With Lenovo's 17-hour battery life claim and an optional extended rear battery, the ThinkPad T450s is a solid option for mobile professionals who are working in the field or find themselves away from an outlet for extended periods.
In my observation, the T450s opens apps, loads webpages, performs light photo editing, streams music and videos, and juggles Office files – with its dual-core processor and 8GB of RAM – fluidly.
- Cinebench: GPU: 23.86 fps, CPU: 249
- PCMark8: Home: 2,200, Work: 2,896
- PCMark 8 Battery Test: Standard three-cell: 3 hours and 45 minutes, Extended six-cell: 7 hours and 50 minutes
- 3DMark: Fire Strike: 731, Cloud Gate: 5,305, Sky Diver: 2,648
Lacking a dedicated GPU, the graphics tests diminished performance compared to mobile workstations with a dedicated graphics chip.
Using Cinebench, GPU frame rate is just 23.86 fps, compared to 50.44 fps on the Lenovo W550s with Nvidia Quadro K620M. With a processor score of 249, there isn't much difference in CPU performance compared to the 279 score from the W550s's dual-core Intel Core i7-5600U chip.
The ThinkPad T450s scored above average 3DMark ratings using the Fire Strike, Cloud Gate, and Sky Diver tests in the Ultrabook category average, earning scores of 731, 5,305 and 2,648 respectively, compared to 706, 4,160 and 2,437 for the category average.
Even without a discrete graphics processor, the integrated HD 5500 graphics provides a big enough jump in performance to be noticeable in casual game play. Intel claims that compared to last year's HD 4400 graphics, there is a 22% increase in performance on the HD 5500 graphics.
With the integrated graphics, I didn't find any issues with lags, delays, or stutters in casual game play, not to mention light Photoshop and video editing work. Still, those with higher graphics, video, and rendering needs should consider upgrading to Lenovo's ThinkPad W550s, which comes with a dedicated Nvidia Quadro K620M processor and 3K touchscreen for about the same cost as a fully-configured T450s.
Lenovo claims the fan is "whisper quiet" on the T450s. In general operation, I found that the fan doesn't kick in until system resources are taxed. You'll definitely hear the blades spin when the laptop needs to cool the processor.
But sometimes there isn't a correlation between processor workload and when the fan turns on. I found that at times, the fan comes on even when just running a single Chrome browser window, but unlike on my MacBook Pro, the fan isn't constantly on and will spin down if it's not needed.
Keyboard and TrackPoint
The ThinkPad T series has long been known for its best-in-class keyboard, and fortunately the tradition continues with the T450s. Backlit keys are now standard on Lenovo's business Ultrabook, which makes typing in the dark easier.
When typing, the keys on the T450s do not sound as clicky as the MacBook Pro keys. The keyboard sounds a little bit dampened, and the experience is similar to typing on the Lenovo ThinkPad W540s and W550s.
The dampened sound is less distracting when typing in a quiet meeting. I prefer the stiffer keyboard of the MacBook Pro, but I appreciate that the ThinkPad T450s keys offer more travel when pressed, making for a more comfortable typing experience.
Given its business focus, users who live inside Microsoft Excel or who enter numbers all day may bemoan the lack of a dedicated number pad on the T450s' keyboard.
With a water-resistant keyboard, Lenovo users can now enjoy a beverage while working without fear of liquid damage. In case of a liquid accident, there are drain channels within the keyboard to direct liquid flow out of the bottom of the notebook.
Nestled in the center of the keyboard is Lenovo's signature red TrackPoint. For those who prefer not to use the TrackPad, Lenovo's TrackPoint allows you to navigate the cursor without moving your fingers too far away from the keyboard. I found the TrackPoint offers more precise cursor control than the TrackPad.
Devoted ThinkPad users will be happy to know that the T450s has dedicated TrackPoint buttons. Two years ago, Lenovo made a choice to move the dedicated click buttons for the TrackPoint into the five-button TrackPad. After user outcry, Lenovo reversed its decision on last year's ThinkPad T series, which is now carried over into this year's ThinkPad T450s.
The nice part about the TrackPad is that it supports Microsoft's gestures for Windows 8. With the gesture support, I no longer reach for the touchscreen, so my display stays cleaner and fingerprint-free. Like touchscreen gestures, TrackPad gestures are activated by swiping in from the edges.
Compared to the ThinkPad W550s, I found the TrackPad on the T450s performs more reliably. Cursor tracking is more consistent, and the cursor doesn't jump spontaneously when using the T450s's TrackPad.
One of the marquee features of the T450s is Lenovo's Power Bridge technology. Rather than offering a large, sealed battery that's not accessible to the user, the T450s uses two batteries: a sealed three-cell battery inside the laptop and a replaceable three-cell battery. Thanks to the internal battery, Power Bridge allows users to swap out the rear battery without interrupting their workflow.
If the internal battery still has some juice left, you can replace a dead rear battery for a freshly charged one without having to shut the laptop down.
The idea works better in theory than in practice. The replaceable battery design shows its value only when carrying a spare battery. In its stead, Lenovo may have been able to either reduce the laptop's weight and thickness or squeeze in a larger, sealed battery inside the T450s.
Whereas the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display delivers just over 10 hours of battery life in real-world usage, the ThinkPad T450s lasts for just 6 hours with the standard three-cell removable battery. Carrying a second battery would match the MacBook's battery life, but at the cost of having to tote extra weight when traveling.
Lenovo also has an optional six-cell rear battery to keep the T450s going longer. Lenovo claims that the extended battery gives the T450s a rated 17 hours of usage.
With the six-cell battery, I was able to squeeze almost 11 hours with screen brightness turned to 50% while running multiple Chrome browser tabs and windows, streaming Pandora and short video intermittently, and running Microsoft Word. Likely delivered by Intel's energy efficient Broadwell architecture, battery life is nearly doubled compared to the 6 hours and 17 minutes of battery life on last year's T440s on the six-cell pack.