Clever invention features but basic lack
Since the launch of IBM in the early 1990’s, the ThinkPad brand has been associated with high-end enterprise-grade computing. ThinkPad models, usually sold in an all-black paint scheme with red accents, are usually never cheap except for the relatively new E- and L-series. Lenovo, the second owner of the ThinkPad brand, launched the IdeaPad brand in early 2008 for everyday customers. These models are usually more colorful and stylish. Since then, both brands have distinct definitions and co-exist independently. Now, however, Lenovo is throwing a new name into the mix.
ThinkBook sits between ThinkPad and IdeaPad
According to ThinkBook, Lenovo’s new sub-brand limits space between the ThinkPad and IdeaPad in terms of features, appearance and even price. This space in the middle is designed to cater to small and medium business (SMB) professionals. At least Lenovo sees it that way. The ThinkBook is designed to carry all the essential features of the ThinkPad (data encryption support, etc.) when adding IdeaPad DNA (style, friendliness, etc.), now let’s see if they all go according to plan. Lenovo ThinkBook 14, which is expected to go on sale starting this month at Rs 80,000+.
The Lenovo ThinkBook 14 can be configured with an Intel 10th Gen Core i7 CPU up to 6 cores with 24GB RAM and 2TB storage hard drive (or 1TB on a solid-state drive). Our review unit comes with the Intel Core i7-10510U chip, a quad-core variant of the top-end processor. It was complemented by a Samsung PCIe NVMe M.2 solid-state drive with 16GB RAM and 512GB storage. The ThinkBook 14 can be purchased in the form of an AMD Radeon 625 graphics card with isolated graphics but our review unit employs internal Intel UHD graphics.
10th Gen Core i7 CPU from Intel
The review unit received decent scores on our CPU and GPU benchmark tests. In PCMark 8’s Accelerated Creative Test, the review unit received 3843 points. The IdeaPad S540, in contrast, scored a slightly lower 3584 on the same test. The Asus VivoBook X403, priced at around Rs 54,610 at the time of writing this review, scored 3724 on the same test. In 3DMark’s Fire Strike and Cloud Gate, the review unit scored 1192 and 9079 points, respectively. I’m glad to know that our review unit has done well in our storage tests.
The day-to-day functionality of the review unit was quite good without a minor error, which we will fix in a minute. I was able to use it freely for everyday applications such as Word, Excel, OneNote, Chrome, File Explorer, Photos, and WhatsApp PC without having to wait long to open any of them. All of these apps behaved well and responded quickly. The file opening time was especially fast. But when switching between these applications (multitasking) I noticed an inconsistency. The window switcher shows a noticeable amount of lag almost every time I hit Alt + Tab. The switcher often stays on the screen for a full second after I release the combination keys to switch windows.
Lenovo.Modern.ImController.PluginHost.exe ThinkBook 14 is running fast in the review unit, it slows down window switching
I noticed that killing the process titled ‘Lenovo.Modern.ImController.PluginHost (32 bit)’ in Task Manager completely eliminated the window switching gap. By my understanding, this is a faulty process that sprouted from the Lenovo System Interface Foundation package, which allows the bundled Lenovo Vantage app to scan its hardware. If this lag problem persists across Lenovo’s current laptops, the Chinese electronics maker should do something to fix it. In any case, we have contacted Lenovo India about the issue. The company has not yet acknowledged this as a software issue. Otherwise, the performance on the ThinkBook 14 was quite good.
The ThinkBook 14 is equipped with a 45Wh non-removable lithium-ion battery. In our standard battery benchmark test, our review unit unexpectedly scored less than 2 hours, 50 minutes. This is lower than the score of all other IdeaPad models launched earlier this year, including the entry-level IdeaPad S145 (3 hours, 16 minutes). Even since January, the Power-Hungry ThinkPad X1 Extreme has been able to hold on to 3 hours, 35 minutes of battery power.
In everyday use situations, the review unit performed much better. Setting the screen brightness to 80 percent, enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the battery level of the review unit dropped to 100 to 88 percent in just over an hour. At the time, the laptop was tasked with heavy browsing and background music playback via USB headphones. When the screen brightness is completely off, the drain rate of the battery increases significantly. The review unit lost more than 16 percent of its full charge in about 45 minutes. In short, the ThinkBook 14 will last up to six hours on your battery power if you play your cards, which is decent but nowhere near great.
Display, audio and IoT
Our ThinkBook 14 review unit comes with a 14-inch TN panel with an anti-glare finish and full HD resolution. After just one day of use it is easy to say that the panel lacked contrast, brightness and color. Pushing the lid forward makes the text look grainy and almost completely unreadable. On the whole the colors were dull and washed out, making even the work of spreadsheets and documents a fitting pain. Due to the low contrast ratio of the panel, when the brightness was set to maximum, white haze was present as a continuous layer across all areas of the screen. It was like looking at the sky of post-Diwali Delhi on a laptop screen. The ThinkBook 14’s display is really one of the worst I’ve ever seen on a laptop priced at that.
The 14-inch screen lacks brightness, color and contrast
The sound was flat and exciting from the two down-firing speakers in the review unit, even setting the bundled Dolby Audio app to music mode. Popular tunes like The Weekend StarboyThe words high and medium were mostly distorted, while the low ones were completely absent. The ThinkBook 14’s two weak bottom units are thus best preserved for general speech and unplanned video calls. At any rate, you may want to get yourself a good headset for VoIP calls because the maximum volume is not so high. The drivers in the review unit failed to fill a small, empty conference room.
