The latest ThinkPad L490 shows off with its supreme durability and security features, as well as long battery life and according to Lenovo “versatility at the desk and on the go”. Despite all of the manufacturer’s fuss about the device, let’s face it – it is your average ThinkPad with an industrial design, but this time – a very good price tag.
In terms of specs, the notebook can be configured with up to the Core i7-8565U, or its vPro counterpart. In terms of the GPU options, you have only one option, apart from the integrated graphics and it is the AMD Radeon 535. As you may have noticed, this device is not all about performance. It’s more important features would be the optional IR face recognition system, the fingerprint reader, its security features, that include a physical shutter on the camera and a dTPM module. Last but not least, the keyboard has a dust and water resistance, which can protect you from coffee spills and quite dusty environments.
You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/lenovo-thinkpad-l490/
Lenovo ThinkPad L490 - Specs
What’s in the box?
Inside the package of the ThinkPad L490, there is a 65W USB Type-C charger, as well as the mandatory manuals and warranty cards.
Design and construction
Let alone, this notebook is not a marvel of the latest and greatest technology that exists there. At least in terms of design. Measurement-wise, the ThinkPad L490 has some bulk at 22.5 mm and is a little on the heavy side for a 14-incher in 2019 – 1.69kg. Given the fact that we’ve seen thinner and lighter devices that feature beast hardware, it makes us think that this is one of the biggest corners cut by Lenovo.
Next, there is the lid. While you are technically able to open it with a single hand, you have to do it very, very slowly. Otherwise, you are going to lift the base as well. By the way, when we were talking about a dated design, perhaps the main feature that gives that vibe is the display. It has huge bezels on the top and the bottom, while the side bezels are clearly noticeable. As we mentioned, Lenovo has supplied this device with a ThinkShutter for the camera module.
Then at the base, we see a very solid keyboard. It has dust and water spillage resistance, a backlight a great key travel and satisfying feedback. All-in-all this is one of the great keyboards out there and we would gladfully type all day long on it.
Additionally, it features a “nipple” that is combined with its own button. They are placed above the touchpad, which is fast and accurate, while it has a little rough matte finish. If you look closely to the right of the trackpad, you are going to notice the fingerprint reader of this device.
As the tradition goes, let’s turn the laptop upside down and see where does it breathe from. It is interesting that there are quite a lot of ventilation grills. Additionally, on the bottom plate are located the speaker cut-outs, while the hot air is exhausted from the machine from the right side.
Speaking of sides, let’s move to the I/O – on the left you will find the majority of the ports. It starts with a USB Type-C port that doubles as a power plug, then there is another USB Type-C port (one of them is 3.1 (Gen. 1), while the other is 3.1 (Gen. 2)). After that there is a Network extension for Ethernet, a USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen. 1) port, followed by an HDMI connector, a MicroSD card slot and a SIM card slot, an RJ-45 connector and a Smart card reader. Then on the right, you will see a headphone jack and another USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen. 1) port.
Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance
This device features one of Lenovo’s best features on their ThinkPads – its screws stay mounted to the bottom plate even when you unscrew them. So, there is a total of 9 of them and they are Phillips-head ones.
The first thing we want to discuss is cooling. What is interesting about it is that the single heat pipe is very long. It makes a 90-degrees turn around the fan, which helps the laptop exhaust its hot air from the right side, rather than in between the lid and the base, which is great.
In terms of upgrades – you can fit up to 64GB of DDR4 memory (according to Lenovo) and it fits an M.2 PCIe x4 drive and a 2.5″ SATA drive. However, the catch is that the M.2 slot is embedded in the 2.5″ drive tray, which means you won’t be able to put an M.2 and a 2.5″ drive at the same time.
Lastly, there is the battery, which is a 45Wh unit.
Lenovo ThinkPad L490 has a Full HD IPS display, model number N140HAC-EAB (LEN40A9). Its diagonal is 14″ (35.56 cm), and the resolution – 1920 х 1080. Additionally, the screen ratio is 16:9, the pixel density – 157 ppi, their pitch – 0.161 x 0.161 mm. The screen can be considered Retina when viewed from at least 56 cm (from this distance, the average human eye can’t see the individual pixels).
Its viewing angles are excellent. We have provided images at 45 degrees to evaluate quality.
The maximum measured brightness is 263 nits (cd/m2) in the middle of the screen and 243 nits (cd/m2) average across the surface with a maximum deviation of 9%. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen and at maximum brightness is 6880K (average) – slightly colder than the 6500K optimum for sRGB. The average color temperature through the grey scale before profiling is 6880K, as well.
In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from a uniformity perspective. The illustration below shows how matters are for operational brightness levels (approximately 140 nits) – in this particular case at 71% Brightness (White level = 141 cd/m2, Black level = 0.18 cd/m2).
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 (a maximum tolerance of 2.0 ). The contrast ratio is good – 770:1.
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.
Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is an essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.
Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.
The yellow dotted line shows Lenovo ThinkPad L490’s color gamut coverage.
Its display covers just 54% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976.
Our “Design and Gaming” profile delivers optimal color temperature (6500K) at 140 cd/m2 luminance and sRGB gamma mode.
We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.
Below you can compare the scores of Lenovo ThinkPad L490 with the default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile (right).
The next figure shows how well the display can reproduce dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.
The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle, and the surrounding light conditions.
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 recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 28 ms
Health impact – PWM / Blue Light
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.
Lenovo ThinkPad L490’s display uses PWM to adjust its brightness levels up until 70 nits. Additionally, the flickers have a high-enough frequency to not be harmful in this aspect.
