Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 review

There’s a lot to love, but just as much to not

Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2
(Image: © Lenovo)

TechRadar Verdict

The Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2, Lenovo’s affordable entry into the business laptop market is a valiant attempt, and there are a few successes here like the fast performance, comfortable keyboard and robust build. However, there are also a few misses here that are hard to ignore especially considering it’s still pricey.

Pros

  • +

    Comfortable keyboard

  • +

    Vivid 1080p display

  • +

    Security features are vital for business users

  • +

    Great performance

Cons

  • -

    Minimal port selection

  • -

    Trackpad not great

  • -

    Trackpoint has a steep learning curve

  • -

    Fingerprint reader not always reliable

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Two-minute review

The Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 is so good at making a great first impression, you won’t likely notice its flaws in the beginning. But, delve in deeper, and you’ll find a few things that miss the mark. No laptop is perfect, of course, but if you’re looking at a portable that sits in the premium market (like most business laptops), you expect it to be closer to perfection than cheaper options. 

That isn’t to say that the Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 doesn’t have its merits. It feels robust like any business laptop should, has a keyboard that’s divine to use, and comes with a vivid 1080p display. It also delivers a great performance and good battery life as well as many security features its business audience will appreciate. Its biggest merit, however, is that it offers an affordable option to all those extremely expensive business laptops. 

However, there are also several opportunities for improvement here, which at its price range should be less not more. Is the Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 worth it? We’re kind of torn.

Price and availability

Spec sheet

CPU: 2.40 GHz Intel Core i5-1135G7 (4-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.20GHz)
Graphics: Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB DDR4 3200MHz
Screen: 14.0" FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, anti-glare, 300 nits
Storage: 256 GB PCIe SSD
Optical drive: No
Ports: 2 x USB Type-A; 1 x Thunderbolt 4; 1 x HDMI 1.4; 1 x RJ45; Headphone / mic combo; Kensington lock slot
Connectivity: Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 802.11AX; Bluetooth 5.2
Camera: 720p HD
Weight: 3.51 lbs (1.59 kg)
Size: 0.70 x 12.75 x 8.66 inches (1.79 x 32.4 x 22.0 cm; W x D x H)

Although the Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 is being marketed as “affordable productivity,” it still comes at a steep price, starting at $1,269 (about £870, AU$1,728) for its base model touting an 11th-gen Intel Core i3 and Intel UHD graphics with 4GB memory and 1TB SSD inside. That’s a hefty price for something so underpowered (for a business laptop). Meanwhile, our review unit, which rocks an 11th-gen Core i5 processor, Intel Xe graphics and 16GB of memory will set you back $1,659 (£989, about AU$2,259).

It is, however, cheaper than some of the best business laptops out there. An HP Elite Dragonfly G2 equivalent, for example, will set you back $2,900 (about £2,100, AU$3,900) while Lenovo’s own ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 is asking $2,849 (about £2,070, AU$3,850) for its similarly specced model. It’s also a good thing that at the time of writing, Lenovo is offering this line with deep back-to-school and July discounts.

Still, most entrepreneurs don’t require a business laptop to see them through their daily dealings. And, they might find a prosumer laptop like the Dell XPS 2-in-1 a better option, especially when it’s a few hundred dollars/pounds cheaper for similar specs.

Design

Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Being a business laptop, the Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 is loaded with many business-centric features. It boasts a military-grade build that allows it to survive almost everything from spills and drops to inclement weather and even zero gravity. It comes with a number of security solutions, including the Trusted Platform Module (dTPM), which encrypts sensitive and important data and a Kensington Lock. For added protection, you can upgrade and get yours fitted with an IR camera for secure Windows Hello login and/or a fingerprint sensor. And, it has subfunctions assigned to the F9 through F11 keys so they can serve as conference call shortcuts.

Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2

(Image credit: Lenovo)

True to the ThinkPad tradition, its keyboard boasts that signature red button nestled between the letters G, H and B. This is the TrackPoint, for those who haven’t used a ThinkPad keyboard before, and can be used to seamlessly scroll through documents and Web pages or to magnify some items on the screen. This feature has a steep learning curve, however, and takes a lot of patience to get the hang of.

Since this sits at the lower end of the business laptop spectrum, there are some sacrifices made here. The port selection is a little slim – there’s just a single Thunderbolt 4 and two USB Type-A ports, for example – and at 3.5 lbs and 17.9mm thick, it’s thicker and heavier than what we’re looking for in a laptop we’d need to bring with us to business meetings and work trips. The trackpad is also a little annoying. It isn’t as responsive as it should be, and not very comfortable to use.

Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Luckily, its display and keyboard offset some of those downsides. That 1080p IPS display is bright at 300 nits (though lower models are only 250 nits), vibrant enough thanks to its 100% sRGB color gamut, and plenty sharp. Using this screen for entertainment is just as enjoyable as using it for work. 

Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Even more pleasurable to use is its keyboard, which by the way is spill-resistant. It feels like a mash-up of a chiclet keyboard and a butterfly one. Or, at least, it has a more satisfying bounce and tactile feedback than most chiclet keyboards we’ve used. 

Performance

Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2

(Image credit: Lenovo)
Benchmarks

3DMark: Night Raid: 11,213; Time Spy: 1,081; Fire Strike: 2,528
CineBenchR23: 2,228 pts
GeekBench 5: 1,376 (single-core); 4 ,440 (multi-core)
PCMark10 (Home Test): 4,733
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 10 hours and 6 minutes
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 8 hours and 9 minutes

Our test unit of the Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 doesn’t have the facial recognition login, but luckily, it comes with a fingerprint sensor that we’re able to test. It’s a nice add-on that we’re sure a lot of business users will appreciate as it simply hastens the login process, not to mention adds another level of security. Sadly, it isn’t as reliable as, say, the one on our 2019 MacBook Pro 13-inch – it usually takes a couple of tries before it’s able to read our fingerprint well enough to log us in.

If you don’t care much about the frills and the design aspects, however, and only care about the performance, you’ll be happy to know that it’s one of this laptop’s greatest strengths. Despite our unit only having the mid-range i5 chip, it hasn’t shown any signs of massive slowdowns during demanding tasks like having 25 different browser tabs – three of which are playing videos from three different streaming platforms, Microsoft Outlook, and two word processing apps running at the same time. 

Its performance stays snappy throughout, and while we would definitely not be using this to edit 5-minute 4K videos as it only has integrated graphics inside, it definitely exceeds expectations when doing what it’s been designed to do. 

The Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 is also one cool kid. That is, it stays mostly cool under pressure. Lenovo hasn’t really mentioned what type of cooling system it’s using, but whatever it is, it’s darn effective when you’re juggling productivity tasks and entertainment at the same time.

Camera

A 720p HD webcam on a laptop is never going to deliver as crisp and as detailed of an image as a dedicated 1080p or 4K one, and that was something we expected from the Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2’s own HD webcam.

Still, there are a few other misses here, especially when comparing it to that of our own 2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch, which has the same resolution webcam. The camera on the ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 not only loses a lot more details but also loses out on the dynamic range, capturing darker images than that of the MacBook’s when both are used in the same lighting scenario. 

Dark shadows are in abundance, which really doesn’t make for a flattering picture when you’re video conferencing with colleagues. So, it might be wise to also invest in a proper ring light. But, that’s not all: the picture is also being overprocessed so that both still photos and videos have a very apparent smoothing effect. If that’s the kind of editing you’re into these days, then you might appreciate it.

If, on the other hand, you have more sense than that and want more natural-looking images, you should perhaps invest in a dedicated webcam with a higher resolution.

At least there’s a privacy shutter if you find yourself a bit camera shy or just not camera-ready yet, and there’s a work video conference you must attend.

Battery life 

Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2

(Image credit: Lenovo)

On the other hand, the Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2’s battery life is decent, but nothing to write home about. During our testing, it only lasts a total of 8 hours and 9 minutes when running TechRadar‘s video playback test and a little over 10 hours with the PCMark 10 Battery Life test.

To be fair, that is not too far from Lenovo’s rating of up to 11.9 hours. However, we would have liked to see something near that mark during our testing. After all, two hours in the real world makes a huge difference, especially when you’ve got a laptop that’s on the thick and heavy side and would like the option to leave the charger at home.

Luckily, that charger is light enough and juices up that laptop fast, thanks to its Rapid Charge capability.

Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Buy it if…

You need a capable business laptop with business-centric features
The Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 is loaded with features that business users will appreciate, from security protocols and military-grade build to conference call control keys and the TrackPoint.

You’d prefer it to be cheaper
Business laptops cost a lot more than even some of the premium prosumer offerings. This laptop makes that breed of portables a lot more accessible in price. It’s still a tad more expensive than regular laptops, but much more affordable than its direct rivals.

You want something robust yet snappy
Even with just the 11th-gen i5 inside, its performance even under pressure is impressively snappy while keeping things cool under the hood. If you’re looking for a multi-tasking machine, you’ve got an ace here.

Don’t buy it if…

You have a budget for a pricier laptop
Who doesn’t love a premium laptop? The Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 is plenty capable in its own right, but there are missed opportunities here like a better trackpad, more ports, and perhaps a lighter build.

You want something light and slim
Speaking of which, this isn’t going to be the lightest and slimmest laptop you’ll ever use. If you’re looking for something that’s more travel-friendly, you should look elsewhere.