I am not a professional reviewer. This is more an editorial/opinion piece, than a professional review. This is a perspective of my new daily driver. After several failed attempts I landed here with a no return policy. This was the final shot
Additionally I will be adding more pictures in the future.
My laptop was getting long in the tooth. I was hitting the RAM limits constantly, CPU was less of a concern. But graphically, it could barely handle parsec at 1080p, and dual monitor 1440p was very laggy. So time to upgrade.
- CPU i5 4200u
- 256GB 2.5 SATA 3 SSD + 2242 256GB SSD
- 12GB RAM
- 1080P Display
- Split Cell (My backpack had 2 6 cell and 2 3 cell) batteries. I averaged about 10 hours per 6 cell doing development. But I could hot swap several times.
What I Bought
- Ryzen 2700u
- 8GB DDR4 Single Channel
- 1080p Touch Screen
- 256GB NVMe SSD
- Price 1125$
When I first unboxed this, I had a sense this was worth more than I paid. The chassis felt rigid and well built. At the same time, it was light. It had a slight taper towards the keyboard. But nothing too drastic. It wasn't as svelte as my work latitude 7390 2-in-1. But the tradeoff was well worth it. There were also nice touches, the embossed Lenovo logo, and ThinkPad logo. Both add a more premium feel.
. But the tradeoff was well worth it. There were also nice touches, the embossed Lenovo logo, and ThinkPad logo. Both add a more premium feel.
Compared to a number of ultrabooks, this offered a number of more useful ports. (two USB a, two USB c, docking, ethernet, HDMI, headphone/mircophone/sdcard). The keyboard offered deeper travel and was comfortable to type on. I ran my hands over it several times. Despite being plastic it felt more solid than the Gigabyte Aereo 15x I had prior. There was flex in the chassis, but I had no qualms tossing this in my backpack.
The lid is easy to lift up with a single finger. The laptop is very easy to carry around. It weighs barely anything, and with the 3 cell 24wh battery in the rear. I am shocked at how thin the device is. In short, this feels like a premium laptop.
Despite the fact, I put on a vinyl sticker on the back of my ThinkPads. Usually some variant of the Joker. This feels like a brass tacks, pull a grenade pin with your teeth laptop. It's meant to do work. It's not meant to be the center of attention. It's meant to last you a long time. If it should falter it's easy to repair. This thing isn't dainty.
I'm greyscale color blind, all I see is grey. My thing is a good resolution, for sharp text. Running the 1080p at 100% scaling. I feel the text is sharp and clear. The display is a bit dim compared to several other laptops I've used. Notably my works latitude 7390 2-in-1 1080p display. It may also be a placebo but I feel my T440s was slightly brighter. I'm willing to go with the 1080p because it may offer better battery life. If not that I'd rather put the upgrade money elsewhere.
I almost always navigate via the keyboard. But I will say the touchpad seems to be a good size. It responds well to the multi gestures. Coming from an unmodded T440s. The buttons at the top were a nice callback. My fingers immediately realigned to home row and the track button. This was the default configuration from my prior ThinkPad. The dedicated middle button is also very handy. I can't say if this will suffice for heavy touchpad users. But for me it's a very good trackpad.
It's there, and it's responsive. I didn't even realize this had a touch screen till one of my friends touched it.
It's in the upper echelon of laptop keyboards. The texture on the keys feels less slick than my T440s back lit keyboard. Conversely, the depth is noticeably more shallow than a T430 or W530, But only a tad more shallow than the T440s. Compared to most other laptop keyboards you may as well be diving into an ocean.
I mean if you're coming from a Thinkpad you know this keyboard. If not, it's a pleasure to type on. One of the top reasons I don't leave thinkpad. The biggest oddity is the swapped placement of the
ctrl key. This can be swapped via the bios. For multidmedia keys, there are a plethora at the top.
The bezels. I'm not someone who is like we need millimeter bezels. But it is jarring that there is such a chin on the lower bezel.
I've often taken a why pay for something when I can do it myself mentality. So I upgraded the base unit with several modifications.
- Ram Single 8GB to 2x16GB 2400
- 256GB 2280 NVMe to 1TB PCIex2 NVMe
- Blank 2242 to 240GB PCIex2 NVMe
- Realtek Wifi to Intel Wifi
I had read that the base speeds on the 2280 and 2242 were capped at two PCIe lanes. For those unaware most/some NVMe drives run at four pcie lanes. This effectively halves the bandwidth to a given port.
This being said, at the worst you can expect is SATA ssd speeds. I'm also not working on IO intensive tasks. So the two PCIe lanes are fine. A call out is that the 2242 supposedly only supports PCIe/NVMe and not MSATA cards.
