Review Lenovo ThinkPad S440 Touch Ultrabook

Tobias Winkler (translated by Markus Döpfert), 08/30/2013

Achilles' heel. The ThinkPad S440 is one of the newest ultrabooks from Lenovo: slim, powerful and enduring. With its current components, clever features and a matted multitouch display the Lenovo ultrabook might be able to put itself right at the top of the competition. We found out if it really does.

For the original German review, see here.

Ultrabooks have become a part of Lenovo's ThinkPad series now and the ThinkPad S531 and ThinkPad S440 are the first representatives. Both models derive from the Edge series, which becomes apparent when having a look at the details. The new ThinkPad S series leaves behind the addendum "Edge" and therefore moves up the ThinkPad hierarchy into the high-quality ranks. The ThinkPad S440 is a slim 14-inch ultrabook that is supposed to combine ThinkPad's typical qualities with good battery runtimes, appealing performance and high accommodation.

Our test sample has a multitouch display with a resolution of 1600x900 pixels, an Intel Core i7-4500U CPU, switchable graphics with Intel HD Graphics 4400 and AMD Radeon HD 8670M, a 256 GB solid state drive and 8 GB RAM at its disposal. The street price is nearly 1,200 Euros (~$1585).

Case

Wie wir testen - Gehäuse

Sturdy case
Sturdy case

The case of the Lenovo ThinkPad S440 deviates from the common ThinkPad standard and is made of aluminum and a magnesium alloy. In comparison to the traditional plastic surface the sand-blasted, matte metal appears significantly more high-grade and can easily keep up with top ultrabooks like Apple's MacBook Air, Asus' Zenbook Prime or Samsung's series 7 740U3E. The ThinkPad S440 is available in silver and gunmetal but color differences can only be detected around the display lid.

We tested the darker version, which is clearly recognizable as a ThinkPad. Processing, case stability and surface quality are flawless. Only the display can be twisted slightly. The display hinges are very tight and keep the display in its position even under difficult circumstances. The four rubber feet at the bottom assure secure standing. The inner components can be accessed after opening a big lid that is held by 8 Phillips screws.

Apart from those appealing features, the buyer has to live with a slightly higher weight though. The detected 1.86 kg of the test model is not too bad, but compared to a Lenovo X1 Carbon (1.5 kg) or a Fujitsu LifeBook U772 (1.4 kg) it is no lightweight. According to the data sheet, the variant without touch-sensitive screen is two millimeters thinner and also approx. 140 g lighter.

Connectivity

Wie wir testen - Ausstattung

Lenovo's ultrabook ThinkPad S440 is equipped with a practice-oriented range of interfaces. 2x USB 3.0, Gigabit-LAN and a card reader build an attractive basis. Unlike typical business notebooks, external displays are not connected to the S440 via DisplayPort but HDMI. An analog VGA port is not available. In stationary operation Lenovo's OneLink interface replaces the docking port that is usually integrated at the bottom of the ThinkPads. Appropriate docking stations (e.g. Lenovo 4X10A06083 OneLink dock black, approx. 100 Euros, ~$132) can be connected via the OneLink connection which also includes the power supply.

Front: No connectivity
Front: No connectivity
Left: Power supply, OneLink, Gigabit-Ethernet, USB 3.0
Left: Power supply, OneLink, Gigabit-Ethernet, USB 3.0
Back: No connectivity
Back: No connectivity
Right: Card reader, Audio, HDMI, USB 3.0, Kensington lock
Right: Card reader, Audio, HDMI, USB 3.0, Kensington lock

Communication

The key element of the communication equipment of the ThinkPad S440 is Intel's Wireless-N 7260 module. It already supports the current 802.11 ac standard, is equipped with two antennas, transfers data at a speed of up to 867 Mbit/s (gross) and radios in the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz bands. A Bluetooth 4.0 chip is integrated into the module for short distance radio. The WLAN connection with an 802.11 n router with Ralink RT2860T chip was very convincing in our field test and revealed no abnormalities. The transfer rates should be considerably higher though, in combination with a router that already supports the ac standard.

Lenovo offers no option concerning mobile internet connections. An internal UMTS or LTE module is neither configurable nor subsequently integrable. We did not find an appropriate slot with prepared antennas inside. If necessary the user has to fall back on USB sticks, mobile UMTS/LTE routers or smartphone tethering. Gigabit Ethernet is available for tethered network connections. Video telephoning is carried out via the 720p webcam in the display frame.

