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Lenovo ThinkPad E550 review

This mobile workstation is powerful, attractive and surprisingly affordable

Lenovo ThinkPad E550
Lenovo ThinkPad E550

Specification

The entry-level E550 listed on Lenovo's site ships with a 2GHz Intel Core i3-5005U processor, 4GB of system memory, Intel HD 5500 graphics, a 1,366 x 768 15.6-inch display and a 500GB hard disk. Not a bad specification for £379.

TechRadar was sent the high-end model though, which offers a few significant upgrades. The processor is an Intel Core i7-5500U, a quite nippy 2.4GHz 14nm dual-core chip offering four threads, with a Turbo frequency of 3GHz. It's part of Intel's newest Broadwell chip line.

Lenovo E550 side

Lenovo has provided an optical drive

8GB of memory comes as default with this model, the screen is bumped to 1,920 x 1,080, you get an SSHD instead of a traditional hard disk, and it ships with a discrete AMD R7 M265 graphics card, with 2GB of dedicated video memory rather than integrated graphics.

There are a few further subtle differences in E550 models, with the jump from Windows 8.1 to Windows 8.1 Pro and the inclusion of a fingerprint reader, which is missing from the lower-end variants.

The display is a TN screen rather than IPS, which may be one area that has been cut to bring the price down. As always it means slightly worse viewing angles, and it also seems noticeably lower brightness as well. But as TN panels go, it looks good, with only a small amount of colour deviation in the corners, at least compared with other TN screens. Although the display on the entry-level model may not look quite as good.

Lenovo E550 angle

Even the base spec is impressive for the money

Here's the full spec sheet of the review model as provided to TechRadar:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-5500U (2.4GHz)
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon R7 M265X (2GB)
  • RAM: 8GB DDR3
  • Screen: 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080)
  • Storage: 500GB SSHD
  • Optical drive: 8x DVD writer
  • Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac, Gigabit Ethernet
  • Camera: 720p HD camera
  • Weight: 2.35kg

Performance

With a dual-core chip that runs at 2.4GHz, there's a reasonable amount of CPU performance available on the E550. It's obviously enough for all basic office tasks, media and web browsing, but should be good enough for light design work in tools like Photoshop too. Cinebench results confirm this analysis, with a CPU score of 285.

The Radeon M265X gives it a big boost too. There's a considerable difference between the PCMark 8 Conventional and Accelerated Home tests, with the higher figure hugely boosted by OpenCL support.

The Cinebench GPU test, and 3DMark results, indicate that the E550 should be fine to at least run modern games. Check out the benchmarks in full:

  • 3DMark: Sky Diver: 4512; Cloud Gate: 5658; Fire Strike: 1271
  • Cinebench: CPU: 285 points; Graphics: 37.8 fps
  • PCMark 8 Home Test: 2871 (3692 accelerated)
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 4 hrs 14 mins

The battery life test showed reasonable performance, and while many laptops last longer in the same test, the E550 does well. Since PCMark 8 is quite taxing, expect the battery to last longer when using it for word processing or looking at websites.

Lenovo E550 top 2

It's a somewhat chunky laptop, though

We also tested the display on the E550, not expecting the results would match colour-accurate displays on more high-end laptops. With a maximum brightness level of 230.6 nits, it comes out short of modern IPS desktop monitors, and lower than many other laptops. The black levels and contrast fall a bit short too.

But this is a reasonably affordable laptop, so it's very easy to forgive less than perfect colour accuracy.