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Lenovo ThinkPad T490 review: The most popular ThinkPad gets a Dolby Vision screen

The T-series is Lenovo's best-selling ThinkPad, with its promise of being the workhorse of the range. This year's model doesn't have the hot swappable battery feature that it's had in previous generations, but there are some meaningful improvements.For the first time, it's offered with a 1440p Dolby Vision HDR screen, and it also has narrower bezels. As you'd expect, there's a CPU upgrade, now including Intel's Whiskey lake family, and there's also a new dedicated GPU option with the Nvidia GeForce MX250.Also, for what it offers, it's not too pricey. Read on for our review.SpecsCPUIntel Core i7-8565U Processor (1.80GHz, up to 4.60GHz with Turbo Boost, 4 cores, 8MB cache)GPUIntegrated Intel UHD Graphics 620Body12.95x8.94x0.70" (329x227x17.9mm), Starting at 3.23lbs (1.46kg)Display14.0" WQHD (2560 x 1440, 500 nits) IPS glossy, Dolby VisionRAM16GB DDR4 2400MHz (8GB Onboard)Storage1TB Solid State Drive, PCIe-NVMe OPAL2.0 M.2Ports(2) USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A (one always on) (1) USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C (Power Delivery, DisplayPort, Data Transfer) (1) USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C / Intel Thunderbolt 3 (Power Delivery, DisplayPort, Data Transfer) (1) MicroSD card reader (1) Headphone/mic combo (1) HDMI 1.4 (1) RJ45 Gigabit EthernetBattery50Wh | Supports Rapid Charge (up to 80% in an hour)WLAN and BluetoothIntel 9560 802.11AC (2 x 2) & Bluetooth 5.0SecuritydTPM 2.0, Fast Online Identity (FIDO) authentication capabilities, Optional: Match-on-Chip touch fingerprint reader; ThinkShutter, webcam privacy cover, Optional: Privacy Guard; Kensington lock slotAudioDolby Audio Premium; Dual far-field microphonesMaterialDisplay cover: Polyphenylene sulfide / 50% Glass Fiber Bottom: Polyamide / 50% Glass-FiberOSWindows 10 ProPrice$1,544.34 The above specs are for the unit that Lenovo sent me. It actually starts at $796.51, which gets you 8GB, 128GB of onboard storage, a Core i5, and Windows 10 Home. Naturally, you can also customize it with some upgrades like cellular connectivity.Day oneDesignAs Henry Ford once said and I frequently quote in ThinkPad reviews, it comes in any color you want as long as it's black. The body is made out of 50% glass fiber and variants of plastic that have names that I will never say in real life.This gives it a solid build though, and like all ThinkPads, the T490 is subjected to 12 MIL-STD-810G tests. That means it can handle extreme temperatures, high altitudes, shocks, humidity, sand, and more. It's a bit on the thick side at 17.9mm, but it weighs in at only 3.23 pounds.It has a 50Wh battery inside, which is disappointing. Last year's ThinkPad T480 had a built-in 24Wh battery, and a removable battery that was offered in 24Wh, 48Wh, and 72Wh sizes. That meant you could hot-swap the batteries, allowing customers to use the PC in the field more easily.What's nice is that this thing is loaded up with all of the ports that you need. On the left side, there's a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port and a Thunderbolt 3 port, the latter of which can be used for mechanical docking. Either one can be used for charging though. Next to that, there's a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port, HDMI, a 3.5mm combo audio jack, and a microSD card slot.On the right side, there's another USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port and an Ethernet port. That's also where the Smart Card reader would go if you opted for it. In fact, there's also a micro-SIM slot on the back, which is useless if you don't get the cellular variant.The only difference in port selection from last year is that the full-size SD card reader got replaced with microSD. The placement of the ports has changed though.On the outside of the body, it has the same silver ThinkPad logo that we're used to seeing in non-X1 ThinkPads, with the red LED light above the 'i'. The Lenovo stamp is gone this time around though.DisplayThe Lenovo ThinkPad T490 has a 14-inch 1440p Dolby Vision display, and this is the first time it's had such an option. Sadly, it does not support touch; if you want that, you'll have to go the 1080p route. The same applies if you want Lenovo's PrivacyGuard display.First, the good. For one thing, the display is bright, at 500 nits. Out of the six display options that Lenovo offers for the T490, this is the brightest. The FHD options are between 220 and 400 nits.Another thing is that the colors are vibrant, and that's the great thing about Dolby Vision screens. They're beautiful. Dolby Vision is an HDR standard, dynamically adjusting to the color profiles in videos. And if you're watching something that supports it, this thing is great.And now for the bad. The colors aren't quite accurate, and it's noticeable. I first noticed it on icons in the Start Menu, that they're not the same shades of their colors as they are on my other PCs. If you're using this for something that needs perfect colors, it's not for you.Also, the bezels are 22% narrower than its predecessor, the ThinkPad T480. Indeed, the side bezels are pretty slim, but the top and bottom bezels are not. The top bezel holds the webcam and an IR camera, along with the ThinkShutter privacy guard though, so presumably, Lenovo needed the extra room.All-in-all, most people will be satisfied with the display. I just noticed that it's not quite up to par with other Dolby Vision ThinkPads that I've used.Keyboard, trackpad, and TrackPointI don't think it's going to come as a surprise to anyone when I say this, but the keyboard on the ThinkPad T490 is a real winner. This is true of most ThinkPads though. It's incredibly comfortable to type on, and it's accurate. ThinkPad keyboards have been called the Cadillac of keyboards (possibly only by me, but who's to say), and the T490 does not disappoint.The keys are also quiet to type on, whi ...Read more

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