Security

The safety features of the ThinkPad S440 include a fingerprint reader, BitLocker drive encryption and the conventional Bios and operating system password options. On the one hand, a smart card reader or face recognition are missing, on the other hand, it offers Intel's Anti Theft and Computrace service if needed. Both of them are already activated in the BIOS (F1) of the test device.

Maintenance

All essential components are found underneath the lid at the bottom. Various 2.5-inch mass memory devices with a maximum design height of 7 mm can be built in. Additionally, an M.2 slot that can accommodate respective read-only memory devices is available. The main memory is limited to a maximum of 8 GB DDR3L (1,600 MHz) per slot. Our test sample is already fully equipped. The modules of the models with 4 GB RAM could be substituted with bigger ones. Furthermore, the fan and the screwed battery can be accessed, whereby the battery can be replaced in the event of damage.

Warranty

The warranty is one indicator that Lenovo's ThinkPad S440 derived from the Edge series. With a warranty of 12 months it is significantly shorter than, for example, that of the T models. Those who are not satisfied with the warranty and the additional legal warranty obligation can buy an inexpensive warranty extension. For instance, a ThinkPlus on-site service with a runtime of 36 months is available for about 80 Euros (~$105).

Input Devices

Wie wir testen - Eingabegeräte

Keyboard

The chiclet keyboard turned out well and stands for the typical ThinkPad qualities. The keys have a medium short stroke, and offer a good pressure point and a fairly quiet tapping noise. The keyboard pad is rigidly supported and cannot be bent. We did not detect any bouncing of the keys, clacking or other weaknesses. A small point of criticism is the vertical arrow keys. They lie a little bit too close to each other and therefore provoke misentries. Apart from that, the keys are of sufficient size, arranged in a 19 mm grid and provided with high-contrast labeling. The integrated keyboard illumination can be regulated in two degrees and improves the legibility in dark environments. As is common for Lenovo, the layout is equipped with some special features that newcomers first have to adjust to. For instance, the "Ctrl" and the "Windows" key at the left side of the space bar are switched and the "Print" key is located at the right of the "AltGr" key.

Touchpad

The touchpad is equipped with a 100 x 75 millimeter glass surface with laudable gliding qualities. Windows 8 gestures and finger input are detected very well. The input field as a whole can be pressed down and replaces the previously separately implemented touchpad and trackpoint buttons. The lower area, where the touchpad buttons used to be, reacts reliably to input. Additionally, the right and left side are distinguished very well. However, it does not work too well in combination with the trackpoint. Working with the upper side of the clickpad takes some time getting used to and cannot keep up with the usual solution of additional buttons concerning convenience and reliability.

Multitouch Surface

In addition to keyboard, trackpoint and touchpad the test model has another option for input; the display surface. The matted screen has no detectable disadvantages in comparison to the normally used glossy surfaces. Its gliding qualities are good and multitouch gestures are easily understood. The display can differentiate up to 10 fingers and convert respective gestures. The operating and input angle of the display requires some time getting used to though. In this regard tablets and convertibles are much more pleasant to operate.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad
Keyboard illumination
Keyboard illumination
Switched "FN" key
Switched "FN" key
Narrow arrow keys
Narrow arrow keys
"Print" key in the lower part
"Print" key in the lower part

Display

Wie wir testen - Display

TN display with low brightness
TN display with low brightness

Lenovo offers the ThinkPad S440 with displays with a resolution of either 1366x768 pixels or 1600x900 pixels. Both of them are based on TN technology, are illuminated by (mock) white LEDs and have a matted surface. We have the HD+ display with a touch-sensitive surface in our test. This variant increases the thickness of the display lid by about 2 millimeters in comparison to the standard display and also causes a slightly higher weight.

The matted surface is not comparable to that of real matte displays. Reflections are visibly reduced but not fully eradicated. In addition to that the display is not as sharp as that of glare displays but seems somewhat grainy. Apart from that the 1600x900 pixels offer a good balance between display surface and object/font size. A dot density of 131 dpi should be pleasant for most users when working.

174
cd/m²
177
cd/m²
186
cd/m²
171
cd/m²
175
cd/m²
192
cd/m²
163
cd/m²
156
cd/m²
170
cd/m²
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 192 cd/m²
Average: 173.8 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 81 %
Center on Battery: 174 cd/m²
Black: 0.6214 cd/m²
Contrast: 282:1
Distribution of brightness
ThinkPad S440 vs. sRGB
ThinkPad S440 vs. sRGB

When turning the device on it is apparent that the display is not particularly bright. The subjective impression is confirmed by the indifferent results of our nine measuring points. Lenovo promises a brightness of 250 cd/m² in the data sheet. We could only measure a brightness between 163 cd/m² at the bottom left corner up to 192 cd/m² in the right center. This averages 174 cd/m² at an illumination of 81%. We could not find a way to increase the luminosity in the BIOS, the energy profiles, or the graphics drivers.

