Review: Lenovo E480 and E580

Lenovo recently released a pair of sturdy ThinkPad’s that are more of value play over the T-series. Where the T-470, for example, has a true ThinkPad quality exterior with MIL-SPEC certification, the E480 and E580 have a bit more plastic, fewer ports, and not as high-end a user experience. The CPU options are not much different from the famed T-series, providing the buyer a with a lower price option to gain that same great tech. Ultimately, Lenovo’s latest E-Series laptops are real bargain if you don’t mind a few missing items.

E480 Specifications (As Tested)

  • CPU: 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8250U (1.60GHz 8MB Cache)
  • Display: 14″ FHD (1080p) IPS non-touch
  • Graphics: Intel Integrated UHD 620
  • Webcam: 720p HD camera with ThinkShutter
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4 2400 MHz
  • Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
  • Battery: up to 10 hours (according to Lenovo)
  • Audio: Stereo Speakers
  • Security: fingerprint reader with Windows Hello
  • I/O:
    • 2 x USB 3.1
    • 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C
    • 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C with Thunderbolt 3
    • 1 x USB 2.0
    • HDMI 1.4
    • RJ45 – Gigabit Supported
    • Mic/headphone jack
    • MicroSD card reader
  • Dimensions: 12.95″ x 9.53″ x 0.78″
  • Weight: 3.86 lbs

E580 Specifications (As Tested)

  • CPU: 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8250U (1.60GHz 8MB Cache)
  • Display: 15.6″ FHD (1080p) IPS non-touch
  • Graphics: Intel Integrated UHD 620
  • Webcam: 720p HD camera with ThinkShutter
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4 2400 MHz
  • Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
  • Battery: up to 13 hours (according to Lenovo)
  • Audio: Stereo Speakers
  • Security: fingerprint reader with Windows Hello
  • I/O:
    • 2 x USB 3.1
    • 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C with Thunderbolt 3
    • 1 x USB 2.0
    • HDMI 1.4
    • RJ45 – Gigabit Supported
    • Mic/headphone jack
    • MicroSD card reader
  • Dimensions: 14.53″ x 9.92″ x 0.78″
  • Weight: 4.7 lbs
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Build Quality

Both the E480 and E580 feel substantial when held. They’re sturdy laptops, like all ThinkPads, but they lack some of the bells and whistles of the more high-end models. From my experience with the devices and research, the chassis are plastic, reinforced with aluminum. So, a composite. It’s imperceptible to most users, I’d suspect. However, other plastics will be easier to detect. To start, the added plastics on the display hinge and frame lead to a small amount of display flex. The keyboards are sturdy and there isn’t any flex, but their is also no backlighting. This is a real disappointment, but I understand Lenovo is offering a more affordable ThinkPad with these two devices. I do believe these laptops are targeted for the education sector and small businesses, but a backlit keyboard shouldn’t be a feature that’s reserved for “high end” devices.

Inside the rather heavy chassis is Intel’s latest 8th-gen CPU. The i5-8250U is a quad-core CPU designed for ultrabooks. I wouldn’t classify the E480 or E580 as ultrabooks, due to their weight. So I was surprised to learn these laptops are not equipped with Intel’s H-series CPU. The U-series CPUs certainly provide a better battery life, another important metric for the education space (but not small businesses). And the U-series are designed for ultrabooks (hence the “U”). So, buyer beware: the E-series provide you ultrabook specs in a non-ultrabook chassis.

Performance

Needless to say, the 8th-gen U-series, quad core CPUs from Intel are quite impressive. They’ve been found in laptops for about six months now, so their performance is not a surprise. The E480 and E580 perform well for the typical Microsoft Office and web-browsing tasks. Like other laptops with similar specs, these two passed my user-performance tests – meaning they opened Office apps in under 3 seconds and using multiple browser tabs was perfectly fine (no pausing, freezing or locking up). There isn’t much else to test – these laptops are not for gaming or video editing. Without a dedicated GPU, there simply for typical office and school use.

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Battery life was not as advertised. Even with the computers in “best battery life” mode in Windows 10, I never reached the advertised battery life duration in real-world testing. With the E480 my battery life came in at 8 hours, which is good for a 14″ laptop, but 2 hours lower than advertised. The E580 came in around 9 hours, which is 4 hours lower than rated.

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Who are These For?

The 14″ E480 and 15% E580 are for consumers that value the durable build quality of the Lenovo T-series but do not want to put forward the money for some non-essential features. Such as a backlit keyboard, ultrathin bezels and MIL-SPEC certification. What you do get is a hinge that allows the display to roll back 180 degrees, excellent I/O and, of course, the Lenovo TrackPoint (aka red nub).

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