Overall the unit was very easy to get into. There are a number of philips head screws on the underside of the chassis. I believe they are captive, at least mine wouldn't fall out. Simply unscrewing those, and then popping the plastic clips. Allowed the bottom to be removed.
The plastic clips are something that is of slight concern to me. I can see it being easy to break or chip one. But there aren't any ribbon cables to worry about when removing the under side.
Imagine that 2.5 bay being a bigger battery...
The new M2.2242 drive
The new Intel Card
Lenovo gets docked a point here for including a 2.5 slot. I understand the cheaper spindle option. But Dell has an option to remove the 2.5 bay for an extended battery. I am literally salivating at having nothing but the battery in the chassis.
I rather focus on the day to day feel, than synthetic benchmarks. But these are some tests.
Stock 256GB NVMe
I kept my hands over both vents during the entirety of the test. I don't feel it got too hot. My work latitude 7390 2-in-1 gets hotter at windows desktop than this does.
Deus Ex Mankind Divided
High DX 12
High DX 11
Low DX 12
Medium DX 12
Phoronix Test Suite
Everything is snappier. Well the things that were bothering me are gone. Running two 1440p monitors results in little lag. Parsec rarely stutters and has good quality through out. I can leave youtube music videos on a teriatary monitor without slow down. Android studio doesn't cause out of memory errors anymore. Even after a long video viewing session, the laptop is still cool to the touch.
Putting aside the fact that windows feels like it has a constant lag about it, and Linux still has regular screen tearing. But I'll take screen tearing over lag any day of the week. I feel overall this machine is faster than my older model. I only really had two qualms with my prior model, so this wasn't a hard thing to beat.
This was not smooth sailing. I'm running Arch linux at this time. My set up for my work/personal laptop combo is a bit special. I run a small root partition that acts in essence as a dom0. Each task/contract/job etc. Gets an LVM volume. Which in turn is enctrypted via luks. Then mounted as a chroot jail. So I can easily swap between my environments.
To boot up the install I had to append the following to the grub line. My first effort I was having a hard lockup after ~30 minutes or so. After digging through some threads I ended up on the following grub parameters.
Arch Installation Boot Arguments
Grub Default Arguments
There is also apparently ZenState, but I haven't had to use it yet.
If you are using something besides Arch. You may need a newer kernel.
Once I got the magic kernel incantation it's been smooth sailing. I'm using the open source driver. The system just feels so snappy.
00:00.0 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15d0 00:00.2 IOMMU: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15d1 00:01.0 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 17h (Models 00h-0fh) PCIe Dummy Host Bridge 00:01.1 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15d3 00:01.2 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15d3 00:01.3 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15d3 00:01.4 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15d3 00:01.5 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15d3 00:01.6 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15d3 00:08.0 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 17h (Models 00h-0fh) PCIe Dummy Host Bridge 00:08.1 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15db 00:08.2 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15dc 00:14.0 SMBus: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] FCH SMBus Controller (rev 61) 00:14.3 ISA bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] FCH LPC Bridge (rev 51) 00:18.0 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15e8 00:18.1 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15e9 00:18.2 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15ea 00:18.3 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15eb 00:18.4 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15ec 00:18.5 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15ed 00:18.6 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15ee 00:18.7 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15ef 01:00.0 Unassigned class [ff00]: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTS522A PCI Express Card Reader (rev 01) 02:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation Wireless-AC 9260 (rev 29) 03:00.0 Non-Volatile memory controller: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd NVMe SSD Controller SM981/PM981 04:00.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 0e) 04:00.1 Serial controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. Device 816a (rev 0e) 04:00.2 Serial controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. Device 816b (rev 0e) 04:00.3 IPMI Interface: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. Device 816c (rev 0e) 04:00.4 USB controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. Device 816d (rev 0e) 05:00.0 Non-Volatile memory controller: Toshiba America Info Systems Device 0113 (rev 01) 06:00.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 10) 07:00.0 VGA compatible controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD/ATI] Raven Ridge [Radeon Vega Series / Radeon Vega Mobile Series] (rev d0) 07:00.1 Audio device: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD/ATI] Device 15de 07:00.2 Encryption controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15df 07:00.3 USB controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15e0 07:00.4 USB controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15e1 07:00.6 Audio device: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Device 15e3 08:00.0 SATA controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] FCH SATA Controller [AHCI mode] (rev 61)
The first and most annoying bug was my sidecar monitor. A packed pixels display, that attaches to the side of the monitor. While this works via my mini display port to usb c adapter on my Dell latitude 7390 2-in-1. It isn't detected on Windows. Well, it's seen, but no resolutions are reported. I can add the custom mode line in Linux but haven't gotten it working in windows.
Issue number two is part availability. I have been trying to find a 6 cell rear battery. But haven't been able to find one. After trying three models online, all didn't fit this machine.
