Apple MacBook Pro 13 with Retina vs. Lenovo ThinkPad T440s

apple macbook pro 13 retina vs lenovo thinkpad t440s compare comparison specs compared macpro13vst440s2
Apple’s MacBook and Lenovo’s ThinkPad T-Series are two of the strongest dynasties in the computing space. Both have been built continually for at least seven years, both come in several different varieties, and both have repeatedly received high marks.

Each line offers its own take on the small, ultra-portable notebook form factor. Apple’s entry is the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina, while Lenovo’s alternative is the 14-inch ThinkPad T440s. These systems are roughly the same size, have similar hardware, and are almost identically priced when equipped with identical specs. Either will serve a traveling professional well – but which is the best?

Design & Features

The MacBook Pro, though it grows thinner with each incarnation, looks more or less the same today as it did five years ago. Still, when put up against the Lenovo, it’s clear that Apple wins on curb appeal. Though thinner than any preceding T-series, the T440s is thicker, heavier and less attractive than its rival. The carbon fiber and magnesium body boasted by the ThinkPad may be durable, but its feels and looks a bit cheap, a problem most buyers will notice at first touch.

MacBook Pro 13 2013 left ports

You might expect the ThinkPad to make up for its aesthetic issues with improved functionality, but you’d be wrong. The MacBook matches the Lenovo’s two USB 3.0 ports and then ups the ante with two ThunderBolt ports. And though both have excellent keyboards, the Pro’s touchpad is still the best in the business, while the T440s is saddled with one of the worst touchpads we’ve used in 2013. Both have a 720p webcam and both support the full range of 802.11 Wi-Fi standards including the latest; 802.11ac.

Performance

While a 4th-gen Core processor is standard in each of these rivals, the MacBook has the ThinkPad at a bit of a disadvantage. Base models of the T440s come with the Core i5-4200U and the best processor available is the Core i7-4600U, while the Pro with Retina comes standard with a Core i5-4258, which has a higher base clock but a lower maximum clock than the Core i7-4600U. Overall, the MacBook will outrun the base T440s, while an upgraded T440s will be about on par.

Of course, this comparison isn’t exactly apples-to-apples (hah!) because these systems don’t run the same operating system. All you really need to know is that both can handle day-to-day tasks and demanding software without a hitch.

One area where the Mac has an undeniable edge, however, is 3D performance. This is because the MacBook Pro with Retina 13-inch has Intel Iris graphics, which is superior to the Intel HD 4400 graphics chip used by the T440s. While fewer games are available for the Mac, those that are available should be playable at slightly higher detail settings and/or a higher resolution.

Display

There’s not much room for argument here; the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina wins, end of story. The Mac’s 2560 x 1600 display offers more pixels, brilliant color and excellent contrast. While the T440s also has a quality screen, it simply can’t match the MacBook.

macpro13vst440s1

The ThinkPad isn’t more usable in bright environments either, because it has a semi-gloss display instead of the matte panel found on older models. Reflections are a bit less prominent on the T440s, but this advantage is negated by the Mac’s brighter display backlight.

Storage

The basic T440s comes with a 500 GB mechanical hard drive. This gives it a big boost in storage capacity compared to the Macbook, but it also results in a less responsive unit. No mechanical drive can keep pace with flash memory, period.

ThinkPad buyers can upgrade to either a 1TB hard drive for more capacity, or choose between a 128GB or 240GB solid state drive. Going the SSD route adds $170 or $370, respectively, to the price.

The MacBook, which comes standard with a 128GB SSD, doesn’t allow buyers to choose a bigger drive as a stand-alone option. Buyers must instead pay for an upgraded model. The first step-up model is $200 more than the base and includes a 256GB SSD along with eight gigabytes of RAM (up from the default four). The second step-up model is $500 more than the base and includes a 512GB SSD, eight gigabytes of RAM and a faster processor.

Portability

So far, the MacBook has an edge over the ThinkPad, but the T440s does have a trick up its sleeve. Instead of using a single internal battery, it has two batteries, one internal and one external. The standard external battery is a small unit that brings combined power to 47 watt-hours, but a larger six-cell pack can be swapped in to bring total capacity to an awesome 93.5 watt-hours. Apple’s MacBook Pro 13 with Retina, by comparison, has a 71.8 watt-hour battery.

Lenovo T440s battery

In terms of battery life, each laptop performs as the number suggest they would. With its smaller battery, the ThinkPad doesn’t last as long as the MacBook, but with the larger pack swapped in, the T440s provides record-setting endurance. The ThinkPad’s internal battery also makes it possible to hot swap; you can keep the laptop running as long as you have fresh batteries available.

