Lenovo ThinkBook 14 Review: Clever inventions but a lack of fundamentals

IBM’s ThinkPad brand has been linked with high-end enterprise-grade computers since its launch in the early 1990s.

Except for the relatively contemporary E- and L-series ThinkPad models, which are often available in an all-black colour scheme with red accents, ThinkPad models have never been inexpensive. Lenovo, the second owner of the ThinkPad brand, created the IdeaPad brand in early 2008 to cater to regular people. These models are typically more colourful and fashionable.

Since then, both brands have had their own definitions and have coexisted separately. Lenovo, on the other hand, is adding a fresh name to the mix.

Lenovo’s new sub-brand, ThinkBook, falls between between the ThinkPad and the IdeaPad in terms of functionality, design, and even price. This in-between location is intended for working professionals in small and medium-sized organisations (SMBs).

That is, at least, how Lenovo sees it. The ThinkBook is intended to bring over all of the fundamental features of the ThinkPad (data encryption capabilities, for example) while injecting the DNA of the IdeaPad (style, friendliness, etc.) Let’s see whether everything went as planned with the Lenovo ThinkBook 14, which is slated to be on sale this month at a pretty high price of Rs 80,000+.

Performance

The Lenovo ThinkBook 14 may be customised with up to an Intel 10th Gen Core i7 CPU with six cores, 24GB of RAM, and 2TB of hard drive storage (or 1TB on a solid-state drive). The Intel Core i7-10510U chip, a quad-core variation of the top-end processor, was installed in our evaluation unit.

It had 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage on a Samsung PCIe NVMe M.2 solid-state drive. The ThinkBook 14 is available with discrete graphics in the form of an AMD Radeon 625 graphics card, although our testing model relied on integrated Intel UHD Graphics.

The review unit performed admirably in our CPU and GPU benchmark tests. The review device received 3843 points on PCMark 8’s Accelerated Creative test. In comparison, the IdeaPad S540 got a little lower 3584 on the same test.

The Asus VivoBook X403, which retailed for around Rs 54,610 at the time of writing, got a little lower 3724 on the same test. The review unit received 1192 and 9079 points on 3DMark’s Fire Strike and Cloud Gate tests, respectively. I was relieved to see that our review unit had performed admirably in our storage test.

The review unit performed admirably on a daily basis, with the exception of one tiny hiccup, which we’ll cover in a moment. I was able to utilise common software like Word, Excel, OneNote, Chrome, File Explorer, Photos, and WhatsApp on PC without having to wait for them to open.

All of these applications performed admirably and answered swiftly. The file open times were exceptionally quick. However, it was when moving between these apps (multitasking) that I became aware of an abnormality.

Almost every time I pressed Alt + Tab, the window switcher exhibited substantial slowness. After I released the combo keys for switching windows, the switcher frequently stayed on the screen for more than a full second.

ImController.PluginHost (32 bit)’ in Task Manager significantly eliminated the latency in window switching. According to my understanding, the incorrect process arose from Lenovo’s System Interface Foundation package, which aids the integrated Lenovo Vantage programme in doing hardware checks.

If this latency issue persists throughout Lenovo’s current computers, the Chinese electronics maker should take action to address it. In any case, we contacted Lenovo India about the problem. The corporation has yet to recognise it as a software problem. Otherwise, the ThinkBook 14 performed admirably.

Battery

The ThinkBook 14 is powered by a non-removable lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 45Wh. Our evaluation device scored a disappointingly low 2 hours, 50 minutes on our normal battery benchmark test.

This is a lower score than any of the other IdeaPad models released earlier this year, including the entry-level IdeaPad S145 (3 hours, 16 minutes). Even the power-hungry ThinkPad X1 Extreme from January managed 3 hours and 35 minutes on battery power.

The review unit fared substantially better in real-world circumstances. With the screen brightness set to 80% and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on, the review unit’s battery capacity dropped from 100% to 88% in just over an hour.

During that time, the laptop was used for intensive browsing as well as background music streaming via USB headphones. The battery’s drain rate rose considerably when the screen brightness was set to full. In around 45 minutes, the review unit lost more over 16% of its entire charge.

In summary, the ThinkBook 14 should last up to six hours on battery power if you play your cards right, which is adequate but not exceptional.

Display, audio, and input/output (IO)

Our ThinkBook 14 evaluation sample had a 14-inch TN panel with an anti-glare coating and Full HD resolution. After only a day of usage, it was clear that the display lacked contrast, brightness, and colour. When the lid was pulled forward, the text became blurry and nearly illegible.

Colors were often drab and washed out, making even spreadsheet and document processing a chore. When the brightness was adjusted to maximum, there seemed to be a continuous coating of white haze over all sections of the screen due to the panel’s poor contrast ratio.

It was like looking at a post-Diwali Delhi sky on the screen of a laptop. The display on the ThinkBook 14 is one of the worst I’ve seen on a notebook this cheap.

Even with the accompanying Dolby Audio software set to Music mode, the sound from the review unit’s two down-firing speakers was bland and uninteresting.

Highs and mids were substantially distorted in a popular song like The Weeknd’s Starboy, while lows were totally nonexistent. The ThinkBook 14’s two poor bottom-facing units are thus best reserved for basic presentations and spontaneous video conferences.

