Which ThinkPad is Right For You?
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.
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.
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.
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.