A professional-grade ultraportable with fab battery life, but is it compromised in other areas?
Lenovo is on a mission with its ThinkPad laptops – not just making them thinner and lighter, but easier to use, more stylish and more versatile too.
The ThinkPad T440s is one of Lenovo’s most recent attempts to modernise the ThinkPad brand – a 14-inch professional-grade laptop that sacrifices little, if anything, to meet Intel’s standards for Ultrabook status. But is it enough to rattle the competition – namely the HP ZBook 14 and 13-inch MacBook Air? Lenovo has certainly tried, but its new machine comes up short.
Let’s start with the good news.
The T440s has a 1,920 x 1,080, 10-point multi-touch screen, an optional fingerprint reader and hot-swappable battery technology.
This is crammed inside a slick, smooth carbon fibre and magnesium frame that’s a mere 20mm thick. That’s certainly a start.
Sadly, this laptop lacks the dedicated graphics processing of the ZBook 14 or the sheer portability of the MacBook Air.
Aside from hinges that can bend 180 degrees, the T440s doesn’t have many tricks up its sleeve.
Smart looks The ThinkPad T440s looks the part though, with carbon fibre wrapping its clamshell lid and keyboard deck, and magnesium covering its base.
In addition to the hot-swappable batteries and fingerprint reader, it also sports three USB 3.0 ports, VGA, mini DisplayPort and Ethernet connections, and both SIM and SD card readers. When you factor in its full HD touch display, it gives the thinner and lighter (though smaller) MacBook Air a run for its money in some regards.
Like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X240 and T440, the T440s was built with two batteries: a three-cell juice pack on the inside and your choice of an external three-cell or six-cell battery. Thanks to Lenovo’s proprietary Power Bridge tech, you can swap batteries on the fly without shutting down the machine, providing that the internal battery has power.
This technology nearly defeated the purpose of the X240’s power- saving 12.5-inch form factor, but it makes a little more sense in the T440s, with its 14-inch screen.
Lenovo says the machine will last up to 17 hours with the six-cell battery attached, and although we didn’t witness quite such a show of endurance in our tests, it was nevertheless impressive.
Power-efficiency aside, there is one important consideration to keep in mind: the six-cell external battery immediately shatters the T440s’s Ultrabook classification, adding an additional centimetre to its thickness and increasing its weight to a heftier 1.9kg.
Of course, endurance isn’t everything, so let’s take a closer look at what else the T440s offers. In terms of specification, Lenovo seems to have drawn a line in the sand, eschewing a dedicated GPU in favour of better battery life. But was that the right decision? Make a compromise The T440s offers good connectivity and hardware, but falls short in terms of raw power. Nevertheless, a laptop is more than just a sum of its parts – it’s about the experience.
Lenovo Thinkpad T440s
Supplier ThinkPad T440s
Operating system Windows 8
Processor Intel Core i5-4200U 1.6GHz
Storage 128GB SSD
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4400
Connectivity USB 3.0, VGA, mini
DisplayPort, Ethernet, 4-in-1 card reader,
SIM card reader, Smart Card slot
Weight 1.8-1.9kg depending on
Screen size 14-inch
Display resolution Full HD 1,920 x 1,080
There were few surprises in our benchmarks. We ran the ThinkPad T440s through a gamut of synthetic analyses, and it spat back results in line with every other Core i5 system we’ve tested. The combination of Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD allowed it to handle our daily workload test with ease.
It happily ran 15 or more Google Chrome tabs, a chat app filled with animated images, a PDF reader and TweetDeck, streamed high bit rate music on Spotify and allowed us to hold video meetings.
That said, our day-to-day test doesn’t involve digging into hefty spreadsheets or editing large images in Photoshop. The latter might give this machine a bit of trouble due to its lack of dedicated graphics, but the majority of home users should have no problems with their usual tasks.
Coming back to battery life, this laptop lasted an impressive five hours and 17 minutes in PCMark 8 thanks to its six-cell battery.
In comparison, the three-cell battery lasted two hours and 33 minutes. That’s very impressive for a Windows 8-based laptop, and the fact that you can swap batteries on the fly means that the T440s can last as long as the amount of charged batteries you bring along.
The ability to share these batteries with the ThinkPad X240 and T440 is an added bonus. The question you have to ask yourself is whether the added endurance is worth the increased weight and bulk.
Snappy typing Fans of Lenovo’s signature touchpad and keyboard will not be disappointed. Featuring a full-size set of smooth, black plastic keys with bright backlighting, the T440s offers the typing experience we’ve come to expect from Lenovo clamshells. In addition, the multimedia-first function keys are a major advantage.
Lenovo also makes some of the best touchpads around, and it’s no surprise that the T440s provides a smooth glass tracking surface.
Windows 8 gestures work flawlessly – in the rare event that you need to use them. Importantly, this is one of the first ThinkPads to feature Lenovo’s new touchpad design with a single clickable button. It works without a hitch and provides more space for touchpad users. The trademark TrackPoint mouse nub is still present embedded in the keyboard, but is largely redundant.
The T440s comes with a bright, crystal clear, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS LCD screen with 10-point multi-touch control. Colours look incredibly vibrant and viewing angles are exceptional, thanks in part to bezels that are narrower than those of the previous generation.
High expectations With its uniform 14-inch frame, the T440s is probably the closest you’ll get to the traditional ThinkPad experience these days. It’s clear that Lenovo has tried its best with this laptop’s Ultrabook certification, updated innards and pristine panel, but it is just a little bit too heavy.
There’s no denying the lasting power provided by the three-cell and six-cell battery combo, but while the swappable batteries are tempting, you are compromising on portability.
However, the ThinkPad T440s offers the experience that you would expect from the Lenovo brand. The typing and tracking are second to none, and you’ll have a hard time wearing it down with general business-orientated tasks.
In that regard, this is a workhorse that would serve you well.