In any case, considering the maximum level isn’t all that loud, you might want to invest in a nice headset for VoIP conversations. The review unit’s drivers were unable to fill a small, vacant conference room.

The ThinkBook 14 has a plethora of connection connectors. A LAN port, a USB-A 3.1 port (with ‘Always On’ capability to charge mobile phones), two USB-C 3.1 ports (one of which is Gen 2 with support for DisplayPort and Power Delivery), and a 3.5mm socket for headsets are located on the left side of its 0.7-inch-thick shell.

On the right, there is a proprietary power port, a USB-A 3.1 connector, a full-size SD Card reader, and a ‘Lenovo Hidden Port.’ That’s essentially a USB-A 2.0 port hidden deep inside a tethered flap with enough room for a wireless mouse’s dongle.

This clever tiny dongle parking spot is certainly the most clever feature I’ve seen on a laptop in recent years. If you’ve spent a lot of money on new mouse to replace lost dongles, you’ll appreciate this small improvement.

The ThinkBook 14 has a hardware sliding shutter for its webcam, same as the other 2019 IdeaPad models (excluding the entry-level IdeaPad S145). This means you won’t have to go about taping your camera shut with sticky notes that easily peel off.

The ThinkBook 14 has another trick in its sleeve: its huge, round power button also functions as a fingerprint scanner. This implies that if you press the button with a registered fingerprint, Windows 10 will start up and log you in without prompting you for further authentication.

This innovative feature will undoubtedly save you time and energy when you’re rushing to get ready for a meeting or presentation. Lenovo, you did an excellent job!

The ThinkBook 14’s most obvious biological resemblance to the ThinkPad is the existence of on-board data encryption. The ThinkBook 14 is equipped with Discrete TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 2.0, which is a specialised cryptographic coprocessor for data encryption, as are other enterprise-ready workstations.

According to Microsoft, it is capable of random number generation as well as the secure generation (and limiting) of cryptographic keys.

Touchpad and Keyboard

The ThinkPad boasts perhaps one of the most comfortable keyboard configurations available, but comparing it to the IdeaPad-style device on the ThinkBook 14 would be unjust. The keys seem the same as those of the IdeaPad S340, but they’re significantly easier to press.

When compared to the keys on the other 2019 IdeaPad computers, they have greater travel and provide much better feedback, making them ideal for long papers and emails. Furthermore, they provide dedicated call answer/end keys. These keys are set up to function with calling programmes like Skype on Windows.

The ThinkBook 14’s touchpad, like the display and battery benchmark score, is a surprise letdown. Although the touchpad has a broad and smooth surface, it is not a current Windows 10-recognized precision unit.

In other words, the pointer movement isn’t very linear, and the touchpad doesn’t natively enable multi-finger taps and swipes. These motions’ settings are not available in Windows Settings. We emailed Lenovo India to inquire why the ThinkBook 14 is an exception to the industry-standard precision unit, only to receive the following response:

“The current ThinkBook 14/15 generation does not support Precision Touchpad.” Our worldwide team is working hard to include this into future generations of ThinkBooks.” The only consolation is that the click buttons beneath the surface of the touchpad are quite easy to push.

Construct and Design

The ThinkBook 14 is more akin to the IdeaPad than the ThinkPad. In fact, in basic silver, it resembles a somewhat beefed-up IdeaPad S340. That’s not always a terrible thing. The top and bottom covers are composed of anodized aluminium, and the laptop has a good grip when lifted out of a backpack or transported between conference rooms.

Despite just 1.5 kilogrammes, the ThinkBook 14 seems heavier than most other 14-inchers in the same price range. The laptop’s identify is provided by a huge yet unappealing ThinkBook insignia adorning the lower right corner of the top cover.

When the lid is opened, a 14-inch matte-finish display is revealed. It is bordered by thick horizontal bezels. The ThinkBook 14 boasts a display that folds all the way back to 180 degrees, much like practically every other Lenovo out there, which is useful if you’re working from bed.

According to Lenovo, the laptop’s keyboard is intended to survive modest liquid spills (up to 60cc), so if you knock your lime mint cooler over, you should immediately flip the laptop over to drain it. It doesn’t have drain holes at the bottom because it isn’t a pure-blooded ThinkPad. It also lacks the well-known TrackPoint and specialised click buttons. Isn’t that just fair?

Verdict

It’s difficult to make a judgement on the Lenovo ThinkBook 14. On the one hand, it has some little but useful advancements that may make office life much simpler, such as the one-touch ‘power and unlock’ button, physical camera shutter, and concealed USB-A connector for dongles.

On the other hand, it falls short of the fundamentals. Its display is so devoid of colour and contrast that even simple spreadsheet work becomes uncomfortable to the eyes. Furthermore, it lacks a precise touchpad and its speakers are unsuitable for phone calls.

The Lenovo ThinkBook 14 is essentially an IdeaPad model with a few important corporate features added in, such as support for user data encryption and a wide range of full-size IO connectors. The CPU and storage performance are in line with expectations, however the display and touchpad are not.

If you’re ready to live with these obvious flaws, the Lenovo ThinBook 14 should be your computer of choice for your small or medium-sized business.

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