A faster and accurate keyboard with ThinkPad trackpad.
A familiar ThinkPad design with TrackPoint and decent processor.
It is on the heavier side in terms of weight.
As a tech enthusiast, I measure the success of any product by looking at how constant it has been since its inception. In terms of consistency, only a few product comes to mind that has had a run outshining the bigger part of the industry. Apple iPhone, Porsche 911, Range Rover Sport, Boeing 747, Rolex Submariner and Omega Speedmaster immediately comes to mind. One such product, which has stayed constant, over the course of many years is the Lenovo ThinkPad.
Every time when I enter an enterprise setting, the most common element that I see is the black laptops that people carry around the workplace. It is rather impossible to not notice and it has been the only constant fixture for nearly two decades. If you are a new employee who joined a modern workplace recently then there is a fair possibility that your employer offered you a black piece of computer, also called as ThinkPad.
While the ThinkPads have an impressive connect with IT administrators and enterprise customers, they are also facing renewed competition from other PC makers like Dell and HP. Like everything else in tech, the ThinkPads are also being challenged and Lenovo is making sure that ThinkPads evolve for the modern world, without losing their DNA. In the past few years, Lenovo has revamped the lineup to offer entry-level models in the form of ThinkPad E-series to very high-end models such as ThinkPad X series and workstation-grade ThinkPad P series. While there is no one size fits all, there is a ThinkPad for everyone and the ThinkPad E480 is for those who are looking for their first ever ThinkPad. So, the question is does the ThinkPad E480 serve as a good first-time enterprise notebook? Let’s break that down.
Design and Display
The Lenovo ThinkPad E480 is a monolithic block of metal painted black on the exterior as well as interior. The black finish is matte and it gathers a lot of fingerprints, especially if you have oily hands like mine. I always had a piece of microfiber cloth handy to wipe those marks away.
The top shell of the ThinkPad E480 only features a ThinkPad logo on the top left hand corner that has a ‘Red Dot’ LED embedded inside it. I really like the addition of a small LED since Apple has decided to get rid of the backlighting on its logo with the recent MacBook Pro models. On the interior, things are rather subdued with a ThinkPad logo sitting on the right side of the trackpad while the Intel logo confirming the processor model is on the left.
The fingerprint sensor, which is as quick as anything that we have seen on modern smartphones, is placed above the ThinkPad logo. There is a dedicated power button on the top right corner of the inner keyboard layout and I would prefer a fingerprint sensor embedded within this button. This would have made for a much cleaner look inside. The display is a 14-inch panel with one of the thickest bezels you could find on a laptop in 2018.
While the bezels surrounding the display have been trimmed a bit, the forehead and chin of the display still have huge bezels. This means the standard webcam is placed right where you would expect while Lenovo logo and a logo confirming the model number i.e. E480 sit on either side of the bottom chin. There is a ThinkPad keyboard with 84-key layout, where the Red nub is placed between the keys ‘G’, ‘H’ and ‘B’. The keyboard is followed by a trackpad that has a layout similar to that of a traditional mouse.
On the left side, there is a USB Type-C port, HDMI port, two regular USB Type A port and a 3.5mm audio jack. The right is home to Kensington lock slot, Ethernet port, USB Type-A port and microSD card slot. In a nutshell, the Lenovo ThinkPad E480 is unapologetically designed like a ThinkPad and that is definitely the beauty of this machine.
The display, which is HD ready and not Full HD, is meant to be used mostly indoors and won’t be that great for field work. It has very good viewing angles and the brightness is good when you are looking at the device indoors but under sunlight, you will need to crank up the brightness to the “Brightest” setting and might even be left wanting a bit more of brightness. Other than that, there is little to complain about the display on this model. It is not as sharp as those 4K panels on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon but it is not bad either.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Before we get to performance and battery life, it is important to talk about the keyboard and trackpad. Yes, the smartphone is our primary computing device these days and as a result, our input devices are changing rapidly as well. But, when it comes to getting things done, you really need a good old keyboard and mouse.
On the Lenovo ThinkPad E480, you will not be disappointed even a bit while typing or attempting some kind of gesture to navigate Windows 10. The keyboard is an absolutely delight to type and trust me, I type a lot. The keys have incredible 1.8mm key travel and every time when you hit a switch, there is a sense of understanding that you know, that you have hit the right key.
For instance, I always keep looking at the screen while typing and my fingers basically glide through the keyboard. I am so accustomed to the 84-key setup that my fingers have memorized the layout. While I’m prone to a lot of typos, I noticed a significant improvement while typing on the ThinkPad E480. The keyboard also supports two-stage backlighting, which makes it really useful. The position of the Function and Ctrl key is swapped, compared to what is usually found on laptops.
The trackpad is built using Microsoft’s precision drivers and it is a joy to use. For starters, it is relatively large and the placement of right and left click buttons on the top instead of the bottom, gives plenty of surface to move your cursor. The functional keys are very much clicky but most hardcore ThinkPad fans will rather love to stick with the red nub on the keyboard, also referred to as TrackPoint.
A good keyboard is not anymore a necessity but when you have one, it can be a boon. As I understood while using the ThinkPad E480, my typing speed registered a marginal jump while the accuracy just got much better.
Performance and Battery Life
Lenovo offers a number of options when it comes to configuring the ThinkPad E480. You can configure a base model with 7th generation Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 1TB HDD spinning at 5400RPM and max out at variant with 8th generation Core i7 CPU coupled with 8GB of RAM and 1TB HDD that spins at 5400RPM. For the review, Lenovo sent us a mid-tier model with 8th generation Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM and a faster 500GB HDD spinning at 7200RPM. This particular model is priced at Rs 53,500 and listing claims 4GB of RAM instead of 8GB found on our review unit.
In terms of performance, the ThinkPad E480 does not offer the highest of speeds but is enough for most business users. The laptop, advertised as business ready, does manage basic functions like browsing through the web, analyzing documents or creating powerpoint really easy. It, however, does not have the guts to handle challenging applications like video editing tool.
The ThinkPad E480 packs a 3-cell battery which lasted me just three hours before I plugged the laptop for charging. This is lesser than what I observed on a few gaming machines, and is far below mainstream notebooks. However, considering that it is designed with folks working at a stationary desk and not mobile workforce in mind, I don’t see much reason to complain.
Watch: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon First Look
The Lenovo ThinkPad E480 being a business-friendly laptop runs 64-bit Windows 10 Pro out of the box. It has little or no bloatware and most IT administrators can configure the machine using their own image. The laptop is designed to offer most convenient features for business users like remote desktop, device guard and bitlocker. It also supports additional system configuration like ability to join a domain or handle group policy management.
While Windows includes a number of native security features, the ThinkPad E480 includes its own security features including device encryption and TPM Chip. It also bundles an antivirus, but I’m certain most IT administrators will remove at as soon as the device gets shipped. Our review unit ran Windows 10 April Creators Update version 1803 and did not get updated to Fall Creators Update.
There are only few devices or product built to do one thing well and the ThinkPad series is one such product. Whether you buy this entry-level ThinkPad or a more premium model like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, you are guaranteed to get a clean software, reliable design and a build quality that can be described in one word as indestructible. With ThinkPad E480, Lenovo manages to offer most of that for a very much acceptable price of under Rs 55,000 but be prepared to carry a lot of weight on your back. Is this a good first-time enterprise notebook, the answer is absolutely.