The ascertained brightness suffices for indoors and can be adapted to the individual requirements in 10 steps from 2 cd/m² to 175 cd/m². We measured 143 cd/m² at step 9, which we also used for the WLAN test. The matted surface reduces mirror images significantly and pushes them to the background sufficiently.

The ThinkPad S440 is only to a limited extend usable outdoors. When positioned correctly in the shade, it is only just possible to work. However, it is very annoying to operate like this for longer periods of time. Under direct sunlight the content of the screen becomes nearly unrecognizable and the screen is dominated by diffuse reflections. The display brightness is not lowered compulsorily during battery use.

Display in ideal shade position
Display in ideal shade position
Bright screen content is well recognizable.
Bright screen content is well recognizable.
The brightness decreases to the sides.
The brightness decreases to the sides.
Working under direct sunlight is barely possible.
Working under direct sunlight is barely possible.
The display is simply too dark...
The display is simply too dark...
...and is covered with diffuse reflections.
...and is covered with diffuse reflections.

The news is barely better concerning contrast and color space. The contrast of 282:1 and the total number of educible colors with a color space coverage of 61% of the sRGB color space are quite low.

Other display qualities like grayscale resolution, color accuracy and color saturation differ strongly from the ideal at delivery condition. Color accurate tasks cannot be done with a DeltaE 2000 that lies above 10 in many sections. The values are considerably improved after calibration and the differences to the ideal reduced to a barely noticeable degree. Afterwards the DeltaE 2000 is, for example, at about 2.5 concerning grayscale and colors.

Grayscale
Grayscale
Color accuracy
Color accuracy
Color saturation
Color saturation
ColorChecker
ColorChecker
Grayscale calibrated
Grayscale calibrated
Color accuracy calibrated
Color accuracy calibrated
Saturation calibrated
Saturation calibrated
ColorChecker calibrated
ColorChecker calibrated

The viewing angle stability of the TN panel is only standard for notebooks. In a vertical direction the colors either bleach out quickly or they invert, depending on the display inclination. In a horizontal direction the display suffers under a change of brightness. However the content always remains clearly perceptible.

Viewing angles Lenovo ThinkPad S440
Viewing angles Lenovo ThinkPad S440

Performance

Wie wir testen - Leistung

There are many options to choose from when configuring the ThinkPad S440. The built-in components are altogether designed for low power consumption though. For instance, Lenovo invariably uses Intel's ULV CPUs and as main memory the slightly more energy-efficient DDR3L type (low power). The buyer can currently choose between an Intel Core i3-4010U and an Intel Core i7-4500U processor. In the data sheet you also find a compromise solution in the form of the Intel Core i5-4200U, which was not available in any configuration at the time of the test though. Other than that models are offered with and without dedicated AMD Radeon HD 8670M graphics card that also distinguish themselves concerning mass memory and RAM. We have the i7 model with AMD graphics card, 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB solid state drive in our test. The price is nearly 1,200 Euros (~$1585).

CPU
Caches
HWinfo64
HD Tune
DPC Latency Checker
DPC Latency Checker
System information Lenovo ThinkPad S440

Processor

The ultra-low-voltage CPU Core i7-4500U has a particularly low thermal design power of 15 watts. Chipset, memory controller and integrated graphics are already contained herein. The base speed of 1,800 MHz can be increased up to 3,000 MHz (single-thread) via Turbo Boost, depending on the state of charge. This technology is especially noticeable with programs that can only use one processor core. Due to hyper-threading 4 threads can be worked on at once as well though, which in turn lets software that is able to spread the work load on several processing units profit from this.

The processor performs well in the benchmarks and is about level with a conventional Intel Core i5-2540M CPU with a TDP of 35 watts. The Intel Core i7-4500U scored 5897 (single) and 11183 (multi) points in the Cinebench R10 64. The SuperPi 32M calculation (single) is finished in 655 seconds and the wPrime 1024m calculation (multi) takes 615 seconds.

We did not ascertain any throttling of the performance during battery use. The score of the Cinebench R11.5 (multi) 64-bit is with 2.77 points even marginally higher than during power supply operation (2.74 points).

