Lenovo Thinkpad T470s Review

by Reads (11,686)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 8
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 6
      • Usability
      • 8
      • Design
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 7
      • Features
      • 8
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 7.29
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Competitively priced
    • Excellent keyboard and touch pad/pointing stick
    • Supports snap-in docking solutions
    • Good IPS screen
  • Cons

    • Chassis could feel more solid
    • Slightly larger than previous generation model

The Lenovo ThinkPad T470s is a refresh of the outgoing ThinkPad T460s. The T-series is Lenovo’s top-of-the-line business notebook, and has been more or less the gold standard in the industry for many years now. We think that still mostly holds true, though the competing Dell Latitude 7000 series gives it a serious run for its money.

The ThinkPad T470s that’s the subject of this review is a slimmer version of the mainstay ThinkPad T470 (non-“s”). Despite its thinness, the ThinkPad T470s still offers snap-in docking solutions and user-expandable memory. We concluded it had a good mix of business-friendly features at a respectable price point, but felt it was largely overshadowed by its more expensive cousin, the even slimmer ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017).

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s Build and Design

Our ThinkPad T470s review unit could be mistaken for a ThinkPad from many years ago. We suppose that’s the norm for a ThinkPad; they’ve been able to keep their designs looking largely the same longer than anyone else. Lenovo has another card up its sleeve this year, however; you can opt for the ThinkPad T470s in silver as a no-cost option.

This ThinkPad may look like it’s made of plain plastic in the pictures, but it’s not. Its build materials consist of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, and magnesium alloy. These materials are supposed to be stronger than regular plastic without being as heavy. The lid and its metal display hinges seemed plenty stiff to us, though we couldn’t say the same about the chassis. It was fairly easy to induce mild flex in the by grabbing and torquing it by the front corners. (You shouldn’t do that at home, by the way. See our 10 Tips to Avoid Damaging a Notebook.)

It’s disappointing to see this much chassis flexibility in a business-class notebook. Flexing is bad because it can allow the internal circuit boards to flex, increasing the chance of hardware failure. It shouldn’t be a problem on the ThinkPad T470s, provided you aren’t picking it up by its corners or treating it roughly.

The chassis measures 13.3×9.2 inches, which are fairly typical dimensions for a 14-inch notebook. It’s surprisingly slightly larger than the outgoing ThinkPad T460s, which measured 13×8.93 inches. It’s also noticeably larger than the Dell Latitude 14 7000 (7480), one of the primary competitors for the ThinkPad T470s. The Lenovo is thicker than the Dell, as well, at 0.79 inches, as opposed to 0.67 inches. Lenovo’s own ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017) outdoes them both, especially when it comes to weight. The ThinkPad T470s is 2.9 pounds, just under the three-pound weight of the Dell Latitude 14 7000 (7480) and the outgoing ThinkPad T460s, but the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017) is just 2.5 pounds. In summary, the ThinkPad T470s isn’t the thinnest and lightest 14-inch notebook you can buy, but it’s certainly not one you could call chunky. If anything, we thought its design looked and felt just right.

The bottom cover of this ThinkPad is held on by five screws. We were able to undo them with a standard Phillips-head screwdriver. Note we said undo, not remove; the screws have retainers to keep them attached to the cover, a nice touch, as you won’t have to worry about screws getting lost. The user-replaceable components under this panel include the M.2 Type-2280 (80mm) solid-state-drive, and the single DIMM for memory. Notice the batteries located at the front and rear. Neither of these are hot-swappable, and can’t be accessed without access this panel. By comparison, the rear battery on the ThinkPad T470 (non-“s”) is hot-swappable, replaceable without having to remove the bottom panel of the notebook.

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s Input and Output Ports

The port selection on the ThinkPad T470s is respectable for a 14-inch business notebook. Unlike the slimmer ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017), the T470s supports Lenovo’s snap-in docking solutions. You can also connect a Thunderbolt 3 dock via its USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 port.

On the left edge of the chassis, you’ll find the USB-like AC power adapter jack, a USB Type-A 3.0 port, the cooling exhaust vent, a headset (headphone/microphone) jack, and the full-size SD card reader.

The right edge of the chassis holds the SmartCard slot (our review unit wasn’t so equipped, with just a filler in place), the USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 port, a USB Type-A 3.0 port, a full-size HDMI video-out, another USB Type-A 3.0 port, the Gigabit Ethernet jack, a Micro SIM card slot (enabled if the notebook is equipped with the optional WWAN module), and the Kensington-style cable lock.

There’s nothing along the front or rear edges of the chassis.

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s Keyboard and Touchpad

The island-style keyboard on the ThinkPad T470s will have a familiar look and feel if you’ve used a ThinkPad made from around 2012 and onward. We think, in terms of feel and layout, that it’s not the equal of the now-ancient ThinkPad T420, a circa-2011 model that was one of the last ThinkPads to include a traditionally-styled keyboard.

However, for an island-style notebook keyboard, the one on the ThinkPad T470s offers a high-quality typing experience. The keys have enough up-and-down travel for a communicative, detailed feel. Those sitting around us appreciated that the keys were quiet to press, as well. The solid keyboard support deck added to the solid feel.

