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In review: The Lenovo ThinkPad L490 - a poor man's L480?

In review: The Lenovo ThinkPad L490 - a poor man's L480? (Image source: Lenovo)
In review: The Lenovo ThinkPad L490 - a poor man's L480? (Image source: Lenovo)
Lenovo has upgraded its ThinkPad L series to new Intel Whiskey Lake processors, but it is not all rosy. Our ThinkPad L490 review unit is somehow slower than its predecessor despite having a nominally more powerful CPU. Has Lenovo sweetened the deal with any other reasons to upgrade, or should you give the ThinkPad L490 a miss?

Last year, we reviewed the ThinkPad L480, which scored well with an overall score of 87%. Our main gripe with our test device was its overly dim display, which could only achieve an average maximum brightness of 209 cd/m² in our tests, well below the 300 cd/m² we would expect to see from a laptop that costs almost US$1,000. We now have its successor, the ThinkPad L490, in for review, so before the release of our full review, is it the perfect incarnation of the ThinkPad L series?

Well, Lenovo has upgraded the CPU from a Core i5-8250U to a Core i5-8265U, a minor revision that theoretically can achieve up to 500 MHz higher boost clock speeds. The ThinkPad L490 has a brighter display than its predecessor too, but neither upgrade has proven up to scratch in our tests.

The display in the ThinkPad L490 can reach 238 cd/m², which is about 13% brighter than the one in the ThinkPad L480. Likewise, the new panel is around 9% more evenly lit than the one in its predecessor. However, both values fall well below expectations, while an increased black value yields a significantly lower contrast ratio, which is doubly disappointing.

Similarly, the CPU in our ThinkPad L490 review unit has woeful multi-core performance. Our tests reveal that the Core i5-8250U in the ThinkPad L480 scores about 20% more in Cinebench R15 Multi 64Bit than its successor, which is a huge deficit considering that they essentially contain the same processor. It is even more damning when that CPU should be boosting almost 0.5 GHz higher in multicore work.

What was Lenovo thinking? Well, it seems that the company has favoured fan noise and battery life over performance, as the ThinkPad L490 runs quieter and averages a lower power draw under sustained load than its predecessor. In short, the ThinkPad L490 should suit those who appreciate quiet fans and long battery life over raw performance.

Moreover, the ThinkPad L490 rocks a new SSD and Bluetooth 5.0 too, so it is not all doom and gloom. We shall expand further in our full review, which should be online within a few days.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 09 > In review: The Lenovo ThinkPad L490 - a poor man's L480?
Alex Alderson, 2019-09- 3 (Update: 2019-09- 3)