Audio conversion
Audio conversion
Video conversion
Video conversion
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
4434
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
8437
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
5941
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
5897 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
11183 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
6010 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.33 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
2.74 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
21.58 fps
Help

System Performance

The system performance is overall very positive, but could have been improved with a second main memory module. The main memory uses only one memory bank and therefore runs only in single-channel mode. This influences the memory speed on the one hand and the dependent graphics performance of the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 on the other. The graphics card does not have its own graphics memory and has to fall back on the main memory. Previous tests revealed performance differences of about 20-30% in comparison to configurations with dual-channel memory.

The AMDs Radeon HD 8670M is not affected by this since it has its own DDR3 memory. It scores 4,883 points (PCMark 7) and 13,390 points (PCMark Vantage) in the system benchmarks.

We check the system for possible latencies during the use of external peripherals with the DPC Latency Checker. We observed high peaks with enabled radio modules that were reduced to about 1000µs in flight mode. Driver updates could solve this problem in the future. Until then users of sensitive devices simply need to turn the interfering components off.

4.9
Windows 8 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
7.2
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
7.3
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
4.9
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.4
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
8.1
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage13390 points
PCMark 74883 points
Help

Storage Devices

So far only models with 2.5-inch solid state drives are available, which have a capacity of either 128 GB or 256 GB (gross). The configuration list also lists variants with conventional hard drives and cache modules that might appear in future configurations. The ThinkPad S440 is already equipped with one slot for solid state drives in the M.2 format (SATAe). However, it is currently nearly impossible for the end-user to attain an according module.

Our test device has a 256 GB (gross) solid state drive by Samsung (MZ7TD256HAFV-000L9). With sequential write rates of about 250 MB/s and sequential read rates of nearly 480 MB/s it is one of the faster drives, which is co-responsible for the tangibly high system speed. Further positive features are short access times and an inaudible operation that prove the substantial added value in comparison to conventional hard drives.

Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV
Transfer Rate Minimum: 402.1 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 443 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 435.3 MB/s
Access Time: 0.1 ms
Burst Rate: 161.7 MB/s
CPU Usage: 5 %

Graphics Card

The ThinkPad S440 has two graphics chips at its disposal that both can be used. The processor-integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 is mainly active for low-performance tasks while the dedicated AMD Radeon HD 8670M is supposed to undertake more demanding 3D tasks. The ascertained performance difference is disappointing though: The AMD solution can only partly pull away even though the integrated Intel HD Graphics is slightly thwarted due to the missing dual-channel mode of the main memory. The difference is only in a few cases (mainly games) big enough for practical use to classify the HD 8670M as first choice. Reasons are, among other things, the 64-bit quite narrowly designed memory bus and the relatively slow DDR3 graphics memory.

The Lenovo ThinkPad S440 with AMD graphics card scores 4,077 points in 3DMark Vantage and 21.58 fps in Cinebench R11.5 64 bit. With Intel graphics card the system only reaches 3,325 points and 15.15 fps. See the table below for further comparisons.

  Intel HD Graphics 4400 (Core i7 4500U, Single Channel) AMD Radeon HD 8670M (2GB DDR3)
3DMark06 4456 points 4.642 points
3DMark Vantage 3.325 points 4.077 points
Cinebench R10 OpenGL 64-bit 5.511 points 6.010 points
Cinebench R10 OpenGL 32-bit 5.420 points 5.941 points
Heaven 2.0 10.9 fps 12.5 fps
World of Warcraft (low) 199 fps 237 fps
World of Warcraft (mid) 70 fps 73 fps
World of Warcraft (high) 19 fps 21 fps
Torchlight 2 (low) 86 fps 102 fps
Torchlight 2 (mid) 30 fps 63 fps
Torchlight 2 (high) 14 fps 37 fps
F1 2012 (low) 38 fps 60 fps
F1 2012 (mid) 27 fps 46 fps
F1 2012 (high) 19 fps 42 fps

Some programs like Cyberlink's Media Espresso 6.5 simply could not be used with the AMD Radeon HD 8670M in the test. A manual assignment was not possible. Therefore our video conversions could only be executed via CPU and Intel Quick Sync Video (also see the segment "Processor" on this point). We observed a considerable performance plus and a lower processor load when programs were able to access interfaces like Intel Quick Sync, OpenCL or AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing. This frees up performance for other applications while the conversion is running in the background.

We did not detect any reduction of the graphics performance (AMD Radeon HD 8670M) during battery use or under full load.

