Monday, May 16, 2022

Lenovo ThinkPad L480 review: This basic business notebook falls a little short

The Lenovo ThinkPad L480 grants you basic membership in the ThinkPad club. Even if you can’t afford the premium Lenovo charges for its slimmer, more powerful models like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Gen), you’re at least getting a stellar keyboard and sturdy construction.

The ThinkPad L480 offers generous connectivity, and decent performance and battery life. Underneath, Lenovo’s no-nonsense Vantage software keeps everything humming. But this entry-level business laptop doesn’t offer that much more, and you may start to wonder if Lenovo cut one corner too many on the display.

Lenovo ThinkPad L480: Basic specs

Let’s start with a rundown of the ThinkPad L480’s specs, focusing on our review unit but noting other options where available. 

  • Display: 14-inch (1920×1080) IPS technology (as tested) without touch; optional 14-inch (1920×1080) touch and 14-inch (1366×768) non-touch 
  • Processor: 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U (as tested) (Kaby Lake R); i5-8350U, i5-7200U 
  • Graphics: Intel HD 620
  • Memory: 4GB-32GB DDR4 (2,400 MHz) (8GB as tested)
  • Storage: 256-512GB NVMe PCIe SSD (256GB as tested); 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive
  • Security: dTPM 2.0, fingerprint reader
  • Ports: USB 3.1 (2, 1 always connected), USB-C (2, Power/DisplayPort/Data), 4-in-1 microSD, HDMI, Gigabit ethernet (RJ-45), headphone/mic, lock slot 
  • Wireless: Intel 8265 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 4.1
  • Cameras: 720p HD (front); optional IR camera (w/Windows Hello); no rear camera
  • Battery: 45Wh
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Pro
  • Dimensions: 13.9 x 9.3 x 0.87 inches (22.5mm)
  • Weights: 3.6 pounds (notebook), 4.22 lb (notebook + charger), as measured
  • Optional accessories: ThinkPad USB 3.0 Ultra Dock ($199.99) 
  • Price: $1,119.00

When it comes to pricing, the ThinkPad L480 we reviewed is a bit of a moving target. Lenovo was running an $895 “web discount” for the L480 when we began the review, but the price rose to more than $1,000 by the time the review posted.

The generous complement of ports is worth noting because it’ll likely save you from hauling additional dongles—and that’s worth something. But Lenovo also held back in a few places: There’s an Ethernet Gen 2 jack that’s been sealed off, preventing it from being used with Lenovo’s 90W Pro Dock. Likewise, Lenovo included an WWAN slot for a SIM chip, but that’s been blocked off.

Lenovo ThinkPad L480 Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

There’s a wealth of ports on the Lenovo ThinkPad L480.

While the L480’s thickness allows room for all those ports, it also makes the laptop feel a bit dated. At 4.22 pounds for the notebook and charger, the additional weight is noticeable, though not uncomfortable; that and the form factor probably necessitates some sort of backpack. On the plus side, the L480 is sturdily made, with nary a wobble to be found. It’s MIL-STD 810G certified for ruggedness. There is a bit of flex in the center of the keyboard that reveals itself with a pronounced push, but it doesn’t affect typing. Lenovo bundles a one-year depot warranty with the L480; drop/spill/electrical protection is a $33.15 additional cost.

Lenovo ThinkPad L480 Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

The thicker notebook construction allows for robust side-mounted cooling.

It was a bit of a shock to receive a laptop without a touchscreen, though touch is obviously not required to use Windows. You do have the option to buy a touch-enabled L480 from Lenovo, but not apparently as an optional upgrade; instead, you’ll need to purchase a dedicated higher-end configuration that’s $300 more at this writing. That’s annoying, and a ton of cash to fork over for just a touchscreen.

The L480’s display is a low point. It puts out an anemic 196 nits, far less than the 260 we consider comfortable for our battery rundown test. That makes the L480 comfortable to use indoors, but natural light will quickly wash out the L480’s display. Even worse, the default setting was 40 hertz, instead of a comfortable 60Hz refresh rate.


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