Lenovo ThinkPad T14 Gen 2 vs T14s Gen 2 (2021)

For information only, updated in Aug 2021

The ThinkPad T series line-up is Lenovo’s popular business range (whether for a small business, working from home, or deployed by a larger I.T department). The new 2021 model: ThinkPad T14 Gen 2 & T14s Gen 2 both have the option either the upgraded Intel (11th Gen Tiger Lake), or the AMD processor (Ryzen 5000). The ThinkPad T14 Gen 2 (14") will be a straightforward choice for many (the price is more accessible); whereas the thinner & lighter T14s Gen 2 (14") & the X13 Gen 2 (13.3") are more premium in the pricing respectively (they're thin & light focused, which could often command a premium); all three sits below the premium X1 Carbon 9th Gen (Intel) line-up price wise.

  • The T14 Gen 2 (2021) has the almost the same chassis as before (same 1.8mm keypad travel; albeit a slightly larger cooling vent on the base cover). The main attraction is the upgraded processor. Its Ethernet and mini-SD card reader will make this a dependable choice for a business. Unlike 2020 - both the Intel & the AMD model now have the stunning 4K DolbyVision Display.
  • The T14s Gen 2 (2021) is lighter & thinner than the T14 Gen 2. It has a refreshed chassis (the casing material feels rugged on the black version & now more similar to the T14 Gen 2 than ever). Its 14" screen still has the same 16:9 aspect ratio which you may be familiar with. Its 1.5mm keypad travel is less superlative if compared to the regular T14 Gen 2. A wider trackpad & the 1080p webcam option are the slight upgrade.
  • The X13 Gen 2 (2021) is perhaps best regarded as T14s Gen 2's smaller sibling. It does steal away some spotlight, with its 16:10 display aspect ratio. It shares the same motherboard with the T14s Gen 2, the 1.5mm keypad travel; and it also does not have a card reader, nor the ethernet port built-in.  

Watch our P14s Gen 2 (AMD) / T14 Gen 2 (AMD) review:

Watch our ThinkPad T14 Gen 2 (Intel) review.

Watch our T14s Gen 2 (Intel) review.

Features compared:

We have also summarised the key differences between the products:

*At the launch - these might be subject to adjustment by Lenovo over time. Regular T14 Gen 2 model has a professional sibling. They are based on the same hardware, but the available spec and pricing may vary.

Which do I choose: Intel or AMD?

Why T14/T14s Gen 2 with Intel is better:
  • The Intel model appears to have improved stock availability & shipping time in comparison to the AMD (in some markets). This is partially due to a 2-month head start in the Intel's side on the Gen 2. The scarcity of supply, is understandable in the context of the global shortage. However, Intel model's availability is hard to ignore, if you have to buy a laptop in a rush.
  • Has Thunderbolt 4: which could enable exotic options: e.g. external GPU; docks with many display-outs; or 10 Gig networking with adapter (AMD model foregoes the Thunderbolt 3/4 support). For a business laptop in 2021, this Thunderbolt 4 inevitably makes the Intel model a more feature complete offering.
  • Has an NVIDIA display option (exception being the not T14s Gen 2 which lacks a dGPU option). The NVIDIA MX450 (T14/T15 Gen 2) and the Quadro T500 (P14s Gen 2) help the customers who needs a dedicated graphics to get up and running.
  • The Intel Xe Graphics on the Gen 2 has made quite a leap over the previous generation. This can help in the rendering & some 3D workload. It's expected to marginally edge out the AMD model's integrated graphics. It also differentiates the Core i5 (80 Intel Xe EU processing units) vs Core i7 (96 Intel Xe EUs) offering.
  • Strong single-core performance: 11th Gen Intel Tiger Lake offers a more responsive single core performance in comparison the the previous generation. Noticeably improving its performance whilst running on the battery. It's great for the everyday. If you don’t do heavy video editing / heavy CPU workload, then you might not notice AMD's multi-core performance advantage as much.
  • Typically comes out of the box with the reliable Intel Wireless (soldered on), rather than the Realtek that the AMD model favors (which should work well for most Windows workload, though may be sometimes less suitable for Linux).
Where the T14/T14s Gen 2 with AMD Ryzen Processor is compelling:
  • Processor gives a significant uplift over the T495s/T495 generation:
    • Almost ThinkPad P15 Gen 1 6-Core (i7) workstation level CPU performance with the Ryzen 7 option, which is great for multitasking. The advantage is noticeable in heavier workload (e.g. rendering, video editing), 6-Core Ryzen 5 will be very performance focused too. Single core performance & cost comparable to the Intel. Effectively, it could deliver the same performance, at a lower power usage. Remember - just the AMD 5850U and 5650U (or generally the Ryzen 7 5800U & Ryzen 5 5600U) are Zen 3 based; the other U series are typically Zen 2 based.
    • Better thermals, the average temperature on the Ryzen based T14/14s Gen 2 appears to be more optimal (good for the longevity of the laptop). The Intel model could get slightly more toasty.
    • Improved battery life under the heavy usage (power managed to draw less than 24w during the sustained workload); whereas the Intel is known to draw more power under peak load. The battery difference may be less noticeable, if you’re running lighter workload.
  • Integrated GPU has been indicated to be competitive with the T14 Gen 2. However, the Intel Xe Graphics may be more powerful in some workloads.
  • ThinkPad T14 Gen 2 (AMD) has a upgradeable Wifi card slot (however, may not usually ship with the Intel wifi card); whereas the Intel model typically comes with the Intel wifi (soldered, non upgradable).