Keyboard backlighting is standard on the ThinkPad T470s. You can toggle between the two brightness levels, or turn it completely off by pressing the Fn key and the spacebar. The top brightness setting is just visible during the daytime. All of the symbols on the keys are backlit, including the secondary symbols.

One part of a ThinkPad that has remained by and large the same over all of these years is the eraser-head pointing stick in the center of the keyboard. Its sloped edges and textured feel are second to none, as far as pointing sticks go. Its three dedicated buttons under the spacebar are within easy reach for your thumbs. Each button has well-defined feedback, and they’re easy to tell apart by feel. The raised dots on the center button are unmistakable.

The buttonless touch pad is a button in itself. Press down on the pad’s surface to make a click. The right-click zone is an unmarked strip about a half-inch tall along the lower border, extending from the center of the pad and over to the right edge. It’s right where a dedicated right-click button would reside. The clicks make more of an audible sound than we prefer, but at least the required pressure to make a click was relatively consistent. The pad appears to be hinged at the top, so there is some extra pressure required if you’re pressing down at the very top of the pad.

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s Screen and Speakers

Our ThinkPad T470s review unit has the available 1080p (1,920×1,080) touch display, an $80 upgrade over the base 1080p display, which is identical in other respects (on paper, anyway). They’re both in-plane switching (IPS) panels with wide viewing angles, meaning you can look at the display from the sides or from above and below without seeing a distorted picture. We thought the 1080p touch display looked fine, though it wasn’t as bright as we were expecting. The colors seemed vibrant enough, but not to the point where they were popping off the screen.

We think a 1080p resolution on a 14-inch display panel is ideal for productivity; we were just able to read text without having to use Windows scaling to increase the text size.

 

We initially didn’t realize our review unit had the touch display. There is no glass or glossy plastic covering over its surface; as a matter of fact, the display’s surface looks like that of an ordinary display. The anti-glare coating will definitely be appreciated in office environments, where overhead and background lighting would cause reflections on a glossy surface. All in all, the 1080p touch display on the ThinkPad T470s has reasonable quality for a business-class notebook.

Lenovo offers an optional non-touch WQHD (2,560×1,440) display on the ThinkPad T470s. It was a $160 upgrade over the base non-touch 1080p panel as we were typing this. With the WQHD resolution, the use of scaling would in all likelihood be required to get usable text. In other words, you’d need scaling to make text appear just as large as it would on the 1080p display. It’s possible the WQHD display offers better image quality than the 1080p panels, though we didn’t have on-hand to try out.

The speakers inside the notebook’s chassis had below average audio quality. The setup struggled to sound loud or clear. There was almost no bass. Be sure to pack a pair of headphones; the headphone jack on the left side of the chassis is static-free.

A 720p/30fps webcam above the display on the ThinkPad T470s has average quality. It’s no better or worse than the webcams we see on competing notebooks. It’s perfectly usable for Skype and other casual usage.

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s Performance

The ThinkPad T470s configuration we received for review had a balanced specification. The base $959 model has a 14-inch 1080p IPS display, Windows 10 Home, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SATA-based solid-state-drive (SSD). Our $1,383 review unit added touch capability to the screen, a Pro license of Windows 10, doubled the RAM, and included a 256GB SSD running on the faster PCI Express bus. The processor in the base model is an Intel Core i5-7200U “Kaby Lake” chip; the very mildly faster Core i5-7300U CPU in our review unit also granted Intel vPro remote management support. The latter CPU would only make sense as an upgrade cost if your notebook is part of a fleet that is being managed by an IT department, where vPro is used.

The maximum supported amount of system memory (RAM) in the ThinkPad T470s is 20GB. As was the case with the last-generation ThinkPad T460s, the T470s continues to have just one user-accessible RAM slot. There is 4GB of RAM permanently soldered to the motherboard; you can install a 16GB DIMM in the slot to reach the maximum supported amount. Our ThinkPad T470s review unit had a 4GB module installed, making for a total of 8GB of RAM. The RAM runs at DDR4-2133 speeds. The ThinkPad T470 (non-“s”) is slightly thicker and heavier than the T470s, but offers two user-accessible RAM slots, for a maximum of 32GB. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017) has no capability to upgrade RAM, as its memory is soldered to the motherboard.

As configured, our ThinkPad T470s is very capable for most of the tasks you’d perform on a notebook, including general office work, but also more demanding tasks, such as photo editing. It’s less than ideal for gaming, considering it has just Intel HD 620 integrated graphics. You can most likely get away with older 3D titles from the late 2000s, but the latest Call of Duty is probably going to be a no-go.

