Which ThinkPad is Right For You?

  • MORE

For many business users and corporate IT departments, nothing but a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop will do. Whether it's their strong build quality, industry-leading keyboards, hyper accurate pointing sticks, or simple black aesthetic, the ThinkPad line has a number of mainstays that Lenovo fans won't do without.

Even if you've already got your heart and your budget committed to a ThinkPad, you've got a lot of choices. Lenovo currently sells over 20 ThinkPad models across 9 different lines. The laptops all have the same basic aesthetic, but vary greatly when it comes to size, price, screen quality, performance and battery life. Some even have snappier keyboards than others. So which ThinkPad is right for you? The answer depends on your priorities.

ThinkPads

Best General-Purpose ThinkPad

The ThinkPad T460 is our favorite, general-purpose ThinkPad because it combines extremely-long battery life (17 hours) with a deep keyboard, solid performance and an optional 1080p display. At 3.8 to 4.2 pounds, it's not the lightest laptop around, but it's more than svelte enough to carry. A starting price around $700 makes it a decent value too.

ThinkPad T460

Best ThinkPads for Battery Life

The longest-lasting laptops in Lenovo's lineup have the company's PowerBridge technology, which lets you swap out the batteries without powering down. If you buy them with the 6-cell battery option, which effectively doubles the endurance, both the ThinkPad X260 and T460 (non-S) can last over 17 hours on a charge. However, these same laptops get about half the endurance with their slimmer, 3-cell batteries. Also note thatonfiguring these notebooks with touch screens shaves a couple of hours off.

ThinkPad X260

If you don't want a somewhat chunky extended battery, you can still get strong battery life on a couple of svelte laptops with non-removable batteries, namely the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and ThinkPad 13, both of which last over 9 hours on a charge when configured with their 1080p screens. Note that all of these times are based on how the devices fared on our Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. Depending on what tasks you perform, your mileage will vary.

Model Battery Life (on Laptop Mag Test)
ThinkPad T460 (1920 x 1080, non-touch) 17:04 (6-cell battery)
ThinkPad X260 (1366 x 768, non-touch) 17:14 (6-cell battery) / 8:16 (3-cell battery)
ThinkPad 13 (1920 x 1080, non-touch) 9:13
Lenovo X1 Carbon (1920 x 1080, non-touch) 9:06

Most Portable ThinkPads

If you're looking for the lightest ThinkPad around, the 14-inch X1 Carbon is your best choice, as it tips the scales at just 2.6 pounds. Its convertible sibling, the X1 Yoga, weighs just 2.8 pounds. The ThinkPad T460s packs a deeper keyboard and easily-upgradeable RAM and storage into a 3-pound package. The ThinkPad 13 is only a little heavier at 3.1 pounds while the X260 is a reasonable 3.2 pounds, though the weight jumps to 3.6 pounds with the 6-cell battery.

Model  Weight Thickness
ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2.6 pounds 0.65 inches
ThinkPad X1 Yoga 2.8 pounds 0.66 inches
ThinkPad T460s 3.0 pounds 0.74 inches
ThinkPad 13 3.14 pounds 0.78 inches
ThinkPad X260 3.2 / 3.6 (with 6-cell battery) pounds 0.80 inches

Best 2-in-1 Options

Lenovo makes several different ThinkPad models which have the brand's Yoga, bend-back functionality. Of these, the 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Yoga stands head and shoulders above the rest, because it combines light weight with solid battery life and a gorgeous display that can show over 100 percent of the sRGB color gamut.

Professional 3D modelers may want the P40 Yoga, which has Nvidia Quadro graphics but suffers from below-average battery life and plenty of fan noise. All of the ThinkPad Yogas come with very accurate styluses.

If you prefer a detachable design, go for the X1 Tablet, which comes with a removable keyboard and provides a gorgeous display, along with a thicker stylus than on Lenovo's bendback hybirds. However, unless you get its extended battery attachment, the tablet has just five and a half hours of battery life.

Best Keyboards

Even the worst ThinkPad keyboard is pretty good, but they aren't all created equal, as some have more travel and a better feel than others. The very affordable ThinkPad 13 has the best combination of deep travel and strong feedback of any laptop we've tested, though it doesn't have a backlight.

ThinkPad 13 keyboard

The T460 has really deep travel and a snappy feel also while the X1 Carbon offers a great response, even though its keys are a little shallower than the T series, P series and ThinkPad 13 lines. It's important to note that there are sometimes subtle manufacturing differences, even within the same product line. One T460s we tested felt a little mushy but two other units had pleasantly-strong feedback.

