Thin is in. For 2016, Lenovo shaved 0.8 pounds and 0.09 inches off its popular T450s to create an even more portable productivity workhorse in the 14-inch ThinkPad T460s. In shedding the weight, unfortunately, Lenovo got rid of the prior generation's extra-capacity battery option, significantly decreasing the laptop's potential endurance. However, the $980 ThinkPad T460s ($1,353.60 as tested) offers plenty of performance, wide viewing angles and accurate audio in a durable, 3-pound chassis.
Design and Durability
The ThinkPad T460s has the same classy but simple matte black aesthetic as most of Lenovo's other business laptops. Its only dashes of color are provided by the red TrackPoint pointing stick on its keyboard and the red power light in the logo.
Thanks to its carbon-fiber-reinforced lid and magnesium body, the ThinkPad T460s can take a beating. According to Lenovo, the laptop has passed MIL-STD 810G durability tests for extreme temperatures, high altitudes, humidity and vibrations.
At 13 x 8.9 x.74 inches and 3 pounds, the T460s is much lighter and just a little thinner than its 2015 predecessor, ThinkPad T450s (13 x 8.9 x 0.83 inches, 3.8 pounds). Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Yoga 2-in-1, which also has a 14-inch display, is even easier to carry, at 2.8 pounds. The 3.8-pound Dell Latitude E5470 and 3.4-pound HP EliteBook 745 G3 are both quite a bit bulkier.
Built to satisfy enterprise customers, the ThinkPad T460s has the security and manageability features most corporate IT departments require. Two of its three available CPUs come with Intel vPro built in, while the system comes with Trusted Platform Module for encryption.
Even better, there's a built-in fingerprint reader that requires a single touch, rather than a swipe, to help you login. You can also order the device with a Smart Card reader.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Trackpoint
Lenovo's ThinkPad keyboards have a well-deserved reputation as the best in the industry, because of their strong tactile feedback, deep travel, sturdy base and large, smile-shaped keys. While the ThinkPad T460s' spill-resistant keyboard is better than those on most laptops, it didn't always live up to Lenovo's high standards in our use. The keys have a deep 1.9mm of travel (1.5 to 2mm is typical), but, on one of three units we tested, they felt noticeably stiff, unlike those on other ThinkPads such as the P70, Yoga 260 and last year's T450s.
On the unit with the stiff keyboard, the keys required a weak 40 grams of actuation force to push down, far below the 60-gram rate we see on most laptops and every other ThinkPad. However, the other two units felt snappy and had required a more normal 58 grams to actuate. When keys require too little actuation force, typists "bottom out," or hit the base, with too much force. My typing experience on the stiff unit wasn't as comfortable as I would have liked, but I was able to achieve a solid rate of 98 words per minute on the 10 Fast Fingers typing test with a 2 percent error rate, which is within my normal range. On the bright side, the keyboard's optional backlight was quite luminous at both its high and low settings.
The 3.9 x 2.2-inch, buttonless touchpad provided accurate navigation around the desktop, with just the right amount of friction on its matte surface and none of the jumpiness we've seen on many other laptops. The laptop immediately recognized multitouch gestures, such as pinch-to- zoom, two-finger scroll and three-finger swipe.
If you want a more accurate and efficient navigation tool, the T460s has a TrackPoint pointing stick in between the G and H keys. Using the little red nub, I could navigate Windows, highlight text and scroll down Web pages with great precision while keeping my hands on the home row for touch typing.
The ThinkPad T460s' 14.1-inch, 1920 x 1080 touch screen offered sharp images, wide viewing angles and accurate colors. When I watched a 1080p trailer for Captain America: Civil War, fine details such as the ridges in Captain America's helmet or the wrinkles in Steve Rogers' forehead looked quite clear. The blue and red in Captain America's shield appeared true to life, if not overly rich.
Though most touch-screen laptops have annoyingly reflective surfaces, the T460s' panel uses a special process called "in-cell touch" that builds the digitizer into the LCD components and eliminates the need for a glossy protective layer. The pleasant matte surface allowed colors to stay bright at up to 90 degrees to the left and right.
According to our colorimeter, the T460s' screen can display a modest 66 percent of the sRGB color gamut, 17 percent below the ultraportable laptop category average and far behind the Dell Latitude E5470 (113.1 percent), the HP EliteBook 745 G3 (84.1 percent) and the Toshiba Tecra Z40t-B (112 percent). A non-touch screen config of the T460s we tested reproduced a nearly-identical 64.6 percent.
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Though not the most vibrant, the ThinkPad's display is extremely accurate. It achieved a Delta-E error rate of just 0.5 (0 is perfect), much better than the 4.1 category average, the Latitude E5470's mark of 1.1 and the HP EliteBook 745 (4.4). The non-touch panel had a similar mark of 0.6.
Though it was more than bright enough during our testing, the T460s' panel registered a meager 240 nits on our light meter, well below the category average (311 nits) and the HP EliteBook 745 G3 (317), but just slightly behind the Dell Latitude E5470 (278 nits). The non-touch screen was a bit brighter, clocking in at 275 nits.
The T460s offers some of the richest audio I've heard from a business notebook. When I played both Patrice Rushen's bass-heavy "Forget Me Nots" and AC/DC's guitar- and percussion-heavy "Back in Black," I could hear a clear separation of sound between the left and right speakers, with vocals on one side and percussion on another.
The volume was loud enough to fill a large bedroom and the area outside. Even at the highest level, the songs sounded full and lively, without the tinniness of most laptops.
The preloaded Dolby Audio software allows you to adjust the equalizer settings and choose between a variety of presets, including those for Music, Movies and Voice. I found that the Dynamic setting, which automatically adjusts the settings based on content, provided the best music output.
