Lenovo's ThinkPad T Series laptops have a legendary reputation amongst business users or anyone who needs to get serious work done. The 14-inch ThinkPad T440s continues this rich tradition, offering long battery life, strong performance, a best-in-class keyboard and an optional 1080p touch screen, all in a durable, 3.8-pound package. However, with a price of $1,514 ($999 to start), this productivity-centric laptop doesn't come cheap. Is the ThinkPad T440s worth the investment?
The ThinkPad T440s has the same chassis as the ThinkPad T431s, which launched in spring 2013, and carries the same design language as other ThinkPads. You'll find a smooth, raven black casing that features a carbon fiber lid and magnesium chassis. Like the T431s, the T440s has a rather plain matte black lid instead of the luxurious soft-touch, rubberized lids Lenovo used on the older ThinkPad T430s and T420s. A ThinkPad logo on the lid provides a splash of color with a red light in the letter "I" that blinks when the system is asleep. The famous red TrackPoint and a couple of red lines on the touchpad add accents to the deck.
Like other ThinkPad T Series, the T440s is built to take some punishment. An integrated roll cage helps the laptop survive drops and dings while solid hinges allow the screen to bend back 180 degrees, and a spill-resistant keyboard prevents a little water from destroying your system. Lenovo says that the T440s has passed several military standard, or MIL-SPEC, tests, including those for humidity, dust, extreme temperatures and vibrations.
At 13.03 x 8.89 x 0.80 inches and 3.8 pounds, the ThinkPad T440s isn't the most portable business Ultrabook on the block. Toshiba's Tecra Z40 (13.3 x 9.3 x 0.8 inches) is no thinner, but is significantly lighter at 3.2 pounds while the last-generation ThinkPad T431s weighs just 3.4 pounds, despite having the same dimensions as the T440s. The ThinkPad T440's 14-inch touch screen is one of the heaviest parts of the system, as it requires a fair amount of force to lift. The extended battery adds 0.4 pounds to the system and tilts it 0.3 inches off of your desk or lap. However, users can save some heft by purchasing the T440s without a touch screen as the digitizer adds between .1 and .2 pounds.
Our ThinkPad T440s' 1920 x 1080 touch display offered vibrant colors and sharp images. When we watched a 1080p trailer for "The Avengers," the blue in Captain America's costume and the red in Thor's cape appeared particularly deep and lively. Though glossy, the panel did not reflect back much light and provided extremely wide viewing angles; colors did not even wash out at 90 degrees to the left or right.
Registering 294 lux on our light meter, the T440s is much brighter than the 210 lux thin-and-light laptop category average, the 169-lux Toshiba Tecra Z40 and the 202-lux T431s with 1600 x 900 display. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display was a little brighter at 313 lux.
The 10-point touch screen was extremely responsive to all of our gestures, even allowing us to draw with all fingers on both hands at once in Windows Paint. The T440s is also configurable with 1600 x 900 and 1920 x 1080 nontouch panels.
BEST FEATURES OF THE ThinkPad T440s
While it's fine for conferencing and movie watching, the ThinkPad T440s offers unpleasant music playback. The laptop's bottom-mounted speakers were loud enough to fill a small room, measuring 81 decibels on our sound test, which is fairly loud, but still a tad below the 84-dB category average. Playback also muffled a bit when the system was pressed against our legs.
When we played Patrice Rushen's bass-laden "Forget Me Nots," playback was fairly accurate, though flat. Judas Priest's guitar-heavy "Painkiller" sounded tinny. Enabled by default, the included Dolby v4 audio software made the audio quality more tolerable than it would have been without it . The sound became hollow and lifeless when we turned this feature off.
Lenovo ThinkPads have long set the gold standard for typing comfort, and the T440s more than lives up to this tradition. The notebook offers a backlit keyboard with very strong tactile feedback, great key spacing and a slightly curved key shape that makes it easy to avoid adjacent letter errors.
Unlike the T431s, which marred the typing experience with a hot palmrest, the T440s stayed cool beneath our wrists, allowing us to achieve a very strong score of 92 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test, comfortably above our typical 86 wpm score. The keyboard's backlight has three settings: off, low and high, with the low setting more than bright enough for a dark room and the high perhaps a bit too bright.
TrackPoint and Touchpad
Like other ThinkPads, the T440s offers both a buttonless touchpad and a TrackPoint pointing stick. We prefer the red TrackPoint because it offers more precise navigation around the desktop than any touchpad. Plus, this stick allows touch typists to move the pointer without moving their hands off of the home row. Though the pointing stick itself was extremely accurate and pleasant to use, we wish Lenovo hadn't built its right, left and scroll buttons into the top of the touchpad. Pushing down on the top of the pad requires considerably more force than the touching the dedicated buttons on earlier ThinkPads. Unfortunately, Lenovo is building the TrackPoint buttons into the touchpads on all of its ThinkPads going forward.
The large, 3.9 x 2.75-inch buttonless touchpad provided accurate navigation around the desktop. Despite its smooth surface, we were able to move around without our finger slipping and without a hint of the jumpiness that we've experienced on many other buttonless touchpads. Multitouch gestures, such as pinch-to-zoom, rotate, swipe in from right for charms, swipe in from left to switch apps and four-finger swipe to minimize all apps, worked smoothly.
Ports and Webcam
The ThinkPad T440s' 0.8-inch thick chassis leaves room for several important ports that many other Ultrabooks -- including Lenovo's own X1 Carbon -- omit. On its right side, the ThinkPad T440s has a headphone jack, a SIM card slot for optional mobile broadband, a 4-in-1 memory card reader, a Kensington lock slot, a USB 3.0 port and a VGA port that provides the best way to connect to older projectors and the large number of monitors that don't have DisplayPort. The left side houses a SmartCard reader, a DisplayPort and two more USB 3.0 ports.
