Notebookcheck

Review Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE Notebook

Till Schönborn (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 04/01/2014

Old-school ThinkPad? Performance, security and office qualities are very important aspects of the new Lenovo ThinkPad T540p. Our review shows what the top version with a quad-core CPU, 250 GB SSD and integrated UMTS module for around 1,800 Euros (~$2482) is capable of.

For the original German review, see here.

Powerful office notebooks more and more become niche products for many manufacturers: Thinner and lighter chassis constructions usually require frugal hardware, which affect the performance of the devices as well.

Not every user wants to sacrifice performance in favor of a higher mobility, and Lenovo offers the corresponding devices with its Txxxp-series. Similar to the recently reviewed sibling T440p, our review unit, the 15-inch ThinkPad T540p, uses a standard voltage CPU and offers expandability via Ultrabay. The notebook is especially interesting for stationary operation and is essentially the successor of the old T530.

Thanks to a wide variety of different configurations, you can get the T540p for around 750 Euros (~$1034) (Core i3, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD). You can also easily double the base price, just look at our review unit: It is powered by a Core i7-4700MQ, 8 GB RAM and a 250 GB SSD. Lenovo also integrated a dedicated GeForce GT 730M with Optimus to better support the high 2880x1620 resolution.

The ThinkPad quickly reaches the 1,800 Euros (~$2482) mark with these extras. Among others, possible alternatives would be the Fujitsu LifeBook E754 as well as the Dell Latitude E6540, and we already reviewed the latter.

Overview ThinkPad T540p configurations (excerpt):

Lenovo ThinkPad T540p (20BE0042GE) Lenovo ThinkPad T540p (20BE0060GE) ThinkPad T540p (20BE005YGE)
Core i3-4000M Core i5-4200M Core i7-4700MQ
4 GB RAM 4 GB RAM 8 GB RAM
500 GB (HDD) 250 GB (SSD) 250 GB (SSD)
HD Graphics 4600 HD Graphics 4600 GeForce GT 730M
15.6", 1366x768 pixels 15.6", 1920x1080 pixels 15.5", 2880x1620 pixels
no WWAN UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+ UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+
starting at 750 Euros starting at 1,400 Euros starting at 1,800 Euros

Case

Classic massive ThinkPad case
Classic massive ThinkPad case
Flexible GRP construction
Flexible GRP construction

Even though Lenovo still uses some design elements from the past, the case of the T540p is a complete redesign and clearly differs from the T530. The case is however not completely unfamiliar: The W540 (workstation version) uses exactly the same chassis, so we just want to give a brief description.

Our review unit is made of glass fiber reinforced plastic (GRP) and weighs around 2.6 kilograms (~5.7 pounds), which is just slightly below the predecessor. The height of the ThinkPad is reduced by almost 6 millimeters to around 30 millimeters (~0.2 to 1.2 inches), although the WXGA version is interestingly slightly thicker (34 mm; ~1.3 inches). With this comparatively massive construction by today’s standards, you also get an appropriately high stability. However, it cannot quite keep up with a comparable aluminum case. This is not necessarily a problem: GRP is pretty flexible, but also unbreakable at the same time and therefore suited for very demanding scenarios.

Our review unit does not reveal any problems with the build quality. The gaps are mostly very small and consistent, and all edges were carefully rounded. Particular highlights are once again the metal hinges, which are typical for ThinkPads. The firm but very precise construction has been a key quality feature of the series for many years.

Connectivity

Even though the QM 87 chipset can provide up to 6x USB 3.0 ports, the T540p only has two of these fast SuperSpeed ports. The other two of the four USB ports (one "always on") only support the older 2.0 standard, probably to eliminate any compatibility or boot problems (especially with Linux). Positive for all left-handers: Lenovo evenly distributed the ports along both sides.

External displays can be attached via the analog VGA port or the digital Mini-DisplayPort (no Thunderbolt) and can be used simultaneously with the notebook display. You also get standard ports like Gigabit-Ethernet, a stereo jack and a card reader (SD, MMC).

There are different ways to expand the connectivity if the standard ports should not be sufficient. One solution would be the new "ThinkPad Ultra Dock" for around 180 Euros (~$248), whereas older docking stations are unfortunately not compatible anymore. Attention: Depending on the processor, you have to get a specific version with a sufficient power adaptor. You can also use an ExpressCard/34 slot as well as the Ultrabay; a second hard drive (2.5-inch, 9.5 mm) can be used if you waive the optical drive.

