Lenovo ThinkPad T14s (AMD Ryzen) review: Stuck in the middle

A great keyboard but rivals deliver a more rounded set of capabilities for less

Price
£1,283 exc VAT
  • Outstanding keyboard
  • Great performance
  • Solid connectivity
  • Expensive

When ThinkPads are mentioned, what words spring to mind? We’re willing to bet that “dependable”, “solid” and “reliable” all make an appearance. Like an old pair of jeans, you know exactly what you’re getting. 

So it is with the Lenovo ThinkPad T14s. Its matte-black livery and ThinkPad logo, not to mention those deep-travel keys, recall a time when men wore moustaches and laptops weighed as much as a breeze block.

Don’t be fooled by this laptop’s banal veneer, though. Beneath the T14s’ corporate exterior lies a machine that’s as usable, powerful and lovable as the shiniest of its rivals.

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s (AMD Ryzen) review: Design and configuration

What’s more, there’s a unique appeal to the ThinkPad T14s’ no-nonsense, matte-black chassis. It might look like it’s made of plastic, but in reality it’s constructed from sturdy magnesium alloy and coated in a roughened black paint that sparkles subtly in the light.

Lenovo offers two distinct flavours of the ThinkPad T14s: one with Intel’s tenth-generation Core vPro processors inside, the other with AMD’s latest Ryzen Pro chips. There’s no doubt that AMD has the speed advantage thanks to the sheer number of cores it packs in. We test the eight-core 4750U here, but even the six-core 4650U version of this machine, which costs £1,260 inc VAT with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, will be faster than the four-core Core i7-10610U in the top-end versions of the Intel machines. 

Where the Intel models win is for customisability. At present, Lenovo simply offers two prebuilt versions of the AMD laptops, whereas you can configure many more aspects of the Intel editions: go right up to 2TB SSDs, switch to a brighter 4K screen, opt for built-in 4G and much more besides. We suspect this will change over time as AMD becomes a more popular choice for IT managers, but for now, it’s a limiting factor that you should particularly bear in mind if you’re rolling out a fleet of laptops for different users.

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s (AMD Ryzen) review: Ports and features

There’s no doubt that this is a machine destined for life on an office desk rather than the sofa, however: it has a stack of physical connections that belie its 1.27kg weight and sleek 16.1mm height. A pair of USB-C ports sits on the left alongside a single USB-A port, a docking connector, a 3.5mm jack and a full-size HDMI output. The right edge holds another USB-A port, a Kensington lock slot and, in certain configurations, a smart card reader.

With an Intel AX200 wireless adapter adding Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 – and the option of Cat16 4G on the Intel models for on-the-go internet access – it has connectivity covered.

Flip open the lid and you’ll see yet more work-friendly features. There’s a fingerprint reader set into the wristrest, just to the right of the touchpad, while those familiar with ThinkPads of old will appreciate the red TrackPoint in the centre of the keyboard.

The ThinkPad T14s also has a series of call-specific shortcut keys ranged along the top of the keyboard in place of the usual media-control buttons. There’s a microphone-mute shortcut key attached to F4 and a physical privacy slider for the laptop’s 720p webcam for those times when you want to be invisible.

It’s only a shame that video quality isn’t better. For a laptop of this calibre, we were expecting crisper images than the soft, mushy results the T14s delivered. Audio quality is better, with clear speakers that don’t distort when you push them, even if there isn’t much in the way of body. The mics are sensibly positioned to each side of the webcam so there’s no danger of obscuring the microphone with your hands or clothes while you’re on a call.

The keyboard is the star of the show, however. It has much more travel than most ultraportable laptops and there’s a super-plush break to each key press. Combined with a solid base, subtly convex key tops that cradle your fingertips and spacing that keeps typos to a merciful minimum, you’ll struggle to find a better laptop keyboard. 

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s (AMD Ryzen) review: Display

The type of display differs depending on the model you choose. Both available AMD Ryzen models feature the “low-power”, non-touch display, which Lenovo states has a peak brightness of 400cd/m2. If you choose the Intel version of the ThinkPad T14s, you can upgrade to a 4K display rated at 500cd/m2, which is an affordable £140 extra – note that it’s glossy rather than matte.

We found that our review unit’s anti-glare matte finish was great at keeping distracting reflections at bay, and while we initially missed having a touchscreen, that soon faded. Even the low(ish) 1080p resolution isn’t too restrictive. At this screen size, the pixel density is 157ppi, which means that the pixel structure is impossible to make out at distances of around 56cm or so away. For most people, that’s around the normal viewing distance for a laptop display.

We measured a peak brightness of 371cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 1,671:1, both of which are impressive figures, even if the former is lower than Lenovo’s claims. sRGB coverage was good too, at 92.6% out of a total colour volume of 95.7%, but an average Delta E of 2.83 means that colour accuracy isn’t this screen’s strong point. If that’s important to you, consider the M1 MacBook Pro with its wider colour gamut or the more accurate Dell XPS 13.

Nonetheless, for the average user, this ThinkPad’s screen is perfectly adequate. Indeed, its matte finish and anti-glare coating are probably more useful to the average user than better colour accuracy.

