nice one of these as well, but unlike the TrackPoint there are no dedicated buttons for it. You can of course turn to the physical buttons at the top for the TrackPoint as well but it is designed as a clickpad and works well. The ThinkPad T450s really nails down input, offering a fantastic keyboard, the TrackPoint, and a good clickpad. If you are someone who does a lot of typing, this notebook would certainly be one to consider on that point alone.
Normally I don’t dedicate much of the review to the underside of a notebook, because generally there’s not much to say. That’s not the case on the T450s though. Here is where we see Lenovo’s Power Bridge technology in action. At the back of the notebook is the half size removable battery, and it can easily be removed and replaced with another one without having to power down the laptop. We’ll dig into this more in the battery life section. The battery is nestled in close to the docking port and has two latches to remove it and slide in a new battery.
Rear Battery and removal latch
Lenovo brands the ThinkPad T450s an Ultrabook, and it is maybe not as thin and light as most Ultrabooks, but the design itself should not be a detraction because they have not gone as slim and light as something like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. In fact, by providing a slightly bigger laptop, you gain a lot of advantages that we have kind of lost over the years, including an Ethernet port, and the ability to fit a very good keyboard inside. The design is very much ThinkPad, and people who like the matte black conservative look should really like the T450s. The thin bezels make the T450s feel more like a 13-inch notebook which is nice The integrated fingerprint reader makes login a breeze, and will work with Windows 10’s Hello feature.
Despite the ThinkPad X1 Carbon being what I would consider Lenovo’s flagship ThinkPad, I really like the T450s because of the keyboard, but really the Power Bridge adds the capability to have unlimited battery life (assuming you have enough batteries). A full dock makes this work with a more traditional docking station unlike the X1 Carbon which needs to be connected with a dongle.
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Flunk - Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - linkI kinda wish it was available with Iris Pro. I don't expect an Ultrabook to really be good at gaming but being able to play the occasional game would be nice.
DanNeely - Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - linkSeeing this display used in a higher performing laptop would be nice; but a 47W processor isn't going to be usable in a chassis designed for a 15W one.
fokka - Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - linki think he means the normal iris, like some macbook air are using, i think it's the Uxx50 line. those have double the EUs, but lack the EDRAM of iris pro.
DanNeely - Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - linkHaswell/Broadwell didn't use non-pro Iris nomenclature for anything below 28W; which would again be too hot for the current XPS13 chassis. Skylake is adding something called Iris 540 which has 48 EU and 64MB eDRAM and is available at a 15W TDP. It's possible Dell will include this as an option for the skylake refresh; I can't find any detailed rumors about it. Iris 550 (again not pro) is the same hardware at 28W. No skylake chips with Iris Pro are out yet; but since it's 72 EU and 64/128mb eDram; I suspect it'll be only at the 47W tdp again.
I'm somewhat interested in the possibility of an Iris 540 version of the laptop too; assuming the bump in light gaming ability is reasonable for the increase in purchase price anyway. Progressively more bloated web pages are slowly pushing my oldschool atom powered laptop below the threshold of usability even for an occasional use machine; and a skylake XPS13 is currently the potential machine to beat for me.
extide - Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - linkYou can get Iris Pro in 28W, and with Skylake there is "baby" Iris Pro (64MB) in 15W
retrospooty - Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - linkXPS are great... until they die. ... DEEELLLL!!!!
mooninite - Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - linkThe ASUS UX301LAA has been out for several years and has been unmatched. Iris graphics, hi-dpi screen, 2x256gb ssd m.2 drives, 5-6 hours typical battery but I've left the thing on (forgot about it) with the lid closed for up to 12 hours and it still had battery left.
nerd1 - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - linkI found HP spectre x360 to be better built, has more value, converts into tablet and only very slightly heavier (It's almost as light as macbook air)
michael2k - Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - linkDoesn't the 12" MacBook use a similar display?
Samus - Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - linkAs hard as it is for many to consider Dell as a relevant brand (after years of making utter shit, circa 2003-2008) it's hard to ignore them now. Just get over your memories (like the Deskstar 75GXP days) and try a XPS13 out.
The display isn't the only part of the machine that's in a class of its own, but the keyboard. They really "ripped-off" the old Thinkpad keyboard perfectly while still making a slim machine.
HP's keyboards are acceptable. At the end of the day, they're made by the same people who make Lenovo's keyboards (Chicony) while Dell's are made by Quanta/NSK Darfon, who for the mean time appears to be making the best Chiclet and floating-island style keyboard.