I’ve reviewed an 8th-gen Whiskey Lake Core CPU 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB solid-status PCIe, all with Full HD low (1,920 x 1,080) screen for a $1,322 feature. Is the ThinkPad T490 a rock-based choice for discerning ThinkPad lovers who need no X1 flair? Will it live to their reputation?
What a ThinkPad would look like is becoming less and less obvious. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is very similar, but it gives the 4 K lid a carbon fiber weave that is usually unlike ThinkPads. And don’t get me on the all-aluminum chassis of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. The ThinkPad T490 is far more consistent with a diehard ThinkPad fan — black to black, with just a couple of red accents breaking down the monochromatic color scheme.
The chassis are made of plastic but feels solid enough in the hand. It also provides the matt soft-touch finish, so appealing to conventional ThinkPads. If you love ThinkPads, you’ll feel the same about ThinkPad T490 because you know they will last forever. I noted that the X1 Carbon also displayed some flex on the screen, but the remainders are sufficiently robust. You have to opt for a more robust frame in the all-metal X1 Yoga.
On the T490 you will not find thin bezels as one feature. They’re quite chunky and straight. Overall, the laptop was reduced in size than the previous model T480. It is 0.7 inches thinner and 3.17 pounds lighter than the heavier T480. The T490’s depth and width are a welcomed fall. It’s a good idea. For a MacBook or XPS, no one will mistake that, but this is the point here that ThinkPad does what others not.
Support is available for USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 port and HDMI 1.4 full-size port. It also supports USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 port, Thunderbolt 3 USA-C, and DisplayPort. Further, data transmission, MicroSD and Card Reader along with power delivery. The full-sized Ethernet and a further USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 port are located on the right hand side.
Another thing the T490 does right with the ThinkPad is its keyboard. With a lot of depth and a click precision mechanism, I found it as excellent as ever. The black keycap’s white lettering is as clear as ever, though in a strange twist the backlighting is optional. It’s a boom and it’s another reason I’m in love with HP’s Spectrum keyboards.
Right in the center of the keyboard is the usual red TrackPoint Nubbin. The Touchpad is wide enough and it is a clone of Microsoft Precision, ensuring that Windows 10 supports many multi-touch gestures.
No Touch Display
Sadly, the Full HD and WQHD (2.560x 1.440) screen is not able to show a Touch display. Clicking lengthy web pages and sometimes pop-ups is much easier, not everyone will notice this absence, but I did.
The support for Windows Hello is provided by a standard, accurate fingerprint scanner and an optional infrared scanner to recognize the face. The ThinkPad ThinkShutter can also shield the Webcam from prying eyes and enhance your privacy.
I had only the 8th-gen core i5 in my review unit. The T490 ThinkPad is no exception, and this is a good quad-core processor for simple productivity tasks. The synthetic GeekBench 4 was only a little lower than the average, with 4,158 for single and 12,395 for multi-core. And our hand break check to convert a 420 MB clip to H265 took a little more than five minutes.
Likewise, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga were only slightly quicker. Lenovo ThinkPad 13s showed better result among all. The Handbrake test was completed a minute before than the other laptops. So, the T490 itself will likely give much better result with 10th-gen Comet Lake CPUs.
At just 45% of AdobeRGB and 61% of sRGB colors were remarkably subdued. The results are disappointed. Speaking frankly, a laptop within cost of $500 can give better result than this. The majority of high cost laptops are 95% of sRGB and 72% of AdobeRGB. On this computer you definitely don’t want to edit photos or videos.
The comparison between the T490s and the new premium laptops is 670:1 and 1000:1 respectively. For example, black text does not pop on white backgrounds and makes it weird.
Subjectively, for the main focus on efficiency function of the T490 the display is hardly acceptable. You’re not going to hate it, but you’re also not going to love it. Most importantly, it’s not as easy to use as I have tested most other high quality displays.
The X1 Yoga and X1 Carbon ThinkPad are better alternatives of it. Both a little smaller, a little lighter and both work best. They also provide 4K display and better Full HD screens than the T490.s
If you want crazy-fast laptop and superior expandability, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme can also be considered, but you should not skip the Dell XPS 13 unless you need a full 14 inches.
The ThinkPad T490 is the working horse of the line. It’s not exciting to look at it if you don’t just love the classic ThinkPad. It will be on its battery all day long.
The screen is nevertheless a major deception. It simply isn’t good enough for the proposed price. That is why, given its excellent keyboard and robust construction, I cannot recommend ThinkPad T490 to most people.