Front: No ports
Front: No ports
Left side: Mini-DisplayPort, VGA, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, card reader, ExpressCard/34, stereo jack
Left side: Mini-DisplayPort, VGA, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, card reader, ExpressCard/34, stereo jack
Back: Gigabit-Ethernet, AC power
Back: Gigabit-Ethernet, AC power
Right side: Optical drive, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, Kensington Lock
Right side: Optical drive, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, Kensington Lock

Communication

Mediocre 0.9 MP webcam
Mediocre 0.9 MP webcam

Lenovo also integrates high-quality components for the other hardware sections, for example the wireless adaptor. Intel's Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 supports the WLAN standards IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac in 2.4 as well as 5 GHz networks and Bluetooth 4.0. Thanks to two antennas and the dual-stream technology (2x2), we determined an above-average range as well as good transfer rates for the T540p, even though the latter were limited by our old router (o2 Box 4421, up to 150 Mbps).

On the road, you can use the integrated WWAN module to access the Internet. HSPA+ enables download speeds of up to 21.6 Mbps (upload: 5.76 Mbps), the latest and significantly faster LTE technology is however not supported by the Ericsson N5321.

The quality of the integrated 720p webcam might be sufficient for Skype and similar applications, but we expected more from a notebook with this price tag. Especially dark environments result in significant picture noise, but the picture also lacks sharpness and an accurate color reproduction. Voice recordings of the Array microphone leave a better impression; they are easy to understand, but there is also a slight background noise.

Security

The T540p has several hardware and software features that prevent the theft of data or the device itself, respectively. It is prepared for Anti-Theft and Computrace, has an integrated TPM module (TCG 1.2) and offers password options for the BIOS and the hard drive. A fingerprint reader, Kensington Lock and a SmartCard reader complete the security features. More information about the different technologies can be found in our special FAQ-article.

Accessories

Similar to most manufacturers, Lenovo is not very generous when it comes to provided accessories. The box only contains the notebook with the power adaptor, some brochures and a couple of DVDs. They contain the setup files for Windows 8 Pro and the related drivers, if the user wants to upgrade the preinstalled Windows 7 Professional.

The software additions are more extensive: System tasks like driver updates or the backup settings can easily be managed by the proven ThinkVantage Toolbox, but a PDF reader and PowerDVD are available as well. Fortunately, the amount of annoying adware and bloatware is limited.

Maintenance

Extensive Hardware Maintenance Manual
Extensive Hardware Maintenance Manual

There are two maintenance covers at the bottom of the notebook, which can be removed with a screwdriver. They grant access to both wireless modules (WLAN/WWAN, both M.2), the occupied 2.5-inch bay (up to 9.5 mm) as well as the two memory slots (one empty).

All the other components require further disassembly of the device, but only experienced users should do that, despite the detailed Hardware Maintenance Manual. Almost every component can be replaced, even the socketed CPU can be upgraded.

Warranty

A warranty period of three years is usually the standard for business devices, and Lenovo's T-series is no exception. As usual, service upgrades are available for an additional charge: Another year on-site service costs a reasonable 60 to 70 Euros (~$83 to $97), an extension to 5 years retails for around 170 Euros (~$234).

Input Devices

Besides the case, the T540p also shares the input devices with the W540, which could not completely convince us and just left a mediocre impression.

Keyboard

Let's start with the positive aspects: The current ThinkPad keyboard does not have to fear any rival in regard to the stroke, pressure point and feedback. The key travel is also unusually generous for a notebook, which, in combination with the ergonomically shaped keys (15 x 15 millimeters, concave), results in a typing experience that can be compared with a high-quality PC keyboard. We could not determine any of the W540's quality problems: Nothing is clattering, stability and build quality meet the self-imposed premium demand. As usual, the keyboard is splash resistant and a two-stage illumination reduces eyestrain in dark environments.

Touchpad and TrackPoint

Nothing, however, is perfect – in this case the redesigned touchpad. Older ThinkPads like the T530 still had dedicated mouse buttons, but they are now integrated into the pad itself. While this generally works for other notebooks, the solution of the ThinkPad is not very practical: Even after a long training period, you will have to live with some occasional cursor movements when you try to click on something. It is just a small comfort that the other features of the touchpad, for instance, the excellent gliding capabilities or the numerous settings, leave a positive impression.

The TrackPoint does not have dedicated buttons, either, instead the user has to press the corresponding side at the top of the touchpad. This actually works pretty well in practice since the surface is automatically deactivated when you use the TrackPoint. The small joystick is a quick and precise mouse replacement once you get used to it.