Our Lenovo ThinkPad T470s Signature Edition review unit has the following technical specifications:

  • 14-inch display (1,920×1,080 resolution, IPS panel, anti-glare surface, 10 touch point support)
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
  • Intel Core i5-7300U dual-core processor (2.6GHz, up to 3.5GHz Turbo Boost, 3MB cache, 15-watt TDP) w/ Intel vPro support
  • 8GB DDR4-2133 dual-channel RAM (1x 4GB onboard/soldered, 1x 4GB module; 20GB max. supported – 1x4GB onboard/soldered, 1x 16GB module)
  • 256GB M.2 Type-2280 PCI Express SSD (SAMSUNG MZVLW256HEHP)
  • Intel HD Graphics 620 w/ shared memory
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Built-in 720p webcam
  • Dual li-ion batteries: 3-cell 23.5 watt-hour front, 3-cell 26 watt-hour rear
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Dimensions: 13.25 x 9.15 x 0.79 inches
  • Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Starting price: $959
  • Price as tested: $1,383

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s Benchmarks 

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):

 

3DMark Fire Strike is a newer DirectX 11 benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

 

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s Heat and Noise

The cooling fan aimed out the left side of the chassis on the ThinkPad T470s was generally quiet during our review process. The fan spooled up while we were running our benchmarks, taking on a slight whine, but overall remaining subdued. At idle, the fan turned completely off. It turned on a low speed while we were surfing the web or watching videos.

Heat seemed to be a non-issue with the ThinkPad T470s. The left-center of the chassis was lukewarm to the touch after running our benchmarks, but otherwise barely above room temperature.

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s Battery Life

The ThinkPad T470s has a unique battery setup. There are actually two 3-cell lithium-ion batteries inside its chassis. The one mounted at the front is 23.5 watt-hours, while the one at the rear is 26 watt-hours. They aren’t quickly swappable, though you can see them if you remove the bottom panel of the notebook. (See earlier in the Build Quality section of this review for a photo.) It’s not uncommon to see a notebook without a swappable battery, so we aren’t surprised by this. As we noted before, the ThinkPad T470 (non-“s”) has a swappable rear battery, if that feature is important to you.

We use our Powermark benchmark in Balanced mode to test battery life. It runs a series of automated tests, including web browsing, office productivity, video playback, and gaming workloads to provide a more accurate real-world assessment of battery life. We run the test at approximately 50 percent screen brightness.

The ThinkPad T470s ran for 5 hours, 46 minutes in the Powermark test. That just beats the 5 hours, 26 minute result we got from the Dell Latitude 14 7000 (7480), and is slightly better than the 5 hours, 19 minutes we recorded from the outgoing ThinkPad T460s. As we said when we reviewed the Dell, the time from the ThinkPad T470s is good, if not good enough to make the headlines. This is a worst-case scenario number; if you reduce the screen brightness, and stick to non-demanding tasks, like office work or mild web surfing, you should be able to coax out another 20 percent on top of this number. Consider that the non-touch 1080p screen that is standard on the ThinkPad T470s may offer marginally better battery life as well, as the touch functionality on the 1080p display in our review unit did add some power draw versus not having touch at all.

The ThinkPad T470s is, however, completely overshadowed by the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017), which lasted a much more impressive 7 hours, 16 minutes in this same test.

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s Power Adapter

Lenovo sends the ThinkPad T470s with a 45-watt AC adapter. It’s relatively compact, the brick itself measuring 3.6×1.5×1.1 inches, and weighing just over a half a pound with the cables included. The cable from the brick to the two-prong wall plug measures 38 inches. The cable from the brick to the proprietary USB-like connector is 63 inches. Taking the length of the brick into account, that gives you just under 9 feet of freedom from a wall outlet. That’s about the norm for a notebook power adapter.

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s Conclusion

The ThinkPad T470s is an upgrade over the outgoing ThinkPad T460s, and a solid competitor to the Dell Latitude 14 7000 (7480). It combines a healthy mix of business-friendly features, including a good screen, first-class input devices, docking capability, and system performance to rank up high on our list of great 14-inch business class notebooks.

The physical size of the ThinkPad T470s is slightly larger than that of the outgoing model, and also larger than the Dell Latitude 14 7000 (7480). However, it’s just as light, and has a comparable feature set. The battery life of the ThinkPad T470s is more than enough for a full workday, slightly longer than that of the Dell.

As we wrote this review, Lenovo had a significant pricing advantage over Dell. Adding a three-year warranty to our review unit’s cost brought it up to $1,482; a Dell Latitude 14 7000 (7480) equipped as closely as possible was $1,803. Those numbers can of course fluctuate, but it does demonstrate that Lenovo is in the right ballpark when it comes to pricing.

We’re glad to send off the ThinkPad T470s with a recommendation, though with one tiny reservation. Lenovo’s own ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017) is right around the same price as our T470s with a nearly identical loadout. You lose out on some features with the X1 Carbon relative to the T470s, namely the snap-in docking station support, and the ability to upgrade RAM. However, the X1 Carbon offers a slimmer, lighter design, gets over 25 percent battery life according to our testing, and matches or exceeds it in just about every other area.

Pros:

  • Competitively priced
  • Excellent keyboard and touch pad/pointing stick
  • Supports snap-in docking solutions
  • Good IPS screen

Cons:

  • Chassis could feel more solid
  • Slightly larger than previous generation model



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