Mainstream T14/T15 Gen 2 range vs the T14s Gen 2

Where is the ThinkPad T14s Gen 2 better?
  • The improved 4266Mhz (LPDDR4x) RAM on the T14s Gen 2 (Intel & AMD both) could give you a uplift in the synthetic / graphics heavy workload - thanks to the extra bandwidth. The regular T14 Gen 2 (Intel & AMD) supports 3200Mhz RAM (up from 2666Mhz/3200Mhz active on the Gen 1 Intel/AMD respectively). Whether this translates to a noticeable real-world difference, may somewhat vary. Still - this means that among the Ryzen powered ThinkPad line-up: the T14s Gen 2 excels with the on-paper spec at least. It is expected to hold its own versus the smaller X13 Gen 2 (due to the larger cooling heat-pipes, etc).
  • A larger battery: the 57Wh battery is 14% larger (than 50Wh battery on the regular T14). The processor also has a lower sustained power-draw (under 19W vs 22.5W on the T14); everything else being equal, it would last longer under heavy load out of the box (you can, of course - use T14's Windows power setting to cap the power usage & achieve a similar effect).
  • Wider trackpad & the power button with integrated fingerprint reader, along with a slightly more modern interior are the benefits of a chassis refresh.
  • There is 1080p webcam support. The quality of the webcam is passable, though has scope for improvement. In reality, we think that the difference between the 720p & 1080p webcam on the ThinkPad isn't massive (you'd want an external webcam - for your streaming or Zoom sessions, if first impression matters).
  • A thinner & lighter design: upto 0.2kg lighter & 1.1mm thinner (than the T14 Gen 2's 1.48kg, these are the entry FHD models; weight & thickness varies slightly, depending on the Lid/display/CPU option). Remember Lenovo has a big customer base, those 0.2kg will make a difference, to someone out there (e.g. if they moved around frequently / have airplane handbag weight restrictions, perhaps once COVID eases).
  • This is the performance thin & light flagship (in effect): this rank is typically reserved for the premium X1 Carbon line-up. However, if you want a 14" ThinkPad laptop with AMD Ryzen in a X1 Carbon build, then currently the T14s Gen 2 is closest you can get (because the Carbon was not given a AMD Ryzen refresh). The T14s is still 0.2kg less light than the Carbon X1, though that's perhaps a better demonstration of X1 Carbon's ultra thin/light focus. The idea of an AMD Carbon will undoubtedly be exciting among the customers (this remains Lenovo's decision though). Alternatively look at the Dell XPS 9300, if you’re prepared for a less rugged build & carrying dongles.
  • You can't upgrade the RAM incorrectly: what you could see on the menu, is all you would get. On the surface, upto 32GB soldered-on RAM will be enough for many people (in fact 16GB is still a plenty). Just make sure you get enough RAM - for what you'll be likely to use the laptop for (if you're recommending the machine, do remember to mention that the RAM is not-upgradeable). The unexpected upside with non-upgradeable RAM, is that a user should not be able to self-service RAM which are incompatible or less optimal (e.g. try to use SODIMM DDR3 / or unreasonably slow 2133Mhz RAM, respectively).
  • A more metallic casing feel (subjective): some customers really enjoy the feel of the S series chassis, similar to that of a premium ThinkPad X1 series. Perhaps think of the T14 as the trusty everyday build & the T14s being just a bit more premium in the finish (quality & blending in - without the conspicuous glances which the X1 series's superlatively compact design might attract). T14s' base cover will be easier to remove, however, the upgradability will be somewhat limited (to the M.2 SSD slot, WWAN/Wifi card generally). Fingerprint marks appear to show up more easily.