Snappy keyboard
Snappy keyboard
TrackPoint and touchpad
TrackPoint and touchpad

Display

Homogenous illumination
Homogenous illumination

Lenovo tries to satisfy the needs of all price ranges and customers with a total of three different 15-inch displays. All models have an anti-reflective surface, but differ in the brightness, panel technology and resolution. The entry-level display only supports the WXGA standard (1366x768 pixels, 220 cd/m², TN panel), the mid-range version uses a Full HD panel (1920x1080 pixels, 300 cd/m², TN panel) and the tested version shows off with 3K (2880x1620 pixels, 350 cd/m², IPS panel).

A couple of years ago, such a high pixel density of 212 ppi was only available in high-end smartphones, and even a typical 30-inch display usually has less pixels. There are, however, drawbacks for the readability, especially with the rudimentary scaling options of Windows 7. After some tests we decided to use the native resolution with 125% scaling – all fonts and symbols are still visible without problems for users with good eyesight.

We cannot completely support the advertised maximum brightness, but the result of 310 cd/m² is still very good. Dell's Latitude E6540 is not quite as bright with 293 cd/m², the old T530 only managed 220 cd/m² (HD+) and 259 cd/m² (Full HD), respectively. The luminance tends to drop towards the bottom of the display, but it is hardly noticeable A nice feature for dark environments is the precise brightness control of the background illumination. Fifteen steps allow the adjustment between 4 cd/m² and the maximum value.

337
cd/m²
321
cd/m²
324
cd/m²
315
cd/m²
333
cd/m²
288
cd/m²
299
cd/m²
292
cd/m²
277
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 337 cd/m²
Average: 309.6 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 82 %
Center on Battery: 335 cd/m²
Black: 0.62 cd/m²
Contrast: 537:1

We already mentioned that the 3K display, which is provided by the manufacturer Panasonic, uses an IPS panel. Black value (0.62 cd/m² at maximum brightness) and contrast ratio (537:1) of our review unit do not set any new records; some competitors manage values around 1000:1 and more. One important aspect in practice is that the contrast remains stable when you look at the display from the side – and this is no problem thank to the IPS technology. All in all the picture is subjectively rich and vivid.

Due to the powerful hardware and the high-resolution display, the T540p can also be used for graphics and picture editing. There is, however, one restriction, you will have to work in the sRGB color space (coverage of around 90%) since the more demanding AdobeRGB spectrum is clearly missed (coverage of around 60%). The color and grayscale deviation are already comparatively small ex-works (average DeltaE below 5), but the full potential is only available after a calibration. Apart from two tones of orange, all values have a DeltaE deviation of 3 or less, which should also meet the requirements of (semi-) professional users.

T540p vs. AdobeRGB (t)
T540p vs. AdobeRGB (t)
T540p vs. sRGB (t)
T540p vs. sRGB (t)
T540p vs. E6540 (t)
T540p vs. E6540 (t)
ColorChecker (pre-calibration)
ColorChecker (pre-calibration)
Saturation Sweeps (pre-calibration)
Saturation Sweeps (pre-calibration)
Grayscale (pre-calibration)
Grayscale (pre-calibration)
ColorChecker (calibrated)
ColorChecker (calibrated)
Saturation Sweeps (calibrated)
Saturation Sweeps (calibrated)
Grayscale (calibrated)
Grayscale (calibrated)

Despite the anti-glare coating, the display does show diffuse reflections in unfavorable conditions, but they are quickly compensated when you increase the brightness. The display content is still easily readable on sunny days, most of the time, even with a slightly reduced brightness. Considering the large battery, such energy-saving measures are however not really necessary, but more on that later.

Outdoor use (sunshine)

The viewing angle stability of the reviewed 3K panel is among the best the LCD market currently offers. It does not matter from which side you look, there are basically no annoying color deviations or other distortions. There is just a slight brightness increase when you look from above at an angle, but that does not really have a negative effect. This means multiple persons can work with the notebook simultaneously.

Viewing angles Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE
Viewing angles Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE

Even though it has been replaced by digital standards years ago, the analog VGA port is still used in many professional environments. We attached an external display (Dell U2913WM) and the picture was still very sharp and flicker-free with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, which suggests an excellent signal quality.

