Lenovo ThinkPad E480 review – ThinkPad quality on the budget

Today we will take an in-depth look at the Lenovo ThinkPad E480. As usual for a ThinkPad notebook, the E480 aims at delivering a high-quality experience to the business user. Although, a little bit pricier than other notebooks with similar hardware, the E480 is part of the more budget ThinkPad E series thus it lacks some premium features but it still offers great security options with its discrete TPM encryption.

However, the particular configuration that we are taking a look at today features a lot of horsepower inside the portable 14-inch body. You get the 8th gen Intel Core i7-8550U ULV processor and fast NVMe SSD storage. The notebook is also equipped with a discrete GPU – the AMD Radeon RX 550 with 2GB GDDR5 memory. Will the premium ThinkPad quality live up to its legacy? Stick around to find out.

You can find the prices and configurations in our Specs System: http://laptopmedia.com/series/lenovo-thinkpad-e480/

Contents


Specs Sheet

The current specs sheet is for this particular model and configurations may differ depending on your region.

Lenovo ThinkPad E480 technical specifications table

Acer
Not available
Display
14.0”, Full HD (1920 x 1080), IPS
HDD/SSD
256GB SSD
M.2 Slot
1x 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe
RAM
8GB DDR4, 2400 MHz
Dimensions
329 x 242 x 19.9 mm (12.95" x 9.53" x 0.78")
Weight
1.75 kg (3.9 lbs)
Ports and connectivity
  • 1x USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
  • 1x USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
  • 1x USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps)
  • HDMI 1.4b
  • Card reader microSD (SD/SDHC/SDXC)
  • Ethernet lan Gigabit Ethernet
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Audio jack combo audio / microphone jack
Features
  • Web camera HD 720p, fixed focus
  • Microphone Dual-Array Microphone
  • Speakers 2x 1.5W
  • Security Lock slot

What’s in the box?

Opening the box of this device reveals a bare minimum of content. Basically, inside you find the 65W power adapter, the power cord which ends with a USB Type-C port, a couple of papers which are the quick start guide and warranty card, and of course the laptop itself. There is nothing to fancy about the unboxing experience – it is a straightforward open and slide out procedure. The device itself is well protected with styrofoam.

Design and construction

At first glance, the Lenovo ThinkPad E480 strikes the eye with a rather appealing design. The matte black finish on the lid accompanied by a small textured ThinkPad logo in the bottom right corner gives the device a stylish look. However, we can’t say that we are very pleased with the materials used. The whole chassis is made out of plastic. Although it feels sturdy, the lid does flex a bit when pressure is applied. The only real problem we see is that the lid an absolute fingerprint magnet. A single touch and it becomes all smudgy so keeping the laptop clean and neat will be a nightmare. On the other hand, using plastic for the build has its advantages. The device is thin and light measuring at 29 x 242 x 19.9 mm (12.95″ x 9.53″ x 0.78″) and 1.75 kg (3.9 lbs).

Opening the lid reveals a pleasuring interior. The matte finish does not attract fingerprints. The keyboard is without a doubt excellent. Typing on the well-spaced curved keys is a pleasure and you get enough feedback from each press. There is also a two-level backlight. The trackpad is large, responsive, and accurate, and it includes three separate physical buttons. The only issue we had with the trackpad is the fact that we had to manually search and install drivers from the manufacturer’s website to get the usual multitouch gestures to work. In addition, you get the signature TrackPoint pointing device. On the right-hand side you have a fingerprint sensor and on the top right corner, you find the on/off switch.

Looking upwards from the keyboard, we see the 14-inch panel which we will talk about later in the review. Now we want to point out that the side bezels of the screen are quite thin but the bottom bezel is huge which is fairly common these days. Unfortunately, there are no special sensors housed in that free space. The top bezel is home to the 720p webcam. The hinge is tight and does not allow one-hand opening.

