Saturday, May 06, 2023

Tech: Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 3 AMD review

I deployed my old Dell XPS 13 as a trial laptop throughout the pandemic, but it wasn't ideal. While the XPS was nice and compact, it didn't have an HDMI port, which sometimes made connecting to court display systems a chore. The XPS was also just getting too slow and limited for general use (a seven-year-old 6th-gen Core i5 and a 128 GB SSD just don't cut the mustard in 2023).

As a replacement, I went with the "default" choice for a business laptop, the Lenovo ThinkPad. Confusingly, Lenovo applies the ThinkPad nomenclature to several similar-looking laptops - everything from the sleek top-of-the-line X1 series to the "mainstream value-priced" L series. I opted for the T series, a midrange line that's big enough to write a brief on but still small enough to fit in a briefcase:

My particular ThinkPad is a T14s with a 14" WUXGA IPS touchscreen and an AMD Ryzen 7 6850U CPU. I went AMD this time because of my good experience with my AMD gaming desktop, and also because it seemed like AMD was better this generation on battery life and performance (there's an integrated AMD Radeon 680M that can handle some last-gen games at modest settings). The big downside to going AMD in the ThinkPad T line is that they foist soldered RAM on you, limiting your upgrade options.

Right off the bat, I could tell the ThinkPad T14s is not a multimedia-focused laptop.  The anti-glare 300 nits screen isn't terribly bright or vivid, and the sound from the speakers is tinny and devoid of bass. The onboard webcam is 1080P, an upgrade from last gen, but it's still mediocre.

No, where the ThinkPad excels is durability and functionality. Aside from some flex in the touchpad (which appears to be a common complaint), the laptop feels pretty tough, especially at the likely points of failure (hinges, bezels, and chassis mounts).

There's also a full complement of ports - 2 x USB-C, 2 x USB-A, HDMI, 3.5mm audio, an optional smart card reader, etc. Compared to the newest XPS, which only comes with 2 x USB-C, the ThinkPad is much more likely to be compatible with whatever random screen-sharing or projection system a court might throw at you (I still pack an ancient USB-to-VGA adapter in my bag, just in case).

I've already used the T14s for one trial, and it worked well, doing its job without being intrusive. Not surprisingly, opposing counsel also used a ThinkPad - it's truly the default, boring choice. If that fits what you want out of a laptop, give the Lenovo a look.


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