ThinkBook 14 comes with lots of ports for connection. On the left side of its 0.7-inch-thick body, we have a LAN port, a USB-A 3.1 port (with the ‘always on’ function to charge the mobile phone), two USB-C 3.1 ports (including a General 2 displayport and power With support for delivery), and a 3.5mm jack for the headset. On the right, we see a proprietary power port, a USB-A 3.1 port, a full-size SD card reader, and a ‘Lenovo Hidden Port’. It is basically a USB-A 2.0 port that is stuck deep inside a tethered flap with enough space to accommodate a wireless mouse dongle. This nifty little parking space for dongles is the most intelligent feature I’ve seen on a laptop lately. If you have bought a lot of new rats for lost dongles, you will come to appreciate this little invention.
Lots of ports
Full size SD card slot is appreciated
A Dedicated Parking Space …
… for your mouse wireless dongle
Like other 2019 IdeaPad models (except the entry-level IdeaPad S145), the ThinkBook 14 has a physical sliding shutter for the webcam. This means you no longer have to turn off the camera and tap on sticky notes that easily peel off. There’s one more trick on the ThinkBook 14’s sleeve: its large, round power button doubles as a fingerprint scanner. This means that if you press the button with the registered fingerprint, Windows 10 will boot up and log you in without asking for a second authentication. This thoughtful feature is bound to save you some time and energy when you are hurriedly setting up for a meeting or presentation. Good job there, Lenovo!
Body shutter for webcam
Press once to boot and unlock
The biggest biological link in ThinkBook 14’s ThinkPad is probably the presence of on-board data encryption. Like most enterprise-ready machines, the ThinkBook 14 is equipped with Discrete TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 2.0, a dedicated cryptographic compressor for data encryption. In Microsoft’s books, it is able to create random numbers and secure generation (and limitations) of cryptographic keys.
Keyboard and touchpad
The ThinkPad is arguably one of the most comfortable keyboard setups, but it would be unfair to compare it to the IdeaPad-style unit of the ThinkBook 14. Its keys are similar to those of the IdeaPad S340. Again much easier to press. Compared to the keys of other 2019 IdeaPad laptops, they provide more travel and better responsiveness, making them suitable for longer documents and emails. What’s more, they bring dedicated keys for answering / ending calls. These keys are programmed to work with calling apps like Skype on Windows 7
More comfortable typing setup than IdeaPad series’
Like the display and battery benchmark scores, the ThinkBook 14’s touchpad is an unexpected disappointment. The touchpad has a large and smooth surface, but it’s not just a modern Windows 10-recognized precision unit. In other words, the pointer movement is not very linear and the touchpad does not support multi-finger tap and locally swipe. Settings for these gestures are not available in Windows settings We wrote to Lenovo India about why the ThinkBook 14 is an exception to the industry-standard precision unit, only to get the following response: “The current ThinkBook 14/15 generation does not support proper touchpads. Our global team is working to incorporate this into future generations of Thinkbooks. “
There is no perfect touchpad in a modern laptop which is priced above Rs 80,000
Construction and design
The ThinkBook 14 takes more time than the ThinkPad after the IdeaPad In fact, it looks a lot like the IdeaPad S340 in its plain silver color option. And that’s not a bad thing at all. The upper and lower covers are made of anodized aluminum and offer adequate grip when the laptop is taken out of the bag or taken into the conference room. Although it weighs an industry-recognized 1.5kg, the ThinkBook 14 feels heavier than other 14-inches in the same price range. A large but dull ThinkBook badge adorns the bottom right corner of the top cover, giving the laptop its identity.
Solid construction and design
Opening the lid reveals a 14-inch display with a matte finish. It is surrounded by a fairly thick horizontal bezel. Like most other Lenovos out there, the ThinkBook 14 has a display that folds the whole 180 degrees, which is convenient when you work from the bed. Lenovo says the laptop’s keyboard is designed to prevent small liquid spills (up to 60cc), which means that if you get stuck on your Lime Mint cooler, your laptop should be turned on immediately so that it can be drained. Because it’s not a pure-blooded thinkpad, it doesn’t get a drain hole at the bottom. Oh, and it doesn’t even get the famous trackpoint and dedicated click keys. It’s just fair, isn’t it?
180-degree hinge, drop-resistant keyboard
The last row
It is difficult to form a clear opinion about Lenovo ThinkBook 14. On the one hand, it features these tiny but nifty innovations that can make office life easier enough, such as the one-touch ‘Power and Unlock’ button, the physical webcam shutter and the hidden USB port for the dongle. On the other hand, it fails to get the basics right. Its display lacks color and contrast where ordinary spreadsheet work becomes painful for the eye. What’s more, it lacks a perfect touchpad and its speakers aren’t good for even voice calls.
The Lenovo ThinkBook 14 is basically an IdeaPad model with some essential enterprise features, such as support for user data encryption and a wide choice of full-size IO ports. The CPU and storage performance is consistent with what is expected, but not so with the display and touchpad. If you wish to live with these brilliant problems, consider Lenovo ThinBook 14 as your preferred machine for your small or medium business.