MWC19 | Lenovo ThinkPad T490s, T490 & T590: Sleeker designs & brighter screens, but less flexibility – Update
Update, 26.02.19: By now, Lenovo has released official data-sheets for the 2019 T series. We have to correct our article in two ways: The battery of the T490s has a capacity of 57 Wh, not 50 Wh, and the Low Power FHD panel will in fact also be available for the normal T490 instead of being exclusive for the T490s. The official data-sheets have been added to the end of the article.
Typically, the MWC is a convention where a lot of smartphones and other extremely mobile gadgets are presented – new PCs are more often announced at CES in January. But this year, Lenovo has decided to announce five new models of its ThinkPad lineup at MWC instead of CES. These are not some ThinkPads, they are the new models of the T and X series – probably the most well-known and popular ThinkPads. All five of the new ThinkPads share one common trait: They are all based on the newest Intel CPUs with the codename Whiskey Lake.
Thanks to last weeks leak. we already know that the new ThinkPad T series is much sleeker compared with last years models. All three new T series models have been redesigned from the ground up at the same time, which happens for the first time since 2013. The focus of the redesign was not solely on the reduction of the chassis-thickness, but also on the weight and overall footprint. Especially the ThinkPad T490 is more compact and lighter than its predecessor ThinkPad T480, while the 15.6 inch ThinkPads T590 is lighter than the T580 and the premium model ThinkPad T490s makes the biggest jump in terms of thickness.
The outer design of the T series does not change much aside from the reduced volume, but there are some additional changes. For example, both the T490 and the T590 now feature user-facing speaker above the keyboard, while the silver variant ThinkPad T490s has an aluminum display-cover – the ThinkPad T480s already was available in silver, but with the older model, Lenovo simply painted the Carbon fiber lid silver. Another change on the T490s: It now features a bottom-loaded keyboard, which means the keyboard is integrated into the palmrest – this change could improve the stability, but will make changing the keyboard a much more difficult task. Another design change affects the camera of all three models, as Lenovo now puts the mechanical privacy shutter "ThinkShutter" on models with an IR camera as well. With the 2018 T series ThinkPads, the users had to chose between having the privacy shutter or the IR camera.
The screen quality always was a sore point for many T series ThinkPads of the past. With the newest generation, Lenovo appears to be working on this weak-point, as all three Tx90 ThinkPads will be optionally offered with either QHD (2,560 x 1,440) or 4K-UHD (3,840 x 2,160) panels that offer a brightness of 500 nits. Lenovo is not only increasing the brightness of the most expensive screen options, they are also going to offer brighter FHD (1,920 x 1,080) options for both the T490 and the T490s with a brightness of up to 400 nits. There are two such options: A FHD panel with PrivacyGuard, Lenovo's ePrivacy solution, and a second 400 nits FHD panel that consumes less energy (Low Power FHD).
It seems that Lenovo prioritized sleeker designs over flexibility with the newest T ThinkPads, as the manufacturer is making some rather drastic changes to the internals and ports of the new models. Features like the SD card slot (replaced with MicroSD) or full-size RJ45-Ethernet on the T490s are getting the axe, the same is true for the 2.5 inch storage bay on the T490 and T590. Also, Lenovo is relying more on soldered RAM than before. The ThinkPad T490s has a maximum of 32 GB of soldered RAM, while the T490 and the T590 both have up to 16 GB of soldered RAM plus a single DDR4 RAM slot (up to 48 GB RAM in total). All of those changes will likely result in some fierce discussions among the ThinkPad fans.
Only the T490 and T590 have a dGPU option in the form of the new Nvidia GeForce MX250. The T490s meanwhile will exclusively use the Intel UHD Graphics 620 – its predecessor ThinkPad T480s was optionally offered with a Nvidia GeForce MX150. One last big change affects the battery design of the T490 and T590: Lenovo drops the flexible PowerBridge feature. PowerBridge, the combination of an internal and an hot-swappable external battery, was featured on many T series models in the past years. It enabled users to prolong the battery life by using a bigger, extended battery with up to 96 Wh. Instead, the T490 and T590 feature a single internal battery with 50 and 57 Wh respectively. The ThinkPad T490s has a 57 Wh battery.
The Lenovo ThinkPad T490, Thinkpad T490s and ThinkPad T590 will arrive in the US in June. In Europe, the T490 and the T590 will already be available in March, while the T490s will come to the European shores in April. As for the pricing: The T490 will start at $999 and the T590 will cost at least $1,029. With a base-price of $1,279, the Lenovo ThinkPad T490s is the most expensive of the three.