Lenovo ThinkPad T14s vs T14
For information only, updated on the 17th Aug 2020
Our early impression video of the with the T14s (15mins):
The T series is Lenovo’s popular business range (whether for a small business, working from home, or deployed by a larger I.T department). It’s worth noting that currently, the ThinkPad T14s is the closest ThinkPad relative to a premium X1 Carbon experience which you can get - if you want AMD Ryzen.
The new 2020 model of the ThinkPad T14 & the T14s are very similar to the previous generation in the chassis design. Additionally has the newer AX wireless card, connected standby support, and a new set of shortcut (FN) keys for video-conferencing. They’ll have either the Intel, or the AMD processor.
Which do I choose: Intel or AMD?
Processor gives a significant uplift:
- Almost ThinkPad P53 (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.
- Better thermals, the average temperature on the Ryzen based T14/14s appears to be more optimal (good for the longevity of the laptop).
- Improved battery life under the heavy usage (power managed to draw less than 19w 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 Vega 7 GPU has been indicated to be competitive with the T14s model with the NVIDIA dedicated graphics & faster than the Intel only-model.
Has Thunderbolt 3: which could enable exotic options: e.g. external GPU; docks with many display-outs; or 10GB networking with adapter (AMD model foregoes the Thunderbolt 3 support).
Has an NVIDIA display option.
Has the superb 14” Dolby HDR Vision display option: on the higher-end model (4K, glossy, which AMD model currently does not have). This is not considered a "user serviceable part" by Lenovo (you might be able to source the display, but you'll also need the bezel & a bezel front cover as these parts are very fragile & doing so will probably void your warranty). It would be great to see Lenovo adding the Dolby Vision to the lineup. Arguably, if they do, they'll be displacing more usesrs from the Intel T14/14s / X1 Carbon line-up
Strong single core performance (if you don’t do heavy video editing / workload, then you might not notice the performance gap as much
Mainstream T14/T15 range vs portable T14s series
- 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).
- 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.
- A thinner & lighter design at 0.2kg lighter & 1.2mm thinner (than the T14's 1.46kg, these are the FHD models). Remember Lenovo has a big customer base, those 0.2kg will make a huge difference, to someone out there (e.g. if they moved around frequently / have airplane handbag weight restrictions).
- 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 is closest you can get (as 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).
- Runs a marginally faster: we've ran a Cinebench benchmarks* in our T14 unboxing video: where it was approx 10% faster than the T14s (in the multi-threaded workload). Also maintains a higher 25W TDP for longer (for around 13 seconds vs 5 seconds on the T14s); plus it could sustain a higher 22.5W TDP (than the 19W of a T14s). To be clear: we feel that we should stress, this is only a marginal difference, even then Ryzen in T14s will still be faster than many of the larger 15.6" laptops using the Intel H series processor.
- A larger RAM support: with upto 16GB onboard + 1x DDR4, it could mean a 48GB RAM ceiling. Instead of 32GB on the T14s (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)
- A more practical casing (subjective): early impression suggests that it has a rubberised texture feel, means that you won't be afraid to really use it; to be clear a good bag will still improve any laptop's casing longevity; also, being rubberised, first thing in the morning & during the cold winter, it will feel less cool & more inviting & so far, it seems to shield the heat better from the internals when you touch it.
- Has the Ethernet port built-in: whereas the T14s will need an adapter (welcome to the "USB dongle for life" club).
- Manages the surface heat better: the less metalic palmrest means that less heat travels upwards (also the UK Ryzen 7 model which we've tested has dual heat-pipes vs a single on the T14s). The more metalic feel on the T14s means that some surfaces acts as a heatsink. T14's fan is capable of ramping up around 8% faster (4000rpm max vs around 3700rpm on the T14s).
- Its upwards firing speakers: a welcoming change (context: X1 series has a 4 speakers setup; the T14 follows reasonably closely, although it could do with more bass, keep in mind that this laptop will mostly be used for work / where the voice quality is important - it functions there).
- 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.
*A caveat here is that we've had dual channel 32GB 3200Mhz RAM (so it might be faster than the single channel machines.
Our Latest ThinkPad Reviews
We have also summarised the key differences between the products:
*At the launch - these might be subject to adjustment by Lenovo over time.
- Some ThinkPad laptops share the same motherboard, for instance, the E14/E15 G2 are both based on the same motherboard; the L14/L15 G1 based on another. The X13/T14s 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.
- 14" FHD IPS (1920 x 1080, 250 nits)
- 14" FHD IPS Touchscreen (1920 x 1080, 300 nits)
- 14" FHD IPS low power (1920 x 1080, 400 nits)
- 14" FHD IPS PrivacyGuard Touchscreen (1920 x 1080, 500 nits)
- 14" 4K HDR IPS with Dolby Vision™ (2560 x 1440, 500 nits) - Intel only
Performance Performance Performance:
- The T14s (AMD) seems to offer almost 2x the multitasking performance of the T14 (Intel). Single-core performance comparable. T14s (AMD) appears to be capped at 18.9W after about 5 seconds running at 25W (in R20). This is a more aggressive power management than the T14 (Intel), which stays at 25W for longer.
- It’s clear that Ryzen's better than expected performance, has created some tension for Lenovo (Intel has been great during much of the last decade). This AMD specific power management, might be signalling that Lenovo Intends for the AMD model to run cooler going forward, whilst maintaining a respectable performance level (a challenging balancing act, as it will be potentially leaving some performance on the table). Still, the T14s appears to be faster in the multitasking than a workstation level P53 laptop with 6-Core i7 (45W TDP); and just shy of Dell’s score in the new top-end XPS 17. This is very impressive, considering that it’s sustained power capped mostly at under 19W.
- Whereas the larger ThinkPad T14, achieves around 10% higher performance than the T14s (in the R20 multi-threaded test) & could also sustain a higher 22.5W in this benchmark. It also takes a longer (around 2x longer than the T14s) for the TDP to drop from 25W, indicating a marginally better ability to manage the thermals.
T14 Performance Charts
T14: Performance vs RAM size continued
T14s Performance Charts
- 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 2x 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.
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 will also change with the Ryzen 4000 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 to them might seem odd - just in case:
- The E14 G2 (14") / E15 G2 (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 is limited to the 250 nits FHD display (which will be decent for the indoor still). Both Intel + AMD options.
- Enterprise customers may wish to look at the L14 G1 (14") / L15 G1 (15.6"). Offering portability & performance & marginally more accessible pricing (than the T14/14s); they'll have 2x RAM slots (upto 64GB RAM).
Want to buy one?
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Watch our ThinkPad T14 Early Review:
Our more in-depth look at the T14 (14mins video):
Watch our ThinkPad T14 unboxing:
Our early hands-on with the T14 (6-mins):