The MacBook Pro 13 with Retina is hardly an unwilling travel companion, as its endurance is also near the top of its class. Apple’s laptop is also lighter and smaller in every dimension, though not by much. The ThinkPad’s extra bulk becomes a larger issue with the six-cell battery factored in, which juts out from the bottom of the laptop and adds a few ounces of weight.

Price & Conclusion

An entry-level T440s sells for $950, which is $350 less than the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina. The base model lacks a 1080p display or a solid state drive, however, and has a slower processor. Upgrading the ThinkPad to parity with the Mac increases its price to over $1,400; a $100 premium over the entry level MacBook Pro 13 with Retina.

And that’s really the final nail in the ThinkPad’s coffin. Though it’s certainly not a bad laptop, it clearly falls short of the MacBook in design, display quality and overall performance. Lenovo can only claim victory in portability with the optional six-cell battery, an upgrade which costs just five bucks, but also adds bulk to the T440s.

Apple’s current MacBook Pro lineup is surprising because there no longer seems to be an “Apple tax” applied to the price. Instead, the company is offering laptops that are not only well built, but also less expensive than the alternatives. Even the best PC laptops struggle to keep up with this latest Pro, and the merely good ThinkPad T440s can’t hope to compete.

Product Review

Controversy has dogged the MacBook Pro lately. Is it still a good purchase?

The MacBook Pro is a controversial laptop these days -- and that's unfortunate. Due to some divisive changes Apple made to the functionality of the MacBook Pro, fans are more split. Does the 8th-gen refresh change that?
Computing

The Asus ZenBook 13 offers more value and performance than Apple's MacBook Air

The Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 is the latest in that company's excellent "budget" laptop line, and it looks and feels better than ever. How does it compare to Apple's latest MacBook Air?
Product Review

LG Gram 14 proves 2-in-1 laptops don’t need to sacrifice battery for light weight

The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 aims to be very light for a laptop that converts to a tablet. And it is. But it doesn’t skimp on the battery, and so it lasts a very long time on a charge.
Deals

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for January 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Computing

How good are you at spotting phishing scams? Take this quiz to find out

Are you able to discern between a legitimate email and one that's a scam designed to phish for your personal information? Google created an online quiz with tips to help you better understand phishing so you don't become a victim.
Computing

Yes, you can use Android apps on your Chromebook. Here's how

You can now get Android apps on your Chromebook! Google has enabled the Google Play Store app support on its Chrome OS and Chromebook hardware, so to get you started, here's our guide on how to get Android apps on a Chromebook.
Computing

Patent application reveals what’s to come after AMD’s Graphics Core Next

A published patent application from AMD has revealed a new type of graphics processor core which could make a big difference to the capabilities of its GPUs if it finds its way into them in the future.
Computing

Microsoft targets Chrome OS with $189 Windows 10 laptops for education

Microsoft announced seven new low-cost Windows 10 laptops, all priced under $300 to take on Chromebooks and iPads in the education market, along with a new Microsoft Allora stylus for students using the Surface Go tablet.
Computing

Lenovo patent hints at a future tablet with a folding screen

Folding devices are a new trend, and according to a recent patent, Lenovo is considering a foldable 2-in-1 with a hinge mechanism that would allow consumers to bend back the screen on the device. 
Computing

Wifi Porter is a high-tech block of wood that lets you share your broadband

Tired of manually connecting your guests to your home Wi-Fi network? The latest invention from the folks at Ten One Design, the WifiPorter, allow individuals to connect to your Wi-Fi with the tap of their phone, or by scanning an available…
Computing

Midrange Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti graphics card may be 20 percent faster than GTX 1060

In the freshest development in graphics card rumors, alleged benchmarks are showing that the GTX 1660 Ti graphics card could be as much as 20 percent faster when compared to the older GTX 1060. 
Computing

Work and play anywhere with these portable, large-screen monitors

Via a recent and successful Kickstarter campaign by Unick, a new line of portable, large-screen monitors has been announced. The Gemini Taihe line of monitors offers two models: the Gemini FHD and the Gemini UHD.
Product Review

The Digital Storm Aventum X is an unstoppable gaming PC. Trust us, we tried

Packed with dual-Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti graphics card and a 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, the Aventum X is an infinitely upgradeable gaming PC that’s capable of far more performance than you’ll ever need.
Computing

It took Dell years to fix 1 problem on its best laptop. Here’s how they did it

The new Dell XPS 13 moves the webcam from the below the screen to the top, finally vanquishing the one obstacle facing thin, sleek laptop displays. We have the exclusive story on how it was done.