Lenovo ThinkPad T14 (AMD) Review

Lenovo ThinkPad T14 (AMD) Review

The ThinkPad T14 (AMD) model is a significant update over the last years’ ThinkPad T495. It features upto 8-Core Ryzen 7 processor, AX Wireless, and teleconferencing shortcuts (F9-F11) on the keyboard.
 
It exists alongside the T14 (Intel) model, which is almost the same laptop, except for the processor & that Thunderbolt 3 remains an Intel only feature in the T14.

Build

Like the T14 (Intel), it has a tried and tested chassis, robust and ready for use. It’s 1.46kg, so not too heavy. If you’re thinking of something thinner, also consider our T14 vs T14s article & video, where we’ve pointed out some difference between the two units. We’ve also compared the size to the Carbon X1 7. Spoiler: the T14 and T14s are similar in footprint, whereas the Carbon was more compact & lighter.

Functionality

Both the Intel & the AMD model have a wide range of ports, which includes HDMI, USB, USB C. It’s great to see so many ports still.
 
The key difference on the T14 (AMD) is that it has no Thunderbolt 3 port (the port is replaced with a standard USB-C port, which is still reasonably capable); for TB3, you’d need the Intel version of the T14. This appears to be a wider trend where the AMD Ryzen products are generally rarely seen with the Thunderbolt 3 functionality. This means that without the Thunderbolt 3, you may not be able to use some more workload specific hardware (e.g. external GPU through the TB3; or fully use up a Gigabit ethernet, or use more niche docking solutions).
 
The T14 (AMD) model does have a slightly more modern HDMI 2.0 spec support. The Intel version supports HDMI 1.4.

Display

The 14” display options are covered on our video. For now, the excellent 14” 4K Dolby Vision HDR screen remains an T14 (Intel) only upgrade option; it would be nice to eventually see it on the AMD version. The range of the displays Lenovo offers at the launch are all Full-HD or higher, which is helpful (the lower resolution 1366x768 TN display option is no longer available, which is welcomed). The screen selections are dependent on the region though.

Keypad

The keypad quality seems to be consistent with the typically high ThinkPad standard. It’s a joy to use, especially of the longer form documents. Additionally, the keypad is easily replaceable (without needing a whole disassembly). Some ThinkPad users will be very thankful that the trackpoint is still on the keypad (Dell/HP have foregone this in a few very thin/light models).

Speakers

T14’s speakers appear to be similar to the ThinkPad T14s; the bonus is that the speakers are upwards firing (which marginally improves the sound quality). The speaker is not quite as impressive as the X1 Carbon’s quad speakers setup (which has better bass); however, it is functional & workable for tele-conferencing purposes & one could always use external headphone / speakers.

Noise & Thermals

We’ve covered the thermals in the video: in the everyday workload - the T14 (AMD) manages the heat reasonably well. When there is a heavier workload, the heat becomes noticeable (especially if/when both the CPU & the Integrated Vega graphics are both used).

Battery

We’ve tested the T14 (AMD) for light/medium workload: where we set 5 news sites to automatically refresh (every 20 seconds), additionally had both YouTube & Spotify playing at the same time (higher brightness, Wifi enabled).
 
  • After an hour, the laptop still had 70 % battery remaining (and showed around 3 hours estimated run time remaining). This is a reasonably consuming workload. Whereas the lighter workload & more power management, may be possible to reach around 5-6 hours (your mileage might vary).
  • If you’re fully loading the laptop, it’s likely that it may attain 1.5-2 hours (22.5W sustained CPU usage vs the 50Wh battery, other components e.g. the screen, SSD will also use power, etc).

Our Latest ThinkPad Reviews

How to manage the temperature & power mode easily, you might ask

As the T14 (AMD) keeps up with the Intel model for everyday work (often single-threaded) & adds an impressive amount of power (in the multithreaded workload), we’d suggest for you to use the Windows Power setting.

The idea is to only supply what the laptop needs: the medium “Better Battery” or the “Better Performance” mode might make for a better / quieter everyday mode; when you need to fire-up the “Best Performance”, enable the “Best Performance” mode - which enables for the processor to run at the full power (which also generates more power / heat). In our video, Geekbench 5 & the R15 has shown that the performance level varies noticeably, depending on which power mode you use.

Upgradability

The RAM & SSD upgrades are considered user serviceable.
 