Performance

3.4 GHz maximum Turbo Boost
3.4 GHz maximum Turbo Boost

The T540p is one of the few current ThinkPads that is not equipped with frugal ULV processors. Instead, the notebook uses Haswell-based dual-core and quad-core processors with a TDP of 37 and 47 Watts, respectively. Our top version obviously uses a powerful quad-core, more precisely the Intel Core i7-4700MQ. The high-end CPU runs at 2.4 up to 3.4 GHz, can execute up to eight threads simultaneously thanks to Hyperthreading and has a 6 MB L3 cache. You can find more information about this processor in our database.

While the cheaper configurations waive the dedicated graphics card and only use the integrated HD Graphics 4600, our review unit does have an additional GeForce GT 730M. Nvidia's Optimus technology makes sure that the faster and more energy-hungry GeForce GPU is only activated when the user actually needs the performance.

Lenovo equipped the T540p with just one 8 GB module (DDR3L-1600), the memory controller therefore only works in a single-channel configuration. However, a wider interface would only improve the performance of the integrated GPU, so there should not be any drawbacks in practice. Storage is provided by a 250 GB SSD.

System information Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE

Processor

AC power
AC power
Battery power (Nvidia GPU)
Battery power (Nvidia GPU)
Battery power (Intel GPU)
Battery power (Intel GPU)

Especially notebooks with quad-core CPUs sometimes have the problem that the cooling solution cannot dissipate the resulting heat and that the clock will drop significantly as a result. But not in this case: Single-thread benchmarks show a steady clock of 3.3 up to 3.4 GHz of the Core i7-4700MQ, which means it can utilize its full Turbo Boost potential. Load for all four cores results in a clock of 3.2 GHz in the beginning that drops to 2.9-3.0 GHz after around 30 seconds due to a slightly exceeded TDP.

Overall, the T540p manages similar performance to other notebooks with the identical CPU. Intel does offer even faster versions like the Core i7-4800MQ, which, for instance, works in the Dell Latitude E6540, but the minimal performance advantage of a few percent does not really justify the additional charge. Even the 4700MQ – provided that the software is optimized for multiple cores – is almost twice as fast as the fastest dual-core processors on the market.

There is one big problem when you run on battery power: The CPU clock will drop to 800 MHz as soon as you pull the power plug, which does result in a significant performance reduction. You can only avoid the problem when you force the system to use the HD Graphics 4600 – so it is probably just a bug that can be fixed by an upcoming BIOS update.

Cinebench R11.5
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE
GeForce GT 730M, 4700MQ, Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV
6.77 Points ∼38%
Dell Latitude E6540 FHD HD 8790M
Radeon HD 8790M, 4800MQ, Liteonit LCS-128M6S
6.99 Points ∼40% +3%
Lenovo ThinkPad T440p 20AN-006VGE
GeForce GT 730M, 4700MQ, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
5.86 Points ∼33% -13%
Toshiba Tecra R950-192
Radeon HD 7570M, 3540M, Toshiba MK3261GSYG
3.49 Points ∼20% -48%
HP EliteBook 850 G1-H5G34ET
HD Graphics 4400, 4200U, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
2.49 Points ∼14% -63%
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE
GeForce GT 730M, 4700MQ, Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV
1.49 Points ∼81%
Lenovo ThinkPad T440p 20AN-006VGE
GeForce GT 730M, 4700MQ, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
1.51 Points ∼82% +1%
Toshiba Tecra R950-192
Radeon HD 7570M, 3540M, Toshiba MK3261GSYG
1.52 Points ∼82% +2%
HP EliteBook 850 G1-H5G34ET
HD Graphics 4400, 4200U, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
1.13 Points ∼61% -24%
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
4883
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
6692
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
19051
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
6402 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
24617 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
6761 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.49 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
42.29 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
6.77 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
619 Points
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
51.68 fps
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
99.6 %
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
130 Points
Help

Storage Devices

AS SSD Benchmark
AS SSD Benchmark

You can only use around 175 GB of the 250 GB 2.5-inch SSD for your own data, the rest is occupied by preloaded software as well as the recovery partition. The drive is provided by Samsung (MZ7TD256HAFV) and can convince us with very high transfer rates: Around 240 MB/s writing and more than 500 MB/s reading are excellent, but the results of the more practical 4K tests are on a very high level as well. Current Samsung SSDs are also known to be very reliable – a feature that is very important, especially for a professional device.

Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV
Transfer Rate Minimum: 366.6 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 405.9 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 398.4 MB/s
Access Time: 0.1 ms
Burst Rate: 126.3 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %

System Performance

The combination of a quad-core processor and SSD results in a very powerful system, which does not have problems even with very demanding applications. It even manages more than 5,000 points in PCMark 7 and is therefore ahead of the similarly equipped Latitude E6540. The surprisingly big advantage over its sibling T440p is a result of the significantly slower hard drive, which does have a big impact on the overall results of the synthetic PCMark benchmarks.

Users with many multi-core applications could think about a memory upgrade: Integrating a second 8 GB module, starting at around 60 Euros (~$83), is very easy (see Maintenance section) and would double the capacity to 16 GB.

PCMark 7 - Score (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE
GeForce GT 730M, 4700MQ, Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV
5009 Points ∼76%
Dell Latitude E6540 FHD HD 8790M
Radeon HD 8790M, 4800MQ, Liteonit LCS-128M6S
4983 Points ∼75% -1%
Lenovo ThinkPad T530 2429-5XG
NVS 5400M, 3520M, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
2442 Points ∼37% -51%
Lenovo ThinkPad T440p 20AN-006VGE
GeForce GT 730M, 4700MQ, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
2915 Points ∼44% -42%
Toshiba Tecra R950-192
Radeon HD 7570M, 3540M, Toshiba MK3261GSYG
2201 Points ∼33% -56%
PC Mark
PCMark 75009 points
PCMark 8 Home v23456 points
PCMark 8 Creative v23636 points
PCMark 8 Work v24323 points
Help

Graphics

Contrary to the workstation version ThinkPad W540, which is equipped with a professional GPU from Nvidia's Quadro-series as standard, graphics of the T540p are only handled by the integrated GPU or the consumer GPU GeForce GT 730M, respectively. The important difference: Only the more expensive professional models can use specially optimized CAD drivers, which drastically improve the performance of applications like Catia. The GT 730M on the other hand is sometimes even beaten by the HD Graphics 4600 – but both GPUs are not suited for larger projects.

Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE
Intel Core i7-4700MQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M, Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
Intel Core i7-4700MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K1100M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
Dell Latitude E6540 FHD HD 8790M
Intel Core i7-4800MQ, AMD Radeon HD 8790M, Liteonit LCS-128M6S
Lenovo ThinkPad L540 20AV002YGE
Intel Core i5-4200M, Intel HD Graphics 4600, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
SPECviewperf 11
594%
156%
15%
1920x1080 Catia AA:0x AF:0x8.8330.91
250%
10.01
13%
1920x1080 Ensight AA:0x AF:0x19.9517.49
-12%
23.31
17%
2.3
-88%
1920x1080 Lightwave AA:0x AF:0x16.7646.51
178%
29.85
78%
14.77
-12%
1920x1080 Maya AA:0x AF:0x9.7946.37
374%
16.53
69%
10.22
4%
1920x1080 Pro/ENGINEER AA:0x AF:0x1.5112.82
749%
4.14
174%
2.26
50%
1920x1080 SolidWorks AA:0x AF:0x8.0636.26
350%
25.98
222%
11.97
49%
1920x1080 Tcvis AA:0x AF:0x1.227.62
2202%
7.23
503%
2.77
131%
1920x1080 Siemens NX AA:0x AF:0x3.1223.62
657%
8.38
169%
2.26
-28%
Smooth playback of 4K trailers
Smooth playback of 4K trailers

The situation changes with typical game engines based on DirectX. We can see an advantage of 20 up to 60% of the GeForce GT 730M over the HD 4600 in the 3DMarks, and the results are fairly close to the Quadro K1100M. A look at the specifications quickly tells us why: Both GPUs have 384 shaders (Kepler architecture), but the slightly higher core clock of the GT 730M is more than compensated by the significantly faster memory interface of the K1100M (128-bit GDDR5 vs. 64-bit DDR3).

MS Office and multimedia applications are usually handled by the efficient Intel GPU, and even 4K playback is possible with a low CPU load. Another advantage of the HD Graphics is the video transcoder Quick Sync, which is currently unrivaled in its speed. It just took 61 seconds to transcode the short movie Big Buck Bunny for the iPhone 5 – the CPU required 264 seconds for the same operation (CyberLink MediaEspresso).

