Hands on with the tough, powerful, and affordable Lenovo ThinkPad T470: first impressions
Whether you’re a road warrior, a business person, journalist, or just your average everyday consumer, there are a few things you will need in a laptop: excellent design, specs, keyboard, trackpad, battery life, and lots of ports for your accessories. Originally launched back in February of this year, the kind folks at Lenovo recently sent me the ThinkPad T470 for review, and I’ve found that this laptop has exactly what I need in my life to fit all these requirements. I’ve set all my other devices to the side, and I have been using this laptop as my daily driver for the last few days so here are my first impressions.
This review unit is powered by a 7th generation Intel Core i5-7300u CPU clocked at 2.6GHz. It was configured with 16 GB of RAM, a 256GB Toshiba SSD, and had Intel HD 620 graphics onboard. These specs are more than what I am used to and are more than enough for me to get my daily web-based job done right without any performance troubles. Other notable specs which I will touch on throughout this piece can be seen in the list below.
- 13.25″ x 9.15″ x 0.79″ (336.6mm x 232.5mm x 19.95mm) dimensons
- 3.49 lb./ 1.58 kg weight with 3-cell battery
- 3.92 lb./ 1.78 kg weight with 3-cell and 6-cell battery
- 14.0 inch non-touch FHD Matte Display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
- Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 8265 + Bluetooth 4.1
- HD 720p Webcam with Fixed Focus
- 2 x 2 Watt Speakers
- 24 watt-hour (Internal), 24 watt-hour (external) battery
- Touch Fingerprint Reader (Match-in-Sensor), Intel vPro Technology
- TrackPoint pointing device and buttonless Mylar surface
- 6-row, spill-resistant keyboard, multimedia Fn keys, LED backlight
Build and Design:
This laptop keeps the same familiar magnesium hybrid design which many have come to associate with a Lenovo ThinkPad. Overall, there’s nothing new and shocking here, except for a change from the gray base color to black. There is also a luxurious feeling soft material on the top shell, which really beats the plastic shell of my older Lenovo laptop. Though I probably won’t be taking it this far, the T470 is even tested against 12 military-grade certification tests (MIL-STD 810G.) It also passes more than 200 in-house durability tests before it comes to you.
You might want to be careful when handling this laptop, though, as I noticed that the soft material is quick to gather fingerprints. When I initially pulled the device out of the box for the photo, it grabbed up the dust which was on my finger. It’s just one small problem, as the dust can easily be wiped off. Needless to say, the design is still attractive, and it’s another place where Lenovo gets things right.
Lenovo also tells me that the chassis on this laptop was designed to be 3% thinner and 5% lighter, than a similarly configured T460 series laptop. Even with this so, the laptop still carries over some of the best design and serviceability features from laptops of Lenovo ThinkPad past, including swappable batteries. Indeed this is true as with the standard battery, the laptop weighed in at 3.49 pounds, which I did not find too back breaking when carrying the laptop out and about.
Interestingly, there are fewer screws on the glass-fiber reinforced plastic underside of this laptop. This means that if I really wanted to, I could pop in some extra RAM to boost my processing power without worrying about using extra tools to make my way in. While I am not the technical type, I always appreciate having this option to further customize my laptop, especially since I am coming from using a Surface Pro 4 which has everything soldered in.
First use, initial impressions, display, fingerprint scanner, customizing settings:
The Lenovo laptop comes pre-installed with Windows 10 Signature Edition. This means that there is no pre-installed antivirus packages, unwanted toolbars, and utilities which will bog down the performance of the laptop. The unit I was sent also came with the fully updated Windows 10 Creators Update. From the minute I first pushed the power button I was sent to my desktop in a matter of seconds, without the need to run updates. Simply put, the laptop is very fast.
During my first use, I was also highly impressed with the display on the laptop. I was sitting in a somewhat dark room while settings things up, and even on the lowest brightness settings, all the colors and text on the screen popped right out. Unlike laptops from Lenovo past (partially my Lenovo T440s), text and images did not appear to be washed out on this display, even when viewing from a side angle, or when sitting in a brighter room on a sunny day. Though it is a matte type display (which I am generally not partially fond of) I could tell Lenovo put a lot of thought into improving the display on this laptop, and I really like it.
