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Lenovo ThinkPad laptops: Online backlash over the removal of external battery options

The external, expanded battery of the Lenovo ThinkPad T480
The external, expanded battery of the Lenovo ThinkPad T480
With the 2019 generation of ThinkPad laptops, the PC manufacturer Lenovo has stopped offering any models with external, hot-swappable batteries. Instead, all ThinkPads feature a single internal battery now – a development that is now lamented by fans and a relatively well known Youtuber.

Once upon a time, every laptop had a battery that was easily removable. Users did not have to open up the chassis of their laptop or use any tools, the battery could simply be removed by pulling a little lock. This was useful, as batteries do lose their capacity over time. Also, it enabled users to take a spare battery with them on the go, which was often one of the only ways to work for longer periods on the go in an age where most laptops had a battery run-time of 5 hours at best. Some laptops were also offered with different larger external batteries, which stuck out of the chassis but provided better a better battery life.

Today, most laptops have internal batteries, which means they are only removable by opening up the laptop and removing the screws that hold these internal batteries in place. In some cases, the batteries are even glued-in and thus pretty much non-removable. A prime example for this are the more recent generation of Macbook Pro devices. A non-removable battery can have serious consequences for the longevity of a device, which is not the case with the internal-but-still-removable batteries. Still, extended batteries does become impossible and taking along spares does as well.

One of the last mainstream laptop manufacturers to offer models with external batteries was Lenovo. Last years ThinkPad T480 had the so called "PowerBridge" system. It featured a small internal battery as well as second external battery, which could optionally swapped for an expanded 72 Wh option, giving this compact 14 inch system a massive maximum battery capacity of 95 Wh. Another model with an external battery was the mobile workstation ThinkPad P52. This thick 15.6 inch workstation had a 90 Wh external battery.

This years Lenovo ThinkPad T490 comes with a single internal 50 Wh battery, while the new Lenovo ThinkPad P53 will feature a single internal 90 Wh battery. This has now led to some online outrage by ThinkPad fans and recently, a Youtuber has joined the disappointed voices: Louis Rossmann created a Youtube channel focused mostly on motherboard repairs performed in his own repair shop and he owns and uses a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop. His channel apparently also became popular because of his frequent videos on Apple as well as his fight for a "right to repair" legislation.

In a new video (which we linked below), he compares the spec-sheets of the ThinkPad P52 with its successor ThinkPad P53 and he voices his disappointment with the new model, which he wouldn't buy. According to Rossmann, having the battery internal does not bring any advantage to the user, as Lenovo did not use this opportunity to put in a larger battery, unlike Apple in 2009 when it released the first Macbook Pro with an internal battery. Also, he claims that the chassis of the ThinkPad P53 is thicker than the P52, though according to our information this appears to be incorrect – both the P52 and P53 seem to have an identical thickness of roughly 24 to 28 mm.

This video was also posted on the subreddit /r/thinkpad/ and its discussion thread has received over 230 comments, many voicing discontent with Lenovo's decision. Of course, we are interested in what our readers think as well – should the battery still be external, which allows hot-swap capabilities and easier maintenance, or are internal batteries the way to go, since they allow thinner designs?

On the topic of laptop batteries, we also have published an editorial recently, arguing that all laptop manufacturers should add the ability to set custom charging thresholds.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 07 > Lenovo ThinkPad laptops: Online backlash over the removal of external battery options
Benjamin Herzig, 2019-07-14 (Update: 2019-07-15)