As for input/output options, the ThinkPad E480 is packed with ports which are evenly shared among the sides. On the left side, you can find the USB Type-C port which is also used for charging the laptop, an HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the right side, you are presented with a security lock, an RJ-45 Ethernet port, a USB 2.0 port, and a Micro SD card reader.


Display quality

Lenovo ThinkPad E480 features a 14-inch (35.5cm) IPS panel manufactured by BOE with a model number NV140FHM-N49. With its Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) resolution and 14-inch screen size, you get a pixel density of 157 ppi which becomes “Retina” when viewed from 55cm (21.65 inches) or further. The pixel pitch is 0.161 x 0.161 mm.

The display offers comfortable viewing angles which you can check out from the image below.

We measured a maximum brightness of 286 nits in the center of the screen and an average of 272 nits for the whole surface. The maximum deviation is 14%. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen and maximum brightness is 6000K which is a bit warmer than the sRGB standard of 6500K. Meanwhile, the average color temperature throughout the grey scale is 5860K before calibration.
We check the uniformity of the display which represents the light leakage of the backlight. The results are shown on the illustration below. Values of dE2000 over 4.0 should not occur, and this parameter is one of the first you should check if you intend to use the laptop for color sensitive work.
The measured contrast ratio is good – 1320:1 before calibration and 1120:1 after.

Color reproduction

The next image shows the sRGB coverage of Lenovo ThinkPad E480’s display. The color reproduction of the human eye is shown via the “CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram”. In the middle of the dark-grey triangle are located the standard colors used on the Internet and digital TV – rec.709/sRGB.

Being used by million people around the world the colors from the sRGB gamut are the most common and their accurate reproduction is of key importance for the quality of the screen.

In addition to the Adobe RGB color space, used in the professional photography, we’ve included the color gamut, used by world-known movie studios – DCI-P3, and UHD-digital television (Rec.2020), which is very hard to achieve by modern displays.

We have drawn the Pointer’s Gamut with a black line. This color space covers all the colors we can see around us.

The yellow pointed line contours the ThinkPad E480’s sRGB coverage. It covers just 49% of sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976, which means that just below half of the colors used in Internet and HDTV are present.

Our “Gaming and Web design” profile is designed to show optimal color temperature (6500K) when the luminance is at 140 cd/m2 (nits) and sRGB gamma.

In order to test the display, we used 24 color samples, consisting of common founded and easy distinguishable ones like light and dark human skin, blue sky, grassy green and orange.
The image on the left shows the results with the default display settings where the average dE is 5.3. The image on the right shows the same result but after installing our “Gaming and Web design” profile, decreasing the average dE to 3.8.

Next, we look at the capabilities of comfortable gaming experience in terms of the darkest parts of the image.

The left side tells us the default settings results of the screen, and the right one shows us the results with “Gaming and Web design” profile installed. The horizontal axis gives us the levels of grey, and the vertical one – the screen brightness.

You can check how your device displays the first five levels of grey – 1% – 5% White – via the graphics below the charts. The image you see depends on several factors such as the panel of the display you’re currently reading this article on, its calibration, your eyesight, ambient light, viewing angle and more.

Response time (Gaming capabilities)

We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and vice versa. We measured Fall Time + Rise Time = 35ms which is slower than the average.


PWM (Screen flickering)

Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.

The display of the Lenovo ThinkPad E480 is not PW-modulated only at maximum brightness. In all other scenarios, the value of the frequency of the pulsation is high – 1.25kHz which reduces the harmful effect it has.

Blue light emissions

Installing of our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.

Conclusion

The Lenovo ThinkPad E480’s display has an IPS panel with Full HD resolution and offers comfortable viewing angles, good contrast ratio and maximum brightness, and adequate default settings. The panel’s downsides are its modest color gamut coverage and the PWM used for regulating the brightness level.

Buy our profiles

Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package is meant for Lenovo Thinkpad E480 configurations with 14″ BOE NV140FHM-N49 (Full HD, 1920 x 1080) IPS screen.