I also dived into the system settings to check out the fingerprint scanner, which has come far from the scanner on my Lenovo T440s. Set up was quick and easy, and there was no need to constantly slide my finger across the scanner to get it to work. All I needed to do was to wait for the green light and rest my finger on the scanner then lift my finger up and down for the computer to read it, similar to how the fingerprint scanner works on my Nexus 6p. There were no issues, and the laptop immediately recognized my fingerprint everytime I rebooted.
For further customization during my initial setup, I was able to get into the settings and set up the PC to my liking with ease. As I expected, all settings pages loaded quickly, and I was able to download and install Google Chrome and set up the included Microsoft Office trial in less than 2 minutes. I was also able to head into display settings and adjust the scaling to 125%, which I personally prefer since it allows me to see more things on the screen.
Long term use, battery life, and use for work:
For the past few days, I’ve been using this Lenovo T470 as my main machine, and it did not disappoint. My writing shifts at OnMSFT usually last me from 8:30AM-3:00 PM ET, and each day, I was able to use this laptop throughout for roughly 7 and a half hours straight (with the standard battery) without plugging it into an outlet.
The only time I needed to plug it in was at the end of the day when I needed to recharge. This 7.5-hour battery life easily surpassed my Surface Pro 4, which only lasts 5 hours, and my MacBook Pro which only goes 3 hours. It also passes my older Lenovo T440S, which gets to about 4 hours before a recharge.
My workflow and primary use of this laptop involved having two instances of Google Chrome open, and side by side. I kept the screen at 40% brightness and also turned off battery saver. In one window was the Microsoft Teams web app open in one tab, and the Microsoft Planner in another tab. In the second window, meanwhile, was WordPress and my RSS feed.
Throughout my writing shift, I was able to switch back and forth between windows watch the occasional YouTube video, without any slowdown or performance issues. I can tell that Lenovo is making the most out of Intel’s 7th generation processors, which are optimized for better battery, performance, and 4k video playback capabilities.
Since Google Chrome is known to be heavy on the battery, and the processor, I’m sure a business person, or someone who is using it to work on the web, code, edit spreadsheets, or do office work, could also get some extra battery life out of the laptop. Lenovo promises a total of 13.9 hours with the standard 14Wh+ 24Wh battery, so the battery life if a huge plus, and is something you should consider as a positive when purchasing this laptop.
The keyboard on the Lenovo T470 should be familiar to anyone who has used a Lenovo laptop in the fast. It keeps with a 6-row, spill-resistant keyboard, complete with multimedia Fn keys and a LED backlight. In my five days of use, I’ve found the keyboard to be quite comfortable and quiet, as the keys have a soft touch to them, and not a glossy feeling as they do on my Lenovo T440S.
To my pleasure, the keys are chiclet style and have a slight dip in the middle, which means I could easily make my way in between letters and increase my typing accuracy when in the middle of an important article. There’s also a Caps Lock indicator light on the keyboard, which I really appreciate since it was noticeably absent on my Lenovo T440s.
I express extra love for the row of function keys, which give quick access to Windows settings. There are some unique keys, which let you mute the microphone, turn off wireless connections, project your screen, and go into Lenovo settings. The keyboard is also backlit, which means you can type up a storm in the dark without worrying about making mistakes. It has two levels of brightness, dim, and brighter, both of which are not too hard on the eyes in the night.
Precision touchpad & TrackPoint:
Since this is a T-series laptop, it would not be complete without a TrackPoint. Just as in the past, the TrackPoint is located in between the G and H keys on the keyboard, right above the B key. This time, there are also physical buttons above the touchpad to go along with the TrackPoint, but I never really used it. While I think that it’s a bit over sensitive to my movements, classic ThinkPad users who are more familiar with TrackPoint might appreciate it.
