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Lenovo ThinkPad T495s review: A solid AMD-powered business workhorse
Lenovo's ThinkPad laptops have long been popular with business users, and the company continues to expand the range. A recent addition is the ThinkPad T495s, which is based on AMD's second-generation Ryzen Pro processors. It's intended to provide a more affordable alternative to the company's existing Intel-based models.
You need to keep a close eye on Lenovo's model numbers, as there are two 14-inch AMD-based ThinkPad laptops -- the T495s reviewed here, and the very similar T495. The T495s costs about £100/$100 more than the T495, but business travellers may well consider the extra cost to be a very worthwhile investment. That 's' flags up the fact that the T495s is slimmer and lighter: it measures 16.1mm thick and weighs 1.28kg, compared to 18mm and 1.54kg for the T495.
That's a good weight for a 14-inch laptop -- it's only a few grams heavier than Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air, which weighs 1.25kg -- and the ThinkPad's sleek profile will certainly appeal to business users who prefer a larger screen for viewing documents.
That said, it's a little disappointing that Lenovo has limited the IPS screen to FHD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution (157.35dpi), because a higher resolution option would make better use of the screen space. Even so, the image quality is very good: the 400-nits anti-glare screen isn't the brightest we've ever come across, but its strong contrast creates a crisp, detailed image with a nice colour balance that works well when watching video. And, of course, the 14-inch screen will work well for business presentations, or simply number-crunching in spreadsheets. For an extra £84 you can specify a variant of the screen with a PrivacyGuard filter.
Design & features
The T495 has the classic ThinkPad look -- a matte-black chassis and a red trackpoint in the middle of the keyboard, plus three chunky buttons at the top of the trackpad. Trackpoint devices are making something of a comeback at the moment, and they can certainly come in handy for business travellers who are trying to work while sitting in a cramped airline seat.
While this laptop's design is somewhat conservative, we can't fault its build quality. The T495s is very sturdily built, and the thin screen panel -- just 6mm thick -- still feels firm enough to protect the glass screen from the occasional bump when you're travelling. According to Lenovo "the T495s is tested against 12 military-grade requirements and more than 200 quality checks to ensure it runs in extreme conditions".
The keyboard will be a delight for fast typists too, with a nice, firm travelling action on the keys, and a moulded, curved surface on each key that feels very comfortable and helps to guide your fingers towards the centre of the key.
It's well connected too, with two USB-C and two USB-A (3.1) ports, HDMI for an external display, and a 3.5mm microphone/headphone jack. There's a fingerprint reader for extra security, and a proprietary Ethernet port for wired networks that will require an additional adapter costing £20/$30. The T495s also includes a three-year parts-and-labour warranty, which should keep your IT department happy.
Price & options
Lenovo's AMD-based ThinkPads are noticeably more affordable than their Intel-based stablemates, and there's an entry-level configuration for the T495s running Windows 10 Home for just £716.66 (ex.VAT, £859.99 inc. VAT, or $1,154.30).
We tested the mid-range model that steps up to Windows 10 Pro 64. and costs £1,033.32 (ex. VAT, £1,239.99 inc. VAT). It's based around a quad-core AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 3500U processor running at 2.1GHz (up to 3.7GHz with Max Boost) with 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and integrated Radeon Vega 8 graphics.
There are also a number of customisation options, including a top-of-the-range Ryzen 7 Pro 3700U processor, a 512GB SSD and Vega 10 graphics, which brings the total price to £1,333.32 (ex. VAT, £1,599.99 inc. VAT). The options on Lenovo's US website are more limited, although a customised configuration that matches our review unit comes in at $1,407.70.
As mentioned, the screen for all configurations is limited to just 1,920 by 1,080 resolution. If you need a higher-resolution display, you'll need to look elsewhere.
The real strength of the T495s lies in affordability and portability, rather than raw performance. Its Ryzen 5 Pro achieves scores of 887 (single core) and 2958 (multi-core) when running the Geekbench 5 CPU test, and 9980 in the Geekbench 5 Compute test for graphics performance. Those are fairly modest scores, although the integrated Vega 8 graphics delivers more respectable scores of 35.4fps in Cinebench R15, and 8fps in the graphically intensive Unigine Valley benchmark. The SSD cruises along smoothly too, with read and write speeds of 3Gbps and 1.6Gbps respectively.
This sort of performance will be more than adequate for mainstream workloads involving productivity software such as Microsoft Office. You'll get plenty of work done too, as the laptop's battery-saving mode allowed it to edge just past nine hours of wi-fi streaming on BBC iPlayer. For the record, Lenovo claims up to 14 hours' life for the 57Wh battery.
The ThinkPad T495s isn't going to win any awards for raw computing horsepower, but it should prove a reliable platform for office software, email and web browsing when you're on the road. With a slim but robust design and all-day battery life, it also has a more competitive price tag than many of its Intel-based rivals.