The Lenovo ThinkPad E560 ($521 to start; $988 as tested) is aimed at small, value-conscious companies that need machines with lots of ports and solid performance paired with long battery life and a comfortable keyboard. The configuration we tested packs a Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 190GB solid-state drive, as well as a 1080p display and AMD Radeon R7 M370 graphics. The ThinkPad E560 doesn't offer the same level of durability as some competing laptops, and its screen could be more vibrant. But overall, it's a pretty good business notebook.
If you've seen one ThinkPad, you've seen them all -- and the E560 is no exception. It's a large, smooth, black-plastic rectangle with rounded edges. The lid features Lenovo's logo on the lower left and the ThinkPad emblem on the top right. Unlike some of Lenovo's other recent machines, the E560 only comes in the company's trademark black.
The interior of the laptop features a 15.6-inch 1080p screen, a full keyboard with a number pad, a fingerprint reader, a cherry-colored TrackPoint nub and a touchpad with red accents on the buttons. The ThinkPad logo is stamped a second time on the palm rest.
At 14.8 x 10 x 1.1 inches and 5.3 pounds, the E560 takes up less space on a desk than other 15-inch notebooks, but it's also a bit heavier. In comparison, both the 14.9 x 19.1 x 0.95-inch Toshiba Tecra A50 and the 15.1 x 10 x 0.96-inch HP Notebook 15 weigh 4.8 pounds. Dell's Latitude E5570 is just the slightest bit smaller than the E560, at 14.8 x 9.9 x 0.9 inches but is heavier, at 5.6 pounds.
The ThinkPad E560 has a port for just about everything. The left side features a lock slot, an Ethernet jack, a VGA port, an HDMI port and two USB 3.0 ports. On the right, you'll find a headphone/mic jack, a CD/DVD drive, a USB 3.0 port and a power jack. A SD card reader is located on the bottom lip on the front of the laptop.
Durability and Security
Other than a spill-resistant keyboard, the ThinkPad E560 doesn't have any special durability features. It lacks the MIL-SPEC testing you'll find on competing systems or even Lenovo's other offerings. That means no protection against shocks, vibrations and extreme temperatures. The affordable ThinkPad 13, by comparison, is MIL-SPEC tested.
Given that the E560 is targeted at small and medium-size businesses, it makes sense that it doesn't support vPro for remote management. What you do get, though, is a Trusted Platform Module for encrypting biometric data and other sensitive information. There's also an optional fingerprint reader, which I found was easy to set up and use with Windows Hello for quick logins.
The ThinkPad E560's 15.6-inch, 1080p screen doesn't impress me. I had to turn the brightness all the way up when I watched the teaser trailer for Doctor Strange to see details such as the cracks in a crashed car's windshield and the wisps of Stephen Strange's soul when the Ancient One punched his soul out of his body. The blue and yellow neon signs in a Nepalese alleyway didn't pop at all.
The E560's screen reproduces only 73 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is below the 15-inch laptop category average of 86 percent. The Tecra A50 and the HP Notebook 15 were worse, at 64 percent and 63 percent, respectively, but the Latitude E5570 turned in an excellent 107 percent.
Even if they're not vivid, the hues on the E560's panel are precise, as evidenced by the 0.8 Delta-E color score (the closer to 0, the better). That's far better than the category average (4.8), as well as the Tecra A50 (4.5) and the Notebook 15 (3.5), but the Latitude E5570 (0.7) is just a little more true to life.
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The screen is on the dim side, measuring 230 nits. That's less than the 242-nit category average and the Latitude E5570, but the Tecra A50 (172 nits) and the Notebook 15 (220 nits) are even darker.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear loud, clear audio emanating from the speakers on a midrange business notebook like the E560. I listened to Green Day's "Holiday" and found that the screaming vocals, rhythmic electric guitar and thumping percussion were all well balanced and loud enough to fill a small conference room.
The preinstalled Dolby Audio app includes presets for movies, music, gaming and vocals. It starts on the music setting by default, and I found it was best to just leave that setting on all of the time. Conexant's SmartAudio program is also included, but all it lets you do is change the volume.
Keyboard, Touchpad and TrackPoint
I'd gladly spend my working hours typing on the E560's keyboard. With 1.5 millimeters of travel and 53 grams of force required to press, Lenovo's keys are comfortable and responsive. On the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I sped along at my average 110 words per minute and standard 2 percent error rate.
The 3.9 x 2.2-inch touchpad is a bit stiff, and I wish it were a little roomier. When I two-finger scrolled in Google Chrome and three-finger swiped between apps, I would unexpectedly reach the edge of the surfaces. However, the touchpad never had a problem understanding my gestures.
The E560 also offers its comfy and precise TrackPoint nub, situated between the G, H and B keys. It's aimed at power users who never want to take their hands off of the home row, even when using the mouse.