What I liked most about the Lenovo T470 is the precision touchpad. It’s very large and has a soft touch feel to it, and it does not easily collect sweat, grime, and dirt like my MacBook or Surface touchpad. You can also dive into the system settings and adjust the sensitivity if need be, but I found the default settings alright. Lastly, when it comes to sound, the touchpad is very quiet and does not make much noise when clicking, which is partially useful when you’re trying to focus in a business or work oriented environment.
The touchpad on the laptop also supports the new precision touchpad settings which come in the Windows 10 Creators Update. You can adjust all kinds of settings including gestures for showing the desktop, switching apps, multitasking view, and much more. With a 14 inch screen, this all was useful for me, especially because I multitask with lots of windows open when writing articles.
The speakers on the Lenovo ThinkPad T470 are located on the bottom front side of the laptop, right by the legs of the laptop. The speakers do not sit directly on the desk when the laptop is placed down, so sounds come out crisp and clear. I probably won’t be using this laptop to DJ, but for my standard home use, it worked just fine. I was able to listen to some tunes in Groove Music and watch YouTube videos without raising up the volume too loud. Sounds were crisp and clear, and very full.
Fans, noise, and heat distribution:
Many devices I own, including my MacBook, Lenovo T440S, Surface Pro 4, all have fans which kick in when I do my daily work on the web. To my shock, the Lenovo T470 is very quiet, and it’s fans never really kicked in during my extended use. Again, I’m mainly using this laptop to work on the web, and on any given day I have roughly about 7 tabs open in Google Chrome, so I really appreciate how quiet this laptop is.
The body of the laptop does not really gather up the heat as much as my Surface or MacBook would, and heat distribution mainly focused on the areas where my palm is rest while typing. I can’t say the same for the underside, though, as it got pretty warm during use, but nothing that was too uncomfortable.
It has ports for everyone!
Unlike my Surface Pro 4 (which is a different type of machine,) and newer Apple laptops these days, the ThinkPad T470 comes with plenty of ports, all of which I really appreciate. These are all positives, and another reason you might want to consider picking up this laptop.
On the left side of the laptop, we have a DC in (power) port, a classic USB 3.0 Type A port, a Thunderbolt 3 Type C-Port, and a Smart Card Reader (which is optional.) I’m still not really a fan of USB C or Thunderbolt 3 since most of my monitors and other accessories do not support this new technology. It’s still great to see Lenovo take the leap, though, as, in the future, more and more gadgets and accessories will be using USB Type C, making the laptop very future proof.
Continuing on, the right side of the laptop has some more ports for all. There are a headphone port and mic combo, a classic Type A USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, and another USB 3.0 Type A port. The final of the USB 3.0 Type A ports is Always On, which proved to be useful for me when I wanted to charge my phone while the laptop was plugged into power and when I could not find my phone charger.
Ending the list of ports on the right side is a 4-in-1 Card Reader and the Kensington Lock. Being a journalist, I express extra appreciation for the card reader on this laptop. During my use of the laptop and the writing of this piece, I was able to transfer all my photos and multi-media over with ease without the need for any dongles, accessories, or cables! I also was able to plug this laptop directly into my external Dell Monitor without any extra adapters because of the built in HDMI port, freeing up space on my desk.
Pricing and Conclusion:
If you’re looking to pick up this Lenovo T470, it will be well worth the price. It’s powered by great Intel processors, and its long battery life will last you all day when you’re on the road. You’ll also enjoy an amazing keyboard, trackpad, and you will have comfort knowing that you won’t be straining your eyes thanks to the amazing display.
You can pick up the exact model I received for $1411.20 including the second battery, or build your own by visiting the Lenovo website here and customizing. The base model starts at a very affordable at $783.20, a midrange model at $1,159.20, and a top range model for $1,615.20. Most models will ship in 5-7 business days directly from Lenovo.
That’s all I have to say for now, but keep your eyes peeled to OnMSFT, as I will be returning with a second look at this laptop once I’ve used it for more than a few days.Further reading: Lenovo, Lenovo ThinkPad T470, ThinkPad