Looking at the Lenovo ThinkPad T450s, you wouldn't be faulted if you mistook it for last year's ThinkPad T440s. The ThinkPad T series represents Lenovo's careful trade-offs between power, performance, and portability in a lightweight design.
In this year's evolution, Lenovo focuses its efforts on under-the-hood improvements – updating the ThinkPad T450s to a more energy-efficient Intel fifth-generation Broadwell CPU – rather than changing the familiar business-centric design.
Unlike on Apple's $999 (£670, AU$1,275) 13-inch MacBook Air, there isn't a dramatic tapering to give the illusion of thinness in the design of the ThinkPad T450s. Considered a business Ultrabook with its 14.1-inch display and 0.83-inch thin profile, the boxy ThinkPad design is more reminiscent of the $1,099 (£740, AU$1,400) MacBook Pro than an Air. The thickness is not a bad thing, as this allows Lenovo to cater to mobile business users and pack in a plethora of ports on the ThinkPad T450s.
Given that Lenovo markets the ThinkPad T450s as an Ultrabook that can serve double duty as a mobile workstation with its array of ports, the notebook competes in the same segment as the $699, 14-inch (£470, AU$890) Toshiba Tecra Z40, Dell's $999 (£670, AU$1,275), 15-inch Precision M2800, and the $1,259 (£845, AU$1,600) HP ZBook 14. The T450s could also be seen as an alternative to those who don't need the horsepower of Lenovo's mobile workstation-class, $1,259 (£845, AU$1,600) ThinkPad W550s.
With the exception of Toshiba, the main difference between these Ultrabooks and the ThinkPad T450s is that Lenovo's thin and light sacrifices a dedicated GPU in favor of reduced weight. As such, performance from the ThinkPad T450s is more comparable to Dell's $899 (£605, AU$1,145) XPS 13 – though the Dell sacrifices port selection and docking station connectivity for a light and compact design – and Apple's $1,299 (£870, AU$1,655) 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.
Unlike the consumer market in which users appreciate bold design changes, Lenovo users fret over the smallest of changes. Not wanting to upset its long-time users, Lenovo maintains design continuity of its ThinkPad series here. Like ThinkPads before it, there is a simple elegance to the simple lines that frame the black silhouette of the T450s.
After responding to user feedback in making last year's T440s, the T450s comes in an identical 13.03 x 8.90 x 0.83-inch (33.1 X 22.6 X 2.1 cm) body with a starting weight of 3.5 pounds (1.59kg). That's not a bad thing: the reintroduction of dedicated TrackPoint buttons from the T440s remains. Plus, there is an optional fingerprint scanner for enterprise customers and a spill-resistant keyboard, which is unsurprisingly a joy to use.
Keeping the same design from the T440s means that users can reuse accessories, like docking stations, when they upgrade to the T450s. However, I wish Lenovo would have shaved some of the weight off. With a touchscreen, the T450s's weight jumps to 3.9 pounds (1.77kg).
The T450s is heavier than the 3.24-pound (1.47kg) Tecra Z40, but is still much lighter than the 5.64-pound (2.56kg) Dell Precision M2800 and weighs about the same as HP's 3.57-pound (1.62kg) ZBook 14 and Apple's 3.48-pound (1.58kg)13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.
If you can live without the tapered design of the slim, $1,199 (£805, AU$1,530) ThinkPad X1 Carbon or the dedicated Nvidia graphics offered by the ThinkPad W series, the ThinkPad T450s's understated, boxy design offers a fine balance of power, performance, and portability.
The ThinkPad T450s looks like just another plastic laptop at first glance, but its magnesium and aluminum skeleton, reinforced roll cage and carbon fiber shell make for a sturdy device with excellent build quality. The T450s feels well-constructed with no creaks or flexes, unlike the ThinkPad W550s.
I prefer the matte, black body of the ThinkPad T450s over the rubberized finish found on the ThinkPad W540s and W550s. The non-rubberized finish keeps the surface of the T450s looking cleaner, as it is less prone to attracting dirt, dust, and fingerprint compared to its mobile workstation counterparts in the W series.
A mechanical dock connector, array of vents and seven Philips screws are found on the undercarriage of the T450s. Unexpected for a business laptop, the Dolby-powered bottom-firing speakers provide robust sound and rich audio.