Where would the ThinkPad T14/T15 Gen 2 be better?
  • Price is more accessible: we've noticed about 10% price increase going to the next model upwards (T14s Gen 2); again the similar margin going to the X13 Gen 2. Arguably T14 Gen 2 holds the price to performance crown.  
  • Both the ThinkPad T14 Gen 2 & the T15 Gen 2 retain the 1.8MM travel. This has been reduced to 1.5mm on the thinner T14s Gen 2. The T14 Gen 2's keypad is regarded as the gold standard keypad on a business laptop. Whereas the 1.5mm key on the more compact S model - is still good when compared to a Apple MacBook Air M1 (but less superlative if compared to the T14s Gen 1).
    • Additionally - the click button above the trackpad feels better.
  • Runs well in most workloads: in our review - the regular T14 model seems to keep up with the T14s Gen 2 in all but the more memory sensitive workloads; whereas the T14s Gen model excelled in the graphics bandwidth sensitive workloads (especially vs the single channel entry spec T14 Gen 2)
  • Larger & upgradable RAM support: with upto 16GB onboard + 1x DDR4, it could mean a 48GB RAM ceiling. Instead of 32GB on the T14s Gen 2 (non-upgradeable). With Ryzen, generally having dual-channel RAM arrangement is useful for a more responsive experience (including in the GPU focused apps). That means matching 8GB onboard with 8GB stick, same for the 16GB onboard. Ideally match the speed of the 3200Mhz on-board RAM (not cheap: it might be the tempting to use 2133/2400Mhz RAM - but on Ryzen machines, this will results in a less optimised experience)
  • Has the Ethernet port & microSD card-reader built-in: whereas the T14s Gen 2 will need an adapter (welcome to the "USB dongle life").
  • Bigger screen option available on the 15.6" ThinkPad T15. Although the T15 has no AMD Ryzen option currently. Look at the ThinkPad E15 G2 or L15 G1, which we hope to text them when they're available.

What other 2021 ThinkPads come with Ryzen?

  • The L14 Gen 2 (2021) has the upgraded 400nits display option (addressing a previous shortcoming). Its 64GB RAM support is among the largest in the ThinkPad portable range.
  • The E14 Gen 3 (2021) is the entry 14" mode with a more basic physical build.

What's the difference between P14s Gen 2 & the T14 Gen 2?

Regular T14 Gen 2 model has a professional/prosumer sibling, the P14s Gen 2 (Try not to be confused by the "s" notation, it's not a slim model here). P series refers to Lenovo's workstation line-up. The P14s Gen 2 have additional ISV software certification over its T14 Gen 2 sibling. The chances are, if you're not working with CAD/design apps - the T series will be just fine.

  • The AMD version of the P14s has nearly identical hardware to the T14 Gen 2 physically. It additionally has some ISV support for the CAD apps. The AMD based T14 Gen 2 / T14s Gen 2 have no NVIDIA dGPU option, unlike the Intel models.
  • The Intel version of the P14s Gen 2 has has nearly identical hardware to the T14 Gen 2 (Intel) physically. It comes with the option for a NVIDIA Quadro T500 graphics (professional version of the MX450 as seen in the T14 Gen 2). This has more ISV support for the CAD/design apps. This level of graphics performance is useful for viewing simpler CAD models. Though you may need something more powerful e.g. T1000/T2000 for editing the larger assembly files.
  • Due to the global shortage throughout 2020/21 - it may often be that customers substitute a T14 Gen 2 order, with a P14s order. This is perfectly normal. If you do use CAD/design apps, however, may not work in reverse as the Quadro/

