Which ThinkPad is Right For You?

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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.

thinkpad x1 carbon

Best General-Purpose ThinkPad

The ThinkPad T470 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 3.5 to 3.9 pounds, it's not the lightest laptop around, but it's more than svelte enough to carry. A starting price around $873 makes it a decent value in comparison to more expensive models like the ThinkPad T470s and X1 Carbon.

thinkpad t470 full

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 X270 and T470 (non-S) should last well over 10 hours on a charge (the T470 lasted 17:25 on our test; we haven't tested the X270 yet). However, these same laptops get about half the endurance with their slimmer, 3-cell batteries. Also note that configuring these notebooks with touch screens will probably shave a couple of hours off.

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 well over 9 hours on a charge when configured with their 1080p screens. The latest X1 Carbon endures for nearly 12 and a half hours, even though it weighs less than 2.5 pounds. 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 T470 (1920 x 1080, non-touch) 17:25 (6-cell battery) / 8:39 (3-cell battery)
ThinkPad X270  Up to 21 hours (Lenovo estimate)
ThinkPad 13 (1920 x 1080, non-touch) 9:08
Lenovo X1 Carbon (1920 x 1080, non-touch) 12:21

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 2.49 pounds. Its convertible sibling, the X1 Yoga, weighs just 2.8 pounds. The ThinkPad T470s packs a deeper keyboard and easily-upgradeable RAM and storage into a 2.9-pound package. The ThinkPad 13 is only a little heavier at 3.17 pounds while the X270 is a reasonable 3 pounds, though the weight jumps to 3.4 pounds with the 6-cell battery.

 

 

Model  Weight Thickness
ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2.49 pounds 0.6 inches
ThinkPad X1 Yoga 2.8 pounds 0.66 inches
ThinkPad T470s 2.9 pounds 0.79 inches
ThinkPad 13 3.17 pounds 0.78 inches
ThinkPad X270 3.0 / 3.4 (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.

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 ThinkPad T470 has the best combination of deep travel and strong feedback of any current-generation Lenovo laptop. The productivity powerhouse requires a snappy 70 grams of actuation force to press down, far about the 55 to 60 grams we see on most laptops. It also has a full 2mm of travel to help you avoid "bottoming out" or hitting the base with a painful amount of force.

thinkpad t470 keyboard

 

The ThinkPad 13's keyboard is also excellent with 2mm of travel and 63 grams of actuation forc, though the one unit we tested had a sticky E key. Though shallower than its brethren, with 1.5mm of vertical travel, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon feels very responsive, with its 65 grams of actuation force. It's important to note that there are sometimes subtle manufacturing differences, even within the same product line. Last year, 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 and X1 Yoga), all have great color quality, with the ability to reproduce over 100 percent of the sRGB gamut. The pricey ThinkPad P50 and P70 have vibrant displays with optional 4K resolutions and color calibrators.

Best Value

Though not as affordable as it was in 2016, the ThinkPad 13 offers the most bang for the buck, starting at $699 and going for just over $1,000 with our recommended config (1080p screen, Core i5, 256GB SSD). Lenovo's small-business focsed ThinkPad E470 and E570 start at just $539, 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 full

 

Depending on how you configure them, the ThinkPad T470 and X270 give you good bang for the buck, with starting prices around (or sometimes below) $900, though prices creep closer to $1,300 or $1,400 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. However, if you can wait, you might want to hold out for the next-generation ThinkPad P51 and P71, which have Intel 7th Generation Core processors and newer Nvidia cards. These updated models are coming out in the next few weeks.

ThinkPad P70

If you want some more performance out of a mainstream, non-workstation-class laptop, consider the ThinkPad T470p which comes with mobile quad-core, H-class Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs. Several ThinkPads, including the X1 Carbon, T470, ThinkPad 13, X270, T470s 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
13 comments
  • Michael Says:

    How does the 25 watt TDP limit on the high end 2017 Thinkpads affect their battery life and performance?
    I know you've measured around 12.5 hours for the X1C5-FHD. But two of my colleagues have the same model equipped with 1TB Samsung 960 Pro SSDs and they're getting only 7 hours of usage. And I am more heavy on my laptop then they are.

  • tashele alliy Says:

    I WANT TO APPRECIATE YOU MORE FOR YOUR WORK

  • sseerrr Says:

    In your T470 review and here you MISSED that there is an option with touch screen ! It is a very good addition to the perfect laptop considering that there was not such options for previous models and on some competitor models

  • Mikus Palmis Says:

    (pt 2)

    Every article on the internet, that is.

    What's going on here?

  • Mikus Palmis Says:

    The article is from Jan 18, 2017 but I see comments all the way back to 2012.

    Also, a master's in English, yet I find typos.

    Btw - EVERY article I read these days has misspellings!

  • prof sudhir kulkarni Says:

    instead of writing on the white board ,i want to use this equipment ?? possible or use laptop screen touch ??

  • Amy McGee Says:

    What are your thoughts on a Lenovo Ideapad 310 15.6 laptop. we want a laptop to look at emails and search the internet. also to hold photos. It's just my husband and I ...no children for school needs, etc. Thanks.

  • 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.

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