The HD webcam is capable of capturing solid images even in a shadowy area of our office, but even pictures we took of our face in a very bright conference room suffered from a bit of visual noise. Like other ThinkPads, the T440s features dual-array microphones for better conferencing, while Lenovo's settings app allows you to set the mics to pick up a single voice or many at once.
Unlike the T431s, which had a warm right palmrest that made typing uncomfortable, the ThinkPad T440s stayed pleasantly cool throughout our testing. After streaming a video for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured a cool 81 degrees, the keyboard a chilly 84 degrees and the underside a breezy 88 degrees Fahrenheit. We consider temperatures below 90 degrees imperceptible and those under 95 degrees comfortable.
Thanks to its 1.6-GHz Intel fourth-generation Core i5-4200U processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB LITE-ON SSD, our configuration of the ThinkPad T440s offered very strong performance that was good enough for demanding productivity work. On PCMark 7, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the T440s scored an impressive 4,970, well above the 3,445 thin-and-light laptop category average, the Toshiba Tecra Z40's mark of 2,524 and the T431s' 2,884 score.
With its speedy 256GB SSD, the T440s booted Windows 8 in just 14 seconds, half the 28.4-second category average and a bit less than the ThinkPad T431s (16 seconds). The drive took just 27 seconds to complete the LAPTOP File Transfer test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed media files. That's a rate of 188.5 MBps, more than triple the 57.9 MBps category average and eight times the Tecra Z40 and its 7,200-rpm hard drive. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display notched a more impressive 299.4 MBps performing the same test in OS X Mavericks.
The ThinkPad T440s took just 5 minutes and 14 seconds to complete the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro Test, where we match 20,000 names with their addresses. That time is more than a minute faster than the 6:21 category average, but almost 30 seconds slower than the Tecra Z40 and its 1.9-GHz Core i5-4300U CPU.
The T440s' integrated Intel HD 4400 graphics chip achieved a modest score of 930 on 3DMark11, a leading synthetic graphics benchmark. That's a little below the 962 category average, but well above the Toshiba Tecra Z40 (869) and ThinkPad T431s (530).
When we fired up "World of Warcraft" at the T440s' 1920 x 1080 native resolution, the system achieved a not-quite-playable frame rate of 29 fps, which dropped to just 15 fps when we turned up the special effects. Both rates are well below the 66 and 29.9 fps category averages.
Lenovo sells the ThinkPad T440s with a choice of batteries, a 3-cell, 23.2 watt hour unit and a 6-cell, 72 watt hour high capacity battery that costs just $5 more. In addition to these removable batteries, the T440s has a nonremovable 3-cell internal battery that gets drained after the external pack is dead, so you can change batteries without shutting the system down.
With the 3-cell 23.2 watt-hour battery, the T440s lasted 7 hours and 1 minute on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi on 40 percent brightness. That time is more than 30 minutes longer than the 6:27 category average, but not as lengthy as the Tecra Z40's runtime of 9:28. (To be fair, though, the Z40 has a much dimmer screen.)
With its high-capacity battery, the ThinkPad T440s lasted an epic 14 hours and 36 minutes, making it one of the longest-lasting laptops we've ever tested, Though the the high-capacity pack costs just $5 more on Lenovo.com, it juts 0.5 inches out from the bottom of the laptop and adds 0.4 pounds.
Software and Warranty
Lenovo bundles the Windows 8 version of the ThinkPad T440s with a few useful utilities. Lenovo settings gives you control over the webcam, microphone and power settings while allowing you to turn your laptop into a mobile hotspot for other devices. Lenovo QuickCast promises to transfer data between your ThinkPads, provided that they are all on the same network and running WIndows 8.
Lenovo QuickConnect lets you remote control your laptop from an Android phone, but when we tried it, it only allowed us to use the phone as a touchpad and to change display modes on the laptop, not to do an actual remote control session. Lenovo Companion provides shortcuts to a variety of apps and services, including promotional videos that come from the company's partnership with the NFL.
Interestingly, Lenovo does not preload the T440s with Windows 8.1, though downloading the new OS is a free upgrade. A Lenovo rep said the company will not start selling the T440s with Windows 8.1 preloaded until sometime in 2014.
Lenovo backs the ThinkPad T440s with a standard one-year warranty on parts and labor. You can extend the warranty up to 4 years and add accidental damage protection or on-site service for prices ranging from $59 to $489.
Our review unit of the ThinkPad T440s carries an MSRP of $1,514. For that price, you get the Intel Core i5-4200U CPU, 8 GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, Windows 8 Pro and the 1920 x 1080 touch screen. For the starting price of $999, you get the same Core i5-4200U CPU, but just 4GB of RAM, a 1600 x 900 nontouch screen, Windows 8 and a 500GB hard drive with 16GB flash cache.
When you buy through Lenovo.com, you can configure with a choice of CPUs, screens, batteries, Wi-Fi cards, hard drive and RAM amounts. You can also choose Windows 7 Pro instead of 8 or 8 Pro.
To get the largest possible workspace, we highly recommend upgrading to a 1920 x 1200 screen in either touch or nontouch configurations. Though the extended battery adds serious heft, the additional 7 hours of endurance it adds is well worth the $5 premium.
The ThinkPad T440s is a worthy successor to the ThinkPad T431s. With the performance and power efficiency of Intel's fourth-generation Core series, long battery life, an industry-leading keyboard and an optional full HD touch screen, the ThinkPad T440s is the new business laptop to beat. Those looking for something that's more portable than this 3.8-pound system might want to consider Lenovo's 12.5-inch, 2.8-pound ThinkPad X240. However, if you want the best thin-and-light business system on the market, the ThinkPad T440s should be your top choice.