The T series is a workhorse line - the build quality is generally solid and robust, the ThinkPad T14 & the T14s Gen 2 are no exception. The Gen 2 of the T14s has evolved to be closer in the touch and feel of its casing, to the normal T14 model. It appears that the fingerprints are less easily detectable on the Gen 2, relative to the Gen 1.
  • Some ThinkPad laptops share the same motherboard, for instance, the E14/E15 G3 (AMD) are both based on the same motherboard; the L14/L15 G2 based on another. The X13 /T14s Gen 2 duo shares one. Finally, the T14 / T15 models also share the same motherboard. Note: AMD/Intel models will use different motherboards, the processors are socketed, non-swappable.
The speakers on the T14s Gen 2 is now upwards firing (an upgrade from the Gen 1 which had downwards firing speakers), and has the typical audio quality to be expected from a thin business laptop (clear, though not as much bass / mid range sound as the entertainment laptops). We find that enabling the Dolby Audio software (standard on the machine), helps to make the sound better. The T14 Gen 2 has upwards firing speakers (similar to the T495) too - this hasn't changed from the Gen 1. From our hands-on, the two are reasonably close in performance.
The Lenovo ThinkPad T14 Gen 1 & T14s Gen 1 have both had 1.8mm Keypad travel (great for business users). The ThinkPad T14 Gen 2 retains the same generous keypad with the 1.8mm travel & the decent click button. However, the slimmer T14s Gen 2's keypad travel has reduced to 1.5mm. We've previously compared in in our T14s Gen 2 (Intel) review. If you compare it next to the ThinkPad T14 Gen 2, it will be very easy to tell which one has a more pleasant response (T14 Gen 2).
The trackpad on both the ThinkPad T14/T14s Gen 2 are smoother, making scrolling easier. Whilst ThinkPad T14s Gen benefits from a new wider trackpad, the T14 Gen 2 retains the trackpad click buttons which feels better to click on. If you're mostly used to docking your laptop into the external keypad / mouse, then this difference won't be large.
As you can see from the photo below, the new “Call-control keys (F9-F11)” short-cut keys might come in handy with video-conference (especially timely, if you consider the work from home trend). Dedicated hardware keys might be more useful in a future version, if people do use this (as it’s easy to e.g. cancels a call instead of accepting it).
The range of the display options will depend on where you are. The standard 300 nits option will be what we see the most often (it could be brighter). The small caveat on the touch options is that they’re soft touch screens (does not have any glass coating) - so if your touch pressure is too substantial during the ownership (you might leave a bright mark). The star of the show - on the T14s would be the 400-nits low power option (better battery life & good brightness); especially if you plan to use it at all outdoors).
    • 14" FHD IPS (1920 x 1080, 300 nits, 45% NTSC, Anti-glare), up from 250 nits on the previous gen.
    • 14" FHD IPS Touchscreen (1920 x 1080, 300 nits, 45% NTSC, Anti-glare), this is not a glossy panel, but it's more reflective than the standard FHD IPS panel.
    • 14" FHD IPS low power (1920 x 1080, 400 nits, 72% NTSC, Anti-glare)
    • 14" FHD IPS PrivacyGuard Touchscreen (1920 x 1080, 500 nits, , 72% NTSC, Anti-glare)
    • 14" 4K HDR IPS with Dolby Vision™ (3840x2160, 500 nits, 100% sRGB, Matte)
The Dolby Vision HDR screen is a stunning panel, very vibrant, and superb for editing & the graphics professions on a move. Though of course, it’s non-touch; you’ll have a Lenovo utility on this panel, where you could adjust the coloring. The chances are, for more people, the 300 or 400 nits options are good enough & more practical (matte screens have less reflection). It’s great that the stunning Dolby Vision is now also available on the AMD model (which wasn't available for the Gen 1).
Thunderbolt 4:
At the moment, there seems to be a lack of the AMD Ryzen based systems (inc laptops), with Thunderbolt 4, with a few rare exceptions. It’s probably not for the lack of effort, as Intel had only recently made the standard open. Hopefully the future Ryzen laptop products will have the Thunderbolt 4 port. T14/T14s still have the speedy USB-C ports, in additional to the normal USB-A port.
Workloads which depends on the Thunderbolt, such as connecting a powerful eGPU - will not be possible on the AMD powered ThinkPads on this generation via USB-C, sadly. As result, if you were hoping to connect a powerful AMD/NVIDIA graphics card via an eGPU enclosure, you should look at the Intel based model. Incidentally, the Intel based T14/T15 Gen 2 (as well as the P14s Gen 2) model also supports NVIDIA graphics, whereas AMD does not have any dGPU option.

