Review: Lenovo T480

We buy laptops because we need to produce and absorb content. You can probably blame or thank Apple and Microsoft for pushing every laptop manufacturer to design gorgeous thin and light machines. That’s been my obsession over the past few years – how thin and sturdy can laptops get? Yet here we are with Lenovo’s classic ThinkPad T-series laptop. I’m pretty sure an old predecessor of this T480 was my first employer-issued laptop in 2005. These are not stylish machines. They’re workhorses. The T480 maintains that classic design and allows users to do what we actually need: produce and absorb content. I proudly carry around my Razer Blade Stealth and I hold onto it for dear life. The T480 has spaced MIL-SPEC certification, so you can feel more confident in it’s durability, unlike standard consumer laptops. MIL-SPEC testing includes high temperatures, humidity, pressure, and more.

With epic battery life and a very comfortable keyboard, the T480 will support your content efforts such as creating a financial forecast, term paper, or watching HD video. But in a cafe, it won’t turn heads.

Specifications (As Tested – $1,969)

  • CPU: 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8650U vPro (2.4GHz 8MB Cache)
  • Display: 14″ FHD (1080p) IPS non-touch
  • Graphics: Intel Integrated UHD 620
  • Webcam: 720p HD camera with ThinkShutter
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4 2400 MHz
  • Storage: 500GB PCIe SSD
  • Battery: dual battery setup (24 + 72 Wh)
  • Audio: Dolby Audio Premium
  • Security: fingerprint reader with Windows Hello
  • I/O: 2 x USB 3.1, 1 x USB C, 1 x USB C Thunderbolt 3,  mic/headphone jack, 4-in-1 SD card reader (SD, MMC, SDHC, SDXC), HDMI, RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet
  • Dimensions: 13.25″ x 9.15″ x 0.78″
  • Weight: 3.6 lbs
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Design

My favorite feature of the T480 is the dual battery system. The primary battery has a 72 Wh capacity and is not easily removable. It’s a standard battery setup you’d see in any modern laptop. The 24 Wh battery is easily removable and designed for hot swapping. This means you can replace the 24 Wh battery while the laptop is still running. That battery is pretty small, so you could easily carry around dozens of hours of additional battery power in your backpack. The smaller, replaceable battery is the first to be used by the laptop. Those extra hours will be supported by a firm chassis and comfortable keyboard. The keyboard is a six-row, backlit classic ThinkPad layout. To the right you’ll find a power button and fingerprint reader. The classic, red TrackPoint nub is still found above the spacebar.

I/O is very good and fits well into the overall design aesthetic of the T480. You shouldn’t need a dongle for expansion, but if you do, the USB C port has you covered. The webcam has the new ThinkShutter feature, which is a small plastic cover that you can manually slide over the webcam. Otherwise, the webcam situation is nothing to write home about.

The webcam is not great. You may want an external camera if you use video conference often.

While the T480 is solidly designed and clearly crafted with care, the display could use the same love. It’s oddly dull. I was hoping for a more vibrant and colorful display. It’s possible Lenovo saved those displays for their consumer line of products (the IdeaPad and Yoga series) because they know people who need color accuracy are likely to avoid the ThinkPad series. I review a lot of laptops so it’s hard to see a company do better in their other devices (just last week I was using a Lenovo device with a much better display). The display does rotate backwards a full 180 degrees, allowing you to find that perfect angle regardless of your situation.

TWO batteries!

Performance

As expected with a dual battery system, battery performance is fantastic. I took the T480 to my remote office several times with a full charge and no AC adapter. I fully trusted it would survive a full day of work. While at work, I mainly spent my time in Microsoft’s suite of Office applications and the Chrome browser. I also run Discord, Skype and a few other applications for communication and socialization. Outside of work, when I put my GWW hat on, I crunch audio in Audacity and edit photos here and there (nothing fancy, believe me). I’m pretty certain the T480 didn’t even know I asked it to do anything. It just knocks them all out of the park. Opening any of the Office applications took under 1.5 seconds, with the exception of Outlook which was closer to 3 seconds. As you can see in the above picture, I had the performance meter set for “better performance” which is a state 3 of 4.

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Buy it Here

Who is this For?

The ThinkPad T480 is for road warriors who favor power over visual appeal. The entry level configuration starts at around $1,000 on Lenovo’s website and comes with an Intel Core i5-8250U, which is a quad core processor but just 4GB of RAM.

9

Design

9.0/10

Build Quality

9.0/10

Experience

9.0/10

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