3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
10471 points
3DMark Vantage6530 points
3DMark 111896 points
3DMark Ice Storm36263 points
3DMark Cloud Gate6707 points
3DMark Fire Strike1011 points
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme385 points
Help

Gaming Performance

Dota 2
Dota 2

Even though the GeForce GT 730M does have an advantage over the HD 4600, it is still just a low-end mainstream GPU. This means you will usually have to reduce the resolution of games to 1366x768 pixels and select medium details if you want playable frame rates above 30 fps. The native resolution of 2880x1620 pixels, on the other hand, usually ends with a lot of dropped frames, even with undemanding titles.

low med.high ultra
SimCity (2013) 80.324.319.79.6fps
GRID 2 (2013) 99.46848.313.7fps
Dota 2 (2013) 106.24823.6fps
Saints Row IV (2013) 54.542.815.49.9fps
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (2013) 36.427.423.815.2fps
Total War: Rome II (2013) 61.247.137.711fps
Fifa 14 (2013) 342.7217.1177.5103.1fps
Battlefield 4 (2013) 52.534.624.29.1fps
Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013) 65.129.116.56.9fps
X-Plane 10.25 (2013) 84.941.118.314.2fps
Thief (2014) 25.815.912.76.3fps
Titanfall (2014) 58.63831.913.7fps

Emissions

System Noise

The active cooling is usually turned off during idle enabling silent operation. Only the activation of the high-performance power plan will result in an occasionally spinning fan and barely audible 32.3 dB(A). The notebook also often fluctuates between these two scenarios in practice, simulated by our test with office applications, playback of HD videos and web browsing. It is a bit annoying that the fan spins up at first before it slows down to the actual and lower rpm level.

Considering the performance of the processor and the graphics card, our measurement results between 37.4 and 40.5 dB(A) under maximum load are completely reasonable. The steady and low-frequency humming is also tolerable for longer periods; we could not determine annoying noises as with the Dell Latitude E6540.

Noise Level

Idle 28.9 / 28.9 / 32.3 dB(A)
DVD 34.7 / dB(A)
Load 37.4 / 40.5 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft SL-451 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Stress test
Stress test

Contrary to many other notebooks, the ThinkPad does not get fresh air from the bottom, but from the back of the chassis. This does reduce the amount of dust and dirt at the fan and you can use the device on fabric or cushions without any problems.

The device never gets really hot, not even under maximum load. We can only determine values of 40 °C (104 °F) around the fan exhaust during our one-hour stress test (Prime95 and FurMark), and the rest of the device just gets lukewarm. Temperatures of the hardware components are also uncritical with 75 °C (167 °F) (GPU) and 82 °C (179.6 °F) (CPU), respectively. There are no signs of throttling, quite the contrary: Even the Turbos of the Core i7 and the GeForce GPU are still active.

 33.1 °C31.1 °C26.3 °C 
 34.0 °C31.1 °C25.9 °C 
 30.9 °C27.7 °C25.0 °C 
Maximum: 34.0 °C
Average: 29.5 °C
25.4 °C31.8 °C34.9 °C
26.4 °C30.5 °C38.2 °C
26.4 °C29.3 °C30.8 °C
Maximum: 38.2 °C
Average: 30.4 °C
Power Supply (max.)  29.9 °C | Room Temperature 22.4 °C | Fluke 62 Max

Speakers

Clear stereo speakers that lack bass
Clear stereo speakers that lack bass

The two stereo speakers are directed towards the bottom and appear to be inconspicuous, but the resulting sound is actually quite convincing. Brilliant high tones and powerful medium tones create a rich sound experience, only the bass from the small speakers cannot really keep up. Overall, not a bad result for an office notebook, and you can also attach an external sound system or headphones. We recommend you use the low-noise and sufficiently powerful stereo jack.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The ThinkPad is not terribly frugal during idle with 9.1 up to 17.4 Watts, which is primarily caused by the quad-core CPU and the high-resolution 3K display. The direct competition also demands a similar level of power (Latitude E6540: 9.1 up to 17.4 Watts).

The big 135-Watt power adaptor already suggests it: The power consumption of the powerful hardware is pretty high. Our measurements are however not that bad: The notebook consumes a reasonable 60 Watts in typical 3D applications like 3DMark 06. This means there is more than enough headroom to charge the battery during operation.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.0 / 0.1 Watt
Idle 9.1 / 13.8 / 17.4 Watt
Load 60.4 / 92.6 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft Energy Check 3000

Battery Runtime

The manufacturer did not make any compromises in terms of battery and equipped the ThinkPad with a huge 100 Wh model. The T540p is also available with a smaller 56 Wh battery that is flush with the case.

This means you still get decent runtimes, despite the comparatively high consumption. Battery Eater Reader's Test (minimum brightness, energy-saving mode and wireless off) determines a runtime of 9 hours.