With a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-6500U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 192GB SSD, the ThinkPad E560 isn't a powerhouse, but it provides more than enough oomph for office tasks. I multitasked just fine with seven tabs open in Google Chrome, one of which was streaming a 1080p YouTube video, with OpenOffice Writer running in the background. But opening an eighth tab introduced some lag.
The ThinkPad E560 achieved a score of 6,333 on Geekbench 3, a benchmark that measures overall performance. That's lower than the 15-inch-laptop average of 7,430 (which includes gaming notebooks) but higher than the Core i5-6200U-powered Tecra A50 (5,865) and the Core i5-6200U-powered HP Notebook 15 (5,784). The Dell Latitude E5570 and its Core i7-6820HQ (12,148) blew away its rivals.
It took the ThinkPad E560 43 seconds to copy 4.97GB of mixed-media files, which translates to a transfer rate of 116.9 megabytes per second. That's just under the category average speed of 120.5 MBps and slower than the Dell Latitude E5570's SSD, which had a rate of 159MBps. The E560 bested laptops with traditional hard drives, such as the Tecra A50, which achieved a transfer rate of 30.47MBps, and the Notebook 15, which hit 29.57 MBps.
In our OpenOffice spreadsheet macro test, it took the E560 4 minutes and 6 seconds to match 20,000 names and addresses. That's faster than the category average of 5:20, but the Latitude E5570 completed the task in 3:29. Both the Tecra A50 and the HP Notebook 15 took 4:30 to finish the test.
Thanks to its discrete AMD Radeon R7 M370 GPU with 2GB of VRAM, the E560 packs more of a graphical punch than other mainstream business laptops. However, it's still not up for intense gaming or graphic design. On the 3DMark Fire Strike gaming benchmark, the E560 notched a score of 1,695. While that's lower than the mainstream category average of 2,084, it beat the Radeon R7 M360-powered Latitude E5570 (1,593) and the Toshiba Tecra A50 (640) and HP Notebook 15 (561) with integrated Intel HD 520 graphics.
If you need a small business notebook with a battery you can rely on, the E560 is your best choice. The system endured 7 hours and 50 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuously web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's almost 2 hours longer than the category average of 5:55. It also outlasted the Notebook 15's 5:51 and the Tecra A50'st 5:59. With a battery life of 7:17, the Latitude E5570 came closest to catching the E560.
You can use the E560 without worrying that it will get uncomfortably hot. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video from Hulu, the bottom of the notebook reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the highest temperature we consider comfortable. The touchpad hit 91 degrees, and the center of the keyboard measured 92 degrees.
I took a photo with the 720p webcam and found that the resulting image was a little grainier than pictures I took with other business notebooks. However, I still made out enough detail in my hair, beard and the stitching on my shirt that I would be willing to use this notebook for teleconferencing.
Software and Warranty
The ThinkPad E560 is light on software; it includes a handful of useful tools but also some unwanted bloat, such as Twitter, Candy Crush Soda Saga and Flipboard.
Lenovo-branded software programs include Companion (for monitoring system health), Solution Center (to scan for hardware issues and check support status) and a settings app. There's also a suite of multimedia playback and DVD-burning software, including CyberLink PowerDVD, ISO Viewer and PowerProducer 5.5.
Lenovo offers a one-year standard warranty on the ThinkPad E560. See how Lenovo did on our Best and Worst Brands and Tech Support Showdown.
The ThinkPad E560 I reviewed costs $988 and includes a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-6500U CPU, a 192GB SSD, 8GB of RAM, AMD Radeon R7 M370 graphics with 2GB of VRAM, a 1080p display and a fingerprint reader.
The $521 base model has an Intel Core i3-6100U processor; a 500GB, 7,200-rpm HDD; a 1366 x 768 display, 4GB of RAM and integrated Intel HD 520 graphics. It doesn't include a fingerprint reader.
To get the best mix of value and performance, I recommend configuring the E560 with a Core i5-6200U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 1080p display and either a 192GB SSD (which brings the total to $800) or a 256GB SSD (which makes the final price $881). You can choose whether you want the fingerprint reader, but it's a difference of $20. Most users won't need the discrete graphics card.
The Lenovo ThinkPad E560 is a worthwhile business notebook with a comfortable keyboard, long battery life and fairly good performance. However, it does have some trade-offs: It has a relatively dim screen with dull colors, and it's not MIL-SPEC tested against drops and extreme temperatures.
If you can spend a little more and don't mind a bit more weight, the Dell Latitude E5570 (starts at $769) is a strong alternative with a durable MIL-SPEC-tested chassis. However, you'll have to pay a hefty price to upgrade it to a1080p display and an SSD. But if you want a solid typing experience and a battery that will power through commutes and meetings, the ThinkPad E560 will get the job done.