*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]

Read more about the profiles HERE.

In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.

Office Work

Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.

Design and Gaming

This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.

Health-Guard

Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.

Get all 3 profiles with 33% discount


Sound

Lenovo Thinkpad E480’s Dolby Advanced Audio stereo speakers sound crisp and clear. They are particularly loud in the mid frequencies and a little quieter in the low part of the spectrum. You also get support for Conexant CX11852 codec.


Software

Our unit came preloaded with a 64-bit Windows 10 Home operating system. Some regions might offer a Pro version or no operating system at all. As for additional software, our ThinkPad E480 came without bloatware. You can find all the necessary drivers at the manufacturer’s support page: https://pcsupport.lenovo.com/bg/en/products/laptops-and-netbooks/thinkpad-edge-laptops/thinkpad-e480-type-20kn-20kq/downloads

Battery

Battery life on the ThinkPad E480 is just about average. Although the web surfing performance is not great, video playback is good and gaming is above average. Fortunately, even if you do run out of battery, you won’t be stuck to the outlet long, because the 45W unit charges from 0 to 100% in about an hour and a quarter.

As usual, the battery tests were run with Windows power saving setting and Wi-Fi turned on, as well as screen brightness adjusted to 120 cd/m2.

In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.

For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.

We use F1 2017’s built-in benchmark on loop in order to simulate real-life gaming.


CPU – Intel Core i7-8550U

The Intel Core i7-8550U is part of the new 8th Generation Kaby Lake Refresh and it’s a direct successor to the Intel Core i7-7500U from the Kaby Lake generation and the Intel Core i7-6500U from the 6th Skylake generation. With the latest alteration to the ULV (ultra-low voltage) processors, Intel doubles the core count from 2 to 4 and retaining the so-called Hyper-Threading technology, keeping the same 14nm manufacturing process and feature the same 15W TDP.

However, due to the core count change, the base frequency of the Core i7-8550U is lowered to only 1.8 GHz while Turbo Boost frequencies remain pretty high – somewhere between 3.7 – 4.0 GHz. This ensures considerably higher multi-core and single-core performance during short workloads before going back to more bearable frequencies considering the 15W TDP but most of the other specs and features remain the same.

The chip also incorporates a newer Intel Gen 9.5 integrated graphics called Intel UHD Graphics 620. The support for Google’s VP9 codec and H.265/HEVC Main 10 is still the most notable feature of the iGPU. Intel claims that the new UHD 620 chips improve the overall power consumption compared to the previous one.

You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/


GPU – AMD Radeon RX 550 (64-bit, 2GB GDDR5)

The Radeon RX 550 GPU is based on the Polaris 12 architecture utilizing the 14nm FinFET manufacturing process. However, the unit inside is a cut-down version so you should expect lowered performance. The chip features 640 shaders and 40 Texture Mapping Units (TMUs).

The chip integrates a 64-bit memory bus, 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM clocked at 1200MHz effective clock speed. The maximum core clock speed is 902 MHz. The RX 550 supports the usual features like DisplayPort 1.3 / 1.4, HDMI 2.0, AMD FreeSync, DirectX 12 and Vulkan.

You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/


Storage performance

The Lenovo ThinkPad E480 is equipped with a manufacturer in-house NVMe SSD with 256GB capacity and a model number LENSE20256GMSP34MEAT2TA. It manages to reach very high speeds as expected from an NVMe drive – around 1759.3 MB/s Read and 1024.2 MB/s Write. 


Gaming tests

The Lenovo ThinkPad E480 is equipped with an external GPU so gaming is a lot better than with an integrated one. The RX550 found inside is a cut-down version which performs fairly low in benchmarks but it can handle basic gaming. Even with the screen’s native resolution (1080p), you can comfortably play GTA V on the lowest setting of course.

cs-go-benchmarks

CS:GO Full HD, Low (Check settings) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, MAX (Check settings)
Average FPS  85 fps  62 fps  44 fps

GTA-V-benchmarks

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5) Full HD, Low (Check settings) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings)
Average FPS  53 fps  23 fps 11 fps
Min FPS  32 fps  15 fps 3 fps

Temperatures

The temperature tests go this way. We use Prime95 and FurMark to torture the CPU and the GPU respectively. This won’t give real-life representation but with our methodology, we are trying to give you the most optimal results.