Such a value is obviously hard to reach in practice, but the user can still browse the web for almost 7 hours with an adjusted brightness (129 cd/m²) and activated WLAN – an excellent result, which even beats the Latitude E6540 with a similarly sized battery (6.5 hours, 97 Wh).

The runtime in the Battery Eater Classic Test (maximum brightness, high-performance and wireless on) cannot really be compared with the rivals due to the formerly mentioned throttling issues. A quick reminder: The CPU operates at 800 MHz when the GeForce GPU is active to reduce power consumption if running on batteries.

Reader's Test
Reader's Test
WLAN Test
WLAN Test
H.264 Test
H.264 Test
Classic Test
Classic Test
Charging
Charging
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
9h 04min
WiFi Surfing
6h 55min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
5h 57min
Load (maximum brightness)
3h 53min

Verdict

Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE
Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE

The Lenovo ThinkPad T540p is at the brink of extinction: Hardly any manufacturer still offers classic office notebooks with standard voltage CPUs and comprehensive features below the exclusive workstation segment.

You could think this improves the situation for the T540p. Lenovo offers a suitable configuration for every budget and almost every customer: Even the comparatively inexpensive entry-level version comes with a three-year warranty, the excellent ThinkPad keyboard and comprehensive security features, whereas our reviewed configuration is interesting for performance junkies and fans of high-resolution displays. With the large 9-cell battery and the integrated WWAN module you quickly reach a steep price of 1,800 Euros (~$2482), which is not excessive when you consider the performance.

Apart from some smaller drawbacks like the mediocre webcam or the performance limitations on battery power, (hopefully there will be a BIOS update), it is the touchpad that especially affects the overall impression. Haptics, precision and settings are not the problem, but the lack of dedicated mouse buttons is certainly not an advantage for the users. Sure, you get used to the input device with some training or you can switch to the TrackPoint, but it is still an annoying issue. Potential customers should also read our review of the Dell Latitude E6540, which is probably the biggest rival of the ThinkPad T540p.

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In Review: Lenovo ThinkPad T540p (20BE005YGE), courtesy of: Think About IT
In Review: Lenovo ThinkPad T540p (20BE005YGE), courtesy of: Think About IT