Ports and Webcam
The ThinkPad T460s has almost all the ports you'd want from a business laptop. The right side houses a USB 3.0 port, an Ethernet connector, a Kensington lock slot, an optional Smart Card reader and both HDMI and mini DisplayPort for video out.
The left side features an additional USB 3.0 port, a headphone rack and a 4-in-1 card reader. Productivity workers will really appreciate having both a full Ethernet port for wired connections and an SD card reader for getting photos off a camera. We just wish Lenovo had added a USB Type-C port to futureproof the T460s for the next generation of docks and peripherals.
The laptop's 720p webcam took colorful-accurate images of my face and green shirt under the fluorescent lights of our office. However, a picture I shot in low light came out quite noisy.
Performance and Graphics
With its 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-6300U, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD, our review configuration of the ThinkPad T460s offered strong performance that was more than adequate for any mainstream productivity task.
On Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the ThinkPad T460s scored a solid 6,796, which is comfortably ahead of the category average (6,271), miles in front of the AMD A8-powered HP EliteBook 745 G3, and slightly better than the Core i5-6200U-enabled ThinkPad X1 Yoga (6,465). Not surprisingly, the Dell Latitude E5470 we tested with a quad-core, Intel Core i5-6440HQ CPU got a much stronger score of 9,760.
The ThinkPad T460s took just 4 minutes and 10 seconds to complete our spreadsheet macro test, which involves matching 20,000 names with their addresses in OpenOffice. That time is noticeably faster than the category average, the HP EliteBook 745 G3 and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. However, the Dell Latitude E5470 was quicker (3:38).
The laptop's 256GB SATA SSD completed our file transfer test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed media files, in a reasonable 33 seconds. That's a rate of 152.3 MBps, quicker than the category average and the HP EliteBook 745 G3, but about on a par with the ThinkPad X1 Yoga and the Latitude E5470. You can configure the T460s with an NVMe SSD, which should get double or triple the speeds, for an extra $100 or so.
You shouldn't expect to play games or do serious CAD modeling with the ThinkPad T460s and its integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU, but Lenovo's laptop is more than capable of playing videos or editing photos and short videos. The system scored a solid 68,448 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a benchmark that measures overall graphics prowess. That's much higher than the category average and the HP EliteBook 745 G3, but lower than the Latitude E5470 (84,394).
Lenovo may have achieved a thinner laptop by ditching the removable and extended batteries from prior models, but the result is shorter endurance. Our touch-screen configuration of the ThinkPad T460s lasted a mediocre 7 hours and 21 minutes on the Laptop Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness. That's well behind the 8:06 category average and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga's time of 8 hours and 38 minutes, but about the same as the Dell Latitude E5470 and ahead of the HP EliteBook 745 G3. A non-touch screen model we tested later was just above average, with a time of 8:16.
Sadly, you can't swap in a high-capacity battery as you could on last year's T450s, which lasted an awesome 15 hours and 26 minutes. With a regular-capacity battery, last year's model lasted 7 hours and 31 minutes, which is nearly identical to the T460s' mark, but considering that the high-capacity battery added only $10 to the T450s' price, getting it was a no-brainer.
In our tests, touch-screen laptops usually last 1 to 2 hours less than those with standard displays. So you should expect more endurance out of theT460s with a non-touch panel.
Software and Warranty
Lenovo packs the Windows 10 installation on the T460s with a few useful utilities and a minimal amount of bloatware. Lenovo Settings lets you tweak the battery, wireless, camera, display, touchpad and audio controls. Lenovo Companion runs hardware and software checks on the laptop, while notifying you of software updates and pointing to the company's support resources.
Like almost every Windows 10 laptop, the T460s has Candy Crush Soda Saga preloaded, along with a free trial of Microsoft Office. It also has a promotional tile for Photoshop Express that leads you to the Windows Store. Popular Lenovo apps like SHAREIt and REACHIt don't come preloaded, but you can download them on your own.
Lenovo backs the ThinkPad T460s with a standard 1-year depot warranty on parts and labor, which means that the company will pay for shipping if you need to send it in for service. Upgrading the RAM or SSD, both of which are easy to access, will not void the warranty.
Like most ThinkPads, Lenovo lets you configure the T460s to order on its website. The $980 base model comes with an Intel Core i5-6200U, a 1080p non-touch screen, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Our $1,353 review configuration came with a Core i5-6300U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SATA SSD, Windows 10 Pro and a 1080p touch screen.
During the purchase process, you can choose a Core i5 or i7 processor, Windows Home or Pro, an SSD up to 512GB and up to 20GB of RAM. Some of the SSDs are PCIe-NVMe models which are three times as fast as a typical drive.
You can also pick between a 1080p non-touch display, a 1080p touch screen and a 2560 x 1440 non-touch display. We strongly recommend that you choose a non-touch display in order to get better battery life.
The ThinkPad T460s offers a strong combination of performance, usability and portability, thanks to its svelte chassis, accurate screen and comfortable touchpad. However, a relatively stiff keyboard (for a ThinkPad) and below-average battery life prevent it from surpassing its predecessor and becoming our favorite business laptop.
Users looking for a lightweight, 14-inch workhorse should consider the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, which has a better keyboard and longer battery life. Lenovo's ThinkPad T460 (without the s), which we haven't tested yet, may also be a better choice because it retains the swappable and extended battery from the 2015 models.
Customers who require superior performance may want to splurge on the Dell Latitude E5470, which offers blazing-fast, quad-core CPU. However, if you want a lightweight, durable business laptop with a focus on productivity, the ThinkPad T460s is a strong choice.
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