The first values from the test are from the 30th second of running the Prime95 stress test, which simulates a heavy task run on your computer (usually lighter tasks take from a part of the second up to a couple of seconds). Next, we take the ones from the 2nd-minute mark, which imitates a very heavy task, run on the CPU. The last values we give you are the ones at the end of the test, which is 15 minutes, simulating the CPU load when it renders a video, for example.

0-15 min. CPU torture test

Before starting the test, the Core i7-8550U was idling at around 40°C. During the first 30 seconds of out CPU torture test, all the cores remained at about maximum clock speed that dropped near the end of the interval when the temperature got above 66°C.

Further in our test, in the 0 – 2:00 min interval the CPU clock went down to just above 2.0 GHz which is the CPUs normal workload speed. The temperature had a maximum of 72°C but then dropped to a steady 63°C.

We see that the same trend continues in the long term during the final stage of the 0 – 15:00 min torture test. The clock speed was fluctuating a little bit above the 2.0 GHz mark and the temperature rose a bit to around 67°C. From this data, we could say that the cooling system of the ThinkPad E480 can keep temperatures rather low with the cost of clock speed.

0-30 min. GPU torture test

Afterward, we ran a 30 minute GPU stress test. Initially, the clock speed of the Radeon RX 550 dropped to its base frequency of 214 MHz but then at the 2-minute mark, it rose up to its maximum of 902 MHz. During the whole period, the temperature gradually kept rising reaching above 80°C.

During the entire period of testing, fan noise was noticeable and surface temperatures were rather high.

Verdict

Like any other, the Lenovo ThinkPad E480 is not perfect. The notebook has its pros and cons, however, the overall experience using it left us with a pleasant thought. As we mentioned in the beginning, the ThinkPad E480 is priced a little bit more than other models with similar hardware but some premium features justify this.

One of the notebooks best features is its size. With a 14-inch form factor and 1.75 kg (3.9 lbs) weight, the device is easy to carry around. As you probably can figure, a ThinkPad notebook is aimed at business and office users which would appreciate the excellent keyboard and trackpad the E480 has to offer.

The ThinkPad E480 also has some additional features like the discrete AMD Radeon RX 550 GPU which makes it possible to play some games on it although we doubt that anyone would buy it for gaming. It gets rather hot while utilizing the GPU and the 14-inch screen size is not ideal for gaming. We would recommend purchasing a configuration without a dedicated GPU to save some extra bucks.

Speaking of the screen, it is a pleasure to look at thanks to the excellent viewing angles, high contrast ratio, and fairly high maximum brightness. However, it is not a screen suitable for color sensitive work due to the narrow gamma coverage. The panel uses harmful PWM to regulate brightness but our custom-tailored Health-Guard profile eliminates the unwanted effect.

Performance-wise the ThinkPad E480 is not a record breaker – not in the CPU/GPU department as well as battery life, however, it can get the job done. Fortunately, the fast battery charge times will make sure you do not get stuck to the outlet for too long.

When it comes to security, the ThinkPad E480 got you covered. A fingerprint reader is available but most important is the discrete hardware TPM which adds another layer of protection to your valuable data.

 

Pros

  • Portable – light and compact
  • IPS display
  • Excellent touchpad and backlit keyboard
  • Security options – fingerprint sensor and discrete TPM


Cons

  • PWM-adjusted for all brightness levels except 100% (fixed by our profiles)
  • Displays only 49% of sRGB colors
  • Not a very good cooling system

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Margaret Keys
Margaret Keys
2 years ago

Where is the reset button?? Searched all over but cannot find it !!!