Best Screen

Many of Lenovo's ThinkPads are available with different screen options, allowing you to choose a resolution or decide between touch and non-touch panels. We strongly recommend that you get your ThinkPad with a minimum resolution of 1920 x 1080 and eschew the ugly 1366 x 768 and 1600 x 900 panels that come on a few of the base configs. To get the best battery life, eschew a touch screen if you're buying a traditional clamshell laptop rather than a 2-in-1.

ThinkPad X1 Yoga

The ThinkPad X1 series (X1 Carbon, X1 Yoga and X1 tablet), all have great color quality, with the ability to reproduce over 100 percent of the sRGB gamut. The pricey P50 and P70 have vibrant displays with optional 4K resolutions and color calibrators.

Best Value

The ThinkPad 13 is a steal, starting at under $600 with two premium features, a 1080p screen and an SSD on board. Lenovo's small-business focsed ThinkPad E460 and E560 start at just $521, with very-basic components but you can configure them with SSDs, 1080p displays and Core i5 CPUs for a little over $200 more.

ThinkPad 13

Depending on how you configure them, the ThinkPad T460 and X260 give you good bang for the buck, with starting prices around (or sometimes below) $700, though prices creep closer to $1,000 when you configure them with 1080p screens, Core i5 CPUs and SSDs.

Most Powerful

Most mainstream ThinkPads come with a choice of low-voltage, dual-core Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs. If you want a lot more speed for tasks like 3D modeling, CAD or engineering work, get one of the P series laptops. If you want the most powerful mobile workstation around and size is no object, get the 17-inch ThinkPad P70, which is available with an Intel Xeon E3-1505M CPU and Nvidia Quadro M5000M graphics. The P50 offers the same Xeon CPU but a slightly-slower Nvidia Quadro M2000M GPU.

ThinkPad P70

If you want some more performance out of a mainstream, non-workstation-class laptop, consider the ThinkPad T460p which comes with mobile quad-core, H-class Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs. Several ThinkPads, including the X1 Carbon, T460s and P50 / P70 are available with a NVMe-PCIe SSDs, which provide three times the performance of a standard, SATA SSD.

Laptop Guide

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment
6 comments
  • David A Uhlig Says:

    I'm loving my Lenovo Thinkpad T460S 20F9 with the i5-6200U chip. It's very quick and responsive, long battery life and the touchpad is totally configurable for what happens when you click on a particular area. It light and pretty. The fingerprint reader is great, one touch and your on, you need to configure it with Windows 10 Hello. Very fast boot and wake times.

  • mendy Says:

    I'm new to this I still do t know everything about my iPhone . which one is best for beginners?

  • vishal kariya Says:

    Hello Avram,

    I am web developer and some time use vmware and create server on local machine. which model you suggest for budget of $1000.

  • Bogo Adrian Says:

    Hi.

    Please be so kind and tell me what Lenovo 17inch is better?
    Thanks

  • Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director Says:

    The X1 Carbon keyboard is good for a notebook keyboard, but not as tactile as other ThinkPads. Even though Lenovo uses a similar mechanism on the keyboards, the base and amount of travel underneath does vary slightly in my experience. As for the X230, the keyboard mechanism itself is decent, but as I said, the short palmrest makes for a weaker typing experience. Though the T430 and W530 are supposed to feel the same, on the units we tested, the W530 offered slightly more feedback than the T430.

  • Jim Scarff Says:

    Comments on Thinkpad keyboards inconsistent or paradoxical? I had the impression that ALL of these keyboards were full-sized keyboards that conformed to Lenovo's new "Precision" keyboard design. I would expect that the differences between them would be relatively minor, particularly in contrast to the big differences between the Precision keyboard and the flat slippery keys offered on other brand's ultrabooks.

    You criticize the X1 Carbon as having a "mediocre" keyboard because it is a "bit shallow". However, you prefer it to the keyboard on the X230! "Mediocre" compared to what? Only other Thinkpad keyboards? The reviews on every other site I looked at praised the keyboard on the X1 as the best that Lenovo has ever made.

    You like the keyboard on the T430, and love the keyboard on the W530:

    "If you’re a touch-typist, you’ll appreciate the notebook’s highly responsive, island-style keyboard which seems to have just a little more bounce than the T430′s."

    If you think the distinctions you made are real, then I suggest you need to provide more compelling analysis to justify them.

Back to top