Enterprise purchasers beware: Newer Lenovo ThinkPad laptops make RJ45-Ethernet suddenly optional
Once upon a time, all laptops had to have a wired internet connector, be it RJ45-Ethernet or the old modem port. Over time, Wi-Fi came to displace the wired internet connection as the standard method to connect to networks. As the occasions when a wired connector was needed became rarer, first the modem port and then the RJ45-Ethernet connector started to disappear on many laptops - the big and thick connectors took up a lot of space.
With that being said: Even today, with Wi-Fi being ubiquitous and faster then ever, RJ45 still hangs on. Bigger and thicker workstation and gaming laptops continue to offer the connector. And since the commercial laptop market moves slower than the consumer market, business laptops also often still have it. But even the venerable enterprise brands like Dell Latitude, HP EliteBooks and Lenovo ThinkPad often omit RJ45 now on the thinner models.
As of 2022, RJ45 may be about to become even rarer. In December 2021, Lenovo updated its PSREF database to include new model variations of many popular commercial ThinkPad lines. All of them have in common that Ethernet is suddenly optional, where it was standard before. This includes the following 2021 ThinkPads, with both AMD and Intel variations affected:
- Lenovo ThinkPad T14 G2
- Lenovo ThinkPad T15 G2
- Lenovo ThinkPad P14s G2
- Lenovo ThinkPad P15s G2
- Lenovo ThinkPad L14 G2
- Lenovo ThinkPad L15 G2
All of them had the RJ45 port when we reviewed them last year - and without any formal announcement, Lenovo introduces a completely new chassis option that does not have the cutout for the Ethernet connector. The following pictures shows the right side of the ThinkPad T15 G2 (available from Amazon, affiliate link) as we tested it and the new bottom cover of one of the Ethernet-less variants.
The RJ45 connector is not the only port that is suddenly "optional" - the same is true for the proprietary side docking connector. This expands the list of affected models to lines like the ThinkPad X13 G2 and ThinkPad T14s G2, which do not have the RJ45 port, but the mini-Ethernet docking port:
Why exactly Lenovo makes this move mid-lifecycle is unclear - we speculated that the supply crisis may have something to do with it, as Ethernet requires an additional Ethernet-chipset. When asked for a statement, Lenovo had the following to say:
Lenovo always wants to offer its customers the greatest possible freedom of choice in selecting possible configurations. New hybrid workstyles have increased demand for wireless communications such as Wi-Fi 6E, 4G and 5G, but customers who require RJ45 Ethernet can still get this in select configurations.
With Ethernet now being optional instead of standard, corporate purchasers need to be on the lookout for the correct configuration when buying ThinkPad for their employees.