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Lenovo may be best known for premium, cutting-edge laptops such as the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, but the company has plenty of 'everyday' business systems whose pricing is more conducive to widespread roll-out. The ThinkPad E580 is an example: it's a 15.6-inch laptop with a starting price of £549.99 (inc. VAT). For that kind of money it can't be a 'bells and whistles' laptop, but it does need to be a solid performer. We looked at a higher-spec model (20KS001RUK), which costs £864.99.
Also: Lenovo sees growth in PCs and workstations
The ThinkPad E580 is a sizeable laptop, designed more for life on the desk than on the road. It'll weigh your bag or backpack down to the tune of 2.1kg, and occupies 369mm by 252mm by 19.95mm of space.
The black outer chassis is classic Lenovo, though there is a silver chassis option for those who want to move away from traditional black. Nobody will be surprised to see the ThinkPad logo in one corner of the lid, red dot over the 'i' illuminating to show the laptop is switched on or, thanks to a slow pulse when the lid is down, remind you that it's hibernating.
The chassis is tough enough that it's a challenge to grasp the lid and flex it to any significant degree, and the base feels solid too.
This is no convertible laptop, but you can lay the 15.6-inch screen flat on a desk for sharing content, and the viewing angles are good enough to support such usage.
There are two screen variants available. My review unit had a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS panel, with a matte finish. The entry-level model, priced at £549.99 (inc. VAT), has a 1,366-by-768-pixel TN display, which I'm not sure would cut the mustard in many offices.
Also: Lenovo Flex 11 (2018) review: A two-in-one that's inexpensive CNET
Lenovo talks up the 15.6-inch screen's narrow bezel, but in fact it isn't that slim. I measured the short-edge bezel right to the outer edge of the laptop at just a shade over 10mm, and the upper bezel, which accommodates a 720p webcam, at 5mm.
Still, I'm not going to grumble about this, because cutting the short edge bezel further would reduce the overall width of the laptop, and thus reduce space for the keyboard. And as it is, Lenovo has managed to squeeze in a full number pad -- unlike the much higher-end 15.6-inch HP EliteBook 1050 G1, which lacks this useful feature.
Lenovo has squeezed in the number pad by slightly reducing the width of some of the character keys, keeping the arrow keys small, making the Enter key only slightly wider than a full-width key (while retaining it as double height), and making all the number pad keys slightly narrower than the QWERTY keys. This selective squishing works well. The main keyboard's usability doesn't feel compromised, and I could touch type at my normal speed. All the keys, whatever their size, are bouncy and well weighted.
Lenovo's standard TrackPoint sits between the G, H and B keys, and its associated three buttons, including a central scroll button, sit above the Trackpad, which itself has integrated buttons along its bottom edge. The whole arrangement is responsive and easy to use. A two-level backlight is toggled using the Fn key and the spacebar, and provides enough light for working in dim surroundings.
When it comes to media streaming, video calls or presentations, you'll find that the audio subsystem performs well. Stereo speakers pump out pretty decent sound -- certainly good enough for background music while working. Top volume is a little quiet, but at least there's no distortion.
The speaker outlets are on the underside of the chassis, and Lenovo has tried to minimise the muffling effect of a desk or lap by placing the outlets on the upward curve of the base. It would be better, though, if the speaker grilles were located on the inside of the chassis -- ideally above the Fn keys, where they could output sound in the user's direction.
Also: Lenovo announces new X1 laptops, tablets TechRepublic
The Lenovo ThinkPad E580 can be configured with up to an 8th generation Core i7 processor, 32GB of RAM and 1TB of hard disk storage or a 512GB SSD. Discrete graphics are available in the shape of a 2GB AMD Radeon RX 550 chipset, and feature on two of of the seven preconfigured models -- including my review unit. A fingerprint reader appears in some of the preconfigured models and can be added as an optional extra.
Here are the core specifications of the least and most expensive models, and of my review sample (*).
There's a mix of modern and legacy ports and connectors on offer. The right edge houses an RJ-45 Ethernet port, an old-fashioned USB 2.0 port and a MicroSD card slot. The left edge has a headset jack and two USB 3.1 ports, one with charging. There's also a full-size HDMI connector and a single USB-C port. The latter lacks Thunderbolt, and is used for charging.
According to Lenovo, the battery will deliver up to 13 hours of life. To test this, I used the ThinkPad E580 for four hours starting with a full charge, streaming music throughout, and also browsing the web and creating a word processor document. The battery depleted by 46 percent during this period, suggesting that a full 8-hour day's work away from mains power should be possible. Stretching far beyond that might be a challenge, though.
The Lenovo ThinkPad E580 is a well-built laptop with a great keyboard that includes a separate number pad. The array of ports and connectors on offer might not meet all needs, and the entry-level model's screen resolution may have limited appeal. But with smart configuration, this could prove to be a well-priced laptop for the canny business buyer.
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