Which ThinkPad should you buy? Here’s our guide to picking the best

The 2019 ThinkPad lineup is robust. Here's how to pick the right one for you

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga
Matt Smith/Digital Trends

For professional laptop users, the ThinkPad has been known as one of the best and most reliable brands for decades. Since the Lenovo acquisition of IBM’s personal computing division in 2005, the ThinkPad lineup has continued to evolve in new and intriguing ways. Be it the X series, the T series, or E series, there are plenty of exciting laptops to choose from. But that can make it tough to find the best Lenovo Thinkpad or you.

To help you pick the right Thinkpad for your needs, here’s a guide to the various options available and why they might make a great choice for your next laptop upgrade.

The X Series

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

At the top of the ThinkPad lineup is the X series. These are the best of the lightweight ThinkPad laptops, offering long battery life, robust security features, as well as the classic ThinkPad TrackPoint nub in the keyboard. They’re also designed to be sturdy, with Lenovo proudly claiming that X-Series Thinkpads have been taken all over the world (and crucially, survived), including to the top of Mount Everest, to the bottom of the ocean, and even into outer space on the International and Mir Space Stations.

If you like the sound of the X-Series, some great options include the ThinkPad X390 and ThinkPad X280. All ThinkPad X series laptops come with up to Intel’s eighth generation processors, speedy fast solid-state-drives, and options for between 4 and 32GB of RAM.

Yoga

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga
Matt Smith/Digital Trends

Lenovo also offers Yoga versions of X series devices, including the X380 Yoga and the X390 Yoga. Yoga versions of X series ThinkPads feature a touchscreen and are fully convertible thanks to a 360-degree hinge. That means it can be switched to four modes of use — laptop, stand, tablet, or tent mode.

Some Yoga versions also have integrated pens, like the X380 Yoga, which lets you digitally ink on the screen and mark up your PDFs and other documents.

ThinkPad X1 Series: Carbon, Yoga, Extreme

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2018) review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Not to be confused with the X series, also falling under Lenovo’s ThinkPad branding is the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, X1 Yoga, and X1 Extreme. These are more premium devices, with higher price tags.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the thinnest and lightest ThinkPad machine and it also sports long battery life. While not convertible, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers robust security features like a “ThinkShutter” slider to hide the webcam when not in use, and also a fingerprint reader. We reviewed a version of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon in 2018. Unfortunately, we found that it was expensive compared to competitors.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme is one of the most expensive and ThinkPad options but it comes with the highest specifications, too. Starting at just under $1,400, it packs in options for a 4K touch screen powered by a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip. It also offers up to 64GB of RAM and a high-end Intel Core i7 CPU from the eighth-generation. This gives it powerful capabilities when it comes to productivity tasks like video rendering, but it’s also not bad for off-hours gaming too.

When we reviewed the ThinkPad X1 Extreme we were big fans of its excellent keyboard, 4K display with HDR, and CPU performance.

If you like 2-in-1 capabilities, you can also consider the Yoga version of the ThinkPad X1. In our review we reviewed and liked for its display, productivity performance, and a soft-touch feel. An all aluminum version is also on the way in 2019.

The T Series

lenovo thinkpad t480s front full open
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Beneath the X series it the T Series. These are traditional clamshell-style ThinkPad laptops focused more towards professionals or businesses. Some may also see these devices as alternatives to MacBooks. Current T-series models include the ThinkPad 14-inch T490, ThinkPad T480, and the 15-inch ThinkPad T580. 15-inch versions come with a number pad alongside the main keyboard. Some 14-inch T-series laptops also feature long battery life, with Lenovo promising the T490s can last you 20 hours on a single charge.

T-series ThinkPads also feature options for touchscreens, and a wide range of connectivity, including USB-C and USB-A ports. This makes them a great choice if you’re always out and about or not ready to embrace the dongle lifestyle.

If you want a T-Series ThinkPad, we’d recommend T480s. When we reviewed it we liked its versatile connectivity options, battery life, touchpad, and keyboard, all for a great price.

The E Series

lenovo thinkpad t480s model logo
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

You don’t have to spend the Earth to get a great ThinkPad; There are some affordable entry-level options too, namely the E series. Prices start around $550 and most offer great hardware and the usual ThinkPad build quality, but sacrifice weight and portability. For instance, the ThinkPad E590 has a great eighth-generation Intel CPU and can be had for under $600, but weighs a hefty 4.68 pounds. The cheapest E-series models also feature lower-resolution 1,366 x 768 screens, and there is no option for touch screens anywhere in the lineup.

However, the ThinkPad E490s, which starts at $750, does come with an all-metal chassis and maintains a thin, sleek form, as well as security features like the ThinkShutter webcam and a fingerprint reader. All E series devices come with options for Intel’s eighth-generation processors, but for those on a smaller budget, there are also options for AMD Ryzen processors.

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