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s (AMD Ryzen) review: Specs and performance

A few short years ago, seeing an AMD processor in what is ostensibly a corporate laptop would have been unthinkable, but times have changed. Our review unit was supplied with the top-end AMD Ryzen Pro 4750U, a CPU that competes head to head with Intel’s mobile Core i7 vPro series of processors.

In our 4K media benchmarks, the toughest section of which sees the laptop carrying out image conversion, video conversion and 4K video playback tasks simultaneously, the AMD Ryzen Pro 4750U’s eight cores and 16 threads demolished the competition. 

An overall score of 226 blasted past the Dell XPS 13’s 11th-gen Core i7-1165G7 and the 10th-gen chip in Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3, which managed overall scores of 120 and 104, respectively. It even outperformed the M1-powered 13in MacBook Pro - although bear in mind that since these benchmarks rely on Rosetta 2 emulation, the MacBook is at a slight disadvantage.

In shorter high-intensity benchmarks, such as Geekbench 5, the difference was less pronounced, with the AMD CPU outperforming the Dell XPS 13’s 11th-gen Core i7-1165G7 in multitasking but falling behind it for single-threaded tasks. 

Likewise, if it’s the odd bit of after-work gaming you’re interested in, you might want to opt for a laptop with Intel’s latest integrated graphics instead. Although the AMD RX Vega 7 graphics in the Ryzen Pro 4750U are faster than the Iris Plus graphics in the tenth-gen Core processors – as seen in the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 – they can’t keep up with the Iris Xe graphics in the 11th-gen chips. 

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s (AMD Ryzen) review: Battery life

While battery life from the 55.6Wh battery is fine, it falls significantly short of the best. In our video-rundown test, the ThinkPad T14s lasted 8hrs 20mins before needing to recharge. Again, this isn’t as good as the Dell XPS 13 and it lags significantly behind the new M1 MacBook Pro 13in.

The mediocre battery life is a black mark against a laptop that, aside from its truly excellent keyboard, fails to make an impact. This alone puts it at a significant disadvantage compared to the HP EliteBook 845 G7, which was also powered by the Ryzen 4750U and managed to edge slightly ahead in our performance benchmarks. 

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s (AMD Ryzen) review: Verdict

Performance from this chip is phenomenal under sustained load, but in day-to-day use the target audience is unlikely to notice the difference compared to the latest Core i7-powered Dell XPS 13. And if you’re willing to switch allegiance from Windows, the M1 MacBook Pro (and even the cheaper Air) are faster still in optimised programs whilst being even sleeker. 

We also question this laptop’s value for money: a 256GB SSD at this price is positively stingy, and while the warranty lasts three years, it’s return-to-base rather than on-site. This leaves the ThinkPad T14s in the uncomfortable middle ground, unable to lift itself away from the new MacBooks and its corporate rivals. 

Lenovo ThinkPad T14s (AMD Ryzen) specifications

Processor

8-core 1.7GHz (4.1GHz burst) AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 4750U processor

RAM

16GB

Graphics adapter

Radeon RX Vega graphics (seven cores)

Storage

256GB M.2 PCIe SSD

Screen size (in)

14in

Screen resolution

1,920 x 1,080

Screen type

IPS display with HP Sure View

Touchscreen

N/A

Pointing devices

Trackpad, TrackPoint

Memory card slot

N/a

Graphics outputs

2 x USB-C 3.1, HDMI

Other ports

2 x USB-A 3.1, SIM slot, smart card reader

Web Cam

720p webcam

Wi-Fi

2x2 Wi-Fi 6

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 5

NFC

N/A

Dimensions, mm (WDH)

323 x 215 x 17.9mm

Weight (kg) - with keyboard where applicable

1.39kg

Battery size (Wh)

53Wh

Operating system

Windows 10 Pro

Featured Resources

The ultimate law enforcement agency guide to going mobile

Best practices for implementing a mobile device program

Free download

The business value of Red Hat OpenShift

Platform cost savings, ROI, and the challenges and opportunities of Red Hat OpenShift

Free download

Managing security and risk across the IT supply chain: A practical approach

Best practices for IT supply chain security

Free download

Digital remote monitoring and dispatch services’ impact on edge computing and data centres

Seven trends redefining remote monitoring and field service dispatch service requirements

Free download

Recommended

AMD: Ryzen CPU owners should avoid Windows 11
Microsoft Windows

AMD: Ryzen CPU owners should avoid Windows 11

7 Oct 2021
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga review: Slim, light, but only alright
Laptops

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga review: Slim, light, but only alright

28 Sep 2021
What is a GPU?
Hardware

What is a GPU?

23 Sep 2021
Lenovo and VMware collaborate on resilient edge computing
Network & Internet

Lenovo and VMware collaborate on resilient edge computing

7 Sep 2021

Most Popular

Best Linux distros 2021
operating systems

Best Linux distros 2021

11 Oct 2021
HPE wins networking contract with Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games
Network & Internet

HPE wins networking contract with Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

15 Oct 2021
What is cyber warfare?
Security

What is cyber warfare?

15 Oct 2021