Steve August 30, 2020
lenovo-thinkpad-t14s-review:-amd’s-ryzen-7-pro-4750u-kills-it

The T-series is meant to be the workhorse of the ThinkPad lineup. I’ve got my hands on the T14s Gen 1, which is the successor to the T490s, as there’s some new branding. This one is meant to be thin and light, where as the full-size T14 (the successor to the T490) is a bit beefier. Still, the T-series is the most popular of the entire ThinkPad lineup.

And this is a milestone year for the T-series, and it’s now 20 years old. In that time, it’s grown to be one of the most trusted laptops for businesses. Indeed, if you ask around, you’re bound to find someone who was given a ThinkPad T-something for work.

The ThinkPad T14s weighs in at just 2.81 pounds, making it super thin and light for something that’s designed to be the workhorse of the family. This model includes AMD’s Ryzen 7 PRO processor, although it’s available in Intel Comet Lake if that floats your boat.

Specs

CPU AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 4750U
GPU Integrated Radeon Graphics
Body 12.94×8.89×0.63″ (328.8×225.8×16.1mm), 2.81lbs (1.09kg)
Display 14 inches, 1920×1080, 300 nits, multi-touch
Ports (2) USB 3.2 Type-C Gen 2


(2) USB 3.1 Gen 1, Type-A


(1) Ethernet Extension


(1) HDMI 2.0


(1) Micro-SD Card


(1) Microphone / Headphone Combo Jack
RAM 16GB LPDDR4 3200MHz
Storage 512GB PCIe NVMe
Battery 57 watt-hour Li-ion, supports Rapid Charge
Camera HD720p or IR Camera w/ ThinkShutter
Keyboard 6-row, spill-resistant, Unified Communications keys, LED backlight
Audio Dolby Audio speaker system, 1W x 2
Connectivity Intel Wi-Fi AX + Bluetooth 5.0
Material Top: Carbon Fiber (optional Carbon Fiber Weave design on UHD panel)


Bottom: Magnesium Alloy
Price $1,667.40 (current price on Lenovo.com, as it fluctuates)



Personally, I’d pick AMD Ryzen PRO over Intel’s Comet Lake vPro, as it’s just better in a number of ways. Unfortunately, there are some compromises, such as that the USB Type-C ports are Thunderbolt 3 on the Intel model. There are also more display options with the Intel variant, as it can come with a 4K UHD display.

Day one

Design

The Lenovo ThinkPad T14s comes in any color you want, as long as it’s black. Yes, I review a lot of ThinkPads, and yes, that Henry Ford quote has gotten a lot of miles in my reviews. Some ThinkPads do come in silver, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one in person. The common color for the brand is black.

The top-down shot of the ThinkPad T14s could be of about a dozen other models. It’s got the silver ThinkPad logo stamped in the top-left corner, with the light-up dot in the ‘i’. This is as opposed to the black logo on premium ThinkPads, or the silver logo that’s not stamped on entry-level SKUs. The T-series is mainstream, which is one of the reasons it sells so well; that, and the fact that customers keep coming back when the PC doesn’t let them down.

As I mentioned earlier, this year’s model weighs in at 2.81 pounds, which is exactly the same as last year’s T490s. In fact, there’s not a whole lot that’s different this year, as it has the same magnesium alloy base and carbon fiber lid. There is a new carbon fiber weave option, although that’s exclusive to the UHD model. You’ll notice that a lot of my complaints have to do with the AMD Ryzen 4000 processors being superior to Intel Comet Lake, but the AMD SKUs having fewer options.

The fact that little has changed since last year isn’t a bad thing. This isn’t the type of product where people upgrade year-over-year, and it’s not like it was lacking.

The left side of the PC is where you’ll find the bulk of the ports. This is actually where you do get one benefit over Intel, as this model has HDMI 2.0, whereas the Intel model is HDMI 1.4b. You’ll also find a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port and a 3.5mm combo audio jack.

And of course, there are two USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C ports, which would be Thunderbolt 3 on the Intel model. Thunderbolt is still very much an Intel thing, and will be until USB 4.0 comes along. It’s not that it’s impossible for an AMD PC to exist with Thunderbolt. I’ve been told over and over that it could happen; I’ve just never seen it. In fact, if you know of an AMD-powered PC with Thunderbolt 3, let me know in the comments. Also, next to one of the USB Type-C ports, there’s an Ethernet extension port, which can be used for mechanical docking in combination with the USB-C port. Pretty much all ThinkPads have mechanical docking now.

On the right, you’ll find another USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port.

There’s not much else to say about the design. It’s all pretty standard stuff, and that’s a good thing. I don’t think of something branded as a workhorse as something that’s supposed to have bells and whistles. I think of it as something that will get the job done when I need it to, and as always, it does.

Display and audio

As the name implies, the ThinkPad T14s has a 14-inch screen. Under the previous branding, the T4xx was 14 inches and the T5xx was 15 inches. In total, there are five display panels offered. The one that Lenovo sent me is the 300-nit FHD multi-touch option, and frankly, I wish it was a bit brighter.

All of my usage has been at full brightness because frankly, it’s necessary, even indoors. It can be a bit of a strain to use outdoors. Luckily, there are other options. First of all, the base model has a 250-nit FHD non-touch panel, and while it’s not very bright, it will get you the best battery life. There’s also a non-touch FHD panel that comes in at 400-nit brightness, and that might be the sweet spot if you don’t need a touchscreen.