RAM:
 
  • The ThinkPad T14 with Intel & AMD both have onboard RAM, in addition to a 1x RAM slot (which could be upgraded). Lenovo suggests that the T14 (Intel) & T14 (AMD) supports upto 48GB & 32GB of RAM respectively. In our video & testing, it appears that both the Intel & the AMD support 48GB RAM (though the latter may simply not have been advertised with this (likely to product segment, this is the same as the previous gen T495).
  • A sensible RAM option, might be: 16GB (through 8GB onboard + 8GB), or the 32GB (16 onboard + 16GB RAM) in dual channel, as they appear to have the more consistent performance. AMD Ryzen tends to work better with dual channel memory, especially in the apps where there is increased memory bandwidth needs (dual channel effectively doubles the bandwidth, e.g. in games, etc).
  • If budget is a focus, one idea is to maximise the onboard RAM & upgrading the 1x slot later; there is some performance gap (until you upgrade the RAM - but you’ll have that flexibility eventually). The alternative option of the 48GB RAM performs marginally better than the single channel option (e.g. 8 onboard or 16GB onboard only), but performs less well in comparison to the dual channel options (e.g. 8GB onboard + 8GB or 16GB onboard + 16GB).  
 
Storage:
  • The T14 has a M.2 slot, just in case you’d like to upgrade the RAM later.
 
Others:
  • In our testing model, we did not order the 4G WWAN card, however, the cable appears to have been included (your mileage might vary).
Performance
It seems that the T14 (AMD) could run about 10% faster in the multithreaded workload, than the thinner T14s (AMD), due to a marginally improved cooling capability.
 
Dual channel version of the T14 (AMD) appears to perform better than the single core version, in the games, and more memory demanding workload.

The Ryzen 5 option may be a good entry laptop, especially if you’ve been using the T470 or older models of the ThinkPad. The Ryzen 7 will carry a price premium, though the value of this upgrade will depend on how long you might use the laptop, and what you intend to use it for.

Other options to look at

For Ryzen business laptops, it might be useful to look at Lenovo’s L14 / E14 G2. Both models are more budget / more price focused. They are built for the business usage, though the casing may not feel as premium as the popular T series.
 
From HP - the AMD powered EliteBook 745 G7, and ProBook 455 G7 are both worthy of your consideration. Dell has yet to refresh their comparable Latitude line-up, as result one would have to select a more budget focused Vostro to enjoy Ryzen.

Like-new & Refurb

As the Intel based T14 model has been out for some time: they are more likely to gradually appear in the refurb market. However, as the new AMD powered X13, T14, T14s, L14/L15, E14/E15 are still very recent, they won’t necessarily appear in the refurb market in a meaningful volume for at least 6-8 month. The T490/ T14 (Intel) will already be quite widely available. In the refurb market, the higher end display market (e.g. beyond the 250 nits will remain very rare).

Summary

For the everyday workload, you might not be able to notice as much difference, from the Intel model. The Lenovo ThinkPad T14 (AMD) is a very similar laptop to T495 (the comparable model from 2019). The Ryzen option is likely to be the upgrade.
 
However, in the very heavy workload, the advantage of the 8-Core Ryzen 5 or 7 chip may be more visible (e.g. in video editing, rendering / heavy database workload, etc). There are still some barriers which the AMD powered laptops will generally have to resolve, namely the current Ryzen models do not support the Thunderbolt 3 & do not readily appear in the larger workstation laptops. If this is something which you could overlook & you’re due for an upgrade, then we’d think the T14 (AMD) will make for a compelling option for your consideration.
The external factor to take into account: is if Lenovo might improve their chassis next year (e.g. upgrade sooner, or later). Lenovo works on a 2-3 years per chassis refresh cycle, where T14 is very similar to the T495 from 2019 (which was a refresh from the T470/480 design), it’s unknown if they might refresh this time in 2021, or 2022. Additionally, it might be useful to consider, if you might benefit from the subsequent AMD series (presumably the 5000/6000 series). Intel has been steady with their processor offerings since 2011 (Sandy Bridge i7 launch), it seems that AMD’s pace may lead to mode new products in the laptop space (if there is rapid progress in the next few Ryzen laptop series, then it might bring up more compelling options in 2021).

More Reviews by CruiseTech


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published