ThinkPad T440s

With this ultrabook, endurance comes at a price

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With its square, uniform, clean 14-inch frame, the ThinkPad T440s is likely the closest you'll get to the traditional ThinkPad experience. And it lives up to the experience you expect with gusto. But laptops have changed a lot, even in the business scene, since IBM blazed the trail and Lenovo picked up the mantle. They've made leaps and bounds in the struggle between power and portability.

It's clear that Lenovo recognizes that, what with this laptop's ultrabook certification, updated innards and pristine panel. However, at 3.9 to 4.2 pounds the T440s is packing a few too many pounds for the power it offers, given that the competition is offering it for fewer pounds and fewer dollars.

Frankly, I have reasons to both be impressed and bummed out by many of this laptop's core features. Either this particular form factor has hit its limit or Lenovo picked the wrong battles.

We liked

There's no denying the lasting power that the 3-cell and 6-cell battery combo provides, not to mention that these batteries are swappable. I witnessed over 6 hours of juice on the highest power setting from this notebook, which is nothing to sneeze at. Lenovo claims 10 to 17 hours of battery life.

After running my anecdotal battery test a second time at the "Balanced" power setting (all else the same save for the PDF reader) the T440s lasted for an entire work day: 8 hours and 7 minutes. Not only is that much closer to Lenovo's claim, it's longer than just about any Windows 8 laptop I've tested.

A comfortable, reliable typing and tracking experience is paramount on a laptop, and this clamshell upholds the Lenovo standard. When typing portions of this review, I could feel the keys forcefully rebounding from my presses. Plus, the backlighting is brilliant and evenly distributed throughout.

While I don't dig the deep give when clicking ThinkPad touchpads, navigating with this glassy tracking surface was a delight. (I'm not exactly the biggest fan of the TrackPoint, either.) I could go as fast or slow as I wanted, and tap-to-click served me just fine. All in all, Lenovo's new TrackPad design is a winner.

The IPS panel at 1080p was also a sight for sore eyes. The display offered excellent viewing angles close to 180 degrees and brilliant brightness. I could get used to working on an FHD screen everywhere I go, and it's about time that it became the standard.

We disliked

Nearly all-day battery life is something that most business laptops still aspire toward. But is it worth the trade-offs Lenovo made to get a whole work day's worth of endurance? I'm not so sure. At 3.9 pounds at least and 1.23 inches, the extra power of a discrete GPU would be more appealing as a business user.

Competitors have achieved all-day battery life in thinner and lighter packages, though they are smaller and push far fewer pixels. And when similarly-sized laptops offer a dedicated GPU in a smaller frame, the extra weight and size is even less appealing.

The presence of a touchscreen, which adds nearly half a pound to the machine's total weight, raises an important question: Why? It's not as if this is a laptop-tablet hybrid like the ThinkPad Yoga. If, as a business user, hybrid devices seem rather pointless to you, than touch control on an otherwise standard laptop looks simply asinine.

There are few, if any, cases in which I would touch the screen rather than navigate using the touchpad. In fact, I had no reason to touch the T440s screen during my time with it other than to test its performance. While it performs quite well, this alone is testament to its utility, or lack thereof. At that point, all the touchscreen serves to do is drive up the poundage and price.

Final verdict

Make no mistake: The ThinkPad T440s offers the experience you expect from a Lenovo laptop. The typing and tracking experience on this ultrabook is bar none, and you'll have a hard time wearing the machine down with general business-oriented tasks. In that regard, this is a work horse that would serve you well.

However, you must consider the utility of a bulky, hefty 6-cell battery and touchscreen. The two make this a 4.2-pound, 1.23-inch thick laptop when stacked against the competition. The T440s offers battery life close to that of the 13-inch MacBook Air, but at nearly double the thickness. And with a machine this large, you should expect dedicated graphics, like those found in the HP ZBook 14.

While I would love to recommend the T440s, it's difficult to do so at this configuration. If lasting power from a Windows business laptop is key for you, then lose the touchscreen at checkout. Otherwise, look elsewhere (like the paragraph above) for more focused machines.