Road / Travel Test
I work alot from the road. Being a remote worker, I work alot on transit. The intro picture was from an east coast greyhound bus. The battery life with the two 24whr batteries. Lasted me almost the entire trip, save the last thirty minutes. This was around four and a half hours out of the five-hour trip. While my phone was plugged in charging from the laptop, acting as a hotspot. Doing development work, the brightness was at 25%. For the smaller battery, this is totally acceptable to me.
As to the actual chassis and size. I generally use my messenger bag as an elevation desk. It was very comfortable to type on. It also felt like it was a good size. I didn't feel like I was short on space, the screen felt large and my hands weren't cramped. But the foot print was not so large that it was cumbersome to use. The person in front of me was in full recline the entire trip. Despite that, I had good tilt on the display and a comfortable typing angle.
One of the bigger problems I have with this unit. Is the disparity between the T480 and A485. They are literally the same chassis and parts. Just swap AMD for Intel.
Despite this, the Intel model has Intel LAN and WiFi, and a better screen. As shown the Intel card work fine in here. While yes the card was only 25 off of Amazon. It should be present. Also, most AM4/TR4 AMD motherboards come with Intel networking.
The display is the bigger caveat here. As noted I don't care about colors. But from what I've read the 1080p panels lack in color production. Compared to the WQHD panel in the T480. It seems counterintuitive that the unit with a better GPU? Has a worse display.
I realize AMD has been utter tripe for the past several years. This first generation is a good attempt. But we don't need half assed hardware. AMD needs a good premium laptop to exemplify what they are capable of.
Removing the processor manufacturer from the equation. If you have two units that support the same hardware. Then why not go with it?
Since this is a more personal review than factual. This meets my needs. I can game on it lightly while on the road. It's hot-swappable batteries at least allow for the option to extend battery life. I feel no one was making the laptop I want and had to settle for the closest option. There is an early adopters tax here.
AMD or Lenovo, I'm not sure who is at fault here. But just fix the driver situation for windows. I should be able to go to AMD's website and grab the latest radeon drivers. This is a major gotcha right now. The fact that I have to side load an INF driver file. Then maybe I can upgrade the Radeon control center, but usually not. This is honeslty what had me swear off AMD at first. An old dell inspiron with radeon mobile x1400. The driver was horrendously bad.
Linux is honestly very buggy. Several kernel argument tweaks, adding custom daemons. Coming from a Ryzen desktop. The amount of problems is jarring. I don't mind getting my hand's dirty. There is just a very heavy early adopter tax. Despite that, AMD has a great track record with open source, so eventually, it will be better. I'm curious as to the long-term potential of this unit.
Would I recommend this? More than likely no, not at this time. I feel like we should be seeing an APU refresh from AMD soon. Additionally, the big reason for this over Intel was better GPU support and good Linux support. The Linux support is just lacking at this time. The video card feels hampered by both the memory limitiation (1GB), and cooling.
This is not a gaming laptop. This is I work a majority of the day. But want to relax with some games on occasion. It fits that bill really well. I'm not going to play the latest AAA titles on it. But if I'm traveling for work I can pop up some Killing Floor, and just destress. This hits the sweet spot where I don't have the bandwidth for Parsec, I can play locally. But has more battery life than a gaming laptop.
For programming, writing and music production. It's a great machine. Performant, good typing experiences. But then again as noted I offload alot of my heavy lifting to a dedicated virtual machine. I don't need much oomph locally.
Battery life, about four to five hours with the 2 x 24wh batteries. I'm still trying to source the 6 cell option. If you need longer battery life and aren't leaning on graphics performance. Or can travel with an eGPU. Go intel, stop here and get the T480 instead.
This was largely brought from an AMD fanbody stand point. I had cajoled myself into thinking I needed the bit more graphical power. I also wanted to support AMD for better competition. What I got was a good performer, great build, with mediocore battery life and some driver pains.
As a last counter point. With upgrades, I have a beefy workstation that can last for several years if not more. I mean:
- Ryzen 2700u 2.2GHZ base, 3.8GHz boost
- RX Vega 10
- 32GB Ram at 2400MHz
- 240GB NVMe
- 1TB NVMe
- Intel Wifi
At the cost of
|6 Cell Battery||70|
That is the price of a mid-range MacBook pro 13. This is a balls to the wall configuration. That should sit on your lap and chew through most things you give it. For the price to value it's great. You can also sell the initial components for a bit of cash back.
- Great build quality
- Relatively upgradeable and easily serviceable
- Good performance
- USB C charger
- Great port selection
- Driver support is problematic
- Realtek wifi and ethernet stock
- No thunderbolt (But this is expected)
- Not available in the US at this time.
- Battery life, Intel is beating them hands down at this point.