New ThinkPads Add TrackPoint Buttons, Broadwell CPUs

LAS VEGAS -- The nub is getting some love. At CES, Lenovo announced refreshes of all its major ThinkPads, which will carry Intel's brand new 5th Generation Core series CPUs and bring back the dedicated TrackPoint buttons that were removed on prior models. Most of the models will begin shipping in Q1 2015, so ThinkPad fans won't have to wait long to get the new systems.

3 Buttons Come Back

While most companies use only touchpads on their laptops, Lenovo's ThinkPad line is famous for its TrackPoint pointing sticks, which are little red nubs that sit between the G and H keys on the keyboard. TrackPoint users can navigate more quickly and accurately than they would on a pad, all without removing their fingers from the home row. However, Lenovo knows that a lot of its customers feel uncomfortable with the nub, so it offers large, full-featured touchpads on all of its notebooks.

When the company last updated its laptops in 2013, it removed the dedicated left, right and center buttons for the TrackPoint and built them into the top of the buttonless touchpad. While pad users gained additional real estate, long-time TrackPoint users were unhappy. In response to user feedback, Lenovo is bringing back the discrete buttons on all of its 2015 ThinkPads, including the X1 Carbon, T450s, X250 and ThinkPad Yoga series.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Lenovo's flagship thin-and-light is undergoing a couple of key changes. In addition to the new TrackPoint buttons and CPU, it has a slightly larger battery, moving from 45 to 50 watts, a 10 percent improvement that was achieved without appreciably changing the size or weight (listed weight went from 2.83 to 2.9 pounds). With the Broadwell CPU on board, the ThinkPad X1 carbon should also see some power savings, so we're optimistic this system will do far better than the 2014 model which lasted a modest 7 hours and 15 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, a bit below the ultraportable category average.

The new X1 Carbon has standard function keys, which replace the "Adaptive Keyboard" row which was a flat LED strip that lit up with different symbols depending on which application you launched. We found the Adaptive Keyboard difficult and annoying to use because we had to look down to access the keys. Apparently we weren't alone, as Lenovo has ditched the feature. Like its predecessor, the new X1 Carbon will be available in with a WQHD (2560 x 1440) or full HD (1920 x 1080) screen with or without touch. The new X1 Carbon will start at $1,249 and be available this month.

ThinkPad T Series 

Apart from the new processor platform and TrackPoint buttons, the 14-inch ThinkPad T450s is just like its predecessor, the T440s, weighing 3.5 pounds and offering up to a Full HD touch screen, with plenty of processor and hard drive options. Considering that the T440s was one of our favorite laptops of the last two years, there's no need for a major overhaul. The ThnkPad T450s will ship in February, starting at $1,099.

The ThinkPad T440  and T550 are now 15 percent lighter , with starting weights of 4 and 5 pounds respectively. The two systems will start at $849 and $999 and will ship in February.

ThinkPad X250

The longest lasting laptop around should get even better thanks to Broadwell's low power consumption. The 12.5-inch ThinkPad X240 lasted over 20 hours on a charge, so the X250 could go for even longer. Lenovo is also offering a non-touch, full HD panel option on the X250, something you couldn't get on the X240. This sub 3-pound laptop will start at $1,149 when it ships in February.

ThinkPad Stack

In addition to the ThinkPad notebook updates, Lenovo announced a new line of accessories that attach to each other via magnet. Dubbed ThinkPad Stack, this set of accessories includes a Bluetooth speaker, a 1TB portable hard drive, a 10,000 mAh battery and a wireless access point that can share your hotel internet connection with all your devices. The accessories stack on top of each other using a special magnetic port which also transfers power and data between them.

If you plug in only one of the accessories to charge, it will charge all of the others that are attached to it. The hard drive and the access point communicate with each other so users can transfer files to the drive wirelessly. There's also a mobile app that lets you control the access point.

The entire set of four devices will cost $310 together, the Bluetooth speaker alone will cost $89 and a combination of the hard drive and wireless access point will go for $199. ThinkPad Stack will ship in April.

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of 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.