No surprises here in terms of power, save for one: battery life. I ran the ThinkPad T440s through a gamut of synthetic tests, and it spat back results in line with every other Core i5 (Haswell) system I've tested. But that beefy 6-cell battery just might be worth the trade-off in weight and girth. Here's how this laptop fared:
- 3DMark: Ice Storm: 38,097; Cloud Gate: 3,973; Fire Strike: 487
- Cinebench 15 - Graphics: 15.84 FPS, CPU: 223 pts
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 2 hours, 33 minutes (3-cell); 5 hours, 17 minutes (6-cell)
You won't get much gaming out of this machine beyond your random diversion of Bejeweled. (Even the HP ZBook 14 would game better with its enterprise AMD graphics chip.) But that's not the point here. The point is a notebook that's going to last you on that next business trip – even if it means losing much of its portability in the process.
Between its snappy Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD, this ultrabook handled my daily workload with ease. That includes a load of 15 or more Google Chrome tabs, a chat app filled with GIFs, a PDF reader, Spotify streaming high bitrate music and TweetDeck amidst streaming video and holding video meetings.
That said, my day-to-day doesn't involve digging into spreadsheets with macros or editing large graphic files in Photoshop. While the latter might give this machine some trouble without a dedicated GPU, the general business user should have no trouble doing their daily deeds on this rig.
How important is endurance to you?
Is it worth your laptop gaining nearly half a pound and growing a rather large bottom? That's what you'll have to consider with the T440s. Thanks to its 6-cell battery, this laptop was able to last 5 hours and 17 minutes – a lifetime compared with the 3-cell's 2 hours and 33 minutes on PCMark 8. (Keep in mind that the T440s has an internal 3-cell battery.)
In my own experience, this notebook lasted an even longer 6 hours and 17 minutes with the 6-cell juice pack attached. That was with the machine running my usual spectrum of apps: around 15 Google Chrome tabs (with some streaming video thrown in), Spotify streaming high bitrate tunes, a chat app, PDF reader and TweetDeck.
Both of our battery tests are run on the high performance power setting. During PCMark 8, the screen is set to maximum brightness, the keyboard is not backlit and the volume is muted. During my own test, I keep the keyboard backlit, the screen to about 70% brightness and the volume at about half. That said, cranking the power setting a bit and reducing the brightness might net you another hour or two.
That's impressive for a Windows 8-based laptop for sure. And 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.) However, is that added endurance worth the extra weight and dimensions?
Considering that the 13-inch MacBook Air can last between 9 and 12 hours on a charge and still come in under 3 pounds and 0.70 inches, I'm not sure. Of course, Apple's leading laptop doesn't push 1920 x 1080 pixels or touch control behind its screen. But is that extra poundage worth it when the lighter ZBook 14 offers a discrete GPU? Now the value of the 6-cell batteries is doubly dubious.
Keyboard and touchpad: upholding the standard
Fans of Lenovo's signature touchpad and keyboard will not be disappointed by the T440s. Featuring a full-size set of smooth, back plastic keys with bright backlighting, this laptop offers the standard-setting typing experience I expect from Lenovo clamshells.
In typing this review, the keys reverted immediately after each press, snapping back into place and ready for the next hammering from my fingertips. This was a relief following the X240's overwhelming squishiness. The multimedia-first function keys were also a major plus.
Lenovo also makes some of the best touchpads around. Unsurprisingly, the T440s provides a smooth glass tracking surface. I pulled off Windows 8 gestures flawlessly – in the rare event that I needed to.
More importantly, this is one of Lenovo's first ThinkPads to feature the new touchpad design. Now just a single clickable button, the approach works without a hitch while opening up the tracking area for touchpad users. The TrackPoint mouse is still present and accounted for, but remains largely useless outside of pleasing diehard fans. (Newsflash: Touchpads actually work now.)
Don't go smudging that sharp screen
At this configuration, the T440s comes with a crystal clear, 1920 x 1080 IPS (in-plane switching) LCD with 10 point multi-touch control. I'm fine with everything in that sentence right up until the end. Colors look vibrant and viewing angles are nearly a non-issue on this brilliant panel, especially with its bezel narrower than the previous generation.
This laptop's screen is mighty bright, to boot. I had to crank it down a notch during testing to work comfortably, so have no fear of a dim display. But it's the touch control that has me reeling. Even on a machine that bends 180 degrees – why I haven't the slightest – it seems rather pointless.
Touchscreens make sense on a laptop-tablet hybrid; it's half of what earns them the moniker. But on a standard laptop, one for business, no less? There's little that I ever do on a laptop that I would touch the display for. I have a touchpad and keyboard for that, thanks. As responsive as it is, this touchscreen only serves to tack on the pounds and, more importantly, the dollars to an otherwise fine notebook.
Lenovo isn't normally a bloatware offender, but the T440s comes with quite a number of apps that don't belong pre-loaded on a business laptop, like Kindle, Rara Music, Zinio and more. Thankfully, the company loaded a bunch more apps that are relevant, like a tool that pulls driver updates from Lenovo, cloud storage powered by SugarSync and custom settings for key T440s features among others. Here's a closer look at the more notable apps available:
- Lenovo Companion: This Modern UI app acts as a hub for most of Lenovo's custom apps and a guide for users that are new to Windows 8.
- Lenovo Instant On: Sends the ThinkPad into a low-power state when the lid is closed for quicker resume times. But Lenovo warns that it's a power drain. With an SSD and how fast Windows 8 is to start already, don't bother.
- Lenovo QuickCast: The ThinkPad can share files with other mobile devices on the same Wi-Fi network with this tool. Yet, it requires said device to have the app, which is not yet available on iOS.
- Lenovo QuickControl: Over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, QuickControl allows a mobile device with the matching app installed to directly control the ThinkPad. Sadly, both methods are a total pain to configure.
- Lenovo Solution Center: With system-wide monitoring and alerts as well as access to Lenovo support, this is one of the more useful apps available.
- ThinkVantage Active Protection System: Similar to Toshiba's hard drive protection, this tool can lock down your storage in the event of a sudden shock to prevent damage or data loss. It's not quite as useful with an SSD.