3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
4642 points
3DMark Vantage4077 points
3DMark 111259 points
3DMark Ice Storm38463 points
3DMark Cloud Gate3713 points
3DMark Fire Strike699 points
Help

Gaming Performance

Games can mainly be played at low and medium settings with the AMD Radeon HD 8670M. Only a few titles like Torchlight 2 or F1 2012 allow a little bit more. Alan Wake has to be classified as not playable since it feels more like a slide show even at basic settings.

low med.high ultra
World of Warcraft (2005) 237732110fps
Anno 1404 (2009) 11916fps
StarCraft 2 (2010) 15429148fps
Total War: Shogun 2 (2011) 105.822.489.15fps
Anno 2070 (2011) 5228159fps
Alan Wake (2012) 19105fps
Diablo III (2012) 52362917fps
Sleeping Dogs (2012) 38.529.413.65fps
Torchlight 2 (2012) 1026337fps
F1 2012 (2012) 60464220fps
World of Tanks v8 (2012) 67262111fps
Tomb Raider (2013) 4624156fps

Emissions

Wie wir testen - Emissionen

System Noise

The noise generation of the Lenovo ThinkPad S440 is very low. The fan is only occasionally activated at low load and is deactivated again shortly after. Besides that the cooling system is mostly quiet in this condition. It does not make a difference if the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 or AMD's Radeon HD 8670M is set as standard graphics processing unit. We could not measure a relevant difference.

The fan is clearly audible at constant medium load and with activated dedicated AMD graphics card. The measured noise level of 33.9 dB(A) is still relatively low though. Under full load the sound pressure level increases to 38.2 dB(A) but does not rise any further under permanent stress. Once a load phase is terminated, the fan speed decreases very quickly only to completely fall silent moments later. Apart from the low noise level, the characteristic of the fan is also very pleasant due to its sonorous noise. It does not annoy the user with high frequency or hectic noise generation.

Noise Level

Idle 28 / 28 / 28 dB(A)
Load 33.9 / 38.2 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    PCE-322A (15 cm distance)

Temperature

The surface temperatures vary significantly depending on the application. At low load the notebook is markedly cool and reaches a maximum temperature of 33.4 °C at the fan outlet underneath the display.

Under constant full load the case material becomes part of the cooling system and emits waste heat to the surrounding area. This leads to very high case temperatures that can reach up to 62.5 °C at the fan outlet around the display. We can only recommend stationary operation since we measured temperatures of far over 45 °C at other parts of the case as well. Using the laptop on your lap is not advisable because wide areas of the bottom become uncomfortably hot.

We did not ascertain any CPU or graphics throttling. With 2.7-2.9 GHz the CPU runs far above its nominal speed of 1.9 GHz and the GPU constantly runs at its maximum speed.

Max. Load
 44 °C62.5 °C34.5 °C 
 43.4 °C53.9 °C33.5 °C 
 37 °C32.9 °C32.6 °C 
 
37.9 °C55.7 °C49 °C
36.7 °C41.3 °C47.6 °C
35.4 °C39.1 °C40.8 °C
Maximum: 62.5 °C
Average: 41.6 °C
 Maximum: 55.7 °C
Average: 42.6 °C
Power Supply (max.)  55.6 °C | Room Temperature 21 °C | Fennel Firt 550

Speakers

The speakers are located at the front and emit their sound diagonally downwards. The sound characteristic is treble-prone with only little mid and base frequencies. This should suffice, however, for system sounds, short internet clips or some background music. The maximum volume is quite low for presentations or other tasks with several attendees and is somewhat distorted at the last steps. External boxes can be connected via 3.5 mm jack, USB, HDMI or Bluetooth. The combined audio-in/out connection requires either an adapter when using a headset or a headset with only one plug for in and out.

Energy Management

Wie wir testen - Akkulaufzeit

Power Consumption

The extensively used energy-efficient components have quite a positive impact on the power consumption which was measured at the mains. We measured a consumption of 5.7 watts with Intel HD Graphics 4400, minimum display brightness, activated energy-saving mode and flight mode. The consumption increases to 8.1 watts with Intel graphics card, maximum brightness and the balanced energy profile. The Lenovo ThinkPad S440 requires 41.4 watts under full load, simulated with Prime95 and Furmark. The power supply has a nominal power of 65 watts and therefore enough reserves. Power supply throttling did not occur.

Power consumption

Off / Standby 0.1 / 0.4 Watt
Idle 5.7 / 8.1 / 8.9 Watt
Load 27.7 / 40.8 Watt