The fourth option is a 500-nit FHD touchscreen that has an integrated Privacy Guard. That’s meant to keep people from being able to look over your shoulder while you’re working. Several PC vendors make something like this, and I’ve only used the one from HP. Personally, I love it, and I wish more companies would seed privacy displays in review units.

The fifth option is a 500-nit 4K UHD panel with Dolby Vision HDR, and like I said earlier, it’s exclusive to the Intel model.

I do feel like the colors on this display are a bit blown out. The colors definitely aren’t as accurate as I’d like, although it is an anti-glare display, which can lead to this effect sometimes.

The ThinkPad T14s has two 1W Dolby Audio speakers, and they sound pretty good, so they’ll be great for calls. For music, the quality is impressive as well, with the tinny aspect of the small speakers kept to a minimum. Don’t expect to be blown away by the volume, as you shouldn’t be from 1W speakers that are placed underneath the chassis.

Keyboard and trackpad

It’s been a while since anything changed in the world of ThinkPad keyboards, especially if you’re looking at a single lineup like the T-series. Lenovo’s ThinkPads are renowned for their keyboards, and this one is no different. It’s just comfortable to type on, and it’s accurate too.

The keys have a deeper throw than most non-ThinkPad laptops that you’ll come across, so that’s definitely something to be aware of. Personally, I feel like Lenovo combined the deeper keys with proper resistance to create a comfortable typing experience. Naturally, your mileage may vary, as comfort is a personal experience. What I can tell you for sure is that it’s accurate. You won’t get any double-presses here.

Right smack in the middle is the TrackPoint, the red nub that can be used to move the pointer across the screen. It’s a relic from the age of terrible trackpads on Windows PCs, but it has its fan-base. Sadly, I’m not sure that Lenovo will ever change this aspect of ThinkPads, as every single ThinkPad produced has a TrackPoint. If you don’t want one, you can get a ThinkBook. Personally, I’m happy to just ignore it, and if you like it, you can use it.

The trackpad is clickable, but it also has physical buttons above it. While I use those physical buttons with the trackpad, they’re really designed for use with the TrackPoint. All of this is pretty standard. If you’re coming from a T-series ThinkPad from a few years ago, there’s not going to be any crazy differences in this area, and that’s a good thing.

Performance and battery life

I’ve now reviewed several PCs with AMD’s Ryzen 4000 processors, which are built on a 7nm process, while Intel’s Comet Lake is still 14nm. The first one I reviewed was the Lenovo Flex 5 14, which came with a Ryzen 5 4500U, a hexa-core chip with six threads. While it should stand next to a Core i5, I found that it was actually more comparable to a Core i7, leaving me wondering what a Ryzen 7 has to offer.

For both the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 in the U-series, AMD offers one SKU with Simultaneous Multi Threading, or as Intel would call it, hyperthreading. However, with Ryzen 4000 PRO, they all have it. If you get a Ryzen 7 4700U, you get eight cores and eight threads, and a 4800U has eight cores and 16 threads. For Ryzen PRO, there’s just the Ryzen 7 4750U, which has eight cores and 16 threads, and of course, a 15W TDP.

Along with more power, you also get different memory support with AMD Ryzen. This model comes with LPDDR4 3200MHz memory, while the Intel model comes with LPDDR3 2666MHz memory.

As far as battery life goes, I got about five hours of regular work from the 57WHr battery, which is fine. It’s obviously nothing to write home about, and you definitely need to keep a charger around, but it’s pretty standard given the form factor. Plus, it supports Lenovo’s Rapid Charge, so if you use a Lenovo charger, it juices up pretty quickly.

For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8 and PCMark 10.

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s


AMD Ryzen 7 4750U
Lenovo Flex 5 14


AMD Ryzen 5 4500U
Surface Laptop 3 15


AMD Ryzen 7 3780U Surface Edition
Dell XPS 13


Intel Core i7-10710U
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1


Intel Core i7-1065G7
PCMark 8: Home 4,298 4,135

3,360

3,501

3,899

PCMark 8: Creative 4,568 4,214 3,687

3,966

4,253

PCMark 8: Work 3,857 3,693 3,095

3,342

3,797

PCMark 10 4,963 4,708

3,939

4,314

4,402



When I compared the Ryzen 5 4500U to an Ice Lake Core i7, each one won two of the four categories. With this one, it’s clear that the Ryzen 7 is superior in every category. As far as ultrabook performance goes, you can’t beat this.

Conclusion

If only it came with a UHD display. Seriously, I get that there are some advantages to choosing Intel, and others to choosing AMD. In terms of what the platform offers, I think there are more advantages from AMD, although you do get Thunderbolt from Intel. What I don’t care for is OEMs creating their own value propositions for Intel by only offering certain configurations with an Intel processor. It’s not cool.

Other than that, and some weird display issues that I had, this laptop is a sure winner. It’s not the flashiest thing in the world, nor is it meant to be. It’s meant to be a workhorse, meaning that it can get the job done when you need it to. This is a reliable machine, and with an AMD Ryzen 7 4750U processor, it’s got the internals to do what you need it to.

In fact, it’s probably going to exceed your expectations for performance. Seriously, AMD killed it with this generation, and Intel has some serious competition. If you want to check out the ThinkPad T14s, you can find it on Lenovo.com here.





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