Specifications

Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel QM87 (Lynx Point)
:: Memory
8192 MB, 1x 8 GB DDR3L-1600, 2 Slots
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M - 1024 MB, Core: 719 - 875 MHz, Memory: 2000 MHz, GK208, ForceWare 335.23, Optimus
:: Display
15.5 inch 16:9, 2880x1620 pixel, Panasonic VVX16T028J00, IPS-Panel, LED-Backlight, glossy: no
:: Harddisk
Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV, 250 GB , 175 GB free
:: Soundcard
Intel Lynx Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
1 Express Card 34mm, 2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm stereo jack, Card Reader: 4-in-1 (MMC, SD, SDHC, SDXC), 1 Fingerprint Reader,
:: Networking
Intel I217-LM Gigabit Network Connection (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Wireless-AC 7260 (a b g n ac), 4.0 Bluetooth, N5321 gw Mobile Broadband HSPA+
:: Optical drive
Matshita DVD-RAM UJ8E2
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 29.5 x 376.6 x 248.1
:: Weight
2.575 kg Power Supply: 0.454 kg
:: Battery
100 Wh Lithium-Ion, 9-cell
:: Price
1800 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: 720p, Speakers: Stereo, Keyboard: chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, 135 Watts Power Adaptor, Windows 8 DVDs, Brochures, ThinkVantage Tools, QuickCast, Quick Control, PowerDVD, 36 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
A name with expectations:
A name with expectations:
The new Lenovo ThinkPad T540p...
The new Lenovo ThinkPad T540p...
...follows the virtues of earlier models from the series.
...follows the virtues of earlier models from the series.
The boxy design...
The boxy design...
...does not mean you get an old device:
...does not mean you get an old device:
It is powered by the latest technologies, ...
It is powered by the latest technologies, ...
...for example a Haswell Core i7-4700MQ.
...for example a Haswell Core i7-4700MQ.
The matte gray chassis...
The matte gray chassis...
...is primarily made of light GRP.
...is primarily made of light GRP.
This material does save weight, ...
This material does save weight, ...
...but also results in a certain flexibility.
...but also results in a certain flexibility.
Even the pretty massive construction cannot change that.
Even the pretty massive construction cannot change that.
Size comparison with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
Size comparison with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
Even though the case...
Even though the case...
...is noticeably thinner compared to the old T530...
...is noticeably thinner compared to the old T530...
...it is still almost 3 centimeters thick.
...it is still almost 3 centimeters thick.
Solid metal hinges connect the base unit and the display.
Solid metal hinges connect the base unit and the display.
Maximum opening angle of more than 180 degrees.
Maximum opening angle of more than 180 degrees.
The connectivity is comprehensive:
The connectivity is comprehensive:
Four USB ports, ...
Four USB ports, ...
...two video ports...
...two video ports...
...as well as Gigabit-Ethernet are just a few examples.
...as well as Gigabit-Ethernet are just a few examples.
You do not have to waive the DVD burner, either.
You do not have to waive the DVD burner, either.
Additional ports can be added via ExpressCard...
Additional ports can be added via ExpressCard...
...or docking station.
...or docking station.
Let's have a look at the input devices:
Let's have a look at the input devices:
We can only praise the snappy keyboard, ...
We can only praise the snappy keyboard, ...
...hardly any competitor offers such a precise feedback.
...hardly any competitor offers such a precise feedback.
LEDs illuminate the keys in dark environments.
LEDs illuminate the keys in dark environments.
Worthy of criticism is the new touchpad, ...
Worthy of criticism is the new touchpad, ...
...accurate clicks are very tricky.
...accurate clicks are very tricky.
Another option is the TrackPoint – but it does not have dedicated mouse buttons, either.
Another option is the TrackPoint – but it does not have dedicated mouse buttons, either.
A big copper cooler dissipates the heat.
A big copper cooler dissipates the heat.
The 100 Wh battery manages around 6-7 hours in practice, ...
The 100 Wh battery manages around 6-7 hours in practice, ...
...it does however protrude at the back.
...it does however protrude at the back.
The manufacturer integrated two maintenance covers at the bottom.
The manufacturer integrated two maintenance covers at the bottom.
They reveal the two wireless modules, ...
They reveal the two wireless modules, ...
...the memory slots...
...the memory slots...
...as well as the hard drive.
...as well as the hard drive.
The SIM card slot for mobile Internet access is in the battery tray.
The SIM card slot for mobile Internet access is in the battery tray.
You could theoretically upgrade the CPU as well.
You could theoretically upgrade the CPU as well.
The power consumption is covered by a 135-Watt power adaptor.
The power consumption is covered by a 135-Watt power adaptor.
Contrary to the manufacturer's information, the display is not completely matte, ...
Contrary to the manufacturer's information, the display is not completely matte, ...
...but the high luminance still enables the use outdoors.
...but the high luminance still enables the use outdoors.

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» Review Lenovo IdeaPad U430 Touch Ultrabook
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Pro

+Comprehensive port variety
+802.11ac WLAN and HSPA+
+Excellent keyboard
+Bright high-resolution display with good viewing angles
+Excellent performance
+Long battery runtimes
+36 months warranty
 

Cons

-Partially flexible case
-No dedicated mouse buttons
-CPU performance on battery power (see text)
-Mediocre webcam quality
-High price

Shortcut

What we like

Besides the great display, one highlight of the ThinkPad T540p is certainly the keyboard. Well-defined pressure point, long travel and good ergonomics – it is very hard to improve this input device.

What we miss

Lenovo shows courage with the redesigned touchpad, but the result cannot really convince us. Accurate clicks are pure luck without dedicated mouse buttons – a no-go for a professional device. You can at least switch to the TrackPoint, where the problem is not as bad.

What surprises us

Why does a manufacturer risk to lose their loyal customers with such experiments? Our opinion: Especially a ThinkPad does not have to follow every trend.

The competition

Competitors of the T540p are the Dell Latitude E6540, Toshiba Tecra R950, HP EliteBook 850 G1 and Fujitsu Lifebook E754. Also workstations like the ThinkPad W540, HP ZBook 15 and Dell Precision M4800.

Rating

Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE
04/01/2014 v4
Till Schönborn

Chassis
85 / 98 → 87%
Keyboard
93%
Pointing Device
80%
Connectivity
88%
Weight
59 / 67 → 83%
Battery
90%
Display
85%
Games Performance
76 / 85 → 89%
Application Performance
86%
Temperature
87%
Noise
90%
Audio
54%
Camera
40 / 85 → 47%
Average
78%
86%
Office *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Review Lenovo ThinkPad T540p-20BE005YGE Notebook
Author: Till Schönborn, 2014-04- 1 (Update: 2014-04- 2)