Blue light emissions
Installing 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.
Lenovo ThinkPad L490’s display has an IPS panel with a Full HD resolution, comfortable viewing angles, acceptable contrast ratio, and adequate default settings. Its disadvantage is the modest color coverage.
Buy our profiles
Since our profiles are tailored for each display model, this article and its respective profile package are meant for Lenovo ThinkPad L490 configurations with 14.0″ N140HAC-EAB (LEN40A9) (FHD, 1920 × 1080) IPS panel.
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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 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.
Lenovo ThinkPad L490 produces a good quality sound. Its low, mid and high tones are clear of deviations.
All of the drivers and utilities for this notebook can be downloaded from here: https://pcsupport.lenovo.com/us/en/products/laptops-and-netbooks/thinkpad-l-series-laptops/thinkpad-l490-type-20q5-20q6/downloads/driver-list
Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. While we weren’t able to get the promised 12 hours from the 45Wh unit, we still got a pretty good result.
When browsing the Web, the laptop was able to go through the entire battery for 8 hours and a half, while playing videos diminished the package for relatively the same time – 8 hours and 20 minutes.
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.
There are a plethora of processors to choose from on this laptop. The cheapest of them all would be the Celeron 4305U, and then it goes as follows – the Core i3-8145U, Core i5-8265U, and the Core i7-8565U. But then, you can pick a vPro version of the last two processors.
Results are from the Cinebench 15 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)
Apart from the integrated graphics cards, there is the AMD Radeon 535 with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Superposition benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Temperatures and comfort
Max CPU load
In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.
Average core frequency (base frequency + X); CPU temp.
|Intel Core i5-8265U (15W TDP)||0:02 – 0:10 sec||0:15 – 0:30 sec||10:00 – 15:00 min|
|Lenovo ThinkPad L490||2.59 GHz (B+62%) @ 57°C||2.00 GHz (B+25%) @ 57°C||1.40 GHz (B-13%) @ 70°C|
|Lenovo Ideapad L340 (15″)||3.27 GHz (B+104%)@ 72°C||1.99 GHz (B+24%)@ 60°C||2.01 GHz (B+26%)@ 65°C|
|ASUS VivoBook S15 S532||2.96 GHz (B+85%) @ 75°C||2.95 GHz (B+84%) @ 90°C||2.17 GHz (B+36%) @ 68°C|
|Lenovo ThinkBook 13s||2.76 GHz (B+73%)@ 75°C||2.74 GHz (B+71%)@ 84°C||2.11 GHz (B+32%)@ 74°C|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T490s||3.43 GHz (B+114%)@ 91°C||2.69 GHz (B+68%)@ 91°C||2.19 GHz (B+37%)@ 80°C|
|HP ProBook 450 G6||2.69 GHz (B+59%)@ 64°C||2.53 GHz (B+60%)@ 68°C||2.09 GHz (B+31%)@ 71°C|
We experienced an interesting result in the temperature test. At first, the clock speed graph was starting to look like what we saw on the HP ProBook 450 G6, which prioritizes low noise and temperature over high clock speeds. In the end, this was true, but what was weird was that the device throttles below the 1.60 GHz Base clock after the 10th minute.
Comfort during full load
As a result of this, the laptop is barely audible, however, the outer temps are around 44C.
As we mentioned at the start of this review, the ThinkPad L490 is all about security and durability. While it’s designed is outdated and looks kind of clunky when placed against a modern 14-inch laptop, we have to note that the plastics used for the build of this machine is very thick. What is weird about it, is that it throttles without any logic. Instead of boosting the fan, it turns it off and relies on mostly passive cooling.
Actually, this is the main reason for the durability of this notebook. In addition to that, the laptop features a keyboard that is protected from the elements. Well, at least it is dust and splash resistant, which is still great. Moreover, we were extremely happy with the usability of the keyboard. Not only it has a backlight, but its travel is very decent for a laptop and on top of that the feedback is clicky and satisfying.
Display-wise there is a 1080p IPS panel (N140HAC-EAB (LEN40A9)). It has comfortable viewing angles, decent contrast ratio, and adequate default settings. While there is some PWM detected, it was only up until 70 nits and it has a very high frequency. Sadly, though, it covers only 54% of sRGB.
While Lenovo is promising 12 hours of battery life on their official web page, we were able to extract “only” 8 hours and a half of Web browsing and roughly the same amount of time, during video playback. This is on the edge of being perfect for the workday, as we all know that if you are a business person, 8 hours is never enough.
Next, there is the I/O, which is typical for a ThinkPad. Sadly, there are no Thunderbolt ports, but on the bright side, the laptop charges via USB Type-C has a MicroSD card slot, as well as an optional SIM card slot, for LTE connectivity in places, that WiFi is not an option.
So, at the end of the day, if you are not repelled by the sub-2017′ design and you want a well-structured business laptop that will keep your security intact, go for it. You won’t regret it. Unless you want a great performance, though.
- Adequate price
- Spill-resistant keyboard, that is very comfortable for typing
- Super quiet during load
- Equipped with a great I/O
- Up to 64GB of RAM
- Build like a tank
- The security level is on point for a business notebook
- Doesn’t use harmful PWM to adjust its brightness levels (N140HAC-EAB (LEN40A9))
- Lacks Thunderbolt connectivity
- Poor performance in long workloads
- Dated design
- Covers only 54% of sRGB (N140HAC-EAB (LEN40A9))
You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/lenovo-thinkpad-l490/