Hands on: Lenovo ThinkPad T550 review

Lenovo offers a business laptop at a budget price

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The T550 is a phenomenal hedge bet. It provides just enough business performance at an awesome price. Just don't expect anything groundbreaking here.

For

  • Battery life
  • 3K display
  • speed

Against

  • Off-center TrackPad
  • weight
  • design

Workstations like Lenovo's ThinkPad W540 ($2,573, £1,606, AU$2,946) and Dell's Precision M6800 ($3,490, £2,075, AU$3,750) are among the best on the market. For business users that would love a workstation, but can't afford to go above $1K, Lenovo's ThinkPad T line has traditionally been a safe bet.

This year, Lenovo is unveiling the ThinkPad T550 laptop ($999, £610, AU$1,065), a 15-inch ultrabook that weighs 5 pounds, cracks 3K resolution at 2880x1620, and can include touchscreen functionality for an upgrade. The T550 features an Intel i5 processor and runs standard at up to 95.5 watt hours.

Specs

The T550 comes equipped with up to 512 GB SSD and up to 16GB of memory. It features three USB 3.0 ports, a mini DisplayPort, a 4-in-1 reader, a 720 pixel camera and a Bluetooth 4.0/Wi-fi combo card, among other features.

Lenovo ThinkPad T550 review

The device can be purchased with a standard or backlit keyboard. Users will love the dual battery that can get you up to 116 watt hours when you hot-swap batteries.

Although the unit starts at 5 pounds, it's only 0.88 inches thick, so it won't take up too much space in your backpack.

Design

The T550 isn't the sexiest device on the market. It comes in an unimpressive charcoal gray chassis. It features a traditional keyboard and trackpad. What you're getting here is an absolutely no-frills look (other than the fantastic 3K display).

Lenovo ThinkPad T550 review

The metal hinges keeping this unit together are remarkable. They provide fluid open and shut movements, but seem totally capable of standing up to constant shuttering and extending.

One thing I completely disliked about the unit's design is its left-of-center trackpad. Because the T550 features a number pad - which is totally valuable for financial and data input - Lenovo was forced to place the fingerprint reader on the right-hand side of the keyboard's base (where your right palm normally rests). This required Lenovo to slide the trackpad to the left, which interrupted how I typically scroll and navigate. It's not a deal-breaker, but it will force you to learn a new way of navigating.

Early verdict

You're hedging if you buy the T550. You want business-class performance at an affordable price. You're getting a ton of battery life, a gorgeous 3K screen and a bevvy of inputs. But you're also sacrificing portability and design. If you're not looking for an avant-garde machine, but you want something that will last all day and keep you productive, the T550 will do the trick.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.