Wireless & WWAN:
Unlike the premium X1 Carbon 9th Gen, ThinkPad T14 Gen 2 AMD's Wifi card could be upgraded (without a motherboard swap). Bizarrely, the Intel powered T14 Gen 2 has a soldered on Wifi card.
On the T14 Gen 2 / P14s Gen 2: whilst AMD model's Wifi card upgradability is a bonus, it appears that Lenovo may ships it with a Realtek Wifi chip (which could have a less smooth experience on some Linux distros). By contrast - you're much more likely to receive the Intel wifi on the Intel model.
So a logical thing to do, is get yourself a AX200 or AX210 Wifi card - should you opt for the AMD model and need Linux. The Wifi 6 offer faster receiving speed (in theory, if you have compatible network equipment), and offers roughly similar sending speed - this could be a bonus if you work on wireless often (rather than with ethernet).  
The WWAN compatibility depends on the model which you're selecting. Typically you need to select a model which at least have the WWAN antenna - to be able to enable wifi.
The availability of the AMD model follows the Intel by approx 2 month (March 2021 vs May 2021), in the context of a global shortage (increased amount of demand for work from home laptops) - there is expected to be long shipping time, and limited availability of some SKUs. In some markets the Intel i7 model appears to have faster availability, whereas one would have to wait longer for the AMD processor based model. This will vary depending on the region which you're based in.
As we have briefly covered in our T14 & T14s video above - they would cope with the everyday work (CPU only workload) well enough. Under heavier workload, one should expect some more heat/noise (possibly use a laptop cooler / put it on a desk). The centre, back, and right hand side (near the fan vent) will get warm. The scanerio that appears to generate the most heat during our testing, was under the CPU + GPU workloads (e.g. light gaming). It might be sensible to use the "Better Battery" or the "Better Performance" mode in Windows - rather than the full "Best Performance" in Windows. This will help the laptop to manage the heat better (by supplying the required level of performance, rather than too much performance).
So what might happen? 
  • For the people who pay with their own money, many will select AMD as it will offer a largely similar experience as the Intel in day-to-day lighter tasks (and upto 1.5x faster in the multi-tasking heavy workload, all the while being more power efficient). Whereas the I.T departments which make up for a big part of Lenovo’s revenue, likes the T series: for them though the processor is only one factor. Having a predicatable machine (Intel) - which deploys the same way as the T490/T14 Gen 1, etc - will be attractive.
  • For the customers who prefer to have the 1) the NVIDIA dGPU option; 2) eGPU upgrade path; or 3) or need to use Thunderbolt based accessories - then the Intel model will be also attractive.
  • There are a few catches on the thinner T14s. You would pay a premium (over the T14) for the thin and light design, at 1.27kg. It’s not as super light as Carbon X1 8’s 1.09kg. Non-upgradeable RAM means that, you would need to pay for the premium upfront. The T14 makes the life a bit simpler, with 1x upgradeable RAM slot.

What other ThinkPads to look at?

What will also change with the Ryzen 5000 laptop series, is further down the line-up. The ThinkPad E & L series (AMD) will be suddenly more powerful. E series is closer to the business entry price-point & below the L series, which is positioned below the more premium T series. The T series has traditionally offered a more robust design (normally MILSPEC), wider range of features & options. Comparing a ThinkPad T14/T14s Gen 2 to them might seem odd - just in case:

  • The AMD based E14 Gen 3 (14") / E15 Gen 3 (15.6") laptops have 2xM.2 slots; upto 40GB RAM (8GB onboard + 1x RAM slot), improved speakers & a more accessible price. The screen appears option has upto 300nits FHD display option (improved from the Gen 2). Confusingly - the Intel model is named E14 Gen 2
  • Enterprise customers may wish to look at the L14 Gen 2 (14") / L15 Gen 2 (15.6"). Offering portability & performance & marginally more accessible pricing (than the T14/14s Gen 2); they'll have 2x RAM slots (upto 64GB RAM).
If you were needing the laptop for the everyday workload (lighter office workload) - the Intel options, dating back to the ThinkPad T480 / T490 should suffice. A refurb unit is reasonably affordable these days.
What other Business Laptops to look at?
The T14/T14s Gen 2 (Intel) will remain a predictable & well known product, it's what people are used to. From a day to day perspective, these will remain reasonably popular.
However, if Ryzen 5000 series were to appear in more business laptops, especially close to the traditional entry range of the line-up: then it could significantly re-shape what an entry business laptop would feel like (possibly raising the bar). Similar trend will also mirror in the competitors’ models. If you were to go outside of the Lenovo brand, then the HP G8 (with the Ryzen 5000 series) might also be worth looking at (comparable positioning to the T-Series). Dell has yet to refresh their premium Latitude series meaningfully the Ryzen option.

Want to buy one?

Note from CruiseTech: the content here is aimed to be facts focused, for information only. We're a small UK based laptop refurb company & are keen for there to be better information (on the more recent products) & hope to compile more of these. We do have the T14 (Intel) refurb in stock, whereas the T14/T14s (AMD) refurbs will probably take 6-8 months to appear (in a meaningful way). If you do decide to buy it new from Lenovo website, we would really appreciate it, if you might consider using our affiliate links. If your country code is not covered, just message us through chat, we'll get one for you.

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